When I first started working from home, I was still on someone else’s clock. I was lucky enough to have a boss who would be cool with us occasionally working in our home office.
Of course, at this point, I didn’t have a home office. I had a room. Since my housemates kept odd schedules, they were often home when I was working.
It was then that I learned how to avoid distractions while working at home. I couldn’t do my own thing — I was supposed to be working. Someone was paying me to do it!
Fast-forward a few years: I’d branched out on my own as a freelancer. This is when distractions became more easy to justify and harder on my wallet. If I kept vacuuming and knitting when I was supposed to be working, my paycheck wouldn’t appear.
This has led me to a few different strategies for productivity improvement. Of course, there is no perfect solution (I’ll admit I have a load of laundry going right now), but these will help you keep your head in the work game when you’ve got a house full of distractions begging for attention.
1. Give Yourself Distraction Passes
Decide how many you need. I have three. I know, here I am telling you how to avoid your distractions and then I turn around and say, “Yes, do it!” What kind of mixed messages are these?
It’s because sometimes things just won’t leave your brain. And they’re so distracting that your work suffers. This works two ways.
Sometimes we just need to get something out of our system — reply to that personal email — and then we can continue to work. Or often we can tell ourselves to ignore the dirty dishes and continue to work, because we’ll handle them later with one of our three distraction passes.
2. Put Your Blinders On
The phrase Out of sight, out of mind is a proverb for a reason. If we keep our sights set on our computers, our to-do lists and our goals, our thoughts will stay there as well.
3. Take a Long Lunch
Much like the first point, sometimes we’re not able to just put our blinders on and ignore a glaring issue. Perhaps you’ve really got something you need to take care of.
Take a longer lunch to schedule your haircut and dentist appointment. Eat your lunch out with a friend you keep meaning to see.
Trust that once you’ve taken care of things over lunch, you’ll head back into the rest of your day refreshed, lighter and ready to take on your projects with a clear head.
4. Isolate Yourself
If your office is in a separate room or the guest room of your house, close the door and keep it closed. If you work in the main part of the house, close the doors to the other rooms.
Turn your phone off. Shut off your email notifications. Cover the clock. Put on your headphones, turn up the concentration music and get to work. This singular focus is the ultimate tonic for productivity improvement.
Sometimes just getting away from everything is the easiest way to get something done and avoid distraction.
5. Look for Patterns
This might take a bit more time, but keep a little running list of what tends to distract you most. Checking email habitually, social media, blogs, housework, housemates, pets. Write them all down.
After you’ve determined your pattern, ask for some help in remedying it. If it’s your housemates, take a minute to chat with them (preferably sometime when you’re not working — this makes it seem like less of an attack) about pretending you’re not home during certain hours during the day.
If it’s social media, use one of the many blockers that keep your browsers from accessing certain sites at particular times of day.
Housework is my big issue, so I created a plan to keep my house clean in 30 minutes a day that really works. That way I’m never distracted by more than a half hour of clean up.
We all have different ways of handling distractions. How do you improve productivity and avoid distractions to get more done in your home office?