Defeat distraction and stay focused
Making effective use of your time is a significant part of knowing how to work from home. You’re up against a house full of potential distractions, and you’re on your own with the challenge. Daunting? Maybe. Doable? Absolutely – when you have the right tools and techniques at hand.
Here’s a little bit of comfort too – according to The Muse, 23% of wasted time at work comes from socializing with coworkers. At least you don’t have that problem to contend with.
Some common distraction factors for homeworkers include:
Smartphones and tablets
Smartphones, tablets, and other devices that travel on your person can become a real productivity-sucker – especially if you’re someone who routinely reaches for their phone during the day. On average, we touch our phones more than 2,500 times a day, so it’s easy to see how the habit can eat into your work time.
It might sound obvious, but placing devices out of your reach can reduce their power to lure you away from your desk. Try throwing your phone in a drawer or leaving it in another room for a set period while you’re concentrating on a task.
If you’re reluctant to be parted from your phone, for example, because you need it to check facts or make calls as you work from home, you can reduce its tendency to ‘ping!’ at the wrong moment. Set up your smartphone’s ‘do not disturb mode, so you only get important work-related notifications during working hours.
TV and media
It can be challenging to pay attention when Netflix, Hulu, or ESPN call you during the workday. So put a barrier between the TV and yourself.
It could be physical, in the form of a closed office door, or behavioural, where you use psychological barriers to make it tougher to indulge in a mid-morning episode or two. Our favourite work from home tip to stay focused: try unplugging your TV set during the day, so you have to take the extra step of reconnecting it before you can flop down on the couch for a binge-watch.
Under normal circumstances, jobs like washing dishes, laundry, or vacuuming might not be go-to activities. Still, they can suddenly get tempting when your alternative is preparing for a big meeting.
Out of sight, out of mind is an excellent rule of thumb here. Close the office door, so you can’t see housework tasks waiting to be done. If that’s not an option, put laundry baskets and vacuum cleaners in a closet where they can’t absorb your attention.
Pets and family members
They’re adorable, and there’s no denying that they can also be demanding. Although there’s no off-switch, you can try enlisting the help of friends and relatives to take pets and small people off your hands for a few hours and prioritize your most brain-taxing work tasks for times when they’re not around.
If you’re part of a family or shared household, it can help establish rules about distracting you during the working day – that earlier tip about having an office door could come in handy here.
How to work from home effectively when social media is just a click away?
Job one is to delete any desktop apps you have on your work laptop, as these make it easy to check and update social media. They can also send you notifications that actively disrupt your concentration.
Another strategy is to work on your browser tab discipline, especially if you’re prone to having your social accounts, webmail, and favourite sites open in background tabs all day long. For some people, that means doing away with browser tabs altogether. For others, remembering to close every tab apart from the one you’re actively working on can do the trick.
Finally, you can try using social media as a reward for getting those less appealing tasks done. Answer five customer service emails, and earn yourself 5 minutes perusing Instagram. Make sure it’s only 5 minutes, though – set a timer if you need to.
Having a ‘busy brain’
If your mind is wandering even without outside distractions, mindfulness meditation can help you strengthen your concentration skills and return your attention to your remote work. Even if you’re not a spiritual person, meditation benefits your home working mojo, as it trains your brain to focus and filter out distraction. There’s even an academic study that’s shown meditation benefits productivity, concentration, and memory in workers.
Stay accountable and stick to your goals
Let’s be honest – peer pressure and management oversight both play a role in driving our motivation at work. It’s easy enough to knuckle down and get on with a work project when your employers can walk by and check out what’s on your screen at any moment. Working from home is simply a different experience – those checks simply aren’t there to keep you on track. It’s the same story with over-work too – the structure of a working day in the office automatically gives you a degree of work-life balance that’s harder to achieve at home.
The same goes for bigger goals and plans related to your career or small business. Keeping your eye on the big picture in terms of your targets and objectives is harder when you’re outside the office environment. It could be getting promoted, acquiring new skills, developing a new product or service, or mentoring others. Whatever the case, your strategic goals can fall by the wayside and get eclipsed by day-to-day activities when there’s nobody else around to help adjust your perspective.
Ben Blomerley, Co-Founder of AskHerFriends feels that “working at home can really undermine your focus. “You don’t have colleagues and bosses around to see whether you’re cruising Facebook or Netflix all day. And you’re often aiming for a large and indeterminate goal (‘I want to make this business succeed’) rather than a specific target (‘make 50 customer service calls today).”
Ben “breaks tasks down into really narrow and clear portions” to ensure he focuses on what matters. A strategy also employed by Karolina Sieler, Founder/Owner at FBIZZ Women Entrepreneurs Hub. The best way to do this, advises Karolina, is to “prepare your own job description and divide the tasks into administrative ones and the more creative ones.
“You then have to identify a way of monitoring them to make sure that you stay on the right track. I use tailor-made spreadsheets, as well as a combination of online tools.”
Another idea is to give yourself a quarterly review. Sit down with a notebook or laptop and look at what you’ve achieved in the last 3 months, what you could have done better, and what you plan to do in the 3 months ahead. This can be really helpful for self-employed workers.
If you’re part of a company you may have the luxury of a manager who can do this with you. But there’s no harm in developing your own ways to keep yourself accountable too. After all, you never know when the opportunity to work for yourself might drop into your lap.
If your challenges relate more to distractions and concentration, consider trying out a co-working space. It’s a way of getting the feel of an office environment and some low-key company while you get your work done. There are no employers to stop you from browsing social media all day, but you might find that being around others who are in productivity mode rubs off on you positively.
Finally, you can build accountability by involving other people in your work tasks. If you’re an employee, working on a team project with people in the office can help you feel more connected to your goals and motivated to achieve more. Try setting up regular meetings via phone or video call to give you some structure and a deadline to work towards. For self-employed workers, regular contact with clients and a weekly or monthly check-in call can give you the nudge you need to stay focused on projects.
Explore Omofis, to keep remote work organized and creative.