Among the fundamental qualities for a virtual assistant, and in general for any profession carried out on one's own, is the ability to stay focused day after day. Unlike going to an office, working from home has some disadvantages or distractions in front of your eyes; being able to stay focused in an environment that is not just about work can be difficult. In addition, our family members know that we’re home and this leads them to think that, since we’re there, we are “available” and will attempt to start a conversation, etc.
Of course, working from home gives us maximum flexibility and it is fantastic to be able to freely decide what to do, when and how to do it without a boss “controlling us”, but be careful, if you’re not disciplined enough it can turn into a double-edged sword. We can get very tired at the end of the day and find that we’ve accomplished very little!
There’s no valid rule for everyone, but we’ve collected some tips that we find very useful.
Physical and virtual limits
The ideal would be to set up your office in a quiet room in the house where you can close the door and where you don't see the washing machine, the mess around the house, and so on. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible, but we can learn ways to isolate ourselves; with a little background music for example or with apps like Spotify or Deezer that reproduce the sound of the sea, wind, or birds. This helps us to stay focused on what we’re doing without getting distracted by what we hear or see around us. These apps have saved us in various very noisy situations.
With family members, we have to be good at setting limits, explaining them, making them understand in words and deeds that unless it is a real emergency, we do not want to be disturbed.
When it comes to the phone we can always switch it to silent-mode or disable notifications. In order to communicate with customers we must have at least one channel of availability like Trello or Slack, but we must resist the temptation to answer calls or text messages that are not related to our job. We don’t check the email continuously in an obsessive way, but at regular intervals throughout the day. No social media, except for work.
Since we’re living in a digital era, we’ve chosen to write down all our commitments in apps like Trello. Every day we choose the three main things to deal with and try to always have them visible.
Staying focused and disciplined doesn’t mean sticking to the desk for long hours without breaks. We all know that this often happens especially near important deadlines, but in the long run it isn’t healthy for us, for relationships with our family, and not even for work.
So, in addition to meals (which should never be skipped!) we need to have breaks during the rest of the day. A 10 minute break is useful to rest the eyes and mind. This helps us to detach and resume work in a more productive way.
It is worth finding the most suitable way to stay focused and disciplined, don't you think? How do you do it? Do you have any other suggestions to add to this list?