Productivity versus Procrastination in the Remote Work Environment

distractions while working from home

Working from Home

Working from home sounded great at first. The idea of not having to get up early (in theory), wear uncomfortable clothes and shoes, and drink horrible breakroom coffee all day sounded appealing to many former office workers. Now that some – or a lot – of weeks have passed, it hasn’t turned out to be the pajama party you thought it would be. With those perks come distractions: television, your personal phone, social media, kids, errands that are easier to run during the day, household chores to get done. And let’s not forget that fridge and pantry full of snacks. 

If you are struggling to maintain productivity while working remotely, you are not alone. These easy, but effective tips may help:

  • Make a list. Start your day by making a to-do list. Write down everything you need to get done each day or use an electronic list or app. Put everything in order from most important to least important. Checking them off as you finish will also provide you with a sense of accomplishment, which helps fuel motivation to keep working.
  • Reward yourself. Sometimes it helps to keep yourself accountable by putting a reward system in place for yourself. For example, after you complete five tasks from your list, you get to treat yourself to a snack break, one (short) episode of your favorite show on Netflix, reading a chapter of a book, taking a quick power nap, or anything that will keep you motivated to keep going. 
  • Switch it up. Many people recommend having one designated space for your home office. You’ve probably heard not to work in the same room you sleep or watch TV. However, sometimes switching to a more comfortable chair with your laptop and getting a change of scenery is just what your brain needs to stay productive. Weather permitting, take that laptop outside for a bit while you soak up some energy boosting Vitamin D.
  • Get dressed. It doesn’t have to be a suit and tie or a skirt and heels. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be jeans. Just don’t wear what you wore to bed last night when you work. The routine of grooming and getting out of sleepwear is needed to switch your brain from sleep mode to work productivity mode.
  • Take breaks. It’s important to get up and stretch your legs every once in a while. Stand up, drink some water, walk around, grab a snack. It can even be helpful to go outside for a couple minutes and get some fresh air. While there may not be time to take a walk around the whole block, exercise is very beneficial to a brain with ADHD. Also, sitting for extended periods is harmful to your health in many ways.
  • Take your medication. Adult ADHD medication works best when taken regularly. Just because you’re working from home in a familiar and comfortable environment does not mean you can skip a day of taking your medication. 
  • Stick to a routine. Set your alarm and get up at the same time each day and go to bed at the same time each night. Set your work hours. Eat meals and snacks at roughly the same times. Do not perform any chores or errands you would not be able to perform if you were working in an office, which will throw off your entire work routine.

Learning from Home

Online learning for children is another big adjustment many people have had to make. It can seem overwhelming to parents who had to transition from working in an office, uninterrupted by the needs of school and childcare, to working at home while facilitating a learning environment and being constantly interrupted for snack demands to needing help getting back on Zoom. 

To help lighten the load, many of the steps listed above for working from home also apply to learning from home. Also, remember that even though your child is usually spending around seven to eight hours at school, they really don’t need to spend that much time hitting the books at home. They had lots of breaks at school, too. These guidelines can help provide a structure for your day:

  • Kindergarten through second grade only need a maximum of 90 minutes of active curriculum learning per day
  • Grades three through five only need a maximum of 120 minutes per day
  • Grades six through eight need a maximum of 180 minutes per day (30 minutes per class)
  • Grades nine through 12 need a maximum of 270 minutes per day (45 minutes per class)

These timeframes can even be broken down into smaller chunks throughout the day. 

Getting your child involved by giving them new age-appropriate responsibilities will help both you and your child. Some ideas include:

  • On the weekend, make up breakfasts and lunches together for the week and refrigerate or freeze them
  • Teach your child how to safely use the microwave
  • Keep healthy snacks within their reach in the pantry or fridge and set a timer for snack times or limits on the number of snacks
  • Set a reading time for each day. Have your child read out loud to you or a pet if they are younger and need supervision.
  • Plan physical activities in advance and offer a choice to your child to avoid them sitting in front of a screen all day.
  • Keep art supplies on hand and an area set up where your child can get their art on. 
  • Give them an age-appropriate chore list. When they are bored, have them pick a chore. This won’t be their favorite activity, but it will help you keep them occupied while getting housework done. Chores also teach responsibility, even though their standards are likely going to be a lot lower than yours.
  • Bless the mess. Most children are messy. Art is messy. Snacks are messy. Having them dance in the background of your work Zoom meeting is messy. As you watch the mess expand like the blob throughout the day, your frustration level will likely rise in accordance. Instead of yelling, ask your children to behave as if they were at school – would their teacher allow them to leave a mess? Learning to accept some degree of messiness is also key. You’ll need to find the balance that works for your home. Just remember to keep your expectations reasonable for your child’s age and development level.
  • Set boundaries (like no dancing during meetings), but remember kids aren’t always going to follow the rules. They don’t at school either. Talk with your pediatrician or look online for ways to keep them engaged so they have less of a chance to break the rules, and a discipline structure for when they do.

If you are still feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty coping with the new arrangements, schedule a session with a therapist here. Online psychiatrists are also available when needed for your convenience. We are here to help.

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