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 designed to minimize distractions, your mind is much more liable to wander, and before you know it, you’ve spent half an hour watching funny cat videos on YouTube. Working from home is a privilege many want to keep. It’s important to stay productive when you’re telecommuting. The best way to avoid disruptions in your efficiency is knowing what top time wasters grab your attention and how to overcome them.
Follow these four tips to help you stay focused when working from home:
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 working and not to be disturbed. This may mean anything from locking your office door and wearing headphones to enacting a strict “do not disturb” policy during certain hours. If they complain, explain to them that you can’t take personal time during work hours.
Many people communicate via phone—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 or texts during that time. Let it go to voicemail, and if you need to, disconnect it or mute alerts so you won’t hear it. Then, as part of your routine to wrap up your work day, you can check messages later.
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 appear. Instead, try setting two or three periods of time, perhaps half an hour in the morning, around lunch and then again in the evening, 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.
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 write them down and continue working on your current project. In between tasks, you can check the list, and if you find something that is urgent, you can do it. 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!