How Do Procurement Teams Maximize Productivity When Working From Home?

Randall Mauldin
03-24-20 11:45 PM Comment(s)
How Do Procurement Teams Maximize Productivity When Working From Home? - Simple, Improve Your Focus

Your job as a procurement professional is critical to keeping your organization's supply chain capable of providing service and products to customers because the supply chain has been exposed as the key vulnerability in COVID-19 pandemic.

For some reason, the toilet paper supply chain took a big hit! :-)

All organizations are affected by the supply chain to include small businesses, large corporations, for-profit, non-profits, and government agencies required to meet needs despite the situation. (An unlikely essential supply chain link for families is the small restaurants providing carry out for people who cannot get to the store for food. Make sure you support these small businesses, so they survive the current situation. My friendly community service announcement for the day ;-) ).

This series of articles are being written to help you stay productive while working in an environment that may not be your normal situation. 

Working from home in a virtual environment requires discipline and focus, so you can get things done while avoiding distractions that stop you from being productive. The following discussion looks at how to improve your focus. For additional resources, visit 

To be the most productive while working in a virtual environment from home, we need to begin with you and your ability to focus. Being in your home, you have many distractions because this is your sanctuary, your safety, your family. So, don't feel bad because it's hard to focus. Instead, follow the suggestions in this article. 

Let's get started...

Improve Your Focus

The most difficult thing to do when working from home is gaining and maintaining focus in a productive way. When you have to work long hours, you have many things to do, or you have a great deal on your mind, focus goes right out the window. We can safely assume you have a few things on your mind considering your job is the lifeline to your organization and your role at home is essential to your family, Right? So, Without the right focus, no matter how many hours you put in or how hard you work, things don't get done well or quickly.

This article will give you some suggestions to help you create a system for focusing on the right things.

Focus on Goals

Focus starts with establishing clear goals. When you sit down to accomplish a task, that task needs to be at the forefront of your mind. For example, you sit down to write an email to a stakeholder or vendor, then BAM! or ding!, your focus is stolen away by the Pied Piper of social media, like Facebook or LinkedIn. (I'm especially guilty of this one!) Since a lot of our news comes from this source, we are very tuned in to get the latest information from these channels. So we need discipline! If you stay focused on the goal at hand (writing the email), you can effectively ignore the lure of social media and get the task done; thus, you must stay focused on goals, so...

Creating a Prioritized To-Do List

The easiest way to create focus for the things you have to do each day is to set goals, then extrapolate smaller goals and from the smaller goals, create specific tasks.

For example, to clean the house, you have to begin with one room and then move to another room. If you need to fill an urgent requirement for your company, then you need to create a sourcing plan that begins with defining the specification, contacting stakeholders, informing vendors, and so one. Making a plan gets things done with a focus on one task at a time.

Break large goals into a list of all the things that need to be done. The tasks may appear in a natural priority. Consider our example of filling an urgent requirement, you need a requirement before you can ask a vendor for a quote. (For more information about RFP process, visit my YouTube Channel and subscribe here | in this presentation, I show you the method to source requirements)

Some tasks aren't so easily prioritized, so you may consider direction from your boss or the thing that keeps your family safest. 

We know you have the ability to get more than one thing accomplished on the list, but prioritizing the most important items ensures your getting the right tasks completed in a balanced approach for family and business. 

Deadlines are a great way to prioritize your list as well. Even though not every task has a real deadline, in fact, none of the tasks may have a specific due date, but deadlines will drive your priorities. Arrange your list with the earliest deadline at the top and work down from there.

One To-Do List

After you've identified tasks and put them in order, you'll have a nicely organized to-do list. You can start at the top and work your way down. This is very simple but there are some ways you can streamline your to-do list for maximum productivity.

First, you should have only one to-do list. If you have many types of things to do today – some work-related, some around the house, some purely for your own enjoyment – you may be tempted to make a different list for each category. But if you do this, you've destroyed the simple beauty of the to-do list. Now you have multiple lists and don't know where to start.

Instead, you should put everything on one list. You may want to prioritize different item categories or areas. For example, start with work-related tasks. Once those are crossed off your list, tackle the housework or errands. Save the leisure items for the end of the day when you can enjoy them.

Eliminate Non-Essentials

If you're like many procurement professionals, you love lists. Once you start writing down items into list form, you keep adding everything you can think of until you have a massive list as long as your arm. When this happens, you end up with list clutter, or items you don't really need to have there.

To keep your to-do list under control, it's important to eliminate non-essentials. 

Begin with your main goal or objective for the day. Since you're working from home, you may consider the most urgent requirements needed for your organization. Ask your boss what must get done today, so her priorities are part of your to-do list. Then consider your family's situation in regards to the current situation. Here you need to find balance. The truth is no matter how urgent your job priorities may be, your family will always come first. Recognize your internal needs and plan for them in your to-do list. You may need help from other family or friends or colleagues, but we'll talk about the next article.

Try creating a second list for things that really aren't pressing at all but that you'd like to do whenever you have time. You can move non-essential items to this list and you won't forget these items, but they won't clutter up your main list. You may even find that your second list can be eliminated entirely by asking your family to help since they're at home, too, most likely watching movies.

Sometimes it's helpful to set a limit on list items. After all, there is only so much you can do in one day. This is especially helpful with work-related tasks. If you have a set working time, this means you have a time limit for finishing tasks. Personally, my lists are limited to 10 tasks in order of priority. When I finish today's items, I start tomorrow's tasks, or if I don't finish, the last things from today's list become the top priority for the next list.

Scheduling Time for Focus

Scheduling makes tasks real because a specific time has been assigned to accomplish the task. With a schedule, you can put all your attention into the job at hand. In our certification training program, a big part of success is focused study where students set aside specific time for studying and focus on the most important tasks they need to master to pass the exams. Because our students balance work and family with preparing for a professional certification, the focused study is essential. (For more information about our supply chain certification program for procurement professionals visit

A method to manage time is to take big tasks and 'chunk down' into smaller tasks. If the tasks takes several days, 'chunk down' the task in 2-hour blocks by asking yourself what can I do in two hours, or only work for two hours then stop. 'Chunk down' makes the impossibly huge task into many smaller manageable tasks where you can focus. 

Since we are trying to balance work and family, you may set aside time for family focus during your day, so your mind relaxes, knowing you will care for your family at the appropriate time because it's scheduled!

The best tool for focused productivity is the simple kitchen timer. (What not your smartphone? Because your phone is designed to be a distraction with everything you need at your fingertips, like social media, so that may not be the best tool as a timer.) Setting timers help avoid the distraction of constantly looking at the clock then looking at your schedule. The timer tells you when to stop to take a break or stop for the day. 

No Multi-Tasking

One of the greatest productivity myths is the idea that multi-tasking helps you get more done. I can tell you this is definitely a myth! I can't multi-task, just ask my wife ;-) Sure, multi-tasking makes sense in some ways; by working on several things at once, you believe you're making the best use of your time. But the truth is multi-tasking ruins your focus. When juggling multiple tasks, you're not giving any one task the full attention it deserves. Even when you have a great deal to do, you should only work on one task at a time. 

Know the Warning Signs

How do you know when you start losing focus? Maybe it's when you start thinking about other things. Maybe there's a physical response, such as fidgeting or slumping in your chair. Perhaps you have a sudden desire to grab the sides of your head and run from your office screaming.

Learn to recognize the warning signs that tell you you're losing focus. When you feel burnout coming on, set your work aside. Get up from your desk or workstation and physically move to another part of your home or office. Relax and do some other activity to give your brain a break. Click here ( ) to get additional resources for maximum productivity, the first thing you receive is a Working Environment Cheatsheet that has a list of stretches and breathing exercises to keep your mind fresh.

Identify Other Focus Killers

Notifications, multi-tasking and burnout are all focus killers. There may be other distractions as well that destroy your focus. Try to identify these focus killers and develop a strategy for dealing with them.

Since our lives depend on computers and mobile devices, we have all kinds of electronic beeps and bell-tones to let us know someone is trying to reach us. These are handy in daily life, but not when you're trying to focus. During the times when you really need to work, turn off all notifications. I discovered the "Do Not Disturb" function on my phone, where all notifications, calls, texts, and buzzes are muted. Don't forget to turn it off when you're expecting a call :-) If necessary, let people know that you're busy and unavailable. Definitely schedule a specific time during the day or to-do list item for handling communications.

There may be certain times of day when your focus is under attack. For example, if you work at home, three o'clock when the kids come home may be a focus killer. No matter how you lock yourself in your office, the sound of the kids getting home might be a distraction. If you know that it is, try to arrange your schedule so that you're taking a break at that time.

Develop a Pre-Work Ritual

We've mostly talked about how to eliminate things that destroy focus, but what about getting into a focused state of mind? The best way to harness your focus is to create a pre-work ritual. This is a simple ritual that gets you into the right state of mind. For me, it's brewing a pot of coffee then enjoying a cup for a few minutes while reading something interesting. I also like to workout in the morning to burn energy, so I'm less fidgety in my chair. Figure out something that works for you and employ it when you need it.


Identify which things make you lose your focus during the day. For each of these 'focus killers', note which tips from the article you're going to implement to improve your focus, and how you'll use them.

Click here to get a worksheet to help you in this exercise:

When you've made your list, add a comment below with your biggest 'focus killer', the most distracting thing, and tell us how you improve your focus when these distractions appear