How To Deal With Distractions When Working From Home
Working from home can be pure bliss....that is until each and every dish in the sink starting singing sweetly "Dani, Please wash me, don't wait." Yes it happens exactly like that.
When it comes to working from home, there are actually two completely different things you need to look out for. One is legit distractions that you can't control like the doorbell or the kids across the street at the playground being really loud. For most of these types of distractions you can just plop in some ear buds and keep on chugging away.
The other type of speed bump is actually the second cousin to distraction, called procrastination. Yep I said it.
You see when the dishes are calling your name, or the tv flashes and says your favorite show is coming on, these are tests. They test your endurance, your loyalty and your sheer will power.
Part of doing a work from home gig is learning how to actually DEAL with distractions in a crafty manner. I've been known to do some pretty extreme things like turn a tiny closet into my office in my old house just so I could have a door! I know it's not always the space, but the noise around you that can make it hard to concentrate. Some days the noise from my neighbors kids playing is sweet and helps me feel grounded. Other days the sounds of my other neighbors very loud western themed tv shows literally push me over the edge. So what do I suggest?
I suggest taking a hard look at what distractions are legit, and which ones are procrastination feeders. If something is legit, it will fall into two categories. Deal with now, or deal with later. You need to be super clear on the things that are allowed to distract you from work and this will help you decide which of these two categories they belong to. Here is an example of my allowed and not allowed list when I am in work mode:
- Telephone, not allowed and calls are always scheduled
- Housework, not allowed unless as a "reward" for finishing something ( ha never thought I'd say that) or something I'm doing on a quick break.
- Doorbell, allowed as it is usually super quick
- Meals, allowed on schedule - I no longer graze as I quickly joined the "Work From Home 30lbs Club"
- Instant Message, not allowed - it gets turns off ( hard! )
- Text Messaging, allowed but only for a glance to gauge urgency
- Email, absolutely not allowed, too distracting - this is also done on schedule
When it comes to various degrees of communication, I decided to choose just ONE method that I allow to infiltrate my work time. If I allowed them ALL I would be too distracted!
Now I know those are general/common things that can distract you and some of that is common workplace sense. The hard part is the next round.
Now there is a big thing that often comes up, the loud distractions. Keep in mind that loud can mean a few things like volume level, urgency or just plain in your face. One distraction that I can't control but that I needed to find a way to deal with was my family. I have a spouse who even 4 years later cannot grasp that I have invisible walls around me. We've always had very small homes so this can become a serious issue. Yes I know, it sucks to be tied to your laptop while everyone else is sitting down conversing or watching TV together. In my case my spouse has NEVER had a fixed 9-5 schedule so it's not like I have a set time for knowing when distractions will take place.
I've always been someone who can ignore any noise I hear. If I am focused, you could be jack hammering in my living room and I wouldn't even notice. Once I became a mom this of course morphed into mommy ears and I now know what noises I need to listen to. So how does this help me with distractions? It doesn't. So what I do is put everyone in the house on a daily schedule in order to get things done with LESS distraction. You see, everyone who works from home is hunting for ways to find less distractions because being at home IS a distraction. Without those 4 cube walls surrounding you, it's basically a free for all. The energy at home is different, therefore you need to come up with another way to deal with it.
One way I recommend is through your own distraction, that is using headphones or white noise to drown things out. I have a fab app on my phone and computer that I use called well "White Noise". If I am really in a bind and I also use SimplyNoise which is just a website with a few types of white noise. Guess what? I actually use the white noise on my speakers with people in the room watching TV. You don't always have to have your headphones in to gain the benefit of soothing sound and others rarely even notice I have it on so try it! If I need to monitor activity in the room, I just turn the white noise on full blast and go full steam ahead. This has helped me countless times.
See I'm looking to give you real, practical advice not just "lock yourself in the closet" or "work from a cafe". Those are great answers but really, that's like telling someone to "Google" something when they ask you a question. In most cases the person has already tried doing that.
Now remember the whole daily schedule thing? Well I learned that from a mom who had 7 kids and worked from home. One day I was griping about how I can't work from home with my bouncy 2 year old and she set me straight. She said "Honey, I work from home with 5 kids under 6 and 2 older kids who refuse to babysit, now what's your excuse?". She was right, what was my excuse? Well my excuse was I let my house be a free for all. I am a naturally care free person, my spirit flows in whatever direction it wants at any given time. It's a great thing and I get 2 points for being flexible but was I being TOO flexible? You bet your darn socks I was.
My family of three now operates on a joined calendar. When I wake up in morning, I immediately take that time as "me time". I take a shower, I get dressed, I put on a little natural mineral makeup and I get excited about my day. I also run down stairs and power up all my equipment for the day so it's ready to go when I am. My daughter is normally asleep while all of this is happening and I really treasure the quietness. As soon as she wakes up she comes down for breakfast, and if she is still asleep at 8 am, I wake her up, gently. After eating it's either, in house sitter time or mommy has me on a schedule time. If we try and follow our schedule closely, we generally have a great productive day. Believe me, things are going to come up so don't be too hard on yourself. Just make yourself a promise that if something distracts you, you will weigh it and see which bucket it belongs to before letting your day get out of control.
Now comes the ugly beast, distractions that are really forms of procrastination. These include but are not limited to:
- Dishes or Housework
- Paying Bills
- Personal Social Media
- Internet Surfing
- Checking VM off schedule
These are the things I generally do when I am faced with a project that makes me feel a little anxious. I will sidetrack myself silly and I never really noticed it. Recently, I learned an amazingly profound thing from one of my clients. She said that procrastination stems from fear and I agree with that. Procrastination is the moment when doing something else seems like it would be more fun/calm/easy that your original task. If you think you will fail, you will most likely procrastinate. If you are unsure of what the finished product will look like, you will most likely procrastinate. Being a last minute Lucy also means you will make more mistakes!
Do you get where I'm going with this? Poor planning and time management can be a huge culprit of procrastination. As can the anxiety of not really knowing what the heck you are doing. The fear of the unknown makes your brain do crazy things. So how do I suggest you resolve this? I suggest you write this one little line somewhere near your work space.
"Fear does not exist."
I've got to run, I've got dishes singing my name.