Your home is filled with a load of potential distractions from undone chores, temptations in the refrigerator, technology. school-age kids, pets and other household members seemingly bent on diverting you from doing your work.
Accept that certain distractions are a fact of life when working from home. Prepare to deal with these distractions as they come up.
Here are 10 tips for managing distractions so you can keep your focus while working from home. Odds are there will be one that you can apply immediately to your situation to make it happier and more successful.
The best tip of all is to have the mindset that working from home is “real work” “your livelihood” and “a major part of your identity”.
Therefore: your space, your time and your focus, need to be respected and nourished. This is serious business.
1. KEEP A CLEAN AND TIDY HOME
Keep a clean and tidy home so you avoid using household chores as an excuse to put off getting down to work. The best way to prevent this is to schedule chores before and after work hours. If you are distracted by what you need to do around the house, do them ahead of time so you can avoid these distractions during work hours. If you need to get some laundry done or clean up the dishes in the sink, do it, but recognize that if you are doing it during work hours there’s a trade off.
Minimize household chores the easier way!
To take charge of household chores follow a routine such as:
The night before:
Make sure dishes are cleared away and your sink is shiny.
Turn on the dish washer.
Tidy the kitchen. (You can even pack yourself a lunch for the next day.)
Set up the coffee machine.
Plan tomorrow’s dinner.
In the morning:
Throw a wash in and put it in the dryer after work.
Clean up the bathroom.
Have breakfast and you’re ready for the day.
2. CREATE A SEPARATE SPACE FOR YOUR HOME OFFICE
Keeping your home and office as separate as possible will minimize interruptions and frustration. A separate room with a door is best, preferably quiet, well lit and with a window.
Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office door when you don’t want to be disturbed while working. When living with others it’s important that you set some ground rules about when and how you can be disturbed. For example, if you have a “do not disturb sign” on your door that is what it means and unless it is a real emergency (like the dog is on fire) you do not want to be disturbed. If there are children you may set up gentle rules such as text me if it’s important or tell them you will be out in 1 hour and that you can have a snack together or lunch. They’ll understand, and the quicker and more consistently you establish a rule that says “please don’t disturb me if I’m at work”, the less chance you’ll have of interruption.
Of course, not everybody has the luxury of a spare room. If you have no door think about using something like bookshelves or curtains perhaps a room divider to mark off your office territory. If it is within a larger noisier room consider wearing noise cancelling head phones.
Keeping the line between work and home life will ensure that family and work get the attention they deserve. By eliminating time thieves you’ll create a home office that encourages productivity so you can spend less time working and more time living.
3. SCHEDULE OFFICE HOURS
Eighty percent of success is showing up. — Woody Allen.
Set the exact hours you’ll work each day. Leaving it open-ended can easily lead to distractions. The advantage of working at home is that you have flexibility setting your office hours. If you’re a morning person, you may want to start early before the family gets up. Night owls might want to add in a couple of hours after dinner. You can set your schedule to more closely align with your body clock (get approval from your boss if you have one). Without a guide to follow, it may be noon or midnight before you start working. Get in the habit of reaching your workspace at the same time each day. This will help you achieve the mindset to be prepared to work.
Set an ending time each workday. Having an end point to each day helps you meet your deadlines. If you know you are going to stop at 5pm you are less likely to waste time. Reaching a cut-off point at the end of the day can be challenging. So be firm with yourself. Set work hours and stick to them. You have a responsibility to yourself and friends and family to have a life outside of work.
Sharing an office.
If you’re sharing a work space or childcare with a partner you might do shift work. For example: one of you work for four hours (uninterrupted) in the morning while the other watches the kids, then you switch. In the afternoon the roles are reversed. When the kids are in bed, you both get a little more work done. If, a single parent, you should clearly express expectation to both your kid(s) and your employer. You are going to need flexibility from your employer to take attend to your children. Schedule time of day when you are able to take calls or get on a zoom meeting. Make sure your children know what expectations are too.
4. KEEP AN ORGANIZED DESK AND WORK SPACE
Half of the people who work from home say that home office clutter hinders their productivity, according to a survey by office supply giant Staples. Set up an efficient home office you enjoy working in. Everyone has their own work style. No judgement as long as it works for you. Just be sure it is a place that feels like you should be working there.
A couple of things though about an organized space. It’s organized if you can find what you’re looking for in a couple of minutes. If not, well, you’re wasting time and that is a distraction.
So do yourself a favour and remove all the things that don’t belong in your work space.
When you limit what you keep to only those items you truly need, you’ll know what you have and where everything is, and the useful items won’t get buried under the items you don’t need.
Keep your paperwork and supplies in one place
Have all the items you need to complete the job. Anytime you lack a necessity, you stop working to go look for it. Stepping outside your work space to get what you need can cut into both your time and productivity.
Choose a chair that has strong back support, and that has some give or cushioning on the seat. Sitting in a sturdy chair at an organized desk or table away from distractions helps you to take your work more seriously.
5. BACKGROUND NOISE, YES OR NO?
Some need complete silence others need some background noise. My partner always has something on while I am forever turning it off when he leaves the room.
Create a playlist that gets you in the mood to be productive but doesn’t distract you from your work. If you like the sound of people talking you could try listening to a podcast. If you are sharing an office and you can’t agree on your background sound. One person or both could wear headphones.
The best music to help you focus is classical music and sounds of nature according to a study cited in Music Effect on Productivity. If this is not to your taste, try making a few playlists full of other types of beautiful instrumental music that you do like to listen to. Not only does this music help me get into the zone, but it fills the empty silence and it allows me to get a lot of work done. If you put on your instrumental playlist every time you sit at your desk, It will inspire you to get down to business.
6. SCHEDULE AND ROUTINE.
Following a similar schedule to your former work schedule helps you make the transition to working from home:
Batching similar task: answering your emails, working on a proposal or plan, checking your phone messages.
Writing a to-do-list at night. List your top 3 – 4 tasks you can reasonably accomplish (a task can be composed of a number of steps.) You’ll get a better night sleep and wake up knowing what you are doing for the day.
Avoid needless decision making and put out your clothes the night before.
Resist the temptation to stay in your pajamas and dress in a way you feel comfortable going out in public. If you are meeting a client or on a Zoom call, dress appropriately.If you are negotiating something you may want to put a little power in your suit to boost your confidence
"Dressing pulled together helps us feel pulled together. Research has found that people feel more competent when wearing business clothes." psychologist Cathleen Swody
7. DON’T GET TOO LONELY
Feelings of loneliness can sneak up on you whether or not you are living alone. And this can be terribly distracting.
Do an emotional check-in with yourself, “How are you feeling here and right now.” Check out these 5 steps to get started. If you have an accountability partner perhaps include an emotional check-in with them. It helps to know you are not alone in your feelings. Being proactive and recognizing that you need to make more of an effort to “be social” is important. Acknowledging our feelings can alleviate fear, give us insight and even acceptance.
Take a break. Stand up from your computer every hour or so and walk around get a glass of water give your eyes a break
Put inspirational messages and pictures on your desk/wall.· Play instrumental music in the background
Get outside. Connect with nature.
Set aside social time with your kids.
8. TURN OFF SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media is great! It’s also a big distraction. Turn off all social media. Stop checking Facebook, turn off Twitter notifications and avoid the temptation to browse your Instagram feed while working. Easier said than done? Try promising yourself some time with them once the work is done.
If you are easily distracted by the internet or having a hard time practicing self-control when using the Internet, there are various apps to help you. These apps are dedicated to helping control the amount of time you spend on the internet.
Here are a few options to help you limit time on the internet:
Cold Turkey App
Stay Focused App
Screen Time: App Limits (in iPhone settings)
9. EMAIL CAN BE A DISTRACTION
Email can be a productivity killer, but it remains a very useful tool.
Control your inbox not the other way around. Schedule times to check and respond to emails. It’s important that people can get hold of you, but it shouldn’t be a distraction.
Turn notifications off.
Clean up your email inbox. Go to your inbox, unsubscribe any emails that you don’t read.
Whittle your email box to 0 unread emails. Now you’ll be able to easily monitor every email you get.
10. USE A TIME MANAGEMENT TOOL such as Pomodoro method to help with focus and attention for a period of time.
After setting the timer for 25 minutes, concentrate on whatever project needs your attention and then work until the alarm sounds. Take a five-minute break. Then repeat the process on the same task for a total of 3 times then take a 30 – 40-minute break. This focused activity gives you permission to ignore non-essential distractions/interruptions. Day to day emails, questions and phone calls can almost certainly be postponed until a break or a session then you can deal specifically with them.
The pomodoro technique gives people an excuse to manage distractions in a way that positively affects productivity and enables them to take control of their time.
An interesting statistic: Did you know the average office worker gets only 11 minutes in before being interrupted and will take an average of about 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine.
When every interruption is a distraction, you can see the merit in the Pomodoro method.
The key is to stay focused. But do give yourself chances to stretch your legs, go to the bathroom and take essential breaks.
Remember: Your space, Your time and Your focus, Need to be respected and nourished. It's your business.
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