You’re probably used to ignoring distractions in the office. We’ve learned to keep our heads down when coworkers walk by or find a quiet conference room to work in. Managing distractions when working from home can be a lot different.
Working from home has come with a whole new set of challenges. Some of us are trying to work while our kids are doing virtual school. Others are trying to ignore loud and obnoxious roommates. Or, if you’re like me, your pet’s demanding to poke their head into your video call.
Without an end to remote work insight, it’s time to figure out how to live with it. No matter what distractions you’re trying to avoid, we’ve found some great ways to stay focused while working from home.
Managing Distractions When Working From Home
Common Work From Home Distractions
Distractions can come in any shape and size when working from home. It can be your kids running around or your housemate listening to loud music. Unlike the office, it can be hard to find a place to shut it all out.
We’ve thought of the most common distractions and what to do about them.
If your roommate isn’t working from home, it can be hard for them to know when they’re distracting. The best way to deal with roommates is to be clear about schedules and boundaries.
It can be an excellent tool to create a shared calendar. That can be digital or a schedule in a shared space. Take the time to write when you need the house to be quiet or have important meetings.
This way, no one always has to remember the other’s schedule. It’s easy to check and see what you and your roommates need for the day.
Another solution is to remind your roommates the day before, or the morning of, that you have an important video call. Setting clear boundaries about what you expect during this time can avoid any conflict.
Pets are potentially the most challenging distraction. As cute as they can be, there is no way to set boundaries with them about your workspace.
The best way to keep them from becoming a distraction is to stick to a strict schedule. Then they will know when to expect walks or meals.
This can help keep you focused on your work as well. Taking the time to take routine breaks throughout the day can make you more productive. Giving your mind a short vacation is always a good idea.
Remembering to feed your pets before video calls or offering them a toy can prevent them from being distracted. Freezing peanut butter in toys or finding another enrichment activity can keep them busy for hours while you get your work done.
If you’re finding it impossible to get work done with one of the kids always calling for you, we understand. Whether they need help with virtual learning or just can’t find the right snack, it can feel like doing two jobs simultaneously.
An ideal solution would be to find a system to let them know when you aren’t available. This could be putting a post-it note on the door when you’re on a call or telling them they can’t bother you if your headphones are on.
But, we all know you can’t stop kids that easily. A great way to deal with this is to work in increments. It can help to begin work when they start virtual school and take a break with them after a couple of hours.
This gives you both a chance to walk away from your work and lets them know when you’ll be available to help them. It can be enough for them just to be aware that they only have a half-hour until they can ask you instead of having to wait for the end of the day.
If that isn’t working, you can set up a note system. Maybe you put a chalkboard outside your workspace for them to write what they need. Or you can set up specific colors to mean they need different things.
This can allow for quick and efficient communication without you having to leave your workspace.
Best Practices to Avoid Distractions
The best way to avoid distractions at home is to prevent them from happening. I know, much easier said than done! However, we’ve gathered some tips to make your time more productive.
Find a Good Work Space
An excellent way to avoid distractions is to have a dedicated workspace. Ideally, this would be a room with a door, but if you’re in a multi-person household, that might not be possible.
What’s most important is that you have a space that your brain associates with work. While we can’t go to the office, we can create the feeling of being at work.
This means no working in bed! As easy as it can seem to log on to work from the comfort of your bed, it’s not going to make you most productive. You’re more likely to use your phone or find other things to keep your mind busy.
It’s best to get up and get dressed just like you would if you were going to the office. This can keep your brain and body in the mood to work.
Having a workspace can also make it easier to set boundaries with housemates. You can be clear that you’re “at work” and not to be bothered when you are in that space.
It can be tempting to try and get as much done as possible. But multitasking might be making your work take longer.
If you are trying to do multiple things at once, you’re more likely to make a mistake. This means spending more time going back and reviewing or redoing things you don’t want to. The best practice is to prioritize before you start working.
A fantastic start is to create a ranked to-do list. You can write down things you have to finish that day, upcoming deadlines, and chores you want to get done.
There are two practical reasons for this. First, you don’t have to use all that brain space to remember what you have to do. Instead, you can focus only on the task in front of you.
The other reason is that it can put into perspective how much you need to do. If you are trying to complete multiple tasks and stressing about every one of them, the workday will be much more complex.
With a to-do list, you can do what is most important first and move over whatever doesn’t get finished onto the next day.
I’ve found that it makes it much easier to budget time when I start the day knowing what I want to finish.
It’s also a good idea to keep your workspace physically organized. This will keep you from getting distracted by a messy desk.
Ask for Help
While it can feel like you need to be as productive as you were before working from home, it’s essential to know when to ask for help.
We’re all experiencing a difficult time, and it’s essential to help each other through it. This can mean asking your partner to take on childcare duties when you know you have a stressful day coming up. Or ask a friend to come over and help with dinner.
If you’re overwhelmed, then you’re going to be less productive and more prone to distraction. Your body can’t be ignored. Trust yourself when you feel like you need a break.
Also, admitting to needing help is an excellent way to remind your family or housemates that you also understand their stress. Your kids may be feeling as over-extended as you are, and asking them to pitch in with dinner prep or dishes can make everyone feel like a team.
A terrific method to avoid distraction is to have everyone working together and understanding each other’s needs. This will make setting and maintaining boundaries much easier.
Working from home felt like a dream for some of us when it first started. Little did we know that it can be full of distractions. Until we can get back in the office, it’s imperative to learn what works best for you.
Not all work-at-home techniques are going to a great fit. Try different strategies until you find what works best for you and your work environment. Investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones could be your solution, or making a giant shared calendar.
Whether you’ve committed to working at home long-term or are hoping to return, staying productive now can be challenging.
Remember that the best solution might sometimes be the easiest. Turn off your phone, open a browser only for work, and set a timer for how long you need to stay focused. And make sure kids, pets, and housemates are all taken care of before sitting down.