Book lover and writer Sophie Vershbow once tweeted about “not being able to concentrate enough to read a book” in the early months of the pandemic. But, it wasn’t only her. Others have also made the same claim about losing their focus on their work, as well as articles about people experiencing “brain fog” and ways how to “hack your concentration.” Parents working at home with their children probably have it worse. Imagine working while your kids fight over who gets to watch on the TV next.

Australian psychologist John Sweller has a psychological theory for this called the “Cognitive Load Theory” (CLT). This theory explains how our minds work as our “working memory” that has a limited capacity and duration to absorb or store information. When we are presented with a problem that’s either new or unfamiliar to us, we find it difficult to do things automatically because it’s not part of our routine.

For example, when we attend meetings in a normal set-up, we simply present ourselves as well as a journal or laptop to take down notes. Nowadays, however, most of us work remotely, so attending meetings is a hassle in itself: making sure the internet connection is stable, our environment is pleasant, and even the software where we have the video conference. Background noises both in and out of houses also cause distractions. So what do we need to do to stay focused?

First, planning. Create a new routine applicable for working at home and master it. Also, be more mindful of your stress level and avoid overloading your working memory. Second, self-discipline. Start organizing your working environment. Work in an area where you feel comfortable away from distractions. For example, turn off your TV while working, or have a dedicated schedule for your professional and personal life.

We’re still uncertain when the pandemic will end, but one thing’s for sure: it will still continue for months. In order for us to regain our focus during the pandemic, we need to have a new lifestyle when this kind of emergency happens again worldwide.