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Tips for staying focused when working from home

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Whether you’re working from home full time, part of the week, or just occasionally, staying focused can sometimes be a challenge when you’re surrounded by all of your favourite distractions. Here are some tried-and-tested tips for keeping your mind from wandering.

Create a dedicated workspace

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The sofa or dining room table might have sufficed during lockdown, but if you’re embracing the long-term remote working lifestyle, it’s time to create a more suitable space in your home. Not all of us are able to dedicate an entire room to a home office, but you really don’t need to – the important thing is having an area that’s comfortable, well-lit and clutter-free, and preferably, one that you can physically walk away from at the end of the day.

Even if you only have space for a small desk in the corner, make sure it’s the right height for you, and invest in an adjustable office chair and ergonomic accessories, such as a laptop stand to bring your machine up to eye level. When it’s time to clock off, make a habit of putting away your things, tidying your desk and taking your coffee mug to the kitchen to mindfully disconnect.

Make a habit of moving

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When you’re working at home, it’s easy to lose your break times to catching up on chores, or watching TV while eating your lunch – that is, if you remember to take a break at all when you don’t have colleagues stopping at your desk for a chat, or inviting you to the kitchen for a brew.

Getting out for a walk and some fresh air (and hopefully, some sunlight) during the day, as part of your routine, really does wonders for refocusing your mind and helping to get rid of excess energy before returning to your desk for the rest of your working day. If you’re short on time, at least avoid eating at your desk, and get up regularly to stretch your legs and give your eyes a break from the screen.

For those who work from home more frequently, some novelty may be beneficial, such as working from a coffee shop or library for a few hours here and there or even joining a local co-working space.

Tune in your brain with music and sounds

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Some people like to work while listening to their favourite playlists or podcasts, while others prefer complete silence – both are fine, if you know what works for you. But if you regularly find your mind wandering, it could be worth trying a few different background soundtracks to help keep your brain on task.

Academic research has shown that the intricate patterns and textures of classical music can aid concentration and brain function, as can the sounds of nature, such as rainfall, lapping waves, rustling leaves, or birdsong.

Then there are binaural beats, which are an illusion created by your brain when you listen to two tones with slightly different frequencies simultaneously. According to some researchers, listening to certain binaural beats can strengthen specific brain waves, which in turn impacts brain function: for improving your focus and productivity, target your alpha brain waves with tones between 8 and 14Hz. You’ll find binaural beats playlists to stream online or via apps, but don’t worry if they don’t seem to work, as it could be that higher or lower frequency tones are more effective on your individual brain.

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