Let’s face it, working from home can get distracting at times. If your kids refuse to acknowledge a closed door, your personal email buzzes with a million different messages, or the thought of that delicious tub of ice-cream in the freezer dominates your mind, it is very easy to get distracted.
With most of us working from home during the COVID-19 crisis, and some of us switching to working from home permanently or part time in the future, eliminating those distractions is vital. So, to help you find ways to reduce distractions and increase your productivity, we have put together 14 tips to help you achieve just that.
1. Create a dedicated office space
A dedicated space free of distractions beyond your work is vital to maintaining productivity and getting you into a professional mindset. Having a desk space where your kids don’t pile their homework on top of or play around on your computer, where you pile household related items like bills and more, will do wonders to your productivity.
While not everyone has the space to dedicate a whole room to a home office, an established area where you can use your computer, talk on the phone and keep documents stored will be useful. This is also great for tax purposes, allowing you to claim the home office tax deduction. You should measure your dedicated office space and calculate the percentage of your home it represents.
If you have any further questions about home offices and the unique deductions you can claim for your personal situation talk to an accountant.
2. Invest in your office
Often your workplace will have invested in office furniture and amenities that will not just increase productivity but will keep you comfortable and healthy. It is important that you do the same when working from home. Of course, what you need to invest in will vary by taste and profession but some items you should invest in include:
- A comfortable desk chair with good back support
- An adjustable monitor which you can raise to eye height (alternatively you can rest the monitor on books or buy a monitor stand)
- A quality internet connection
- A landline business phone, or a business only mobile
- A reliable computer (If using a laptop, you should purchase a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse for ergonomic reasons
- General office supplies
- A good printer
Having quality furniture and technology that allows you to get into an ergonomic position will not only improve alertness it will also help keep your body healthy in the long term.
3. Create a daily to-do list
Setting task priorities and all that you need to accomplish each day is vital to ensuring you remain productive at home. Without your colleagues around, keeping you motivated and on task it can be easy to drift off. Putting together a to do list can help you stay on track and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Simply jot down every task you need to do that day and number them in order of priority. After completing each task make an active effort to cross them off. This has some great effects on body chemistry helping you feel motivated and accomplished.
4. Talk to your family about it
Working from home with kids can be tough. You really need their co-operation, and that of your partner, in order to make the time easier. Call a family meeting and explain to your children that you need to focus during work hours. If your partner isn’t working or is also working from home, you can work together to keep the kids busy while you both work.
One method some families use is the “traffic lights system”. This is where you use different coloured circles, red, amber, and green like a traffic light, to signal to your family whether they can come into your office or not. Red means do not disturb, yellow means to ask first, and green means come in. This system is easy for kids to understand as it is very visual.
5. Avoid distracting emails
It can be easy to check your personal email every 5 minutes as they come. However, doing so disrupts your workflow and offers a chance for distractions. Instead check your messages, social networks and emails at designated times of the day. Whether you are checking every 30 or 40 minutes you still get some uninterrupted work time.
It can be difficult being disciplined like this, so switch off your notifications or download apps to help you. There are many apps out there, like LeechBlock, that allows you to ban distracting websites for set times and then re-enable them during set check-in times.
6. Use a dedicated browser
It is a good idea to use separate browsers for work and personal use. Your work browser will be free of distracting tabs, bookmarks and extensions. Instead, it should be work and productivity focused with all the extensions you need to do your work and maximise productivity.
7. Get organised on home and office chores
When working from home it can be easy to get overwhelmed by both household chores, work tasks, and office chores you have to complete. This is because there is no barrier between work and home, you will see those dirty dishes every time you head into the kitchen. So, it is important that you get organised before you sit down to work every day. Set a schedule for your household tasks as well so that they do not clash with work times and encourage you to complete those tasks.
Keeping your office clean is also important. You should aim to get into good cleaning habits, like putting cups and dishes away, and cleaning up loose papers. This will help keep you focused whenever you need to work.
8. Set office hours
It is extremely important to have boundaries around your work and home life in order to get a good work/life balance. However, this can be harder to do when working from home. The best way to keep a solid work/life balance is to set strict deadlines. Set it, as a rule, to work only between certain times, like 9 to 5.
You should also remember to set times for your breaks and meals. They are important for preserving your sanity and health. Take short breaks throughout the day and a main lunch break at midday.
9. Save food for outside your office
Eating at your desk may seem like a great idea when working from home, but it has some major downsides that will hurt your productivity. It is very difficult to work and eat at the same time. You will find yourself getting distracted by eating. Then, since it is difficult to work with one hand while you are trying to eat, you end up using it as an excuse to stop working. So, why not take a proper break?
Go out to your kitchen, dining room, or back yard and get a break from your office. Eat, rest, relax, and freely check social media. Then when you are done, return to your office rested.
10. Invest in headphones
You will not believe the difference some good headphones can make. With headphones you can cut out all of those annoying distracting sounds. Is your neighbour mowing their backyard? Are your kids playing noisily? Are there construction noises outside? Simply put on those headphones (if they are noise canceling this will work even better) put on your favourite music, and keep working. If you find music too distracting, put on some ocean or forest sounds to drown out all of the background noises.
11. Use cloud based file sharing
Working from home means you will be sending a lot of files between yourself and your colleagues or clients. Emailing attachments back and forth can quickly become a pain, with file size limits and how easy it is to lose an email.
So, a great solution is to sign up to Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. These allow you to share files in real-time, offer a secure space to store files and reduces confusion.
12. Keep a calendar
Working from home means a lot of multitasking, especially if you have kids. To help you with this you need to keep an impeccable calendar. Using a calendar software like Outlook, WorkTime or My Work Schedule allows you to view your work calendar and personal calendar, helping you to avoid overscheduling or double-booking.
13. Get dressed
One of the best things you can do every day before work is to establish a morning routine. This includes getting completely ready as if you were going out to work. While you may not have to wear a shirt and tie from home, wearing something that is both comfortable and not your pyjamas will help you get into a working mindset. Keeping the rest of your work morning schedule, including strict bedtimes and wake up times will help you stay happy, sane and productive.
14. Leave the house
It can be really easy to stay home for most of the week if all you have on your schedule is work. But this is very unhealthy and not good for your sanity. It is a good idea to get outside and go for a walk or exercise. Better yet, take some of your lunch breaks outside. This will get you away from your screens and household chores, allowing you to get some much needed fresh air and vitamin D.
Setting up good habits and systems when working from home will allow the whole experience to be much easier and more productive. If you were previously skeptical about working from home, put this into place and see how you go, you may surprise yourself and enjoy doing it.
For more advice around work culture, bookkeeping and more talk to Link Strategies.