Remote work is at an all-time record recently. Some of us are used to it — the freelancers, the creators, the self-employed, the fridays-from-home. But for most people, it's a completely new experience, that appeared out of necessity, at a time when life is already hard enough as it is. Some people might think “Working from home? Easy! It's just work, but from home. I won't even have to get dressed.”
Distractions, distractions... Oh look, a puppy!
There are many unexpected setbacks that can show up uninvited when working remotely. The most important setback of working from home is distractions.
- Children, pets, and other people in the house.
- Noise coming from the streets or neighbors.
- A working space that's not ideal: too hot, too cold, too messy, too small.
- Constant notifications.
- Urges to check the news, or worse, news as notifications.
Distractions make us work more slowly, break out of the flow, and ultimately, cause us to lag behind on our work tasks and life tasks. Because remote work doesn't only mean working from home — you will probably also have to do a lot of other things, like keeping your space clean and organized, prepare your food, and maybe even take care of others. When you spend your days at home, home gets dirty very fast.
And when the tasks start piling up, it's very difficult to get back on track. When you have one task in your to-do list, it's relatively easy to tackle it. But when there are dozens of them, it can feel impossible. And if something feels impossible, we'll unconsciously do everything we can to avoid the discomfort of having to deal with it.
So now you're watching the news, checking your notifications, talking to someone, watering the plant — it feels productive, but it really is nothing more than procrastination. When we procrastinate, we let the difficult, important, or boring tasks pile up, and suddenly, your to-do list is getting bigger every day. Back to square one. We feel guilty, and we start procrastinating again.
So how do we break this cycle? Let's find out. Open up your journal, let's get started.
Step one: Understand your thoughts
With so many distractions, so much information, so much worry, and so much guilt piling up in a spaghetti bowl of thoughts, it's easy to lose track of ourselves. When was the last time you checked in with how you actually feel? What do you fear, what are you grateful for, what frustrates you, and what brings you happiness?
Action: Take some time for yourself. Not for TV, or news, or other people: time for yourself. And write down how you feel. Trust me — you will let out all the gunk stuck in your thoughts, and untangle that bowl of noodles there's in your head.
Step two: Define priorities
Why do we keep running away from our tasks and into the wide, open arms of distractions? Simple: Our tasks and chores are difficult, distractions are easy. The only way to fight this is to define and set priorities. Think about what brings the most value to your life. Is it work? Is it catching up with loved ones? Is it keeping your space clean? Or is it constantly reading the news, stressing about your neighbor, or binge-watching a TV show again?
Action: Write down all the tasks that come to mind. Also write down the main things you have done in the past few days, like watching TV, scrolling social media, or complain about the weather. Then, organize them by which are more likely to positively impact your life.
Step three: Maintain focus
Now it's time to get started! Once you know your priorities, the best thing to do is to start with the most important task right away. But after you've been working for a while, the distractions will step in again. It's normal for our minds to wander around. Just stay focused, remember your priorities, and keep going.
Action: Start working! And keep working. If your mind flies off to other things, gently step back into your task.
Step four: Keep at it
Only through repetition can habits be formed. If your thoughts, worries, or distractions, don't let you continue with your priorities, stop and write about it. Write down what bugs you, and figure out what you can do to fix it. If there's nothing you can do about it, then let that worry go. Place it in your journal and leave it there: It doesn't belong in your thoughts. Then, re-define your priorities if they have changed, and start working again.
Action: Repeat, until it sticks.
I got distracted at "puppy". What did you say?
It's ok, it happens to the best of us. Copy this into your journal, start writing, and take control of your life while working remotely.
- Understand my thoughts. Write down every thought, and try to make sense of it all.
- Define priorities. Decide what is actually important to you.
- Maintain focus. Start working, focus, and keep working.
- Do it again. Every day, multiple times a day, or every other day — whatever works best for you.