Housework, pets, noisy apartments, door knocks, telemarketing calls and disruptions.
When you work from home you are surrounded by domestic elements unlike the ones you have when you work in an office building.
These elements can make it hard to concentrate on your work. What can you do about it and how do you stay focused while working from home?
Door Knocks & Phone Calls
Interruptions from friends and neighbors can be difficult because you don’t want to offend anyone. It is important though to make it clear that you are working from home. Kindly let them know that you will speak to them after work. They will soon understand and eventually stop interrupting you.
When you answer telephone calls answer with your business name. If you don’t want to be disturbed by the phone you can let the calls go to your message bank.
I had the problem of getting too many telemarketing calls. I now have a message machine. While the caller is leaving a message I can hear it so I can still pick up the call during the message. This is useful for me just in case it is a call from a client, my husband, my child’s school or an emergency.
Ignore the housework. Don’t worry about the messy finger marks on the fridge or the dusty floor.
Tell yourself that if you were working in an office space away from home then you wouldn’t be seeing or doing the housework. Your home office is no different.
When you go to and from your workspace during your work hours do not look at the housework. Schedule time to do your housework outside of your work hours as you normally would if you had a job outside of your home.
Don’t Try To Do Everything At Once
When working for yourself you take on many roles. There are a variety of tasks that need to be completed. Try to complete one task at a time before starting another one. Tell yourself that it is better to have a few completed tasks than many half completed ones.
Organize your work schedule. When you are organized you can relax and get on with the tasks you need to do and not worry about other things that may need doing. Have a list of the things you need to do each day. Tick them off as you do them. If you have everything written down then you won’t need to worry that you will forget something.
Have short breaks in between each task. Set a time periods for tasks. After the time is up take a break for yourself to get up from your desk or tend to things you have on your mind. Allocating time periods will help you to focus because you know that you only have a certain amount of time before you need to stop. I have been using something called the Pomodoro Technique to help me get things done.
Declutter Your Mind
I have a notebook where I write down things that come to mind. These can be ideas or things I need to do. If something comes to me while I am working then I write it down in my notebook. It doesn’t have to be a notebook. You can use a file or an online service like Evernote. Once I know I have written something down in my brain dump notebook then I can forget about it and get on with my work.
I look through the book when I am planning tasks for my schedule and mark off the items as I schedule them. Some ideas are long term and I don’t do anything with them for months (and maybe never will) but I have peace of mind knowing that they are always there and I can go back to my book whenever I need to. It keeps my mind clear and uncluttered.
Turn Off Email, Social Media & Alerts
One minute you are really getting somewhere and then you hear a new email alert. You can’t help yourself. You look at the new email and before you know it you are off doing something else. Turn off your email and social media when working. You can check it in between tasks.
The challenge comes when you need to send an email as part of your task or do some marketing on social media. This is when it is easy to get distracted and spend more time on there then you intended. The key is to stop once you find yourself engaging in the personal aspects of it.
Have Set Work Hours
Sometimes distractions from family or other house members can make it difficult to focus. Determine your daily work hours and write them down on some paper. Write down your lunch (or dinner – if you work in the evenings) breaks. Pin it on your office door if you have one or on the wall next to your desk. Let everyone one know that these are the times you need to work and not to disturb you unless it is an emergency.
Dress For Work
You are now the boss. Dress the part. Wear smart clothes. It will help you feel that you are at work and focus to get things done. I also remember reading somewhere about a woman who would get dressed for work, walk out of her house and then walk back in all ready to get started with her work day.
It may not be an option for you to have your own room for your home office. If not then you should at least try and have a dedicated space for your work in a corner or somewhere that you can work without too many distractions. Keep your desk organized and uncluttered. Ensure you know where everything is so that you can get started on your work and focus without wasting time setting up and looking for things.
Personally, this is a big one for me. I am someone who loves my peace and quiet. Living in a small country town, I love to hear the birds singing outside my office window while I work. I won’t even turn on the radio because I can’t think when it is on.
Our neighborhood is full of dogs. We are surrounded by them. And I am not talking one dog each. There are at least 11 dogs owned by neighbors around us and across the road. When the barking starts they all go at once. There is also one particular dog that when triggered will bark for hours….. actually it is barking right now….
Then there are the mowers and other powered garden tools such as blowers and snippers. One neighbor drives me crazy. When he does his yard he uses all the powered garden tools that he can get his hands on. I won’t go on about the chainsaws.
I used to struggle so much and wonder why I chose to stay home and listen to noise all day. It was hard to concentrate on what I was doing especially when I was watching a training video. Almost everyday there was something.
What did I do? I stopped focusing on the noise and diverted all my focus onto my work. It wasn’t easy at first but it got easier with time. I’d close all the doors and windows and create my own world. I’d put on my headphones or turn up the volume. I stopped thinking and complaining about it. Eventually I found that the less I focused on the noise the softer it got.
It’s a beautiful day outside so why not take the day off and spend it doing gardening or some other hobby? It is tempting and you think to yourself: Why not, isn’t that one of the reasons you wanted to work from home so that you have the flexibility to enjoy your days? This is true and maybe you can take the day off. Only you know what your workload is and what needs to be done. Assess your priorities and use some self discipline if you need to.
What kinds of things make you lose your focus?