Thursday Jun 01, 2023

How Do You Handle Distractions While Working from Home?

I know it’s not much of an opening, but… The key to handling distractions while working from home is to remember the following:

There were distractions in a traditional work environment, too. It’s not a matter of getting rid of all distractions. It’s a matter of self-discipline and focus. In short, it’s a matter of setting yourself up for success.

Take an Objective Look at the Realities of Your Life

Whether you’re planning out how you’ll work from home or if you’re already working from home, you must take an objective look at the realities of your life….and you must do this on a regular basis. Why? Because life isn’t static. It changes. For some of us, it can change really fast.

Realities, that is, the things that must be dealt with, are not distractions. They are things that must be dealt with. And you can often create a routine to help you balance both working from home and your responsibilities. That’s one of the unique and often attractive features of working from home: we’re supposed to have “more time” for family and other things. Unfortunately, that’s not the truth. We have the same 24 hours as everyone else…and we often feel that we are pulled from thing to thing (and the subsequent guilt that comes along with it…not working because you’re spending time with the kids? Oh no! What about your work?! Working instead of hanging out with your kids? Oh no! Your kids will be ruined!).

My realities today:

  • I have hours and hours of editing to do because of three hard deadlines.
  • I have a kid that needs lunch (he’s already had breakfast) and dinner.
  • I have three dogs that I had to feed and who will need to go outside several times.
  • I had laundry, dishes, and shit like that.

And the kid, dogs, and chores have to be handled. So, dinner is in the crock pot. It’s not lunch time or anywhere close to it (it’s 9:15 am). Laundry is folded and put away, dishes are done, I picked up the living room, and I swept the kitchen.

So, to a large degree, successfully working from home without driving yourself bat shit crazy involves YOU figuring out how YOU will handle the responsibilities of YOUR life. And then doing it. You may not like doing it, but you’d have the same realities even if you worked outside of the home.

Okay, But What about Actual Distractions, Robin?

Well, that depends on the distraction. If it’s possible, set up a workspace that is out of the main flow of life. I know, I know…yall have objections:

You have small children and can’t leave them unsupervised. I know. I had small children once. I stayed home with them. I was a seamstress and made costumes for a local private school. I homeschooled. I had a toddler who would get into everything when he wasn’t crying (he’s now 18 and leaving on Monday for boot camp, sigh). Work when they are asleep or work when they are busy. Sub-complaint: But I’m tired! I’ve been chasing my kids all day. Welcome to parenthood. I have a special needs son who is almost ten and he requires almost constant supervision.

Depending on the ages and the temperments of the little ones in question, set them up a routine. Don’t just plop them down in front of a screen or television. And don’t give me the “I need a moment of peace” bullshit, either. Engage them. Play with them. Do things with them. Build those memories. Don’t burn holes in their retinas with constant screen time. Seriously. I promise you that they are only little ONCE. And that is the time to build relationships and do fun things to create great memories. I also understand the need for the occasional video game. Find things they can do with you nearby. If they’re older, give them “work” or coloring books. Let them “work” with you.

You wanted to work from home to spend more time with family. That’s cool and all, but it’s a glorified ruse. Once you build clientele (unless you’re an honest-to-Gaia remote employee), you’ll have deadlines. And before you have clients, your job is to find clients. Here’s what generally happens with the whole spending more time with family thing:

You hang out and do things during the day for hours on end and you change up when you do it…and you end up too tired at the end of the day to work (unless that end of the day time is your natural sweet spot). The “do it later” mentality kills more businesses than anything. Because for most people, later NEVER comes.

Yes, you should take a little extra time because you are home. You should also take care of you. But you must learn to find the balance between them both or you will hate working from home. When you’re in the main flow of the house, you’ll always find something else you think you should do.

Next tip: find your sweet spot for working. My sweet spot changes. I am productive in the super early mornings, but I still must get through my entire “shit I need to do around the house” routine or I have a hard time focusing. Finding the time when you are most focused is key. Right now, I get up early, but I don’t start work until sometimes as late as 9 am. Then I work until lunch. I make lunch and I workout. I then work from about 2 pm (or 3 pm…4 pm during the school year) until 9 pm or 10 pm.

Now for the Tough Love

Emails, cell phone notifications, social media, cell phone games, phone calls, text messages, checking your phone every two minutes…all distractions. Those are all distractions that are 100% within your control. Meaning you are your own biggest problem. You’re also your own biggest solution:

  1. Turn off your email notifications on your laptop. Pick once or twice a day to check your email. Statistics show people spend as much as six hours of a work day IN THEIR EMAIL. No fucking wonder people feel like they don’t get SHIT done.
  2. Put your cell phone on Do Not Disturb. If your kid is in school, mark the school, their teacher, etc., as priority numbers so they will ALWAYS ring through. Your friends can wait. Social media will still be there.
  3. Out of fucking sight, out of fucking mind...except most people are addicted to holding, touching, and using their smart device. During the school year, I put my cell phone behind my laptop so I can’t see it…but obviously, I’ll hear it if a priority call or text comes through. I also have a bookcase behind me. I sometimes put it on top of the bookcase while I work. I assure you it is the same old shit on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And all of it will be there. Later.
  4. Fucking realize how much time you’re wasting on social media. The biggest and most ridiculous excuse I hear from people is, “I wanna work from home like you, but I don’t have time to build my business.” This pisses me off. They have the same 24 hours I do. I taught college, I worked in a law firm, I had three kids, and….I still built my business. If you have hours to waste on social media (and, seriously, start writing down exactly how much time you spend on there every day and EVERY TIME you get on it), you have time to build a business. You have time to work. Unless your job IS social media, stay off of it when you should be working. You’ll have more peace (after your finish withdrawing from FOMO – and we don’t ever actually miss out on ANYTHING on social media; it is always there).
  5. Fucking buckle down and work. Use headphones if necessary. If you know something is a distraction for you, deal with it. There is no magic solution. YOU are the solution.

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