Working From Home, Part 2: How To Focus

Read Part 1: The New Normal

This is Part 2 of my ongoing series designed to help people in COVID-quarantine adjust to working from home. 

The #1 question I’ve been asked over my 10 years of working from home is, “How do you stay focused?”

The truth is, it’s hard. I can’t say I’ve totally figured it out. I’m going to be honest, working in the same room (or even the same building) as your refrigerator and your snack supply is not conducive to focus or healthy living. While you might have just chuckled reading that, it’s not a joke. There are many articles out there about “how to focus when working from home,” but they are typically selling some software solution or tool. Those can help, but they ignore the core issues. I’m going to explain those core issues and how to solve them.

There are so many distractions when you work from home. Nobody is watching over your shoulder making sure you are productive – you have free reign of the place. At first, it feels empowering. But after a while, it can become extremely stressful and depressing when you realize that it’s not like working in an office – focus does not come naturally.

Our brains aren’t wired to work from home. It’s not natural to us – at least not yet. Our brains are used to a separation between the work and “play” areas. It is accustomed to flipping that switch when you walk out the door in the morning and flipping it back when you walk back in at night. It can be hard to make the adjustment – especially if you are now suddenly being forced to work from home while quarantined with the rest of your (very noisy) family.

So, let’s fix the problem. There is no mountain that hasn’t been climbed. I’ve been working from home for 10 years – how do I do it? At first, it was difficult. Now, it’s easy – even natural. I don’t mind the idea of working in an office environment, but now that I’ve adjusted to working from home, I would hate to have to give up the many perks that come with the lifestyle. Here are 5 REAL ways to focus when working from home:

  1. Isolate yourself. There are multiple ways to do this. If you have the option, close yourself off in a separate room while you are working. If you ever transition to not-work, leave the room. This will help your brain adjust by giving it an alternative work space where it can flip that switch and be productive. You are wired to see work and life as two separate existences. Creating a separate space within your home will help you adjust to that transition. If this is not an option for you, there are other ways to isolate yourself – the best way I’ve found is to use noise canceling headphones and fill your ears with background noise – music, white noise, or even a TV show. I like to play TV shows that I’ve watched 10 times already (most of those times doing this same thing) on a separate monitor or computer. I have no need to pay attention because I already know everything that’s going to happen, but it provides a constant background chatter of real people having conversations. Growing up in a large family, I have a hard time focusing in silent environments, so this one works well for me. Only do this if you won’t get distracted by it, though.
  2. Communicate. You need to sit down with your entire family and have a productive conversation about boundaries during work hours. Everyone needs to have clear and well-understood regulations about when they can and can’t interact with you. Setting these boundaries won’t work 100%, but even if it cuts out 50% of your distractions during the day, that will be a huge improvement. Make sure you explain to your spouse and especially your kids that you aren’t trying to avoid them, and that you love them and that you would be spending time with them if you could. In my opinion, it is important to clearly articulate to your children (of any age) the reason that you are working from home now, and why it is important that you are not disturbed (you have to work so you can pay the bills).
  3. Have a regular schedule. Some of you are still required to work regular business hours, while some of you are not. My recommendation is to force yourself to work regular business hours even if you have the option not to. Your brain is already wired to be productive during those hours, and this is not the time to start changing things.
  4. Keep your routine. To continue on my point above, it is very important that you keep to your previously established routine. If you drink coffee at 7:30 every morning – do that. If you leave the house at 7:45 and arrive at work at 8 – walk into your dedicated space at 7:45 and spend 15 minutes listening to a podcast or whatever you do on your commute. This will help your brain flip that switch into productivity mode and be ready to focus at 8.
  5. Dress for work. This is one that most people never think about. 90% of the jokes that my family and friends crack about me working from home are along the lines of “You work from home? Man, I wish I didn’t have to wear pants to work.” If you’ve been sent home to work remotely from quarantine, this may be one thing you are looking forward to. Don’t. Just like I’ve explained above, it is important to follow your existing routine. Wear exactly what you would wear to work. I spend a lot of time on video conference calls, so I wear a company polo to work every day. But on top of that, I typically wear jeans, socks, and an undershirt – just like if I was going to work for the day. Now that my brain is permanently wired to work from home, it isn’t a terribly big deal if I do without a belt or shoes some days (on some rare occasions I’ll even go crazy and wear pajama pants), but my productivity is always significantly improved if I take the time to fully prepare for work before I clock in. That means everything – a shower, beard trim, tooth brush, and all of my clothes – down to my socks, shoes, and belt. It helps me get into an awake and productive mindset and properly prepare for my day.


Here are 5 additional things that I personally do to help myself focus:

  • Use an electric sit/stand desk. I try to stand for at least an hour each day while I’m working, especially during video calls.
  • Taking 5 minute breaks about every hour.
  • Working with a co-worker on a project over video chat when possible (when I find my focus wandering).
  • Working extra in the early morning or late at night to knock out tasks while nobody else is online or awake to distract me.
  • Getting rid of all unhealthy snacks from the house and only keeping healthy, fresh food in the fridge. (This one may not be practical during a quarantine or if you have kids)


Well, there you go. Hopefully this article has been helpful. I’m not selling anything, just sharing what I’ve learned while working from home for the past decade. The key thing I’ve learned is to focus on the core issues and not waste time and energy on all of the many “productivity tools” out there. Once you’ve got the essentials down, these things can help you become more productive. But they won’t ever help you restore your baseline office productivity – you have to do that by working with how your brain is already wired and sticking to your existing routines.

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Any questions? Drop them in the comments!

Working From Home: Welcome To The New Normal


So  you’re working from home now. Welcome to the dark side. We have cookies!

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forces tens of millions of employees home, people are being pushed unexpectedly (and uncomfortably) into a work environment that can be surprisingly rewarding once you get used to it.

I’ve been working remote from home at least part time for my entire adult life – over 10 years. For the past year and a half, I’ve been working a full time salaried position at a marketing agency from my home office. My workspace has taken a wide variety of shapes – from being curled up on my bed in what was basically a tiny home to currently having my own dedicated office in my 4-bedroom house with a standing desk and 4 monitors (see photo at the top of this post).

I know what works, and what doesn’t.

I’m currently quarantined in my home due to the fact that my entire household is experiencing flu-like symptoms. With no easily accessible testing available yet, I don’t know if I have COVID-19… it is just as likely that we have Flu A, according to my doctor. My instructions have been to stay home and stay isolated.

Fortunately, this doesn’t significantly affect me. This is already my life. Every morning, I wake up, walk down the hall to my office and work at my desk for 8-12 hours before clocking out for the day. It puts a damper on my social life, but that is a luxury that I can afford to go without for a while.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for most people. The majority of people are not prepared to work from home. This new reality is very disruptive to their (your) life, adding stress to an already unpleasant quarantine experience.

Since I am trapped at home and unable to volunteer in any other manner, I will be writing a series of blog articles designed to help people like you transition to a work-from-home lifestyle… and love it. There are many advantages to working from home, and many ways to reduce the impact of the disadvantages.

Without further ado, I am going to jump right in and talk briefly on 7 ways you can make working from home an enjoyable and productive experience. I will be fleshing out each of these points in more details in the coming days.

Please share this article with your friends and on social media to help all of us make this transition an easy one.  Please comment on this article with any questions you may have about working from home, and I will do my best to answer them directly and in my future posts.

How To Enjoy Working From Home:

  1. Create a dedicated workspace. This cannot be understated. It will 100% make the difference between you loving and hating working from home. Even if you enjoy noise and the people you are surrounded by, it will drain your productivity and cause added stress. If you don’t realize that now, you will soon. This does not have to involve an elaborate setup – it just means that you need a separate space where you can isolate yourself from outside sounds and interruptions.
  2. Invest in adequate equipment. You don’t need a $3,000 workstation, but you do need a computer that will allow you to work quickly and efficiently. The most important change you can make to your computer setup will be a second monitor, assuming you don’t already have one. This is one of those things that you won’t realize you need until after you’ve gotten it… and then you won’t understand how you ever existed without it. This is because, unlike an office environment, when working from home, you will need that second monitor to talk to other people. You will be using videoconferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, or Slack – and unless you have a second monitor, you won’t be able to do much else until those calls have concluded. You will be shocked at how much of a difference this makes to your workflow and overall productivity.
  3. Get high speed internet. Satellite internet or DSL will not work. Period. The latency is far too high and speed too low for any kind of video or audio call to work. If you live in the city, you’ll need a cable or fiber connection. If you live in a rural area, look online for a “Fixed Wireless Internet Provider” in your area. These companies are typically small local businesses that provide high speed residential internet in rural areas that is many times faster than satellite. They attach a dish to your roof just like a satellite connection, but it is connecting to a local tower within 10 miles of your house instead of a satellite in space 22,000 miles away. If you don’t know of any high speed providers in your area, try searching on In a pinch, comment below with your zip code and I’ll try to find one for you myself (I work in this industry).
  4. Pro Tip: Don’t overpay for internet. In a crisis like this, a lot of internet companies are going to try to sell you expensive “Work from Home” plans that you don’t need. You do not need a 1000Mbps (“Gigabit”) connection. Unless you are uploading and downloading large files all day, you likely won’t notice a difference in any connection over 25Mbps – as long as it is a low latency connection (unlike satellite). Even if you download and upload a lot of files, you don’t really need anything over 50-100Mbps. If you can get unlimited data, go for it… but don’t waste money paying extra for a “high speed” connection that you don’t really need.
  5. Plug into your router. A common misconception is that a high-speed wireless connection is basically the same thing as a wired connection with today’s technology. This is not true. It doesn’t matter how fast or reliable your wireless connection is, you will notice a huge difference in the quality of your video and audio calls if you are able to plug your computer into your router directly. This reduces latency and packet loss, the two biggest causes of video/audio issues on calls. This isn’t always possible, and it isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will make a big difference.
  6. Dress to impress. How you dress has a huge impact on how you think, even if you don’t realize it. Don’t sit around in your PJ’s on your couch all day. Put on clothes just like you are going to work – including your shoes. Just trust me on this one. It will allow your brain to accept the transition and shift into a productive state of mind.
  7. Sit up. Don’t lounge around on your couch or bed. Grab a real chair and work at a desk or table. Not only is this good for your posture, but it will do wonders for your mood and productivity levels. Also, come back to work at the same spot every day. Like the point above, just trust me on this one. These are lessons I’ve had to learn myself through years of trial and error.

That’s all I have for now. I’m going to work on fleshing these out into individual articles soon, and I’ll also be writing on additional topics, including:

  • How to build a home workstation
  • How to create a professional background for your webcam
  • What software do you need to work from home?
  • What kind of computer do you need to work from home?
  • What specific peripherals (mice, webcams, etc) will help you be more productive working from home?
  • How to avoid/eliminate distractions
  • How to be productive
  • And more…


What would you like me to talk about? What questions do you have about working from home? Light up that comment section!