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In good times and bad, our minds have the tendency to wander. Whether it’s affecting your work or your sleep, we have a few tips to help you focus your mind for both productivity and relaxation. 

1.    Have a dedicated workspace.

There’s no way for your brain to know it’s time to work unless you give it a consistent work area. Typically, that’s an office, classroom, or other work site. But since many of us are working from home these days, we need to create the feeling of “work” on our own. Best case scenario, you have a desk with adequate lighting and all the supplies you need. But if you have to create a space, make sure it’s free of clutter and other things that’ll make your mind wander and feel like you’re on vacation. Set up a calendar, a planner, your notes, anything else that declares: This is a place for work. You’ll be shocked at how easily your brain switches gears when you’re in that space!

2.    Watch out for social media distractions.

The biggest threat to focus and productivity (even when in a normal office, to be honest) is social media. If you’re an avid Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook user, it’s easy to be sucked into checking your feeds twelve times a day instead of working. Social media can also send you off into tangents, opening new tabs to shop or research something you’ve seen. To force yourself to work around this, try turning off the Wi-Fi or unplugging your router if you don’t specifically need it to work. You’ll forget, and then every time you go to type in you’ll get an error message – your very own Get Back To Work alert. Is the internet essential to your job? For a lot of us, we can’t completely disconnect. In that case, use a blocking tool like Cold Turkey to block what you need for a certain amount of time while still using the parts of the Internet integral to your work.

3. Keep chores and other free-time activities in your free time.

That means you’ll have to actually designate a free time, which is good for your work/life boundaries if you’re working from home. If you’re on a particularly tough project or just having an off day, it can be easy to decide to do the dishes, clean your bathroom, walk the dog… basically anything besides facing the work. Fight it! Doing regular at-home activities during work hours only makes your focus worse by muddying the waters between work and home. Just like having a workspace and a solid time to stop working, keeping activities you usually associate with being off to times you’re actually off will help you be more productive in the long run. 

3.    Schedule break times and work sprints with an online timer like Pomodoro.

Even if you’re killing it with focus and productivity, you need a break – you’re human. Make sure you walk away from your desk to eat lunch (a good habit even in the office) and take periodic breaks throughout the day to stretch, walk, get a glass of water, or a breath of fresh air. Having trouble remembering to take breaks or breaking for too long? The famous Pomodoro method of working is available online! Set work start and work end times, break times, and watch your productivity rise. 

4.    Build in rewards!

Okay, you’ve completed your task without social media, checking your phone, browsing online shopping sites, or playing fetch with your dog. Awesome job! We know it wasn’t easy, which is why you deserve a reward – so create them! Whatever you’re motivated by, whether it’s a fresh cup of coffee or a run around the block (much respect), put that as the pot of gold at the end of your work rainbow. You’re more likely to power through something if you know there’s something you love on the other side of it.

Whether you work remote full-time or this is new to you, it’s not always easy. With the pull of our own fridge, family, pets, and the seemingly endless offerings to binge watch, there’s more demands on your attention than ever. With these changes, you’ll likely notice an uptick in your focus and more work completed – which means fewer late nights and weekend sessions to make up for that Wednesday you watched reality TV for three hours (no judgement). Go forth and be productive!