Telecommuting has numerous perks, but it doesn’t inherently solve all your problems. Here’s a list of helpful tips to stay focused and reduce distractions while working from home.
18 Ways to Reduce Distractions While Working from Home
Chatty coworkers and office noises are among the top workplace productivity thieves, according to Udemy’s 2018 Workplace Distraction Report. Pair those with excessively checking personal devices and social media, and you have yourself a perfect recipe for an efficiency meltdown. Plus, Udemy’s survey respondents recognize the correlation between distractions and overall office morale.
Though telecommuting can relieve employees of many office disruptions, work-at-home professionals still fight in the battles of attention. Whenever you find yourself in a haze and need a productivity boost, try these tips to reduce distractions and help get you back on track.
1. Work When Your Brain Does
Many remote jobs allow you to work when you want. Take advantage of this telecommuting perk and opt to work when your brain performs at its best. If you’re a morning person, work as the sun rises and enjoy a long afternoon of play or rest. If you’re a night owl, save your hardest tasks for evening and late-night hours when the rest of your household or neighborhood is asleep.
2. Set Regular Office Hours
Even the most free-spirited of telecommuters need to pull back the reins from time to time and create a bit of structure in their professional lives. Therefore, no matter how many hours of work you intend to do each day, designate chunks of time to complete your tasks. Try to keep a similar schedule for every day you work so that your brain gets used to the flow and knows when it needs to bunker down and be productive.
3. Keep a Daily Routine
In addition to setting work hours, maintaining a relatively consistent routine can help you separate work from other aspects of your life. For example, if you work during typical business hours, such as 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., commit to waking up at 6:30 am, doing a light workout, eating breakfast, and primping for the day. What you do before and after office hours helps keep work in its place and prevents tasks from trickling so that you never really clock out.
4. Close the Office Doors
Family and roommates don’t always understand that you’re unavailable when you work from home. For example, your kids and spouse may think they can tap you on the shoulder whenever they need a favor or feel like chatting. Parents may expect you to answer the phone because they know you’re home and have your phone on your desk at all times.
Therefore, to avoid breaking up your thoughts and yielding to distractions, pick a place in your house that is strictly for work. It can be an underused room, basement, corner of a bedroom, or a converted closet. Tell your housemates that whenever you’re in that workspace, you need to focus. Emergencies are okay, but for smaller, non-urgent things, ask them to write down what they’d say to you on a piece of paper and that you’ll look at their list during your next break or when you clock out.
5. Clean Up Your Desk
A cluttered desk can clutter your mind. You don’t have to be perfectly neat and tidy all the time, but it’s important to clean your workspace enough to facilitate productivity. To start, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, recommends moving away from thinking “I have to get organized” and approaching clutter from a necessity standpoint. For example, look at your desk and decide what helps you stay on task. Then, remove anything that distracts you or doesn’t add value to your work.
6. Wear Noise-Reducing Headphones
Noise-reducing headphones help cancel out background noise and keep your mind focused. If music helps you concentrate, consider choosing tunes that match the pace and intensity of your tasks. If music distracts you, try playing white noise to neutralize fluctuations and prevent your brain from recognizing familiar sounds. You might even find that wearing noise-reducing headphones without music or white noise helps keep your focused and indicates to others that you are not available to chat.
7. Close Your Personal Email
If you want more work-life balance, then you have to separate work from the rest of your life. That means, no checking personal email accounts during work hours. As tempting as it may be to multitask, avoid blurring the lines and designate certain times to check and respond to all non-work-related emails.
8. Save Texting for Later
Working from home can feel lonely at times, so texting can offer quick social relief without diverting too much attention. However, just like email, things can quickly get out of hand and blur the lines between your personal life and work. Therefore, save personal texts for designated break times so that you don’t stray off course.
9. Turn Off Unnecessary Notifications
Can’t resist that little ding on your phone or notification in the lower right-hand corner of your monitor? Even if you commit to separating work and personal communication, you may need to silence your phone and turn off all desktop notifications. The less your attention is diverted, the more you can stay on task and complete your work efficiently.
10. Lockdown Your Browser
Even after you turn off excessive notifications, there are still bookmarks, web pages, and apps that can lead you down a path of compounding distraction. If you tend to get lost while browsing the web, even for work-related items, consider installing an extension that limits your browsing during set work hours. Additionally, you can use a dedicated browser solely for work tasks and a separate one for all your news feeds and bookmarks. Thus, when you open your “work browser,” you should only see pages and feeds that promote productivity.
11. Set Hard Deadlines
In a way, working from home requires you to be your own manager. You don’t have anyone physically looking over your shoulder, so it’s easy to feel a little too relaxed at times. One way to keep your nose to the grindstone is to set hardcore deadlines for yourself. Increase the pressure on your workload a bit to ensure that tasks get done on time.
12. Keep a Tight To-Do List
Use task management apps to keep track of your projects and tasks and prioritize each according to due date and criticality. Even if you do the same type of work every day, a sense of urgency can help stave off boredom and help motivate you to work harder.
Try assigning an estimated completion time for all your tasks. For instance, create a list of 10-minute tasks, 30-minute tasks, and 60-minute tasks. Then, you can sneak in small tasks when you have extra minutes and schedule more time-intensive tasks accordingly.
13. Do Work in Chunks
Are you really able to focus on work for eight consecutive hours each day? Respondents of a UK workplace study confessed that they are only productive for about two hours and 53 minutes of the workday.
If you can relate, try working in short stints rather than plunging through without breaks. For example, give it your all for 15 minutes, then take a five-minute mental rest. Experiment with different time frames to find that sweet spot. Think of rest times like taking a catnap – short enough to avoid a deep sleep, but long enough to feel relaxed.
14. Organize Your Digital Files
Have you ever searched for a file, and upon finding another with a curious title, abandoned your original mission to read the mystery document in its entirety? Avoid playing digital detective by creating a logical file-saving system that enables you to find what you’re looking for when you need it.
Also, consider storing everything in the cloud so that you can access your documents anywhere. Cloud storage saves you hassle while you travel and enables you to view and edit documents on different devices while syncing all changes to one centralized location.
15. Close the Doggie Door
It’s always nice to have a furry cat on your lap or loyal puppy at your feet, especially in the colder months. However, in reality, your cat is probably crawling around on your keyboard, and your dog is wincing by your side for attention and snacks. It’s hard to ignore your furry loved ones when they need something or want to snuggle. However, to keep putting chow in their bowls, consider setting some boundaries and use your breaks to play and remind your animals how much they are loved.
16. Hire Help Around the House
If household chores, sweet requests from children, and personal phone calls add stress and minutes to your day, consider hiring help to take care of non-income-producing tasks. For example, you can hire a babysitter, professional cleaning service, and personal assistant to remove some of the details that keep you from being productive at work. You don’t necessarily need help full-time, so try outsourcing a few home-related tasks once per week to see what happens. Up it to two days per week and continue experimenting according to your budget and time needs.
17. Enjoy Time Outside of Work
On those gorgeous days when the kids are laughing outside, and the whole neighborhood seems to be in a good mood, it’s hard to stay focused. So, make sure you enjoy every minute of the time you can spend with the people you love and the experiences you cherish. Make the most of your experience outside your home so that you can clearly see how working hard enables you to have more work-life balance.
18. Go to Plan B
When your distraction-proofing tactics prove unsuccessful, head out for the day and work at a coffee shop or co-working space. Sometimes being around other people, especially professionals who are diligently working, can help you channel your energy and stay focused on work. Plus, being away from home for a bit may make you appreciate how awesome it is to work in your own space that you’ll feel refreshed and ready to pick up where you left off.
Need a More Flexible Job?
If your professional life is full of distractions and you’d like to find more balance between work and personal time, maybe it’s time to look for a job that allows you to set your own hours and work during your preferred times. Check out the Virtual Vocations job database for positions in your field that offer flexible schedules. If you’re not already a member, consider signing up as a premium subscriber so that you never miss an opportunity to achieve your work-life goals.
Are you frequently distracted while telecommuting? Do you have additional tips to reduce distractions while working from home? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us about your dream job. We’d love to hear from you!
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