Working at home can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it is ideal for the entrepreneur, the stay-at-home mom or dad, and those who enjoy a flexible lifestyle. A curse, because it is easy to let said flexible lifestyle get in the way of logging those hours. It doesn't have to!
The key to a successful work-from-home career is to set some rules for yourself and to avoid as many distractions as possible.
The laundry just finished drying, gotta fold it!
A little background news never hurt anyone.
I should get my grocery shopping out of the way early to avoid the after work crowd.
The kids need to be entertained for an hour after school.
There are so many seemingly innocent tasks that need to get done that it's easy to overlook the fact that you are taking your attention away from what's most important between the hours of 9am and 5pm – your work! For most self-employed individuals, if you don't log the hours, you don't get paid. Simple as that. Fixed salaries are a thing of the past, and bills will always exist.
We want to be able to enjoy this unique lifestyle as best we can while making the most of our time at our desks. So, how do you make the most of your work-from-home life to maximize your productivity? Here are 5 ways to eliminate home distractions:
1. Set a Schedule
I know I said that your work is the most important thing from 9-5, but the fact of the matter is that those hours will fluctuate from time to time. Any entrepreneurial individual knows that those hours can easily go from 8 to 10, 12, or even 16 in the blink of an eye. That's simply how self-employment/work-from-home life can be. There is no avoiding it.
But, no matter how many hours you work, distractions still exist. Avoid the burning need to take care of household chores by creating a schedule for yourself. If you say that from the hours of 8am to 12pm you are going to work for Client A, and from 1pm to 5pm you are going to tackle Client B, you're more inclined to stick to your schedule rather than working in organized bits and pieces.
Schedules are also useful for the work-from-home mom or dad. Differentiating work time from play time will help your family understand that from 9 to 12, mommy is not to be disturbed, but she can play from 12 to 1.
I would recommend the Day Designer for scheduling.
2. Turn Off Unnecessary Noise
It is totally tempting to have your favorite show or news station on in the background as long as you promise yourself that you won't let it get in the way of your work. But the fact of the matter is that any unnatural noise in the work environment WILL distract you.
Well, people talked on phones at their desks next to me when I worked in an office… what's the difference?
Have you ever worked in a small office environment? With one or two other people nearby? One person on a phone is SO distracting as compared to an entire office of people on the phone. In a busier setting, it almost becomes white noise. In a small setting, all you will focus on is the conversation happening a desk over from you. Same goes for TV, spouses, kids and non-work phone calls.
Working in a quiet designated office space will eliminate the sounds that you wouldn't get in your typical work environment. You wouldn't watch TV or chat with your spouse or child at an office, so don't do it at home. Shut your door and focus on the task at hand.
3. Set Up An Office Space
To achieve “turn off unnecessary noise” you need to have a space that is intended for work. Not your kitchen counter, not your dining room table, and not the couch. If you have a spare room with space for a desk, use it! Designated office space is key to productivity. I can't tell you how much more work I get done sitting at a proper desk than I do when I bring my laptop over to the couch.
We invested in a nice desk, a comfortable desk chair and two 24″ screens. I plug my laptop into the screens so I can have the split option because I usually have a lot going on at once, from copy-writing and design work in the Adobe Creative Suite, to skype messages and emails.
The office space is meant to be your work environment. A space to drown out the distractions and get into work mode.
4. Make a To-Do List
Most people who do contract work from home have a laundry list of tasks to accomplish on any given day. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to prioritize and organize your deadlines and clients. How do you get everything done without forgetting small to-dos? A To-Do list of course!
First thing in the morning (or the night before), make a list of everything you need to get done during the day. Then organize it in order of priority. There's nothing better than checking things off your list!
The Day Designer has both a schedule section and a to-do section, which makes it very easy to structure my day and remember all of the tasks I need to accomplish.
5. Manage Your Inbox
Emails, texts, calls, social media, skype chat… these communication mediums are one of the key reasons that any professional gets distracted – not just work-from-home folks. Rather than keeping your email open 24/7, write in a few blocks of time during which you can check and address your emails. Take some time in the morning, after lunch and before you close up for the day. Otherwise you may spend more time in your inbox than you do on your actual work.
It is also quite helpful to set up an auto-response saying that you will respond within 24 hours (or another respectable response time). The busier you get, the more important it will be to use your time wisely!
Distractions are totally normal. Creating a proper work-life balance when you work from home can be challenging, but it is possible to be successful!