Find Your Focus in the Era of Remote Work
One of the cornerstones of a BRM capability is thriving through adaptability when new organizational challenges arise. Any organization would be remiss to ignore the global sensation that is the reflexive induction of remote work. Your readiness and aptitude to handle this new frontier with ease and confidence will set you apart as a highly-valued professional.
Setting the Stage…
As you read this, look around your current office space. Perhaps you are dressed in your most comfortable work attire, sipping a coffee at just the right temperature, the chair you sit in, it’s familiar. Even your senses are filled with the sights, sounds, and aromas of…you guessed it. Home!
This is your home office. In theory, the perfect sanctuary to inspire your most productive self. Gone are the days of trying to stow away in an empty conference room, or stealing a few precious moments of uninterrupted work behind your monitor. You are working from home; a place that you thought was free of office chatter, large group meetings, and the welcome but unsolicited interruptions.
Markedly, as the 2020 pandemic lockdown study conducted by the Harvard Business Review points out, participants initially responded to the idea of working-at-home with a positive reception. They felt more motivated and driven in their daily tasks, thanks to limited office distractions. However, as time went on, respondents felt less inclined towards their new work-life arrangements.
Like many other BRMs, you might have noticed deadlines are harder to meet, the once manageable stream of various chat messages and email seem to have mutated into an infinite scroll. You might have even noticed that a number of tediously important tasks are left uncompleted on your calendar. Everything is piling up; you’re losing an essential core skill: focus.
Focus is more than the Merriam-Webster definition, “the center of interest or an activity.” It’s about designing a clear vision. Focus is really about narrowing the scope of your intention.
In this digital age, amidst a global pandemic, work life has shifted. Finding it hard to focus on your work in a new remote environment is a natural symptom, cured with a few mindful alterations to your daily routine.
Build the Environment
Once the novel allure has drifted away, working from home may begin to reveal a set of camouflaged complications. First, there may not be a proper workspace in your home. The most important detail of inspiring focus in oneself is being immersed in a productive environment.
BRMs recognize the importance of cultivating a professional atmosphere no matter where you are; if the space is missing one, you make one instead. This starts with your largest professional tool, your desk! It’s often forgotten how your mental space is affected by your physical space, which becomes even more crucial when your personal and professional working spaces are suddenly thrust together.
Quickly, take notice of any dull pain in your back and neck. This could be due to:
- An uncomfortable rigid chair
- A desk at improper height
- Insufficient light sources
- Small monitor space or lack of monitors
Think about your needs and decide what you can improve in your new office space. Whether it’s splurging on that new standup desk, or designing a space free of technological annoyances or visual interferences (move that television to another room) you can cultivate the proper working space.
Address your Impulsivity
Working from home means your attention has so many distractions to contend with. You are now juggling a high volume of chat notifications, an inbox flooded with emails, and yes, updates on social media. Most of these distractions are due to that small black screen sitting next your mouse. That’s right. Your cell phone is your biggest distractor.
It’s a well-known fact that turning off your phone or leaving it on Do Not Disturb for the entire work day can be beneficial. However, the reality is that our phones are lifelines and are often times necessary in lives.
So, how can your favorite piece of technology work with you, rather than against you?
- Only check chat messages, email, and other personal communications at specific times of the day. Set these “communications checks” at times best suited to your flow of work so it doesn’t detract from priority tasks.
- Delete, or move, time-eating apps.
- Jump into those settings! Place your cell in Focus Mode on Android or ScreenTime on IoS.
Now, this noble piece of technology is your silenced partner on your journey to maintained direct focus. Remember, keep your phone just out of arm’s reach. Accessibility creates impulse. Impulse leads to unfocused and untapped productivity and potential.
Extra Tip: Create block lists on your desktop, barring you from unnecessary distractors.
Harness your Intentionality
After your impulses have been effectively cared for, it is time to set an intention to create work that is truly meaningful to you. This is probably the most challenging part of working at home (or in an office, for that matter). There never seems to be enough time to get to that growing To-Do list finished, and there always seems to be a distraction, whether that be professional or personal. When you embark on a work-from-home journey, professional and personal interests will inevitably collide. To avoid the missteps of this collision, it is vital to establish your environment and create boundaries. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Communicate with your household members by designating an agreed office space or work station.
- Design a calendar and/or schedule notifying family members of appropriate intervals when the work process is at a pause.
- Create a system that lets others know when you can and cannot be disturbed. (Some individuals use sticky notes or signs, more creative avenues could be a light system or door flag notification. Have fun with it! Think of the ON-AIR button at a radio station or the flag system which a medical facility might use to indicate when a certain provider is needed in a patient’s room.)
- If you have household members such as small children or pets that are unable to adhere to all the boundaries you have set, try not to panic. Communicate with your professional team, make your team aware of your surroundings and situation. With open communication, more than likely they will understand.
While your co-workers might not be coming up to you asking questions while you are in the middle of a task, that responsibility has now been lovingly entrusted to your family members. Hopefully, some of the above suggestions can help avoid or alleviate some of the friction that work-at-home life can present.
The Rule of Three
To further aid in your intentional goal setting, use The Rule of Three, provided by the Productivity Project, written by Chris Bailey.
Essentially, this theory is a daily plan to choose no more than three tasks you want to accomplish that day.
- Pick three main intentions (these are your goals for the day).
- Break down your intentions into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Schedule your intentions, separately.
Once your goals have been identified, set aside time for each intention with a timer set on your phone, laptop, or desktop. Anywhere from 15-35 minutes is recommended. Ultimately, the incorporation of a timer will provide an external motivator which limits distraction by reducing the amount of self-restraint you need to focus on the task at-hand. Also, it will lessen resistance towards getting started on each new task.
Apart from your main intentions, reserve a time to respond to emails and messages in batches. This allows you to give a true, allotted time to your main goals, and it also prevents you from falling victim to the dreaded email spiral. Don’t hesitate to focus on one task at a time. You may be surprised how much you flourish under your own self-directed time schedule!
Now, imagine this as you start the work day…
This is the premier office environment! All technological devices are set to minimize any distractions and you’ve identified your three main intentions. As a result, your work-from-home day is concise, easy-to-follow, and most importantly, focus-driven. Integrate these steps to have a more meaningful work experience, whether your work remains remote or you’ve returned in-office. The more meaning you feel in every moment of the day, the more purpose will come out through your actions, and the stronger your relationships will be with intentional, cultivated focus.
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