Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, many around the world are practicing self-quarantine (or at least they should be) and are having to work from home (WFH).
For some working from home can be challenging for many different reasons; some of which are out of their control. However, I think there are other things that you can control and one of them being phone distractions.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest culprits for creating distraction is our phones. I do not think I need to expand on why most of us have an addictive-like relationship with our phones. However, if you are interested in learning more about how mobile apps are inherently designed to hurt our focus, I’ll link a few resources at the end that will help you understand the seriousness of the situation. And as you can imagine, in the context of working from home, this type of distracted behavior can significantly reduce our productivity, drain energy and negatively impact our work performance.
There is no shortage of articles with advice on how to effectively WFH; especially now with COVID-19. But, I want to share just a couple of practical tips that have worked for me over the years and hopefully, someone can benefit from them.
- Keep your phone outside of your room:
- From personal experience, having a phone on the desk, even if it is on silent or if the screen is down, does not work. Unconsciously, it is inevitable that we are going to pick it up. It could be while you wait for a Slack response from a coworker or while we wait for Outlook to load. And before you know it, we end up mindless scrolling on things that add limited value to us completing our work.
- Get up and move:
- There is significant research that suggests we should get up from sitting and move around every so often. Usually, this is not a problem when working from the office because you attend meetings, walk over to coworker’s desk, or go to the pantry (which could be on a different floor).
- Unfortunately, when working from home, you need to think about this in advance and purposefully create situations where you have to get up and move; such as combining both of these points :)
Typically, when working, I place my phone outside of the room with a timer set for 45 minutes. By moving the phone out-of-sight and out-of-reach, I effectively eliminate possibilities for unconscious pick-ups. The result is that I can give my undivided attention to work and not becomes anxious.
Eventually, when the timer goes off, I have no choice but to get up and turn it off; gaining benefits of #2. At that time, I can quickly check if there are any urgent calls or messages that I need to respond. I then reset the timer and return to my desk.
Using this simple model, you can include other elements to the process to help develop additional habits. For instance, if you are trying to drink more water every day, you can place a water bottle next to your phone, and then every time you get up to turn off the timer, you can drink.
I have following the above process well-before the COIVD-19 situation, and I have seen notable benefits from it. For this reason, if you are either new to WFH or have been WFH for some time, and want to increase your focus, productivity and develop healthy habits, this process is worth giving a try!
The 45 minutes timer technique that I shared app is something that I started doing without much research. However, when I researched for this blog post, I discovered the Pomodoro Technique!
What is the Pomodoro Technique? aka Tomato Timer
(Pomodoro – Italian for Tomato)
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and work without interruption
- Take a 5 minute break (completing 1 Pomodoro)
- Repeat above 4 times
- Take a 15 minute break
- Start again
There are many Pomodores Timer Apps that you can try and change configurations to your liking: (https://zapier.com/blog/best-pomodoro-apps/).
If you are interested in learning more, the Pomodoro Technique or how mobile devices are designed to develop addicted behaviors, below are some resources I recommend:
- Pomodoro Technique
- Digital Minimalism with Cal Newport
- Brain Hacking
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
–Thank for reading and #StayAtHomeAndStaySafe !