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23rd May 2020

3 little ways I manage to stay concentrated when working from home

Trine Jensen-Burke

Confession: I am the master of procrastination.

Which, I think we can all agree, is a recipe for disaster when you are no longer in an office with an editor breathing down your neck, but rather working from your home, in your yoga pants, while also trying to oversee an avalanche of Reading Egg passwords and SeeSaw feedbacks.

There are moments when I have them both busy with projects or schoolwork I manage to get into a bit of a flow workwise, but really, I must admit, most days, I am struggling with the lack of structure and accountability. And don’t get me started on all the distractions, like the freshly baked banana bread I know is sitting on the kitchen counter, or the Mathletics questions my 4th classer needs help with.

However, being a good couple of months into this new normal now, I like to think I have developed a few tactics that actually helps me focus and just get on with things. If you are finding yourself struggling to concentrate on work these crazy days, hopefully, these can be of some help:

1. Write out your top 3 priorities for the day

I know most of us have more than three projects or tasks we have to do or deal with every day, but I find it really helps to write out the most important things I really need to get done – stuff that cannot get pushed down the list until the following day.

That way, I start off with those, and they get ticked off – and knowing I have at least got the most important tasks done, helps me feel calmer and less overwhelmed about my workload.

2. Stick to a schedule

I know it is very easy for this whole lockdown situation to feel like one long, albeit very weird, weekend, but I have found that for my own sanity and productivity, I really need to stick to my normal-life schedule. Or at least as close to that as I can. Meaning, my alarm goes off at at the normal time of 6.15 Monday-Friday, and I have my little morning routine as per normal (yoga, shower, hot lemon water) before waking the kids at 7.15.

My workday then isn’t as rigid as I am also trying to manage a little bit of homeschooling, but also, more importantly, I am prioritising outdoor time and adventures with the kids. So I have set aside two hours in the morning for work, and then, in the late afternoon, when Netflix is allowed, I put in another hour, and once the children go to bed, I often finish up a couple of things, and prepare anything that needs to be ready for the morning.

I write out my little plan for the week on a Sunday evening, and a shorter, slightly more detail for the days, and try to stick to it as much as possible, knowing it just makes me feel more in control and less frantic.

3. Have a tidy workspace

This has made such a difference to my workflow and general state of mind. When this lockdown started, I would work from a corner of the dining table, pushing away senior infant work-books and bowls of dried-up Weetabix.

However, realising this wasn’t exactly doing wonders for my productivity, so I managed to somehow fashion an old dressing table into a little desk in the corner of my bedroom. And let me tell you, it has become my little haven. I make an effort now every evening when I finish up to tidy the space, so that when I sit back down again the following morning, it looks all tidy and lovely and ready for work. I have also gotten into the little habit of putting a little vase of flowers on my desk – and I swear, it is making me happier, even on those days when I have deadlines coming out of my ears!