A work-at-home job can seem like the ideal working environment. No commute, no company meetings, and no fighting the lunchtime traffic trying to get a bite to eat on a 30 minute break.
On the other hand, it can turn into a certified nightmare if distractions take over your day and prevent you from getting your work done.
Here are 7 tips to help you avoid distractions while working from home.
1. Have a daily schedule and stick to it
Since you are in your home environment, it’s very easy to get off task when it comes to work, and fall into your comfortable home routine. For example, you may decide to run the vacuum, empty the dishwasher or start preparing for tonight’s dinner. All will cut into your work schedule and reduce your productivity.
The way around this is to have a comprehensive schedule for your day. If you do, it will have to dictate what you will do and when you will do it. Maybe there will be the occasional time when there is a home emergency that needs to be tended to, but that should always be the exception, not the rule.
2. Don’t answer your private phone line
Your private phone won’t stop ringing just because you are working from home. But what will change is that you will not answer it when it does! You may find that phone call and texts can be an even more common occurrence in a work-at-home situation. If your family and friends know that you’re home during the day, even though you’re working, they might be more likely to call you than if you are working at an office.
Take control of this immediately and firmly, or you’ll be distracted several times a day.
3. Don’t answer the door either
Work-at-home presents special challenges if you have young children and they’re home with you. Young children make you more involved with your neighbors, and since you work-at-home, they may show up more often than usual. They may be asking you for a favor, or just want to come in to chat.
Once again, you’ll have to take control and be firm on this. Just because you’re at home does not mean you are available.
Furthermore, every time you pop out of your office, even if it’s to get a package from the front porch, you break your concentration and momentum. You also become “available” in the eyes of your littlest family members.
Make sure that you have established set times to break from your work and spend quality time with your family.
4. Block out quiet time for your most important tasks
Were you ever forced to use quiet time when you worked in the office? Well, you’ll probably need to do it at home as well. Even working at home there will be periods of chaos, when you will mostly be making phone calls, responding to emails, or handling a large number of small administrative tasks. All these need to be done at some point during the day, but they can take you away from your primary function.
Whatever that primary function is, it must be top priority in your work-at-home arrangement. Whether you have a business or a work-at-home arrangement through your employer, you will need to complete your primary tasks in order to make the venture worthwhile to you or to your employer.
5. Keep errands to a minimum
Since you are working from home, you may be tempted to run a few errands around town, either for yourself, for your family, or even for others. But there’s a curious thing about running errands…that trip to the bank that will “only take 10 minutes” somehow usually turns into half an hour. If you combine that errand with another, you might blow a full hour.
Be aware of that, and make sure that if you do run errands, that they extremely important are only occasional. It’s essential to understand that while you will have more flexibility to blend your work and your personal life, your personal life must never overwhelm your work.
6. Be ready to cover lost time
There are going to be days where you will be distracted and maybe lose several hours of work time. That should not be the rule, but if it happens you should have some capacity to cover the lost time by working after-hours. One of the advantages of work-at-home is that you don’t necessarily have to stop working after normal business hours.
You may even find that you can accomplish some very important tasks in a relatively short amount of time with some quiet time in the evening. With that time you should be able to cover yourself if you get behind in your work.
7. Get control of creative avoidance
You’ve probably heard the saying, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” That can really come into play with work-at-home. You may have an important task to complete on a given day, but you keep putting it off because it’s easily the biggest challenge. You fill the day with a large number of relatively minor tasks, and never complete the most important one that needed to be done first!
Those minor tasks, as well as any personal activities that may slip into the mix, are part of the “creative avoidance.” You are creating tasks that keep you from completing your most important work.
When you work at home, it isn’t enough just to be busy. You have to be productive in a measurable way, otherwise the whole arrangement collapses.
The best way to wrangle you day, is to make a list of all the assignments you need to complete each day. Then, start with the hardest tasks first! Make sure to give yourself a little break, or a small reward to celebrate, after you accomplish your most challenging tasks.