How to Stay Focused While Working From Home

You'll need a plan to avoid distractions
Updated: Tue, 09/15/2020 - 15:25
 
 
  • You'll need a plan to avoid distractions

This story appears in the July-August combo issue of Seattle magazine and Seattle Business magazine. Subscribe here.

Working from home is making me feel obligated to check emails and respond 24/7 instead of just during working hours. I’m exhausted and having a hard time keeping up with the pace of back-to-back conference calls, no time to get any actual work done, not to mention all the distractions from my family and the dog. Do you have any suggestions on how to manage my day and push back a little?

Dear Meltdown Waiting to Happen:

Take a deep breath. You are not alone. The truth is we are living in a world with too many meetings, too many emails, and no time to get through them all. Everyone reading this feels your pain. My advice will sound simple, but you can do it. You must take control of your calendar. Stop feeling guilty and stop apologizing about having conflicts. 

The easiest way to do this is to set recurring meetings for yourself at optimal times throughout the day. I actually create “getting stuff done” blocks on my calendar and release the time back to the universe if something critical comes up. I know with instant messaging and chat features it is easy to get perpetually distracted but you have to break the habit of rapid-fire response. If you are a midnight emailer (you know who you are), knock it off and go to bed. No one wants to log in in the morning to a barrage of emails and it’s making us all crazy. If you are one of the culprits who creates weekly meetings but only needs 10 minutes, stop it. Shorten the duration or create collaboration spaces to document progress and skip the meeting altogether.

My other favorite strategy is to block out a couple of hours on Fridays to work on deliverables, clean up the backlog and prepare for the next week’s priorities. The more you get in this habit of controlling your calendar the easier it will become to juggle. You got this!

I was supposed to get a raise this year, but my company just announced a hiring freeze and no raises. I have worked hard all year to earn the increase and now I am being told it’s not going to happen. It feels like management is making excuses, blaming it on Covid-19 and going back on its word. I don’t make a lot of money and the smallest amounts help. What should I do?

Dear Suspicious Minds:

 We are in unchartered territory, and these are unchartered times, but I have to believe in my heart that most companies are trying to hold on to their people and avoid layoffs. Fundamental trust between employers and employees is being tested in every way imaginable, including your situation. But truth be told, I used to get a lot of questions similar to yours, even before the Covid-19 crisis.

Do you trust the company you work for? It sounds like there is a disconnect between what it is telling you about the financial impacts to the business and the way you feel or what you see. Going forward, try to get a written commitment instead of verbal promises whenever you are told, “If you do this and show us this effort, you will be rewarded with a raise.” But that still might not have held up in today’s unexpected economic downturn. If I were in your shoes, I would think of it as a “delay” rather than a firm “no.” Keep your chin up and keep track of your accomplishments. Be glad you still have a job and sit tight. There is so much out of your control right now, so let’s focus on what you can control, and let’s work on that trust issue.

 

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