After my post mentioning of some of the obstacles I run into working at home, I had someone (who does not wish for me to name them) ask me how I get any work done as a writer. Part one talks about family, kids, and pets, now I want to talk about distractions.
There is so much around us that distracts use from work, all the shiny new books and beautiful blogs we’d like to read, all the house work we’ve been neglecting, the lovely bed we’d like to visit, maybe even a show we want to watch on the TV or online. There’s also the people and pets in your home, the refrigerator, even the nice weather outside with the half-wilted flowerbed that still needs to be weeded. Yep, there’s a lot to distract us and because we work-at-home there’s also no one looking over our shoulders to keep us on track so we don’t slack off.
When you work at home you have to be more motivated and self-sufficient than when you are at the office. There’s more noises and interruptions such as email alarms, mail deliveries, and your neighbor yelling at her kids to come in for dinner. One of the hardest things about working at home is the distractions. And there are a lot of them. So how do I keep myself disciplined and on track?
Remove the distractions I can. Removing those distractions from your space will help. I can’t have my ereader or fiction books anywhere near where I’m working. The temptation to read is too strong. Some writer’s like to have two computers, one for writing and one for Internet and business related work. I don’t have the room in my house or the urge to spend the money, so instead I use the Cold Turkey app (which is free, although a donation to the creator is always nice if you like it) when I find myself slipping back into my unproductive state of Internet surfing. I can sent it up each night after work with a set time and it blocks me from the Internet for the specified time.
Scheduling “like” tasks. I thought multitasking meant I was getting more done, studies show this is a lie. It takes time for your brain to switch from one task to the other because most tasks occupy different parts of the brain, which means multitasking takes up more of your time then just working on one task and then moving to the next task. Grouping “like” tasks together or taking a break between tasks helps the brain focus more on what it needs to do.
Use your time wisely. Figure out when your optimal time to work is and schedule tasks that need more brain power at that time. Reserve lighter tasks for those times that aren’t optimal. For me, checking my emails in the morning, gets my brain working towards work which allows me time to write when I’m more awake. This can also be used toward tasks that take time away from your work, like meals. I make dinner in bulk and freeze part of it for another day when I’m busy. That way I can pull something out of the freezer and pop it in the oven for a quick meal.
To Do Lists and Calendars. I love to-do lists. It means I don’t forget what needs to be done and then have to rush to do it or be reminded to do it by an irate customer. I keep a notepad on my desk with a list of things that need to be done. If there is a time limit on something I write down the due date. I’m also a fan of Google calendars. It’s free and I can sync my appointments and tasks between my cell, laptop, and tablet. It will also notify me ahead of time or email me a list of the days tasks that need to be done.
Take small breaks, not vacations during the day. It’s proven that taking a break can boost productivity. It gives you a moment to regroup before you dive in again. During these breaks I stretch and get myself water, tea, or coffee. Then it’s back to work. You can also try setting up–and keeping to–a firm schedule, blocking out your work hours into 90-minute or 25-minute spurts with 5 to 10-minute breaks. Use a timer to keep yourself on track.
Work somewhere else. Some people find it productive to work somewhere other than home. A coffee shop, bookstore, library, etc. Personally I find it more distracting. Too many people to watch and things to do. I prefer an out of the way place in my house, although there are times I work on the couch while my daughter watches TV. It’s more distracting for me, but less so then her popping into the office every 5 seconds to tell me what is going on on the Tele.
Working from home can be a big distraction if you don’t respect your work time enough to remove the obstacles sitting in your way. Things will still crop up from time to time, distractions don’t magically disappear, but knowing how to handle them is half the challenge.
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