Working from home can be a curse as well as a blessing. You know you can stay focused and be productive but there are all sorts of distractions at home. Everything from basic household chores to your partner, children, and pets can distract you from staying on task. How are you supposed to manage these distractions and your work?
5 Tips to staying on task
1. Clearly Define Your Workday
Since you’re working from home your workday could begin as soon as you roll out of bed. You have no commute, and your email is easily accessible and answerable on your phone. Heck, you could even begin your workday in bed. Is this you or do you want to ease into your workday?
Understand what works best for you, your family, and the nature of your job. If your office is in a different time zone you may need to adjust your work hours accordingly.
Do you take a quick look at email while drinking that first cup of coffee or do you wait until your morning chores are done and the children are off at school?
Does your workday end when all work is done or at a predetermined time?
Staying on task is easier when there is a definite beginning and end to your workday.
Do yourself a favor and refrain from checking work email when your workday is finished. The messages will be there in the morning. As tempting as it is to get ahead of the workload it is often better for your relationships if you do not let work distract you when you are technically not working.
2. Office Placement
If possible, place your desk in an out of the way spot in your home. It is difficult to stay on task when you can see all that is going on in your home without you. If you have very little children, it’s hard to explain to them that you are not available to them while you are working. Make it easy for them by placing your workspace in an out of the way location.
The flip side to this, though, is that when you need a break you can take it with your children. You can read them a story, build with blocks, and have a snuggle. All because you’re working from home.
3. Schedule Interruptions
Everyone needs a break from their desk.
There are things you may want to do (or have to do) around the house. Schedule them into your day to make you get up from your desk. I take a break and water my plants outside. Sometimes I also do a little weeding. This gets me up and moving. Plus, it gives my brain a break from whatever I was focusing on. The other thing I do is take my dog Josie on a 10- or 15-minute walk. I schedule these walks to coincide with lunch or afternoon breaks.
I use this journal to keep track of chores during the week, calls to make, errands to run and so much more. When I’m ready to take a break, I look at the Check Your Calendar page to pick one of the items on the list to do. It helps me to stay on task.
Research shows that taking a break is good for your brain. In particular, scheduling time to close your eyes and do nothing gives your brain a chance to process. Who knows you may even land on a great fix for a problem you’re trying to solve.
4. Stay away from social media and email
Give yourself permission to scroll through your Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, and Twitter feeds at specific times of day then stay away from it. Social media is a huge distraction, as you know, and will take you down virtual rabbit holes. There’s no need for that. Go to that playground on your breaks. And be sure to set a timer so that the break doesn’t eat into work time.
Have set times when you check and respond to your mail messages.
Do you reply to mail right away or do you let things linger and then forget they are there? It’s a good idea to respond to the messages for which there’s a clear answer. Then either file or delete the message. Schedule time to respond to the messages that require a more thoughtful answer.
Staying on task is easier when the notifications on your phone are turned off so the little ding ‘you have new mail’ doesn’t distract you from your project.
5. Make a list the night before
At the end of your workday, take a few minutes to review what you have accomplished. Note where you left off with your projects. Clean up the top of your desk. Tidy your piles, do any filing, and put away any orphan pens or pencils.
Then review your schedule for the next day.
Plan your desk time around the appointments in your calendar. Decide when you will take your breaks and plan in a little flex time just in case something happens to come up.
Staying on task when you’re working from home is easier when you have a sense of how your day will unfold. Building flex time into your daily plan gives you grace to handle things in as stress-free manner as possible.
If staying on task and getting things done is something you want to do better join the Clear Space for You virtual clutter support group I run with Jonda Beattie. We will help you create daily schedules that consider all you want to accomplish.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, ICD® Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC, and co-owner of Release Repurpose Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.