One of the trickiest parts of working from home is managing the constant temptation to be distracted. When you don’t have a sterilized office divided into cubicles and designed to minimize distractions, your mind is much more liable to wander, and before you know it, you’ve spent half an hour planning a party with a friend who dropped by unannounced. Most distractions can be divided into one of these five types.
Many people communicate via phone, and it’s the fastest way to reach our relatives and friends who aren’t always online. Unfortunately, this also means it’s the fastest way to be distracted for those of us who work at home. Start setting work hours and don’t answer the phone during that time. Let it ring through to voicemail, and if you need to, disconnect it or mute the ringer so you won’t hear it. Then, as part of your routine to wrap up your work day, you can check the messages later.
People at the Door
Friends, relatives, and religious fanatics have a way of unexpectedly showing up on your doorstep and acting as though you should invite them in for an all-day gossip-fest. Don’t answer the door, and if you need to, close the blinds and act as though you aren’t home – because you aren’t home, you’re at work! If people complain, explain to them that you can’t take personal time during work hours.
When the ring of your email program calls, it’s difficult to ignore. We have trained ourselves to be alert to these notifications and obey them whenever they should appear. Instead, try setting two or three period of time, perhaps half an hour per day each, when you check and answer emails. Resist the temptation to even quickly check outside of that time, as you’ll just find something that “needs” to be answered and distract yourself.
When you live with others, their patience (or lack thereof) can make or break your work-at-home career. Do all you can to make it clear to your spouse, partner, kids, parents, or whomever else you may share your household with, that you’re at work and not to be disturbed. This may mean anything from locking your office door and wearing headphones to putting on a certain hat whenever you’re at work and not to be disturbed.
The final type of distraction is one that you make yourself. The best way to handle these annoying reminders, to-do’s, and urgent tasks that pop into your head is to keep a list where you write them down and then finish whatever you were working on. In between tasks, you can check the list, and if you find something that really is urgent, you can do it. A lot of the time, you will find that the things that seem important when they are distracting you aren’t really that important to you once time has passed.
All these types of distractions are difficult to handle in their own ways. By being firm about your unavailability from the get-go, you will make it clear to yourself and others that you are at work and distractions are unwelcome!