Top 12 Tips for Better Focus & Productivity When You Work Remotely
Working remotely has its perks – no need for expensive office space, a more relaxed dress code, and the ability to design your own schedule. But it also comes with its challenges – and one of the biggest ones is the amazing potential to… get really distracted.
I’ve worked remotely for nearly half of my career, and I have learned that staying focused is essential not only to professional success, but also to my own mental health (and, you know, avoiding too many late-night work sessions).
Here are some of the methods I’ve found useful for keeping my focus and pushing my productivity as a remote worker:
I am a list person. I make lists for everything from groceries to blog post ideas, and my work to-do lists are no different. Do I always stick to said lists? No, I’m only human. But lists help me stay on top of everything, make sure I don’t miss out on tasks and give me peace of mind knowing that I have things organized and planned out. Plus, they help me avoid wasting time three days a week and ending up with a rushed, stressed-out end of the week.
These days, I create my lists in Notion — but truly, any project management tool, sticky note, or notebook will do.
OK, I’m notoriously bad at this. I do try, however, to stay a little active. Doing some house cleaning, taking a walk, or squeezing in a quick mini workout routine into the day can do wonders for my focus levels and mental health. (Notes to self to do more of this stuff).
Alternate between coffee and tea
When I’m struggling to focus, it usually means I either need more or less caffeine. If I down a cup of coffee and still can’t focus, I’ll try switching to green, black, or herbal tea instead. The opposite is also true – if I’ve been struggling with energy levels, another cup of joe is sometimes the answer.
Set clear boundaries
Working from home can quickly start to feel like you’re always working – and that’s not good for anyone.
I’m trying to be better about setting boundaries around my work hours, and I encourage you to do the same. When it’s time to stop working, close the laptop, put away your phone, and take a break.
Use the Pomodoro technique
If you’re not familiar, the Pomodoro technique is a time management strategy for work that involves breaking down your time into 25-minute intervals (or “Pomodoros”).
In theory, this should help you focus better because you know that you only have to work for a set period of time, and then you can take a break. I have found this helpful when my list of tasks for the day feels overwhelming, and I need to break things down into manageable chunks.
Invest in some noise-canceling headphones.
Celebrate your wins
This is something I’ve only started doing recently, but it’s made a big difference for me.
Instead of waiting until the end of the week or month to celebrate my achievements, I try to take a few moments every day to reflect on what went well. This could be as simple as the quick smile you give yourself ticking off another item on the to-do list. Or as big as taking your loved one or a friend out for dinner to celebrate a major project.
Recognizing and celebrating your successes – even the small ones – can help you stay motivated and focused as you continue working.
Don’t beat yourself up too much
There will be days (or even weeks) when everything feels like a struggle, and you can’t seem to focus no matter what you do. The most important thing is to not beat yourself up too much. We all have off days, and the goal is to just get through them as best as you can.
Remember that tomorrow is a new day, and with it comes a fresh start.
Avoid social media… like the plague
This is probably the most important tip on this list.
Social media is a huge time suck, and it’s one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to focus and be productive. Every time you get pulled into scrolling through your feed, you’re wasting valuable time that could be spent working towards your goals.
If you find yourself getting pulled in, log out of your accounts, delete the apps from your phone, and do whatever else you need to do to avoid temptation. You can always check back later when you’re done working for the day.
Am I doing this very well, every day?
Not really. But I am very aware of how much time I spend on social and I try to schedule it in, rather than allowing myself to be swept into the black hole of the infinite scroll.
Drink plenty of water
This might seem like the dumbest, most basic piece of advice in the history of advice itself. But here’s the thing: when they say we’re 70% water, they mean it.
Dehydration can lead to all sorts of problems, from headaches and dizziness to fatigue and difficulty focusing. So if you’re struggling to focus, one of the first things you should do is make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day.
I like to keep a water bottle on my desk, and I try to drink at least 2-3 litres per day.
Make time for breaks
Although it’s important to stay focused when you’re working, it’s also important to take breaks. If you try to focus for too long without a break, you’ll quickly start to feel overwhelmed, and your productivity will suffer as a result.
I like to take a 5-10 minute break every hour or so to get up and stretch, grab a snack, or just give my mind a break.
Switch the environment
If you’ve been working from home for a while, you might start to feel a bit stir-crazy. When this happens, it can be helpful to switch up your environment.
You could go for a walk outdoors, work from a coffee shop for the day, or even just move to a different room in your house. If possible, I’ll travel to a remote (but digitally connected) place. If not, just working from a different room will definitely help me.
Find your go-to focus playlists
I’m a huge fan of working with music in the background, which I know is not everyone’s cup of tea — but it can work wonders for many others.
I have a few different Spotify and YouTube playlists that I use depending on my mood, and they always help me focus better. They alternate between oldies and classical or instrumental music, but I’ll sometimes sweep in a rogue novelty too.
Look, remote work can be tiresome, lonely, and extremely frustrating. But it can also be really great, and there are definitely ways to make it work better for you. Hopefully, these tips will help you focus better and be more productive when you’re working remotely!