The new norm of working remotely still doesn’t feel at all normal to many knowledge workers. Perhaps you’re returning to work, or perhaps you intend to keep working from home indefinitely.
I have some tried-and-true advice to help you avoid distractions wherever you are working. Most of them are adapted versions of advice I offer for controlling office distractions. They are helpful when working remotely as well because being productive truly depends more on how you work than where you work.
Productivity Key: Focus
Before I give you advice, I want to explain where it came from. Each tip is founded on the premise that the amount of “brainpower momentum” you devote to each activity. Especially the ones that are most important to you, determine how productive you are overall. This is true whether working from home or handling distractions at the office.
Studies demonstrate that multitaskers gradually lose cognitive ability. They essentially become more stupid. According to other studies, it takes a lot longer for us to get back on track and refocus on the task at hand each time we are interrupted.
When you have children and work from home, your total workday may be shorter than when you work in an office. However, regardless of where you are physically when you do it, you may still get your best outcomes if you can control your attention within the time you do have.
Avoiding Work From Home Distractions
The following tactics are the result of decades of my work assisting leaders to boost their output. Before the current crisis, many of these leaders worked either full- or part-time from home.
These productivity suggestions cover a wide range of topics, including where to work from home. How to set up your workstation, how to avoid being distracted by others and technology. And, how to establish clear boundaries between your personal and professional lives.
Take Away The Second Monitor
Consider getting rid of your second monitor. Mostly people use it to have your email tabs open all the time. You will be perpetually taken away from your most crucial work by this.
However, if you are a designer or developer and absolutely require the space for one activity, having a second monitor is a fantastic idea. For instance, you might be a designer. You maintain your palettes and photos on one display while working on the item on the other.
Refrain From Working In Your Bedroom
A bedroom may be tucked away from the busiest areas of your house. It is the worst possible location for a home office. Working from your bed can interfere with your most private space’s solitude and quiet as well as your sleep schedule.
Try to separate the room with a screen, bookcase, or other obstruction if you must work from home so that you cannot see your desk or table from your bed.
Use Your Brain As A Tool, Not A Storage Device
Make sure to clean up any clutter once you’ve chosen a location for your home office. The “file by pile” method makes you rely on your memory for organization and storage, which is more intellectually demanding than is necessary.
According to studies, those who have some degree of environmental control are happy. Your subconscious will perceive a messy, cluttered workspace as a sign that you have no control over the situation. However, your brain can concentrate better on the current work in a tidy, uncluttered environment.
Request An Evaluation Based On Your Results
Reduce your expectations for what you can achieve in a day if you’re the only caretaker. Try to treat yourself with the same kindness that you would extend to a buddy in a similarly trying circumstance. Being a caregiver during the day and working late into the night to complete your task is unsustainable and will eventually harm you, the people you are caring for, and your work.
Then, discuss with your boss how to develop weekly goals that are appropriate for your circumstance. The intention is for your management to evaluate you based on the results you produce rather than when you work. You’ll be able to set and keep realistic goals as a result.
When Possible, Provide Tag-Team Care For Young Children
If another adult or partner is present while you work from home, you should rotate providing care for your loved one every 60 to 75 minutes. This gives each of you a period of concentrated, productive work time, followed by a transition to caregiving.
This type of tag-teaming is the most efficient way to give both partners the chance to focus their whole concentration on their respective jobs.
Processing Email Offline
It’s like trying to play whack-a-mole while responding to emails in real time. Instead, schedule specific times to handle email, and when you do, turn on offline mode on your computer to prevent it from refilling while you’re processing.
Work In A Space That Has A Door
The home office can already be occupied by your spouse. Or perhaps your children are strewn about the den working on crafts or studying. Pets might occasionally demand our attention as well! So where would be the greatest area for you to successfully work from home? Naturally, it depends on your house.
It’s preferable to work in a room with a door if there are other people or animals present in your house. You may let others know when you’re free by opening and closing a door. You can also let your roommates know when you need to focus on something in-depth and cannot be distracted.
Avoid Working In A Central Area
Try to choose a workspace that is not in a busy area. Perhaps you have a playroom that is no longer being utilized by a little child or a basement that is cozy enough to spend the day in. By doing this, your work equipment won’t be visible when you quit your job and go back to your family life.
Process Items To Your Task List
We frequently persuade ourselves that the mess on our desk must be there for a variety of reasons, such as to serve as a reminder for us to complete a task or because we are at a loss for where else to put something.
Let’s say you have a stack of bills that need to be processed on your desk. Put them in the “bills to process” folder. Simply “packing up” your belongings will help to organize and manage them.
Add a reminder to your task list if you are concerned that you won’t remember to deal with the invoices without being able to see the pile of paper.
When The Job Is Over, Cover Your Tools With A Blanket
Our 24/7 work patterns are detrimental to our physical and mental wellbeing, according to research. When there are no boundaries between our personal lives and our employment, whether we are working from home or in an office, we are more likely to experience burnout. This, of course, has the biggest negative impact on our productivity.
Close the door and don’t come back till the next morning if you’re fortunate enough to have a home office. If you are working from a different location in the house, you should let everyone in the house know when you are finished for the day.
Digging Into More Details
Put away your laptop and any other equipment you use for work to accomplish this. Or, if you have more than just a laptop, cover all of your office supplies with a blanket. Till you are rested and prepared to resume work, keep the blanket on. You can prevent work from interfering with your personal life by using this method.
Due to the fact that you will still have access to your phone, this advice is unfortunately not infallible. Work emails can also be found where there are phones.
Find A Place For A Piece Of Nostalgia In Two Minutes
In order to find a place for a sentimental object that is taking up space on your desk, apply the two-minute rule. Maybe you have a collection of toy animals your child made out of porcelain ten years ago. Are you certain that this collection matches the bill? While adding a few decorative objects to your workstation is nice and may even increase your efficiency at work.
If not, locate a place for this valued collection to dwell that is out of your way by focusing your attention on it for two to three minutes. I would never refer to this as clutter.
Whatever the equivalent of your “ceramic animal collection” may be, I’m sure you’ll feel as though you have nowhere for it to go. However, if you invest just a few minutes and overcome your opposition, you will find a better location.
Communicate With Teens And Tweens Using A Whiteboard
Placing a dry erase or chalkboard outside your office or beside your desk is a good idea if you have older kids at home. Write down your availability time and “How can I help you then?” on it. After that, let your youngsters list their needs using chalk or markers.
This alleyway calms the kids’ worries about you being unavailable. Additionally, it teaches kids patience.
Just make sure you follow through by attending to what is on the board during your breaks and that you maintain your whiteboard updated with fresh availability times.
Put A Workflow Management System In Place
If you don’t put a workflow management system in place, your workplace will quickly become cluttered again after you take the time to clean it up. This procedure can be used to process and arrange all of the tasks, documents, appointments, and other “stuff” that enters your life and workspace.
It’s simple to become overburdened when you don’t have a system in place to keep track of all the little details that make up your physical and mental workload.
One of the best presents you can give yourself and your team is to put time and effort into learning and implementing a workflow management system since the objective is to reduce distractions and boost productivity when working from home.
Use Symbols & Signs To Indicate Your Availability
Our living arrangements are frequently one of the largest barriers to working remotely. You must teach others to respect your limits whether you live with roommates, a partner, teenagers, or young children. Even if an open or closed door could be the ideal approach to let people know whether you’re accessible, you might not be able to set up a home office in a space with a door.
Consider placing a flag on your desk, hanging a flag from a lamp, donning headphones, or utilizing another sign if you are working in a more open space. Tell them what the symbol means while you’re using it: “Do not disturb.” If not, you are welcome to interrupt.
If you enjoy approaching your boundaries with comedy, you can think about creating a humorous sign that conveys the desired message. This may particularly be effective with young children and teenagers. Here you can download a variety of amusing, free “Do Not Disturb” signs.
It’s critical to uphold your limits regardless of how you decide to let others know when you’re available and when you’re not. If someone approaches your locked door despite it being closed, you should kindly decline their request to speak with them and ask them to return when the door is open.
Put Electronics Away For Periods Of 60 To 75 Minutes
If you keep allowing your technology to steal your attention, no amount of boundary-setting will help you prevent interruptions.
Turn off all electronic devices but one computer and put them out of sight when you need to focus intensely. Once you’ve had your 60-75-minute window, you can check them.
You can set your phone to accept calls from a specific contact if you’re worried that you could miss a crucial call. Alternately, you can program your phone to accept a subsequent call from any number within a minute or two. If you find it difficult to completely turn off your gadgets, at least place them in silent mode (not vibrating) and out of sight. According to studies, even just having our phones around might be distracting.
Deactivate Push Notifications
Turn off push alerts. These are specifically made to divert your attention. For extensive instructions on how to turn off push notifications on your phone, see Control Your Tech, a comprehensive free site I created. Setting boundaries with your email, social media, and team communication platforms is also covered in length in this guide.
Set Up Clear After-Hours Email Expectations
According to studies, sending work emails after hours is harmful for you and your family. According to a 2018 study, employees’ close families were also more stressed and anxious solely from the expectation of having to be available for work after hours.
If you’re a manager, create clear guidelines for when it’s acceptable and necessary to send emails after business hours and on the weekends and when it isn’t. Establish clear rules for when it’s acceptable to ignore a business email after hours.
If you’re not a manager, think about asking your team leader to provide you this information so you can work from home more effectively.