If you work from home full-time, for few days here and there, or you’re self-employed and running a home-based business, distractions are par for the course. There's no boss to look over your shoulder, no external pressure to keep ou focussed and on task. On top of that, there’s probably a pile of washing that wants your attention, a lawn to mow, or a tempting YouTube video to interfere with your thought process and focus.
There are many benefits to working from home. It's said to lead to happier employees - you spend less time travelling, for a start, and can more easily accommodate hobbies, childcare arrangement, or other parts of your life outside of work -and, of course there are also benefits for the environment through reducing journeys you make. If you're working for a company, it can reduce their overheads. If you're self-employed, you can offset some of your expenses against tax. Win-win!
But while it's a great thing to do, there are always distraction.
I spent 15 years working for a blue-chip company as a remote employee and then managing a remote team. Now I work for myself, working from home. In that time I learned quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t when home is also your main place of work, so here are my top five tips!
Disable Alerts on Your Phone
Most of the time our phones are beeping away at us, trying to get our attention. Make sure you aren't constantly interrupted by your most likely busy social network by turning off notifications. This is a good tip for generally! If you need your phone to make or receive calls and have absolutely no self-control you can try using a blocking app. I am definitely in the easily distracted camp (and not easily put off by an app) and if that’s you too, try putting phone somewhere away from your desk and connecting a Bluetooth headset. That way you can receive any calls that come in but won’t be tempted to check WhatsApp, or whatever. That's also a great workaround if you struggle to get good mobile reception throughout your house but need to sit elsewhere to work. Which leads me to...
Have a Dedicated Workspace
Working at the kitchen table or from your comfy bed is appealing, but how productive are you really when you're hovering over email while also trying to sort out breakfast or surrounded by signs of home life that vie for your attention. Some people can do this, yes, and from time-to-time you might benefit from a change of environment but, for the main part, you may find that a dedicated workspace really helps your focus.
It doesn't need to be a fancy desk or take up a lot of space but it does need to be Your Workspace; a place where you can keep your files and folders, any bits of paper you need to organise in future, your organisers, etc.
If, like me, you have the added problem of curious little hands who like to explore, it's easier for them too if they know that your workspace is a no-go area. I have rule that they don't touch anything on my desk, however tempting that colour highlighter they can see is. This works the other way round too, so I've made sure my kids have their own desks with their own pens and so on. We all have our own space and it works.
Yes, it's a beautiful thing, working at home in your PJ's and feels like a real perk to be able to rock straight up to "work", coffee in hand, in your comfies, but one of the things I noticed in my many years as a home-worker was how little I accomplished in the first few hours of the day if I wasn't properly dressed. By dressed I don't mean suited and booted - there's really no need to power dress - but really, if I'm honest, I really mean, put your undies on! It might sound crazy, but for me being dressed and at least out of loungewear really helped me to get things done. Try it. You might be someone who can work as hard as anyone in your comfies but for me, probably due to years of conditioning going back to the school days, I was never as productive on slouchy days as days that I was fully clothed.
Have a Work Routine
Many of us are juggling working from home around our families - and if not our kids, then friends, partners and our social lives. If you know what you're doing and when, it makes it much easier to focus.
If, you feel like you can’t fit it all in, try to set aside set time slots, one- or two-hour locks where you can work undisturbed, and use a time management tool. I like the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks your work time down into 25-minute chunks with breaks of varying lengths in between. You focus on a task for a single “pomodoro” (25-minute session) then take a 3-5 minute break then get back to it for another 25-minutes. After four 25-minute sessions you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes, enough for a walk or a super-quick workout, then back to it again.
I used this technique to get me back into the swing of things after an extended period of maternity leave and now it’s almost second nature.
Plan Your Day
Plan, plan, plan. There are loads of tools to help you with this so you might need to play around to see what works for you. Lists are your friend. Nowadays a list can be many things beyond a simple pen and paper but I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, which uses a good ol’ fashioned pen and paper to record and plan activities, events, and tasks.
And most important of all...so a quick bonus tip…