The inspiration for today’s post was brought to me by my 4-year-old son, who has probably interrupted me at least 221 times in the past two hours of my “work time.” If you work from home, you probably have distractions of your own to contend with. Sure, you can work in your pajamas (sometimes) and eat bonbons while watching soap operas, but working at home isn’t all the glamorous life of leisure that people with traditional office jobs think it is.
Some distractions are necessary and unavoidable – if my son falls down and cracks his head open, I will stop working to take him to the ER. Some, however, are not – if my daughter asks me to make a gymnastics outfit for her doll, that can wait until work is over for the day. The problem a lot of us have is that it’s too hard to sort through these distractions and carve out the time we need to work on the stuff that actually earns us money. In this week’s Round ’em Up, let’s dig into the distractions at the heart of working from home – and the ways you can help yourself ignore them and get more done with your day.
- In an article from Handmadeology called Dealing with the Distractions of Working at Home, social media is the author’s main source of distraction. She points out that many of us with creative businesses probably joined a social media site expressly for the purpose of promoting that business. That can be a great way to sneak in some free and easy marketing, but the problem happens when you let the social media browsing become a distraction from the work itself.
- Raj Dash is a freelancer with a lot of creative tips for Staying Sane While Working at Home with Distractions. Among them? Staple egg cartons to the walls of your in-home office to reduce the noise from the outside world. While that particular solution might not be the most practical – or the most aesthetically-pleasing – there are several other useful tips in his article as well. From prioritizing your To Do list to getting OUT of the office and into the real world, Dash speaks from experience as a work-from-home pro.
- Dani Magestro is a work-at-home-mom who juggles many roles throughout the day. In her post, How to Deal with Distractions When Working from Home, Dani explains that her dishes actually sing to her and ask to be washed. I’m sure that most of us can relate to this tongue-in-cheek reference, as it often can feel like the housework calls to us during the day. Dani’s best tip for working at home is to set clear guidelines for which things you will and will not allow to distract you from your work; read her full post for more helpful hints.
Based on the information I learned in these articles and the experience I’ve had working from my own home for the past four years, here are a few quick tips of my own:
- Set a timer. When you begin your work day, it can seem like there will be plenty of time to accomplish all of your tasks. After all, you’ve got a whole block of time (8 hours if you’re a full-timer, or maybe less if you also have a regular day job) set out ahead of you; you can do it all! Right? The problem is that sometimes that big block of time can be overwhelming, or it can be easy to waste 15 minutes here and there because you still have so many more hours left. Then, of course, you get to the end of your day and realize that those 15-minute breaks took up much more time than they should have. To keep yourself on task with the To Dos of your day, set a timer. Give yourself 15-30 minutes to focus on ONE thing, and focus on it well. Don’t allow any distractions to interrupt you, unless they’re legitimate emergencies (like the aforementioned trip to the ER). When the timer goes off, let yourself take a break for 5 minutes and then set another timer for the next task. By the end of the day you’ll probably find you’ve finished your To Do list with time to spare.
- Set boundaries. If you work from home and there are other people in your house (or pets!), let them know the boundaries you need them to follow. Even young children can understand something simple, like “Mommy’s working right now but in 20 minutes we’ll have lunch and then I’ll read you a story.” Spouses and older children may also find it tempting to interrupt you for just “one quick question,” or a small favor. Remind them that you need to set aside designated hours for working so that you can devote your full attention to them when your working hours are over. Try to portion out your time so that each day gives you an opportunity to work, to spend time with family, and to do something you enjoy; this will help you with your productivity but also with avoiding burn-out.
- Ask for help. As a solopreneur, you’re probably accustomed to working alone. Translation: you do it all when it comes to your business. Every once in a while, it might be nice to get a little bit of help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it. Whether you can hire a babysitter, ask your spouse to take on an extra chore or two, or get your mother-in-law to help you with a last-minute product packaging session, getting an extra pair of helping hands around your home office can be just the thing you need to push past a particularly busy time.
If you’re dealing with daily work-time distractions from family members, social media, housework or TV, just know that you’re not alone. (I kid you not – my husband actually called me while I was writing this to ask me what we’re having for dinner. Thanks for illustrating my point, honey!) Pioneers in the working-from-home field have gone before us and laid out a path to working without distractions; or, at least, limiting those distractions so we can actually get some work done. I hope you’ve found them helpful, and I’ll see you next time. Right now, I can hear my floors calling my name, asking to be swept.