5 Ways to Overcome Distractions While Working from Home
Updated: Aug 18
We are all used to distractions and interruptions in a formal workplace setting, but those are different from the ones we experience at home.
Now that most of us are working from home, we have the added distractions and interruptions that are associated with other household members and activities specifically related to our personal life. These distractions and interruptions are due to the dual role our home is currently playing – home and office.
Filtering out these household-related distractions and interruptions are critical to achieving the level of productivity usually accomplished in a formal workplace. Here are some strategies to help overcome distractions while working from home.
1. Set Your Priorities
Working from home often means having to juggle multiple responsibilities, from making meals and managing childcare, to completing projects and meeting deadlines.
To be successful in managing work and family demands, think about your personal goals and what you want to achieve for yourself in the long-term.
Make a list of everything you need to do. Then, using your goals as your guidepost, set your daily priorities.
• Identify the Important and Urgent responsibilities. Make them a priority and do them right away.
• Identify the Important but not Urgent responsibilities. Decide when to complete them.
• Identify the Not Important but Urgent responsibilities. Delegate them or postpone them temporarily.
The more you focus on priorities that are in line with your personal goals, the less you will be distracted away from completing important tasks.
2. Schedule Your Time
When creating your daily schedule, insert responsibilities and priority tasks. Include meetings, conference calls, time to read emails and transition times between tasks. Also, plan for disruptions.
Be mindful of tasks and projects that require a lot of concentration. Schedule those when children and others are focused on school assignments or recreation or when other adults in the house are taking a break.
Allow for meals in your schedule. Prepare a meal plan to ensure you have time to prep for breakfast, lunch, snack time and dinner.
Also, include a “recess” for everyone in the household. When there’s a lot to be done, a little leisurely break during the day can do everyone some good. Spend time with your with spouse and children or find a space to be alone. Being with yourself is good for your mental and emotional health and gives you time to recharge and regroup.
3. Create a Distraction-Free Workspace
Find an area in your house that works best for you, preferably a table or desk that is free of any clutter that might cause you to become distracted throughout the day. This is where you can set up shop during work hours, and where family members will know not to bother you unless it's an emergency.
If you can, set up physical barriers to encourage focus if possible. For example, three-sided corrugated presentation boards can help delineate your workspace and block views of other things going on around you.
Invest in noise-reducing headphones. These are great for blocking out external noise helping you stay focused and calm in active environments.
4. Set Boundaries
Another way to minimize distractions is, at the onset, set realistic expectations and boundaries with your boss and your colleagues. Everyone works differently so you may tackle all your major projects before noon and not want to be bothered until after that. Keep your calendar up to date so your boss and colleagues know the best times to reach you.
Also, set boundaries with your household members. Make everyone aware of your schedule so they understand when they can approach you. Put up a "Do Not Disturb" sign when your attention is focused on a project and you cannot be interrupted.
Finally, set boundaries for yourself. As much as possible, try not to let work interfere with the rest of your life. For example, if you can, secure a business phone number to replace your personal phone during business hours.
5. Get Into A Routine
Pre-pandemic, you most likely had a routine. Perhaps you started your day answering emails with a cup of coffee and handled administrative tasks in the afternoons.
But don't be afraid to change things up. You might discover new ways of doing things as working from home becomes the "new normal." Maybe you'll find that the early mornings are the best time to complete urgent tasks while the kids are still asleep. Or that you are most creative when walking the dog in the afternoons.
Whatever the case, begin to develop and follow a routine to help you stay focused. Having a regular routine can also help reduce stress when dealing with disruptions.