3 Ideas for Refocusing When Working from Home

I’ve been working from home since mid-March, so I’ve had four months to work on my new routines. One struggle has been learning to stay focused when I’m surrounded by the distractions of my home environment: laundry needing to be washed and folded, cleaning to be done, etc. If you’ve been finding that there are new distractions in your work-from-home environment, try these three things to refocus.

Disclaimer: These solutions won’t work for everybody. I’m on a project that gives me flexibility on how I run my day-to-day schedule, and I don’t have children. But even if your specific circumstances are a bit different, I hope these strategies will give you some ideas to try out while working from home.

1. Take a Brain Break

When I find that I’m not able to focus on a difficult problem, I like to take a break from my computer and engage my brain in another way. This means picking an activity that allows me to stretch my legs, use my hands actively, or engage my brain in a creative way.

It’s important that my chosen activity lets me be away from a screen. While it’s tempting to spend my break time scrolling around on my phone, I find that this doesn’t reset my brain like screen-free activities. Lately, I’ve been particularly enjoying making bread, watering my garden, and playing my violin.

Find activities that you can pick up and put down in about thirty minutes. I find that to be about the right amount of time to reset.

2. Get Some Exercise

When I need to stretch my legs (or I’m just tired of sitting at my desk), I try to get some exercise. Here’s my best exercise advice: don’t end up in the mental trap of believing there’s one “correct” way to exercise.

In the past, I often thought that the only good ways to exercise were high-intensity cardio and weight lifting (a holdover from my many years as a competitive athlete, no doubt). But if the routine you’re trying isn’t working for you, give yourself permission to try something new.

A woman working next to a full laundry basket
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

3. Work Some Evening Hours

On days when I find my mind continually wandering off to things that need to get done around the house, the most effective way to refocus is often to take some time off work and get through my personal to-do list. On these days, I might log off around 3 p.m. and get back online around 8 p.m. to finish my work for the day.

To my surprise, these evenings have been some of my most productive hours. When I’ve given myself time to get tasks done around the house, my brain can focus on the work at hand and not other work that needs to be done.

What are some ways you stay focused when working from home?