So many of us are working from home these days and an increasing amount of people are switching to remote work in response to COVID-19. Increased technology has allowed many to easily make the switch from working in an office to working in our home environment. Productively working from home can be a challenging experience for some, but once you get past the distractions, people who work from home tend to be more productive. We’ve compiled some tips below to help you eliminate distractions while working from home.
1. Set work hours.
Having regularly scheduled work hours can help give the illusion of normalcy to your transition to working from home. Keeping the same hours each day will help you to establish routine. It is important to incorporate breaks into your work hours as well.
Breaks have been proven to increase motivation and productivity. One break everyone should be taking is lunch. It may be tempting to eat in front of your computer, but it’s important for your brain to have a rest. Studies show that if you’re more mindful focusing on your meal you will enjoy it more and have a higher level of satisfaction.
Taking multiple breaks throughout the day ensures your brain is getting the rest it needs in order to maintain the productivity needed to get through your work day. Getting out of the house during a short break or on your lunch break can help to refocus your energy on the tasks at hand when you return to work.
It may be tempting to work additional hours when working from home, however that creates a situation where you have less downtime for yourself. While you are living where you work and working where you live, not creating scheduling boundaries for yourself can lead to burnout. Sticking to a pre-determined amount of hours can help to maximize your workday and allow you to enjoy your down time so that you come back to work refreshed.
2. Set boundaries for your family members.
If other people will be home with you while you are working let them know that you are not to be disturbed. Let your kids, spouse, or any house mate know what your working hours will be and how to contact you during that time, if necessary. Provide the people in your life with your planned schedule showing when you are available and when you are working. This one may be especially tough for kids since they may not be used to you being at home throughout the day, but overtime they will get used to the regular routine.
If you create boundaries with the members of your household and you honor them, others will too.
3. Keep the TV & radio off during set work time.
This one may seem like a no brainer, but it can be very easy to turn on the TV or the radio for background noise only for it to later become a distraction when something interesting comes on.
Background music can help increase focus as long as you are still able to keep your attention on the task at hand rather than what is playing in the background.
4. Manage your technology.
We all need technology to do our jobs. It’s become a staple in everyone’s lives. It may be necessary to do your work, but it can also be an unnecessary distraction. If you are able to, turning your ringer to silent or vibrate during your work day can help reduce distractions from incoming notifications.
Social media can be a welcome distraction from work during a break, but when not managed can easily suck your whole day away. One option is to stay off social media completely during your work day. If you don’t think that’s possible, setting a timer to limit your use to being during breaks can help make sure your social media use doesn’t get out of hand.
5. Have a dedicated work space.
We understand that not everyone has the luxury of having a large living space. It can be hard to dedicate an ‘an office space’ in a small house or apartment. Setting aside a small area to dedicate to only work related activities can help with boundaries and distractions. When you are in that space only work related activities will happen and no work related activities will happen outside of that space. This will provide a clear distinction between your ‘work space’ and your ‘home space’.
Make sure your dedicated work space is comfortable and is set up the way you want it. For example, if you would prefer to use two monitors avoid working off of a small laptop screen.
6. Keep a routine for “going to” work and leaving work.
Maintain a schedule like you would if you were going into an office for work. Wake up at the same time each morning, have breakfast, have a shower, get dressed, do all the same things that you would normally do before getting to work. Set a professional mindset for yourself by getting out of your PJs in the morning.
Maintaining proper routines in the morning will help signal your brain that it is time to go to work. The same can be said for end of the day routines, like turning off your work notifications for internal chat or email. This can signal your brain that the work day is done and it’s time to relax.
7. Maintain contact with team members.
Communicating with your team can be difficult when everyone is spread out. Having group chats, video calls and emailing can help to maintain contact with your team. It is also helpful to communicate how things are going and any projects you have taken on.
When chatting with co-workers it can help to integrate some non work related conversation into your talks. Integrating some social time into your day will help to maintain connection with the outside world and avoid feelings of isolation. These small breaks of chatter can help renew motivation to go back to work.
8. Batch tasks.
Doing several small tasks close together can help to maximize productivity. Clear out small tasks like responding to emails or making several phone calls all at once rather than doing a few and waiting on the rest.
Having several small tasks out of the way will eliminate their ability to mentally distract you while you focus on larger tasks or projects.
9. Use visual organization tools- maintain deadlines.
If you get easily distracted by incoming thoughts of tasks, visual tools can help you to keep organized. A white board or chalk board can help for writing down a to-do list of activities needed for a specific project. Writing yourself notes for reminders while working on other tasks can help to keep you focused on the task at hand and reduce the risk of forgetting what needs to come next. Some tools that may help are sticky notes, a daily planner, electronic tools like email calendar invites or virtual task lists.
10. Know your distractions.
Knowing your biggest distractions can help you to get them out of the way (as much as possible) before beginning your work day. If you know that a messy bathroom will distract you when you tidy it before you start your work, do your household chores before or after your work time so they can’t distract you from your actual work during that dedicated time. If your kids are your biggest distractions creating boundaries with them about your work time and space can help.
Write out a list of your biggest distractions and create rules around how you will counter them, being aware of your weaknesses is the first step in overcoming them.
If all else fails, don’t be afraid to bribe yourself to get the work done. Create rewards for yourself for completing tasks or entire projects. Anticipating a reward can motivate you to continue working until you’ve completed what you’re working towards.
Working from home can increase productivity, but it may not happen overnight. The transition from working in an office can be a tough one and without proper checks and balances in place can be even more distracting than working outside your home ever was. The important thing in all this is to be kind to yourself and allow time for the transition.