Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Vita Dizon works virtually as an assistant manager. She has worked virtually for the past 7 years: in one of her previous jobs, she never even saw her boss. Here, she shares with us the strategies she has developed in order to keep distractions to a minimum, and productivity to the max.
During the height of COVID, when people were told they had to isolate, employers were forced to let their staff work from home. Now, more and more companies are allowing their employees to work from home permanently. From the work-from-home employee’s perspective, I found this comes with its own set of pros and cons. On the positive side, your exposure to the virus is greatly reduced by being at home and not working from an office. There is also that sense of empowerment and flexibility that comes from managing your own time and working in your own personal space.
Although being your own boss has its perks, that autonomy comes with a price: accountability. You need to be your own manager and motivator. The transition from being an office worker to a work-from-home employee isn’t always easy. Having other people work alongside you, plus that fear factor that the boss might be walking around, prevents you from spending your whole work shift on social media or binge watching your favourite show.
The common misconception when it comes to improving one’s sense of focus is that it’s a situational thing. Most people mistakenly think that you only have to work on your focus when you have an important deadline due or a complex task to complete. However, building one’s attentiveness involves more than just a cued response.
It requires living a healthy lifestyle, having the right mindset, and proper planning.
A healthy lifestyle helps boost your attentiveness and focus because your mind depends on the rest of your body to function at its peak performance. For example, if you aren’t getting enough sleep then you feel lethargic and this inhibits your attentiveness. The more you try to force yourself to work, the more tired you get and that means exerting more effort while doing less.
The same goes for eating good and healthy snacks and meals. These could include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. You should limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. You need to make sure that your body has enough quality fuel to get the job done. The go-to “fuel” that most people think of when it comes to work is coffee. Now, coffee in small doses throughout a work session can actually help you focus more. Just remember that, like everything else in life, moderation is key.
Once you have established a proper sleep schedule and you are following a healthy meal plan, the focus must then shift from general to specific changes. I learned that you can’t focus if there are distractions all around you (in my case, a toddler running around!). You need to get rid of these distractions (TV, mobile phone, books, etc.) or find a place where there aren’t any (work in the bedroom instead of the kitchen or living room, as it is less likely that anyone else will be there to distract you). The biggest distraction as far as working from home is concerned is usually social media. It helps to set a lock on certain websites while you are working. There are different plugins that enable you to temporarily disable your access to certain sites, which helps you stay focused on your work. While these plugins are great, the best defence against distraction is really just your own self-control.
Having the “get work done” kind of mentality is integral to staying on course. It’s a mindset thing. It’s easy to feel bogged down with work when we look at it as things we “have” to do. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same kind of privilege as we do (a job, access to internet, electricity, devices). Once you stop looking at it as something you “have” to do and see it as something you “get” to do, then your attitude changes dramatically.
The last phase is coming up with a plan. This involves having a schedule and an agreement with the people you live with that your work hours are meant to be uninterrupted. It’s easier to frame it from the perspective of assuming that you actually went out to work and aren’t in the house. They can’t talk to you or ask you for something if you “aren’t there”. After setting those ground rules, your next step is to set up a system for yourself. For this part, explore all of the systems out there. I found that it could be as simple as a to-do list or an online schedule planner. Whatever it is, stick to it and watch your productivity soar.
Written by: Vita Francesca Dizon
Edited by: Nedda Chaplin