How to Stay Focused When You’re Working From Home * Sonia Holt

How to Stay Focused When You’re Working From Home

We all know the benefits of working at home:  No commute. No drive-by meetings. No dress code.

Working from home can seem like a dream.

But what about the drawback?

  • Personal obligations get in the way.
  • Distractions are easy to ignore in an office.
  • It can be difficult to draw the line between personal and professional time.

And then there are other interruptions:  Like taking a call from a friend when you know you need to finish your work, but you feel it would be rude if you don't take the call because technically you could.

So what can you do to minimize distractions?

Well, one thing you can do is when you’re planning your daily to-do list decide when you’ll squeeze in your personal commitments.

Scheduling chores and errands during lunch and after your work hours can keep you focused on completing your daily to-do list.  Taking the time to put a few loads of laundry in the washer can seem like a quick task until you find yourself making up that work time late at night.

And if you're constantly interrupting your work hours and having to make up the time later at night, it's unclear when you’re really “on” or “off.”  It's like you're working all the time, and that makes it harder to take a break or have family time.

Three Tips On How To Make Working From Home More Productive And Satisfying

  1. Establish working hours
  2. Structure your day for success
  3.  Set boundaries with others


(1) Establish working hours

  • Have a focused day of work; pretend you’re not working from home.
  • Have a set time that you will be at your desk or on your computer.
  • If your personal life doesn’t have boundaries, your work-life won’t either.
  • If you’re checking business email at all hours of the day and night you never can truly rest.
  • Set up “office hours,” i.e., 9 AM to 5 PM most weekdays, for example.
  • Clarify what is or isn’t acceptable to do during work hours.
  • Identify activities that need to happen before or after work hours, such as household chores, errands, and spending time with friends and family.

Obviously, there will be the occasional call from a friend you might take during lunch break, and sometimes you may have an urgent task like an emergency car repair.  You can make it happen during your workday, but these should be exceptions and not the rule.

 By setting  boundaries, you will create dedicated work time, and then you can focus on personal items guilt-free “after hours.”


( 2) Structure your day for success.

  • Define three key items that you want to accomplish.  They could be tasks that require an hour or more of uninterrupted attention, or maybe items that require more creative, strategic thinking.
  • It’s helpful to shut down your email during this period, or at least stay away from it for an hour at a time.
  • Alert others of times that you’ll be disconnected so they won’t be surprised by a delayed response.


(3) Set boundaries with others.

  • Make it clear that working at home is no different than if you were in an actual office, so you need to structure your time accordingly.
  •  An example of what you might say to others when you're interrupted:
    • “I’m planning on being on my computer from 8 AM to 5 PM today.  I’m happy to chat at lunch, but other than that I’ll be occupied.”

When you set expectations and stick to them (i.e., saying your hours are from 8 am – 5 pm, and really stopping at 5 PM,) people understand your limits instead of assuming you're always available.

Other recommendations:

  • Have a place where you’re away from anyone else at home, such as an office or bedroom where you can shut the door and be out of sight.
  • If a neighbor pops by, be open for a conversation for a few minutes just as you would with someone who stops by your desk in an office, but doesn’t have an extended discussion or suggest they come in for a cup of coffee.
  • If you're going to run errands, estimate what you can do during a lunch hour, then commit only to that.
    • “I can pick up the dry cleaning and some milk at lunch, but I won’t have time for full-scale grocery shopping until after work.”
  • Break down errands into smaller pieces, such as,
    • “I can drop off the car at the mechanic today, but won’t get around to calling about the health insurance question until tomorrow.”

When you explain your limits, you don’t need to do so apologetically.  Lay them out factually, having the same respect for your time working from home that you would have if you were at a workplace.

Consistently communicate and live by these expectations so other people will begin to expect them too.

Following these guidelines will make you more productive by giving you more time for focused work.







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