Working From Home Can Be Just As Distracting As Working From The Office.
Tips On Managing The Distractions
On the whole, most people are more productive when working from home. When we eliminate the daily office distractions, the amount of time we can spend focusing on the real problems we face every day is a lot larger than most of us realize. But, even at home, that kind of productivity boost is something we have to earn. It doesn’t just happen the moment you sit down at your desk. Old-office distractions are replaced with new home-office distractions in hurry.
Here are a couple of immediate new distractions you’ll find yourself grappling with every day, and how I handled them when starting at BuySellAds. It’s taken me a year, but I think I’m finally out the other side.
Limit Your Communication Time
I’m chatty. Especially online. I once had someone on Twitter point out that they were unfollowing me because I tweeted too much. Finding a balance between being personable and available to your team online, and actually getting stuff done on a daily basis may prove difficult early on, once you start working from home.
It’s important to remember, few things require immediate replies in today’s remote work environment. Given the explosion of communications tools over the last half-decade, it’s pretty easy to lose yourself in communicating all day long. Take us at BuySellAds for instance: We use Skype. We use Slack. We still use email. Then there’s direct messages across several platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and even iMessage and SMS chats. Obviously it’s pretty easy to get caught up communicating all day.
The trick to dealing with communication overload? Mute, silence, and close the applications where you spend the most time chatting. Once you’ve managed to cut down the noise, set up a schedule for popping into your apps and catching up.
You’ll be surprised just how much time you can reclaim over the course of a week with this approach.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seize the opportunity to chat with your colleagues when the opportunity arises, but I am saying that care needs to be taken when catching up with conversations and direct messages.
How To Avoid Those Communication Marathons And Distractions.
While at work, the average ‘worker’ is distracted every 3 minutes. It then takes them 23 minutes to get back on track. The same is true for those of us who work at home. It’s probably even worse for those social media aficionados with two displays.
I’ve managed to curtail my social media marathons by using Quitter for Mac (it’s free). The application manages your social applications (or any other distracting app, really) by automatically quitting or hiding the application once an app is idle and a timer elapses.
The application is the perfect way to keep your distractions out of site and out of mind while you get work done. I currently have it configured to close Tweetbot, Slack, and Messages automatically after 10 minutes of being idle.
It’s a godsend.
By keeping the distractions to a minimum, and hiding the thing that usually steal my attention, I can recapture my lost productivity time in a hurry. It’s worth downloading and installing. I don’t know of any similar apps for Windows, but if you manage to uncover one, please let us know in the comments.
Stop Being So Accessible
When friends and family hear the words “work from home”, they seem to immediately forget that “work” exists in that descriptor. To them, working from home means you have flexibility, which in their minds, just means you’re able to drop everything at a moments notice and grab lunch, hit up the mall, or entertain impromptu visits in the middle of the day. They mean well, but they rarely understand until you explain it to them.
The problem is, you don’t have an office to hide behind, or a boss over your shoulder that you can lean on when people drive-by visit. You have to set the boundaries, because if you don’t, before you know it, you’ll be working all evening, playing catch up. No one wants that.
Don’t let yourself become an actor in someone else’s movie. Start saying no, and starting doing it immediately. Set rigid work schedules, and then try and stick to it at all costs. Sure, you do have some flexibility with your schedule, but remember that it’s your schedule and you’re the one making the call on whether or not you’ll be distracted. If you’re the type that needs mid-day distraction, then don’t fret over it. But, if you’re not, and you need to put in a solid eight hour chunk of work every day, you have to set the boundaries because things will start to slide, despite your best intentions.
Just be consistent in your approach. Eventually people will catch on to your schedule.
Some Tips On Setting Boundaries
- Set office or availability hours. Keep a consistent schedule so people know when you’re free.
- Set clear limits. A healthy work-life balance means checking out from work at some point, and hanging out — uninterrupted — with your friend or family. Don’t forget to give yourself a daily exit strategy.
- Define urgency. What constitutes a work emergency and what doesn’t? In the moment, every email may seem like something you need to answer immediately. The reality is most things can wait until morning once you’ve unplugged for the day. Know the differences and the expectations at work. Also, figure out what’s considered a home emergency? When should you pack it in early. Knowing your thresholds before hand will help eliminate unneeded distractions when they arise.
- Set clear signals that you’re working. Maybe it’s a closed office door. Maybe it’s headphones in your ears. Either way, give people visual cues that you’re busy working and that you’re not to be interrupted when those things are in place.
- Separate your homespace from your workspace. Go to work every day. Whether it’s the bedroom, basement, or home office doesn’t matter. Just establish a routine where you’re working in the same space every day. Eventually everyone will notice that you’re busy when you’re present in those places. That also means you need to stop letting outside influences creep into your work space. Don’t disappear into the home office to hang out or hide from your kids. That sends mixed messages to everyone involved.
- Manage family expectations. Let your family know what’s okay and what’s not okay during your work day. Let people know that reminding you of errands or chores isn’t something you care to entertain during your work sessions. Let friends and family know that you’ve received their message, but also let them know you don’t plan on dealing with it until your work day is over.
Flexibility is the primary benefit of working remote. Embrace it, and take advantage of the perks when you can spare some time. You don’t always need to be chained to your desk, and you can certainly use some time away from your computer. Get face-to-face with friends and family, just make sure you’re doing it responsibly and on your terms.