“It felt like I had a mental block preventing me from focusing on the page,” book lover and writer Sophie Vershbow once said, who, in the early months of the pandemic, also tweeted about “not being able to concentrate enough to read a book.” It wasn’t only her, however. Several articles have brought the same dilemma into light: about people losing focus, experiencing “brain fog,” and ways to “hack your concentration.” Working parents with little children struggle the most in this situation. Imagine working at home while your kids fight about who gets to have the TV remote control.

There’s a psychological theory by Australian psychologist John Sweller that explains why the pandemic has caused our focus to dwindle. The Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) describes our minds as “information processing systems.” We tend to depend on our “working memory”, which has limited capacity and duration when storing information, when we solve a problem that’s unfamiliar to us. Due to this, the new routines caused by the pandemic robs us of our capability to do things automatically.

One perfect example is attending meetings. Before, all we have to do is attend the meeting with a journal or laptop on hand, but now we have to worry about our environment, the internet connection, and the video conferencing software. Another is our domestic life. The background noises at home and outside are huge distractions while working. So what do we need to do to stay focused in these trying times?

Two things: planning and discipline. First, establish a new routine applicable to working from home and master it. Next, pay extra attention to stress management. Both of these will prevent our working memory from overloading either by anxiety or just plain exhaustion. Finally, be more organized and disciplined about distractions and set a dedicated schedule for professional and domestic life. For example, while working, don’t have the TV running in the background.

We’re still uncertain how long this pandemic will last; maybe a few months more. It’s difficult to manage both personal and professional life in the same place and time, that much is true. Our brains’ limited processing capacity when it comes to routine is being challenged right now, but we can readjust our focus through careful planning and stricter discipline.