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Staying productive while surrounded by distractions

Apr 24, 2020

One of the biggest challenges to productivity while working from home is being constantly distracted. Moira Dunne shares three tips on how to stay focused.

Our working lives changed suddenly in March when the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. Most people are now working from home and many are juggling family responsibilities, too. It can be hard to stay focused and get your work done each day while dealing with home life.

Here are three tips to help you be productive while surrounded by distractions.

Protect your focus

First, think about what is affecting your ability to stay focused. Then change anything you can control and try not to worry about the things you cannot control.

The most obvious thing we can control is the amount of time we are distracted by notifications. Switch off or mute anything on your device that is not essential.

This can be done easily by switching your phone to do not disturb or airplane mode for blocks of time when you want to focus. Or, even simpler, just leave your phone in another room. Examine the alerts coming in on your laptop, as well too. Can you close Outlook or Messenger at certain times during the day?

Realise that there are aspects of this situation that you cannot change – you cannot change the current status of the virus or how we are going about keeping each other safe. Try to accept that.

Use time blocking

Accept that your house may be busy and noisy with other family members around. Try not to let this become a stress as other people may need your support. Decide the best way to work around these demands.

Can you identify blocks of time to work rather than trying to work all through the day? If you need to do home schooling, try doing an early morning time block when the house is quiet, break to attend to family, do another time block later.

The important thing is to plan a specific piece of work for each time block. This increases your ability to stay focused and drives you to achieve the target by the end of the time allotted.

Group tasks together

If the day is constantly broken up by meetings and calls, there will be no time to concentrate and make real progress with your work. Take control of your day instead of doing a bit of everything all day in responsive mode. If you can, group tasks together to maximise your productivity, i.e. Zoom calls or phone calls. This helps clear other parts of the day for your solo work.

Moira Dunne is the founder of