Distractions are in every kind of workplace, but they’re harder to ignore when you work from home. Telecommuting, or working from home, had been gaining popularity through the last decade. It has a lot of benefits. However, it also has one huge disadvantage that can cause low productivity – home distractions.
The good news is that you can overcome these distractions. All you need are discipline, focus, and a few extra tips. Are you ready to be distraction-free in your home office?
The Top 7 Distractions at Home:
To know how to deal with the distractions, we’ll have to identify them first. There are many home distractions. Some will vary based on personal environment and habits. However, these are the 7 most common:
1. Family, Friends, and Neighbors
If office workers have their colleagues to distract them from work, you have your loved ones to do that for you. This is most obvious in work-at-home moms who still need to care for their small child. However, this affects all telecommuters. Distractions can come as your neighbor knocking on your door to borrow some power tools, or your flatmate asking you to get the pizza from the delivery man. Sometimes it’s running errands for your mom. Once they disrupt your workflow, it’s hard to get back.
2. Household Chores
Everybody needs to do chores, but when you work from home, they seem to stare you in the face. It’s easy to get distracted from your work when you remember that there are clothes that need to be laundered or dirty dishes that need to be washed. And it’s easy getting trapped into prioritizing chores over work because household chores never end. They need to be repeated once every often – sometimes several times a day.
Emails are a huge distraction, even in the traditional workplace. Even discounting spam mail, you can spend hours typing and replying to emails from bosses, coworkers, and clients.
However, personal emails are where telecommuters lose more of their time. Office workers are often disallowed from using company time for personal stuff. But rules are lax (or sometimes, doesn’t exist) when working at home, and this is where the problem starts.
Similar to emails, but more noticeable in telecommuters. Cellphones are sometimes banned during work hours. This is especially true in the case of telemarketers and customer service operators. Phones are even banned in some schools during lectures. It’s easy to say that you need to keep your phone close in case of an emergency text or call, but that is 9 times out of 10 unlikely to happen.
5. Social Media/Web Surfing
The same technology that allowed telecommuting to flourish is also its biggest distraction. Working at home with the use of the internet allows you the greatest freedom to sneak a little bit of Facebook or online shopping on the side. In the same way that channel surfing eats up hours of actual TV time, web surfing can also eat up hours of your work time.
6. Personal Needs
Now, everybody has to attend to their personal needs. However, sometimes people use them to excuse themselves from work. This happens especially if you’re doing the most boring or the most difficult task. These are things like using a bathroom, taking a shower or coffee break. Other examples are going to the kitchen to grab a snack, or the biggest distraction of all: taking power naps.
This is why most offices don’t install television sets in the workroom. The TV is a huge distraction, especially when your favorite movie or series is on. And don’t think that you’re getting away by just turning it on and listening to the show in the background. Your mind is still focusing on it, which means you’re not completely focused on the task at hand.
How to Overcome Distractions?
The single most effective way to overcome home distractions is to have discipline. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that you’re not working. You are at work, and finishing that task is your job. Having a workplace mindset even when you’re at home will help you become more focused at your tasks.
One way to help you with this is to set up your workspace professionally. Remove distractions in the area, such as books and magazines, your phone, or the remote control.
Using visual cues is also a great help to your focus. Use sticky notes or pin a to-do checklist that will help you gauge what you have accomplished and what you still need to finish within the day.
You can also use programs that help with productivity. Programs like Time Doctor, Hubstaff, and Webwork are time-tracking apps that are specifically made for telecommuters.
Now, these things will help you overcome distractions in general, but what about for the top 7 mentioned above? Here are a few tips:
1. For Family and Friends:
Sometimes family members can forget that you’re working because you’re just at home. Talk to them and remind them not to bother you during your work hours because no matter what they think – you are WORKING.
If they still forget (or can’t take a hint), consider getting yourself groomed as if going to the office. Yes, working in your pajamas is a great benefit when telecommuting. However, dressing in office attire sometimes is a great boost to your work mindset – and to others, too.
If you have kids, the best way to juggle work and play is to set up your workstation close to theirs. Have your laptop near your kids’ play area so they can be busy and still see that mommy or daddy is still nearby.
2. For Chores and Personal Needs:
Having a schedule will benefit you if your biggest distraction is household chores. For those that need repeating every once in a while, you can either schedule a chore day during your day off or do one major chore per day at the end of your work hours. These include doing the laundry, groceries, and vacuuming.
In my opinion, this is the best option for most. It’s obvious that when you are in the office you won’t do the laundry which is waiting for you at home. You need to treat working from home the same way. Right now you are at work, and when you are at work you don’t do laundry, cook dinner, clean, etc. You know what time you finish, and after you finish then you can think about doing your chores.
For chores which are smaller or need to be done several times a day, you can do bits during in-between breaks. These include cooking and washing the dishes.
Studies have shown that prolonged sitting in front of a computer is hazardous to your health, anyway. You should be getting up for a stretch for 5 minutes every 2 hours or so. This might be a good time when you can do your dishwashing, meal prepping, and attending to your personal needs. But do it only if you really need to. If you can, try to move all your chores after you finish your work. Breaks are very important but use them as a proper break to rest from work, not as the time to work on your home duties.
3. For Emails, Phone Use, and Web Surfing:
These distractions are some of the hardest to ignore, and the best way to do that is to get them away from you as much as possible. For your phone, turning it on silent or work mode (if you can’t turn it off) and putting it in a place out of your immediate reach will help.
For emails and web surfing, however, it might be best to create a work account separate from your personal account. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted into checking your Facebook or YouTube if their icons are right there on the screen when you open up your web browser. If you have a separate work-only account, you can set up your browser to block time-wasting sites.
Avoid using your in-between breaks to browse the web. Aside from the fact that you should be up and moving, you really can’t browse your social media for just 5 minutes. If you really must, use a timer and stick to it.
4. For TV and Movies:
Turn it off. If you turn the tv on just to have white noise in the background, consider playing non-intrusive sounds, instead. Studies show that background music from games can be beneficial for work since they were composed to help you focus on the game instead of on the music.
If there’s something on the TV that you really want to see, consider seeing a rerun during your off-work hours. Almost everything that’s on the TV can be found online these days, anyway, so there’s no excuse for you not to miss your show when you should be working.
With these tips, you can make these simple suggestions as daily working habits to improve your self-discipline. Try them and keep home distractions at bay!