It takes quite a bit of self-discipline to work from home and not be distracted. Personally, I think this is a huge reason why many people don’t start, or eventually fail, at working from home. There are a lot of similarities to owning a business and working from home. Primarily, there isn’t anyone that is physically present to hold you accountable. When working from home, you have to block out distractions yourself.
So what are some of these common work from home distractions, and how can we avoid them?
Common WFH Distractions
When I first started working remotely, I would get all kinds of requests from family members asking to help with this errand, this chore, etc. Granted, this was 15 years ago when working from home wasn’t common at all, and they took the mindset that I could just freely do whatever, whenever.
As you probably know, this couldn’t be further from the truth. On the plus side, remote workers and WFH individuals don’t have to worry about taking off work to make it to the bank, or get our car registration renewed on time. We can just go on a break. But this can be a slippery slope as well. Especially if you are part of a family where you are the only WFH member.
The Fix: Designated Time Blocks
There’s nothing wrong with running errands during the workday (typically). However, you want to make sure you set aside designated time blocks to do this. So take a block of time where you aren’t as busy and can take care of those errands. As long as you get the work done at a later time in the day, you will be fine. The most practical time to do this is likely and the beginning or end of your workday, as it can be difficult to start / stop in the middle of your day.
If this doesn’t work, you can always take work with you. Remember, you don’t have to be in the same location for your workday. When I go to get my car serviced, I will often work from the dealership’s break room. It’s extremely normal now for dealerships to having tables and chairs for this exact reasons. I’ve even seen several with play areas for kids!
Having my candidates ask questions is one of those “differentiators” I look for when interviewing them. This makes me feel like they are invested in finding a role that fits them, which means they aren’t looking to puddle jump from job to job.
The Fix: One at a Time
Split up quick chores during the workday, and leave the longer ones for after your work is finished for the day. For example, it doesn’t take but a couple minutes to put a load of clothes in the washer / dryer, but takes at least 15 minutes to fold them and put them away. Other quick chores that could be done during the workday include:
Chores that would be best to wait until after you’re finished would be:
Kids / Family
If you have young children at home, you know all too well how big of an issue this can be. On the kids side of things, it could mean juggling story time and meal time, all while keeping your fingers crossed for a long naptime in between. For other family members, it might mean getting asked to run errands like I mentioned above.
The Fix: Create boundaries
Creating healthy boundaries is a must in every aspect of life, and while it may be difficult for young kids to be taught this, it takes persistence and patience. Boundaries in this instance could mean a variety of things, here are some examples:
And remember, these boundaries include you as well. If you have a designated lunchtime for your little one, don’t schedule a call when you’re supposed to prepare it, for example.
This is a huge one. No matter if you’re brand new to working from home, or a seasoned pro, this can be a major distraction if we let it. Unlike daydreaming, which is largely necessary, swapping tabs on your browser to look through an Instagram feed isn’t especially helpful to getting work done.
The Fix: Blockers
There are a variety of apps that work on both phone and desktops that will help to limit this distraction. I would suggest getting one that works on your phone and your computer (Freedom is a great example of this). Additionally, using one that allows you customization options goes a long way too. After all, it may not be Instagram or YouTube that are the culprits, maybe it’s just a travel blog that you spend an hour a day on wishing you were on a vacation.
This is probably my biggest working from home distraction. I think to myself, “I can just put some ‘background movie’ on and I will still be able to work.” Ha! Justification at its finest. In reality, I put something on and have 50% attention on my work, best case scenario. Work takes at least twice as long, and don’t get nearly enough done as I wanted.
The Fix: Don’t work in the same room
It’s easy to say “just don’t turn on the TV” but that’s just playing with fire. It’s much easier to be successful by removing the option completely. If you have a study, den, or even a patio, you could work there to help stay productive. Even if you work like this for an hour or two, that can be a big help to not being distracted working at home.
Ironically, most of the friends and colleagues I have that work from home don’t actually have pets. However, I know that this is high on the list of distractions for many of you that work from home. Between barking, needy cries for attention, and going outside for a break or walk, it can add up to substantial time throughout the day. Not to mention the breaks of attention.
The Fix: Create good habits
Similar to the ‘creating boundaries’ suggestion, this may take some time and efforts, but is absolutely doable. Letting your pet know when your available for attention (and when you’re not) is often a matter of just not giving in. Not at all unlike a child, sometimes you just have to “let them cry”. This is likely to be annoying and/or painful for you at first, as you’re having to ignore them, but once they know you aren’t giving into their every whim, they will get the hint. Just like a toddler.
One suggestion, don’t rely too much on treats here. If you start reinforcing a reward, you are likely to just create a system that backfires on you and makes the distraction worse.
Thankfully this is usually short-lived (a few days or so), but it can still be massively distracting depending on what it the noise is. Getting a new roof on your home, mowing on the grounds of an apartment complex, etc, can all be very loud throughout the day.
The Fix: Headphones
This is likely the easiest fix here. Especially since you probably already have them. A good pair of headphones can block out even the nosiest of distractions while at home.
That said, this doesn’t help if you’re on calls and your meeting participants can hear the noises. In that case, you have little recourse other than to go work somewhere else for a few hours. A coworking spot may be your best bet in that case. Many of them offer day passes at $40 or less.
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.