By Angela Bickford
When I wake up in the morning, I have every intention of getting right out of bed and getting started on my day. I sip my coffee and check my mail, start crossing off items on my to-do list and smile at how much I’ve gotten done by lunchtime.
And … that’s not how it really goes.
We all face distractions when we work from home – that’s part of the trade-off. For some of us, these distractions come in the form of small children. For others, it’s family members and friends constantly calling, the laundry piling up, or other household responsibilities. Then, there are the distractions we let slip in when we need a ‘break’: TV, Internet, social media, and other relaxing activities.
But what happens when these distractions get the best of us and start really getting in the way of the things we need to get done? One of the keys to heading off distractions lies in getting into a routine and setting up your brain to know when it’s okay to take a break.
Here are some ways to stop work-at-home distractions from getting the best of you.
1. Prepare your to-do list the night before.
This helps me be able to get a good night’s sleep because I’ve written it all down and am not thinking about it anymore – I know I’m ready for the next day.
2. Start your day off with a routine that gets you going.
Maybe it’s a cup of coffee or going over your to-do list for the day. Whatever it is, stick with it – your brain will get used to this routine, and it will get you in the mindset that it’s time to work.
3. Figure out your most productive time of day and take advantage of it.
Set aside that block of time to get your most significant tasks done.
4. Set actual hours for when you are working.
They’ll be different for everyone. My best hours are 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. – I don’t know how I got on that schedule, but I think it’s something to do with the fact that the house is just so much quieter after everyone else is in bed and I tend to use my morning hours to tackle household responsibilities. My mind is usually more work-focused when I know that distraction is out of the way and taken care of.
5. If you have an office door, close it during your office hours.
Let the people who might be home with you know that this means you are working. If you have kids, you might have something such as a stop light with red, yellow, and green on it. Place the marker next to the appropriate color to signal to them what you’re doing.
Red means stop – don’t come in unless it’s an emergency – I use this for when I’m on phone calls.
Yellow means caution – I’m busy – please only interrupt if it’s important.
And green means that, yes, I’m working, but it’s okay to interrupt, or I’m almost done.
Another essential element to avoiding distractions is identifying them and then creating the time for them – build it into your schedule. Yes, build fun into your day! Here's how …
1. Turn off distractions, especially ones that make noise, during your set office hours.
These include the TV, email notifications, and social media. And, don’t log onto the Internet for anything other than work.
2. If you are working a straight 8-hour day, make sure to take a 30-minute lunch break.
If you’re like me, you’ll have to set a timer to remind you to drink water, eat lunch, or take a break – I simply forget.
3. It’s also important to take at least two short (for me, 15-20 minutes works) breaks in your day.
These are the times when you will want to schedule in the fun I mentioned earlier. Of course, you’ll want to get up and get away from your computer, but go ahead and check Facebook too – you’ve earned it!
4. Stop multitasking!
Do you have a favorite show you just can’t miss? Don’t watch it while you work. Multitasking really isn’t all that good for us or our productivity. Why not watch it while you work out? Or, if it’s a show you love watching with friends, make it a weekly date. Just don’t let it be a workday distraction.
The point is to treat your distractions as normal, human occurrences and not to get too discouraged when they happen. Try to establish a routine that will help you overcome distractions and then schedule a few in so that you can still get that guilty pleasure in, relax, and be more productive when you are working.
Do you have any tips on how to make your day more productive? How do you avoid work-at-home distractions? Which distractions prevent you from getting your work done? Drop us a note, we'd love to hear from you!
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Angela Bickford is a crafter who loves to make art of all kinds. She has a home-business where she sells custom stationery and gifts, including domino jewelry, clipboards, and scrapbooks. She is also passionate about writing, is a published author, and has edited four books for other authors. She lives in Texas with her family. For more information visit angelabickford.com.