June 14, 2020
  • Opinion

5 tips to help you focus with technology when working from home

By Carrie Rogers-Whitehead

The coronavirus has many of us juggling work, school and sickness while stuck in the four walls of our own home. While we may not be going out as much, there is certainly a lot coming in. Calls, notifications, emails, texts and more help connect us, but also can be a distraction when trying to work from home.

  • Prioritize tasks. Some tasks, like strategizing, writing and any type of creating require more mental energy. These “deep work” tasks need to be done with little to no interruption. Plan your day and divide your deep versus shallow tasks. If you know you have an hour of no interruptions in the morning, or perhaps late at night after the kids are asleep, plan to do your most brain intensive work.
  • Limit tabs and windows on your computer. Only pull up the tabs of projects you are working on right now. There are browser extensions to help with this such as MaxTabs on Firefox or XTabs on Chrome.
  • Use online blockers. If you find technology becomes a big distraction and you’re struggling, use blockers. They can be heavy-handed, but can help you create new habits over time. Freedom is a website blocker that can shut you out of sites that waste time. Mac offers Focus, and a cross-platform program called FocusMe that blocks websites and tracks your online usage. If you really need extra help, there’s the “nuclear option” of Cold Turkey on Windows, which locks you out of your computer for a time period if you break the rules you set.
  • Save it for later. Sometimes when we’re working, we find a new fact or topic we don’t know much about and get pulled away from our primary work. The internet is full of rabbit holes. Wikipedia and YouTube are two of the most popular ones, but everyone can get sucked in. Instead of trying to squash that curiosity and interest, save it for later. There are sites where you can bookmark and store content for a time you’re not working. For example, Pearltrees is a free site that allows you to organize and curate offline reading lists. Pocket is a paid service but provides a personal backup of articles and sites you want to save for later.
  • Put away your phone. If you can, put your phone in another room. Even the presence of your phone can be a distraction, and that buzzing or ping will make you lose focus. If you need your phone for calls, turn off all notifications except the phone ringer. You can also set it in airplane mode to put it to sleep while you work.

Technology can be a help or a hindrance when working from home. Use it for good to help you get through your busy day.

Of course, working from home is a luxury that many do not have. Many essential employees have to interact with others. It’s unclear exactly how many people are working from home now, but a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey in 2018 stated that about a quarter of Americans worked from home. That number may permanently rise after businesses find that they can save costs and employees get used to working from home. Working through tech distractions may be a skill more people suddenly need to develop.

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the founder of Digital Respons-Ability, the state provider of online safety education in Utah. Contact them at https://respons-ability.net , https://digital-parenting.com or for FREE student and parent digital citizenship & wellness classes in English or Spanish. Virtual trainings and online classes are also available.