Working from home and how to effectively manage your time and those unwelcome distractions

Hello again – did you manage to enjoy a little downtime over the Easter weekend?

I don’t know about you, but work has never felt so intense now that I’m working from home. I’m working longer and harder, and with fewer breaks – at the end of the (very long) day, I’m exhausted!

I’ve noticed that, as I try to crank through the day, I’m not leaving my desk (dining table) and I’m also constantly getting distracted by other notifications… On top of it all, I’ve got an almost permanent sore throat from attending all these Teams or Zoom calls! (No, it’s not accompanied by a persistent cough.)

So I’ve implemented a simple discipline – a new daily rhythm, if you like – to help me take breaks:

I set a timer on my phone for 1 hour – and every hour, I take a 10-minute break, make a cuppa and walk around the garden…

  • I’m turning email notifications off and looking at it just 3 times a day.
  • I take a proper lunch break, make it at least 30 minutes, and I try to sit outside.
  • Every online meeting has to have an agenda (a clearly defined and agreed outcome we’re trying to reach) before we start it. Someone is also appointed “rabbit hole” monitor on our calls, to help keep us on point. I also don’t let late arrivals distract the meeting when they do arrive and steal a further 5 minutes explaining why they’re late – in our world, it’s come in and get into the meeting, don’t faff about distracting everyone.
  • The 5-10 minute breaks every hour get taken even if we’re on a video call (mostly).
  • I look at my priorities for 15 minutes every morning and prioritise the work I’m going to get done (outside of calls) – and I’m learning to not be over ambitious! Right now, I’m expecting (sometimes even scheduling) time for firefighting.
  • Before I finalise my plan for the day, I spent 5 minutes just breathing. Not meditation really; just 5 minutes of breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth (the latter noisily!). Getting maximum oxygen into my system helps me feel better – and those noisy out breaths really help dispel the stress. Trust me, life feels better after a few huffs and puffs!
  • I try to do calls at the start and end of the day. I find this seems to have a stronger effect on both my and others’ motivation and positive attitude.
  • I’m also finding my own mental state affected by external news. I used to watch the news, now I’m listening to Chris Evans on Virgin Radio (and no, he’s not paying me to say this). I never used to be a massive fan, and yet I find his broadcasts uplifting and funny versus the BBC, which is full of doom and gloom and repeat news stories.
  • Back at my ‘desk’, I schedule tasks in my diary as well as meetings. That makes the day easy for me – I just do what my diary tells me.
  • I also watch for time stealers – it’s very clear to me that there’s time for chit-chat and time for business. We’ve all naturally had those all mixed up for a bit, as we’ve tried to process and understand the changing world. But I’m consciously on top of that now.
  • Finally, managing the biggest ‘distraction device’ of them all has also been a big focus for me. We all look at our smartphones all the time (sometimes even just to check the time!) and it’s hugely distracting. So I’ve been making some ‘smart’ adjustments – and they really help!

My entire team has found this article (How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You) extremely helpful. It’s a complete tactical overhaul of how you use your greatest digital blessing/curse. Do take a quick look…

Wishing you a productive week working from home – I hope this helps!

Keep well and keep safe,

Jen x

Jennifer Raines, YRH Founder

Jennifer Raines, YRH Founder

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