UCL School of Management

Carmen Bockeler | 6 April 2020

How to stay focused while working remotely

Sometimes procrastination can inspire and lead to good ideas, it’s actually the reason behind me writing this blog post for instance. However, to really create something good and of value, we need to be productive. But how can we possibly increase productivity when everything seems so inconsistent at the moment?

In these unprecedented times of the global pandemic, we find ourselves stuck in the place we have always looked forward to return to after a busy day or long night out. Our home - a place for rejuvenation, relaxation, our safe space; now we are here and all we want is leave. We’ve been stripped of all the things we took for granted, like popping to the shops, going for walks or even hiding away in a café with a good book for the afternoon. But by staying at home, we are saving lives!

We will all get the chance to appreciate what we had in our lives when things get back to normal. But for now, we must adapt to life in quarantine. It’s time to form new habits, a new routine, reflect on how we have been living and let go of the old habits that are no longer working for us. Let’s really use this time to design a new way of life, working and studying from home - productively

We all struggle

Many of us struggle to focus because of current external factors which cause anxiety, worry, existential fear and pain. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were sitting with colleagues and friends in the office or the library. Now our only company is those we live with or for some just ourselves. It’s down to us to get through the day without obvious points of orientation, such as our commute, meetings, classes, our beloved lunchbreak in the sun or just a chat with those we used to sit next to all day.

As adults, shouldn’t we all be able to navigate through the day with ease, be productive, have our shit together, be happy, have the flat clean and tidy, take care of loved ones (in person or via facetime)? Perfectionism is an illusion. It is okay to struggle, we all do! However, in order to remain positive and healthy, we need to establish ways that help us stay grounded, and with that focused and productive, the last thing we want now is be in a constate state of ‘I don’t know what to do’.

Productivity and Procrastination

Productivity lifts our spirits and procrastination leads to further anxiety and frustration. Despite the good ideas we sometimes get when procrastinating, we feel guilty. Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers said that “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.

It does not matter whether you did or didn’t have a productive week last week while sitting in bed having with your laptop propped up on your lap. Don’t judge yourself, just let it a go, and try out new ways to radically improve your focus and increase productivity, because this is what you want, right?

You must be willing to try. Only through trial and error, and by sticking with new practices for a few days, can we judge what works and what doesn’t. Now is the chance to work on our productivity, not just because we may be desperate to do so, but because now we have the time. Whatever we establish now can stay with us and really improve our busy lives when normality returns.

my top 10 tips

Here’s my tips on how to stay focused and be productive while working and studying from home during these unprecedented times.

About the author

I am by no means 100% productive at all times, I get anxious calls from family members and worry about how I can possibly not go crazy with noisy flatmates, coughing neighbours and the news. The 10 tips I’ve put together are based on what works for me, I developed these by trial and error over the past year. I studied fulltime, worked part-time (with 24/7 responsibility of projects and a small team), volunteered and enjoyed a social life. A former master of procrastination, felt stressed, frustrated and guilty. I am now kind but brutally honest with myself, I reflect on my progress and continue to make changes where necessary. Take what works for you and share your own tips and tricks (on social media, tag the UCL school of management and myself), get inspired and inspire others. We are all in this together!

Last updated Wednesday, 22 April 2020