When shelter-in-place orders were first enacted, you may have thought that spending more time at home would mean a boost to your productivity and getting more done. But in reality, many of us are struggling to stay on track now more than ever. Here are some tips to help you focus when you’re feeling distracted — all of which can be tackled in five minutes or less.


Turn on some music. We’ve all been there: You have a looming work deadline weighing on you, and can’t seem to get started. When this happens, Brittany Ferri, a health and wellness educator and founder of Simplicity of Health encourages you to grab a pair of headphones.

“I'm a big fan of Spotify playlists, especially their Brain Food one,” she says. “It has a bunch of ambient beats with little to no lyrics, which help me get tunnel vision for whatever task I’m working on. If I'm in it for the long haul, I will listen to YouTube videos of classical music, nature sounds or piano music.” Another option is Brain.fm, which has playlists designed specifically to improve your focus.

Make a short-term list. You're probably used to writing out your daily to-dos. When you’re struggling to focus, however, a long running list can feel overwhelming. Instead, jot down only the most-pressing tasks that need to be done over the next hour or so. This will make your workload feel more manageable and break you out of your productivity rut.

Instead of making your list on your phone or computer, Ferri prefers putting pen to paper. “There is a certain something you get from physically crossing something off a list, rather than checking it off via an app or other digital platform,” she says. “Crossing items off a list gives you a finality that encourages you to chase that feeling again by getting something else done.”


Turn off notifications. Even when you’re relaxing, you might still find it hard to focus, especially if you have your phone nearby. With a constant influx of text messages and breaking news blasts vying for your attention, “being on your phone, especially when around family, can be detrimental to your well-being and to your relationships with others,” says Brian Wind, a clinical psychologist. “Practicing mindfulness can help you put down your phone and re-engage.”

Of course, stepping away from your phone entirely is easier said than done. Ferri recommends setting your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode once you are done working. Temporarily pausing those lit-up screens and vibrating notifications helps keep you mindful and focused on who you want to unwind with at the end of the day, she says.

Another reason to silence notifications? You get a break from social media. “We tend to compare ourselves to others in terms of productivity — either real or perceived — and constantly need to be ‘keeping up with the Joneses,’” Ferri says. “But that can make us feel far more bogged down than we need to be.” By limiting your social media exposure, you’ll put less pressure on yourself, freeing up your focus for your loved ones.


Assign days to certain chores. When you’re spending the majority of your day at home, it can feel like you have all the time in the world. But before you know it all the cleaning, cooking and exercising you intended to do never happens.

Wind believes mapping out a simple schedule can help. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking time during stay-at-home orders to kick back and relax,” he says. A weekly schedule can help you determine which days you plan to get things done, while also giving yourself time to do nothing, he adds. “Holding yourself accountable at a time like this can help you maintain a sense of purpose and productivity, all while preserving your mental health.”

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