How to focus while working from home

I hosted a live online panel earlier this week with three work-from-home experts – Melissa Nicholson from WorkMuse, K.J. Jolimeau from Trips Travel Agency, and Dr. Monica Marcelis Fochtman from Sheldrake Consulting. We talked about how to work from home without losing your sense of work-life balance.

Here are four key takeaways from this week’s panel on how to focus while working from home.

Claim Your Space

Number one, claim your space when you’re working from home, especially when you’re working from home with others who are now home as well – whether it be a partner, a parent, or a child, you really need to carve out some sacred space to get your work done. It’s so important to have space that is devoted to nothing but work. Dr. Monica Fochtman made sure to mention that this space should not be mixed with your sleeping space.

Do not work from your bed. It will ruin your sleep and ruin your work. And those two things should not mix in the same place. So keep your sleep space separate from your workspace.

It’s tempting because we all can float around on our laptops to work from wherever but try to choose a regular spot that is ergonomically helpful for focus. If you don’t have the luxury of having a desk or a dedicated workspace at home, try to create that sense of routine because it can really help you remain focused by distinguishing between work-time and life-time.

For instance, if you’re working at your dining room table, keep work at your dining room table, and eat in the living room. Keep your space in the dining room devoted to working.  And when that laptop closes and you walk away from that dining room table space or whatever workspace you’ve devoted to work, you know the day is done and it’s time to relax, unwind, and just be yourself and live your life outside of work.

Be Flexible

The second key tip that came out of our panel is to be flexible. Have a little bit of patience with yourself and always give yourself grace. Melissa Nicholson from Work Muse really hammered this point home.

She has two school-age kids at home, one of whom is currently quarantined and sick. Melissa reminded us that these are very exceptional circumstances that we all find ourselves in, so if you are not having your most productive week or day and just not feeling like you’re firing 100 percent, you’re not alone.

So, be flexible with yourself. Yes, it’s nice to have a plan. It’s nice to have your Google calendar all set up and your to-do list prepared, but if things don’t go according to plan, give yourself some grace.

If you recognize that what you really need is to take the morning off, try to be communicative with your team and say, “Hey, I’m going to be online late tonight to really get things done. I have to put my personal sustainability first right now.” You don’t need to give all the details of what you’re doing to give yourself grace. This is a very weird time. Let’s have some flexibility and patience with ourselves as we navigate it.

Grab the Phone

K.J. Jolimeau really hammered the point of just picking up the phone to communicate. A lot of us are sending texts and Google invites and Zoom hang out links, and 75 emails go back and forth as we try to understand the person’s tone and maybe read too much into their short email that we start to get offended or worried or nervous.

Just pick up the phone. We do not actually need double confirmation to call someone. You don’t need to text someone first and say, “Can I call you in one of these 17 different times over the next two days?” Just call them if you need to clarify something.

If an email hit you the wrong way. Try not to overdramatize it. Pick up the phone and make human contact. If that person is unavailable, they won’t answer. Or if they do and you ask at the outset, “Hey, do you have a couple of minutes I want to chat with you?” And they say, “You know what, I don’t right now. Can I call you back?” Perfect.

Let’s bring back phone tag. It is still a thousand times more efficient than 75 emails whizzing back and forth, especially as we navigate remote work as a nation and globe right now. Be extra communicative and give yourself permission to just call someone if you need to.

It is a very efficient way to communicate right now, and it’s really what we need because using vocal tone can also help communicate empathy and come across much more sympathetically than an email ever can. Email is by definition, just much colder and more subject to misinterpretation because you don’t have vocal tone working in conjunction with your words.

Avoid the Guilt Hangover

The final boss tip that came out of our discussion this week was to do your best to set yourself up to avoid the guilt hangover.  How can we flip this narrative in our own minds? How can we change our experience with downtime? I think this all boils down to being proactive as opposed to being reactive.

If I recognize that I am just not feeling it tonight, it is just not my night. I am exhausted and frustrated and stressed. I will proactively proclaim, “I give myself permission. I’m writing a permission slip to myself to just sit on my phone and binge Tick-Tock for a little while. And I’m not going to feel bad for it.”

Guilt doesn’t help you move forward. So we have to let it go. None of us are being perfect. Being a perfectionist is too high a standard to hold ourselves to in this uncomfortable and very weird time, so give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself and really put yourself and your loved ones first right now.

I hope these boss tips help you move forward in navigating working from home without feeling like your entire sense of work-life balance has gone out the window.

You can find the full discussion with all of our panelists here. In the meantime, take care of yourselves. Be kind to one another and keep bossin’ in pursuit of your purpose and together will lift as we climb.

This article originally appeared on BossedUp.