If your devices are set for focus it’s time to look at your environment to see if it’s set up well to get work done. Even if you don’t have the luxury of dedicated office space, you can do some things to make it easier to stay on task.

First, does your office have good lighting? I like a window, but if you don’t have that make sure you have lots of lighting you like. It doesn’t have to be fancy to start, I simply went to Walmart and purchased the light fixture with the maximum amount of bulbs in it. Later on, I added smart bulbs so I could change the brightness and colour. Aim for natural like, even if it’s bulbs just make sure they are a good colour temperature.

Second, does your environment feel cluttered? I use the messy desk quotient As a way to see if I’m far too busy. If my desk looks like a disaster, then I’m likely doing too much and need to cut back on stuff so that I have time to keep my desk clean. If all you have is a desk, it’s likely better to have one that’s tidy and organized than one that’s scattered with junk. I’m sure someone here is going to think that they’re the exception, but that’s not what much of the research shows. With a messy/scattered environment, you’re going to have a harder time focusing.

Third, what type of music helps you focus or is the right type of music for the task at hand. Today it feels like a piano chill day so I’m listening to The Piano Guys album. Other days I like something loud with lyrics so I’ll listen to show tunes or Metallica. The important thing is to listen to something that doesn’t pull your focus away from the tasks at hand, this is why I don’t listen to podcasts or books while I’m working. I can’t focus on work when there is speech like that happening over my shoulder.

Fourth, working at home with kids is hard. Right now I have 2 kids off sick from school and my wife is in/out of my office every few minutes. My environment is highly distracting, but I’m still moving forward for a few reasons. Noise-canceling headphones is one of those reasons. I don’t use them every day, but being able to put just a bit more barrier between me and the distractions that are coming from my family helps me to focus.

If you have kids around full-time and have a partner that is also around it’s important to be clear about who is in charge of keeping the kids under control. Currently, I’m the only working adult in the house so it’s my wife’s job to keep the kids away from me so I can focus on work. Last year we were both working and I would work in the main part of the house on Tuesday to deal with our youngest daughter while she’d take the office and focus. This made sense since I earn 90% of the income and she could get all the office work she needed to finish done with one focused day.

Finally, do you need an environment change? One of the things I missed over the last year was the ability to go write in a coffee shop for a few hours. Once a week I’d head out with a few writing projects planned and then write. Often I’d get so much written that the rest of the day could go towards admin tasks without any real setback in my overall productivity.

Don’t be afraid to take a walk or move to a park bench or a coffee shop to get a short break and then a boost of focus.

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