These days, it’s easy to —
Sorry, what was I saying?
Oh yeah. These days it’s easy to get distracted.
The state of the world in 2020 has yielded a bevy of new distractions that beckon our daily attention, and that’s before you account for the reality that many employees are adapting to a work-from-home dynamic for the first time.
While working from home undeniably has its advantages, there are clear challenges to overcome. You might get an hour head start on work by commuting straight from your bed to your home office… then lose that hour trying to wrangle the kids for lunch. Likewise, you may accomplish tasks faster, but lose the time you save by venturing down a YouTube rabbit hole.
To make the most of a WFH setup, it helps to recognize the most common work-from-home distractions so you can make plans to avoid or rise above them. This is easier said than done. You can’t always control what’s going on around you. What you can control, is how you respond to it.
Here are the top five work-from-home distractions and how to conquer them, to stay on-task, on-track, and on-time in a telecommuting capacity.
1. Family matters are unavoidable
No matter how much you love your family, there’s no denying their ability to distract you from work. You can’t turn your head from a crying child or tune out your partner when they have important questions to ask you. Whether you’re a two-adult household or have a full house that includes kids of all ages, prepare for family-related distractions all day, every day.
It’s not always your family’s fault, either! A recent poll of 1,000 remote workers concluded that, among other things, 29% of telecommuting respondents had a hard time maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Sometimes the distraction comes from wanting to spend more time with your loved ones. It’s natural to want to take advantage of the opportunity provided by being home, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Conquering family distractions comes down to communication. If you’re at home alone with the kids, work out a routine that keeps them occupied during peak productivity hours and explain to them that it’s important for you to work uninterrupted. If your partner is telecommuting or home during the day, try to develop a schedule that minimizes distractions between the two of you. For parents of newborns and toddlers who need constant attention, don’t be afraid to call in grandma and grandpa if you can.
During those times when you cannot be disturbed for any reason, make it clear. Hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door. Slip on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. You can even play around with consequences or incentives for kids. Keep in mind, of course, that they too are dealing with all sorts of new disruptions and distractions.
2. Pets need love and attention, too!
Your furry friends are part of the family, but they can pull you away from focusing on work. There’s no ignoring the dog whining at the door to go outside or the cat walking across your keyboard looking for cuddles. Unfortunately, the more attention you pay to your pets during the workday, the more you’ll become accustomed to it—and the more they’ll expect it.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to completely ignore your pets from nine-to-five. To keep them from becoming a major distraction during the day, get into good habits with them. Pets tend to be schedule-oriented, so if you get them acclimated to a regular routine, it’ll keep them from honing in on precious work time.
Dogs often need more attention throughout the day than cats, which are relatively independent. Give a cat a sunbeam and a bed and your distraction problem is likely solved! For dogs, keep them to a Monday-through-Friday regimen that they can look forward to—one that’s conducive to your work schedule. For example:
- Take them outside at 8:30 am, before you start work
- Feed them at 9:30 am, as a reminder to yourself to get up and stretch
- Take them for a quick 30-minute walk at 12:30 pm, to expend some energy
- Take them outside at 4:30pm, signaling your end-of-day wind-down
Eventually, everything from your dog’s mentality to its bladder will adapt to this schedule, giving you uninterrupted peace during the throes of a hectic workday. The added benefit here is that a routine like this can help ensure that you’re regularly getting up and moving around, which is important for productivity and health.
3. Chores can quickly become a black hole
Lots of employees used to go into work and think periodically about the chores waiting for them when they got home: Clean the bathroom. Vacuum. Clean out the fridge. These mundane tasks suddenly become action items when you work where you live. Instead of squirreling them away on a mental list for later, you can get up and go do them right now. But should you?
Picking up the slack around the house when you telecommute may seem like a good idea, but there’s a time commitment to every chore that detracts from your workday. “I’ll just do this one thing quickly” often turns into a series of chores that can eat away hours of daylight.
How do you justify the decision to do your chores when you work from home? Set your schedule and pre-plan time for them. Let’s say you need to clean the bathroom. Don’t do it spur-of-the-moment. Instead, plan to do it later in the day or at a later time during the week. Build it into your schedule just as you would a work-related task. This will help you remain cognizant of workload and avoid accumulating a continuous backlog of chores. It’s a smart idea to over-budget time, too. If you think it’ll take you 30 minutes to clean the bathroom, budget 45. If you get done early, great!
Have kids at home? Chores have long been the traditional way for kids to pull their weight around the house. Whether you believe in issuing an allowance or want them to learn the value of responsibility, delegating chores to kids means you don’t have to do them when you should be hard at work. A 30-second inspection of their chores is a much less invasive distraction than doing a 30-minute chore yourself.
4. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of the World Wide Web
One of the perks and pitfalls of telecommuting is the ability to pop on Facebook, YouTube, Amazon or other sites without fear of your boss walking by. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the World Wide Web to become one of the biggest, most all-consuming WFH distractions. A quick two-minute stint on Facebook might not seem all that bad… until you realize it’s your 12th time scrolling your newsfeed today.
Seasoned telecommuters have an abundance of tips for staying on-task with the temptation of the open Internet always looming. Here are some of the best:
- Budget free time for internet surfing throughout the day, such as between projects or at the top of every other hour. Set a time limit for surfing and stick to it. Avoid unscheduled browsing.
- If you can’t risk the temptation to deviate from your tasks online, protect yourself against your wandering mind with browser plugins and site blockers.Many of these products are free and will prevent you from straying off task.
- Turn off notifications for social sites and other distractions. Many times, it’s the little “ping” noise that grabs our attention and causes us to deviate away to other sites. Most browsers have robust notification settings for “do not disturb” times.
Staying on-task takes no small measure of self-control. The good news is, the longer you work from home, the more focus you’ll develop. Get in good habits early on and you’re less likely to find yourself scrolling endlessly through Facebook or Reddit when you should be working.
5. Television is always a temptation
Few things in your home are more detrimental to productivity than your television. TV is perhaps the most dangerous of all work from home distractions because it’s so easy to slip into a trance and lose minutes and hours of work time. Whether it’s Netflix, daytime soap operas, or infomercials you don’t actually care about, it only takes seconds for TV to trap you and drain your productivity.
The simplest solution? Don’t turn it on! If you need background noise, try some soft music or the radio at a low volume. If you’re tempted by the allure of your current binge-worthy show, don’t even sit in the same room as a television to work (if you can help it).
What if you have family at home during the day? You can’t strip them of their TV time, so it’s best to avoid the TV at all costs. A pair of cheap earbuds can supplant background television noises with ambient music, which can help you relax and stay focused—as opposed to the white noise and muffled chatter of television, which is proven to induce stress. Even if you think you have time to sneak in a quick episode, think again. As with all habits, avoiding TV during the workday is best when practiced with consistency.
The power of productivity at home
There’s a bounty of data out there that says remote workers can be more productive than their in-office counterparts. Work from home employees work nearly 17 full days more per year than in-office workers, merely by virtue of efficiency. They spend less time idle and more time engaged with work, and they’re generally happier with their work, equating to a higher quality output.
But there’s a catch.
For these facts to be true, remote workers need to overcome the many work-from-home distractions that siphon productivity. It takes focus, strategy, and persistence to develop good habits and the requisite mindfulness to avoid time-wasters and productivity pitfalls.
Give the above tips a try and don’t be afraid to experiment with routines and habits that work for you. The beauty of telecommuting is that everyone is free to tinker with their own schedules and standards. Find what’s best for you and use it to stay focused and productive each and every day.
If you’re looking for ways to bring the routine and habits of an in-office work experience home, you can give Sococo a try with a free trial.