How do you stay productive at work as a creative? Whether you’re already used to working from home or have recently transitioned to remote work, procrastination can be a recurring issue as can distraction. This can be especially true for creative professionals whose work doesn’t always have a clear beginning and end. Learning how to stay focused when working from home is the key to overcoming many remote work challenges as a creative employee.
The good news is that as long as you have the right systems and mindset in place, it’s easy to get back on track. Follow these instructions and tips to maximize productivity on even the most difficult tasks.
How to stay on focused when working from home
First things first, in order to pull yourself out of a productivity slump you have to set yourself up for success by taking ownership of your environment, workload, mindset. Here are three simple ways to do it:
1. Have a dedicated workspace to concentrate at work
You may be wondering how to stay productive when working from home. Well, your work environment can have a huge impact on your focus. Choose a spot in your home where you only do work for your job.
Do not eat meals, work on passion projects, or even check social media in this area. Your brain will associate it with productivity and you’ll get in the zone even faster the next time you sit down. This concept applies to your bed as well, which Feng Shui practitioners say should be reserved for sleep only.
2. Define big picture goals, priorities, and boundaries
As a creative, it’s important to be on the same page as your team or boss about what your goals are for the month, quarter, and year. Agree on one or two main priorities that you’ll work on first thing every day. Then, discuss what you’ll do if you’re assigned a task that conflicts or takes away from these priorities over the given time period. A project management solution can help you map out your tasks, view task dependencies and co-worker responsibilities. A project management solution can also help predict any possible stumbling blocks across all of your ongoing projects.
This step is really important because people tend to incorrectly estimate how long it takes to complete a task. It’s a natural cognitive bias that is easily solved by using a tool that organizes all your creative pursuits in one place so you can track how long each step takes and whether or not you remain on track when you do experience setbacks.
3. Be realistic about your workload and boost your WFH productivity
There has been much debate online about whether or not this pandemic is an opportunity to be more productive or to stop working so much entirely. The answer isn’t either/or but rather both.
There will be days where your mental state is more receptive to wind sprints of online productivity. And there will be days when it isn’t. Productivity coaches say it’s best to work with, not against, your general moods right now since it will actually lead to more success long term. So set up a workflow system that takes care of your mental and physical health in the process.
Learning how to concentrate at work when dealing with distractions
If you want to boost WFH productivity you have to learn how to keep your eyes on the prize. These suggestions will help you get crystal clear on what is or is not working and develop healthy habits that last a lifetime. Try one or more of the following ideas and see what works best for you. Here a few ways you can learn how to concentrate at work:
- Try time and budget tracking, like the kind offered by Wrike, to get a bird’s eye view of where your resources are being used. Formulate a productivity plan based on that data. Keep a spreadsheet with information on how long repeat tasks take to complete so you can schedule them into your day more accurately in the future.
- Limit the number of methods colleagues can contact you and make it clear which method you prefer. Prioritize work email and work-related chat tools. Use a free Google Voice number instead of your personal one to help create even more separation from work and the rest of your life on your cell phone.
- Use the Pomodoro technique to build in breaks. There are lots of opportunities to take organic breaks for snacks, water, and socializing in an office setting. But at home, your break time needs to be intentional in order to avoid burnout.
- Set a timer for 25 or 50 minutes of work and 5 or 10 minutes of rest. During the rest time, make sure you’re not doing anything you consider “work." That may include folding laundry, answering an email, or washing dishes. Instead try gentler tasks that will feel good for you such as stretching, sitting outside in the sunshine, or even closing your eyes for a little bit.
- Set a timer to help you get back on task. Even if you don’t use the Pomodoro technique, a 30 or 60-minute timer will serve as a reminder to be more conscious about what you’re doing in that moment. When it rings, note what you’re doing and if it’s still on task. Repeat the alarm as you go.
- Visualize progress to stay motivated. Seeing all the work you did during the day will help you see that you were productive even if your big projects aren’t finished yet. You can do this one of several ways. Track your completed tasks in a Word document, write your list on a whiteboard and check things off as you go, or use a creative project management software to color-code each new phase of your more complex tasks.
Concentration tips for productivity while working on difficult tasks
Some creative projects just take longer than others if inspiration isn’t striking or you’re under too much pressure. When all else fails, adopt some of these strategies to jumpstart your mind back up again.
- A 30-minute timer helps you bargain with yourself. If there is a work task that you’ve been putting off and dreading, promise yourself that you’ll spend at least 30 minutes working on it. When that timer goes off, you’ll have the option to either table it until another day or keep going and get it over with. Most people choose the latter.
- Have a strict end time. Force yourself to turn off your computer at the same time every day. If you know you have a limited amount of time to do something you’ll be more motivated to start it. Otherwise you may feel so confident about how many hours are left in the day that you put it off until later, after work hours, when you’re depleted and less likely to finish anything.
- Break overwhelming tasks into their simplest forms. In Stephen Duneier’s TedTalk called “How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals,” he notes that the only things standing between us and productivity is how we approach problem-solving. For example, in order to read 50 books in one year, he didn’t break down his goal into chapters, pages, or even paragraphs. Instead, he repeatedly made the decision to read one word a day. Once he read one word, it was easy to read two, then three, and so on. This approach will help you stay motivated, improve your follow-through, and avoid overwhelm.
You know how to stay on task as a creative employee — see how Wrike can change the way you work
There are lots of ways to make the most of work from home — even as a creative professional. The key is to have a strong foundation in place. That includes your physical workspace, how you structure your work, and how you troubleshoot if/when you do get off track.
If you’re looking for a tool that will help you organize your goals, to-do lists, and projects so you can stay focused at work, check out Wrike’s free trial.