There are certainly lots of benefits to working from home. That’s the dream, right? There are also, however, tons of distractions that can prevent us from getting our work done. After all, the pile of laundry sitting on your bed isn’t staring at you all day long if you work outside the home, am I right?
I’ve been working from home full-time for two years and part-time for five years. I’ve learned a few lessons (some of them hard) along the way. Let me share my best tips on how you can avoid distractions and get more work done when your office and your home are one and the same.
It can be really tempting to multi-task. What could hurt from putting some laundry in the washer and then going back to checking emails? But, s
Making your mind transition from one task to another so quickly like that can cause you to feel stressed. You might find yourself rushing through something (and not completing the task to the best of your ability) because you’re hyper-focused on something else. The burden of everything you have to do starts to weigh heavier and heavier. That’s why focusing on one job at a time can help you keep your sanity (more on how to do that later).
There is one exception to this multi-tasking and that’s if you are a stay-at-home parent. I’ve had the privilege of staying home with my son since he was born just over a year ago. My job as a mom has to come first. If he requires my attention, he usually gets it. Of course, there are exceptions to this as well, but for the most part, stopping what I’m in the middle of to tend to him takes priority.
Full disclosure: this was something I really struggled with for a while. I felt so burdened by my workload that trying to manage my work and taking care of my son was causing me more stress than I could handle. Too often, I found myself prioritizing work for him with the intention of, if I got it done quicker, I would have time to spend with him. It rarely worked out that way. To go a little bit off topic, if you find yourself in a similar position, you need to evaluate if your workload is too heavy and you need to minimize projects or get some help during the day.
Practice Competent Time Management
To avoid the dangers of multi-tasking takes practicing time management skills to completing everything that needs to be done. Carve out time for work, time for chores, and time for relaxing.
Here are a few examples of how you can manage this:
11am-12pm: Household Chores
4pm-5pm: Household Chores
6pm-7pm: Dinner/Family Time
1pm-3pm: Household Chores
6pm-7pm: Dinner/Family Time
These are just a few ideas. You’ll want to find a schedule that works for you. It’s something that can be totally flexible and change every single day. But when you have a general idea of how you want the day to work out, everything will be managed much easier.
Why does this work? Designating specific times for specific tasks allows you to focus on one thing at a time. You have the time to pick up momentum in what you’re doing and dedicate all of your energy to it. When this happens, you’ll be much more efficient.
Have An Assigned Work Station
Having your office in the same place where you sleep, spend time with family, binge-watch Netflix, etc can really blur the lines of work life and home life. That’s why it’s important to keep the two separate. Otherwise, you will easily find yourself thinking of home life while trying to focus on work and vice versa.
If you’re able to, give yourself an office in your home. Whether you have an extra room to set up your office or you have some extra space in a living room or finished basement, designate a spot where you will work.
Only utilize this space for work activities. Don’t use your office as a place to veg out. Avoid looking over to your work desk while your lounge on the couch with your spouse. Play pretend! Pretend that your home office isn’t inside your home. When you mentally separate them, you’ll have an easier time keeping yourself focused when the time comes.
Combating the Inevitable Distractions
If only it was so easy to plan things out and have them go exactly, perfectly right. We live in the real world, so distractions are bound to pop up. We don’t always have control over that but we do have control over how we address the inevitable.
If you’re feeling burdened by all of your tasks and find yourself starting to stress out and become anxious over completing everything, take a step back. Breathe. Meditate. Go for a walk. It won’t help to continue trying to do it all. Again, productivity will suffer.
Learn a few breathing exercises or download a meditation app to your phone. Whenever you start to feel like you’re becoming distracted and can’t regain focus, practice one of your exercises. Sometimes all you need is to take a step back from it all.
Don’t try to use the excuse that you don’t have time for those things. The fact is: you do. If you continue letting the stress get you, your productivity would suffer, even if you didn’t stop working. Instead of letting the stress hold you back, choose to get that clarity you need. The time away from what’s stressing you out will work itself out.
Do A Test Run
As lovely as it would be to come up with a plan, implement it, and have it work perfectly on the first try, the trust is that this is unlikely to happen. It can be a process figuring out how to manage your time working from home.
Come up with a plan and try it out for a week. The next week, try out a new plan, even if the first one worked. You’ll learn some valuable things about how you need to manage your time during these trial periods and will be better equipped to figure out what needs to be done.
It might take a little while to figure things out, but don’t lose faith. You’ll eventually learn the lessons and come up with a strategy that works best for you.