How to manage distractions when working from home

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How to manage distractions when working from home

Embracing remote working successfully is all about setting healthy boundaries - both for yourself, and your family or friends in the event that you are working from home.

You might find some of the discipline found in daily routines at the office, meetings or schedules, difficult to translate to your home space. Remaining focused on your productivity and output, which translate directly to your earnings, can be tough when considering the myriad of distractions presenting in your home and also, through the availability of technology.

Here’s how to keep distractions at bay:


Create a dedicated office space

A cluttered environment results in a cluttered mind.  Working in an organised, clean and neat environment will help you feel in control of your day and priorities.


Create a broad outline of your daily schedule with breaks

'Zoom out" and create a macro overview of your daily schedule. This can be as broad as:

07:30 Coffee and catching up on Social Media 
08:00 Attend to Emails
10:00 15-minute break
10:15 Focused work time
12:30 Lunch-break
13:30 Focused work time
15:30 15-minute break
17:00 Close your laptop and home office door

If you have children and depending on their age, you might need to create a schedule for them too. There are some excellent resources and ideas online.  This allows them to plan their day and know when they can expect to see you. 


Develop laser-like focus

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” - Stephen R. Covey

To harness the power of singular focus which creates greater efficiency, try to have only one software application open per task - e.g. Outlook when attending to Emails. For high-focus tasks, you might need to place your phone on ‘aircraft mode’ in order to avoid distractions.

You may need to disable your ‘push notifications’ for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others while working. Try to avoid falling into the trap of having multiple tabs open on your browser, as the allure of constantly checking your Social Media feeds, is too tempting and can result in opening a ‘black hole’ into which many valuable hours disappear.


Taking a break

Working from home as opposed to the office means that you do not have a colleague who is going to invite you to a coffee break. Set your alarm to remind you to take breaks.  Use your time during breaks to get your blood flowing a little - even a quick stroll around your garden or a couple of sit-ups will go a long way to boosting your oxygen flow to your brain, which helps manage stress and maintain concentration.


Use your lunch-break wisely

Use this time for leisure or planning - anything that’ll take your mind off work.  You can use your lunch-break to plan your shopping list after work or prepare some food items for dinner. Alternatively, this could be a great time to visit the gym or run personal errands.


Setting boundaries for friends and family

Friends may think that your working from home means that you have a lot of free time available and may think that you are always available when they want to pop in for tea or call you to chat during your working hours. It is important to manage expectations and let them know what your working hours are, as well as the demands of your work.

Oftentimes, creating boundaries with our family members prove to be the toughest.  Young children might not understand your need for space and quiet time when you need to work. It often helps to create a ‘signal’ for family members to indicate when you need focused work time. For little ones, it could be your creating a red ‘stop’ sign or a green ‘go’ sign, made from cardboard, that can be placed on your desk.  If you are busy with a high-focus task, turn it to ‘stop’ to prevent interruptions. Remember to turn it back once you have completed your task. Naturally, you can communicate to them that emergencies will always enjoy priority overwork!


Closing your office door - even if only figuratively

Working from home does not mean that you are ‘always on’. Setting boundaries for your Employer is also important.  Unless it is an operational emergency, you may need to communicate with your Employer that you are not available after working hours or over weekends. Often, global companies with employees and employers in different time zones can be a challenge easily overcome through clear communication and planning.   Ultimately, your respect for your own time, will set the tone for others and prevent potential abuse.

In conclusion, setting clear career goals - both short and longer-term - is instrumental in creating a mindset that will intuitively steer you towards avoiding disruptions in favour of achievement. 

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