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Two Minute Tips

Staying focused while working from home

May 26, 2020

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Working from home can be distracting even when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, worrying about our health, our income, and our loved ones while trying to get anchored and be productive amidst a buzz of anxiety.

Before and After Work

Some people like to roll out of bed and onto their couch and work in their pajamas, but for others, having a pre-work morning routine is helpful. This is especially the case if your job includes impromptu video calls—if you’ve taken a shower, gotten dressed and combed your hair in the morning, you won’t have to scramble to do so at the last minute.

Making sure you’ve eaten and have snacks and beverages on hand can be helpful, as you won’t have to get up to eat. Planning for dinner in advance can also help you plan what you’ll do after working hours.  

Without a start time and end time, things have a tendency to meld together, and you run the risk of always sort of working and sort of not working. Over days, weeks and months, this can negatively impact both your productivity and your overall morale.

Organizing Your Task List

Each week, make a to-do list of work that you must complete and work that you should or could do. You can break it down into days and weeks, using project management tools like Basecamp, Trello or TickTick. You might find that you’re less productive than you used to be, not just because you’re working from home but also because of outside distractions.

Background Noise

Listening to ambient noise while working can be helpful. If your soundtracks aren’t doing the trick, consider trying a site like Coffitivity (for coffee background noises) Noisli (which lets you mix and match different sounds), MyNoise (also customizable), or the outdoor noise Android and iOS app Naturespace.

Focus Times

Find tools that’ll help you focus deeply for stretches of uninterrupted time. That could include Pomodoro plug-ins like Strict Workflow (available on the Chrome browser) where you work for 25 minutes without social media accesss, followed by a five-minute break, or Tomato Clock (available on the Firefox browser), a similar add-on that’s more customizable.

Some people benefit from checking in with other people. A tool called FocusMate allows for three free 50-minute sessions a week to cowork over video with an accountability partner it selects. Ultraworking is another video accountability tool. You can also find a work partner more informally and check in over social media at specified times.

Outside of Work

Making sure you’re connecting with people while still respecting social distancing guidelines, whether that’s by phone, video chat, or asynchronous video tools like Marco Polo.

Figure out what recharging looks like to you. It could be exercise, a walk (social distancing permitting), meditation, or spending quality time with your family or pets.

Taking care of yourself outside of work will help you get more done at work, so do the best you can in finding that balance for yourself.


  • Yael Grauer

    Yael is an investigative tech reporter covering privacy and security, digital freedom, hacking, and mass surveillance. Yael currently works at Consumer Reports as a tech journalist and the content lead of CR Security Planner. She has freelanced for m...

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