Guest post by Rose Morrison, Renovated
Many people enjoy the freedoms that come with working at home, but it also presents new distractions. Household challenges may disrupt your productivity more than chatty coworkers or daily meetings. In the productivity section of volume 1 of The Homeworker, we shared how trying to resume work after being distracted can waste up to 20% of your time. This guide will show you how to manage interruptions when working from home so you can finally tackle your to-do list:
Take Distraction Notes
You won’t disarm your distractions unless you know what they are. Take notes throughout the next day or week whenever you notice yourself drifting from projects. Reflection will reveal the most common distractions and outline which are the biggest challenges.
Your notes could reveal issues you didn’t previously recognise because they’re part of your routine. Research shows smartphone users get 46 app notifications each day, tearing your mind away from the task at hand. Even if you swipe them away, those momentary distractions add up and could be what interrupts your work the most.
Adjust Your Schedule
Home offices are meant to be quiet places where you can focus on your work, but you might have things happening at home that need your attention. Home renovations, family visits or even home appliances can make noise which could be a significant daily interruption. If these activites challenge your focus, try to adjust your schedule and think about where you are best suited to work in the house.
Take breaks when the work gets intense or loud, move your hours around or try to fit in around the work, or fit house work into times when you don’t need silence.
Most remote positions allow for schedule flexibility, so don’t forget to use it when you need it most.
Look at your environment
Think about the colours in your space. Blues and greens are often deemed best for a calmer work environment, and keeping your space clutter free removes potential distractions from items unrelated to work.
In volume 1 of the print issue, we look at ways to organise your workspace and systems to help you clear the clutter, which can prove very distracting.
Entertain Your Pets
Your dog or cat may whine for your attention during the day. While they do need entertainment and stimulation, you don’t have to fill that role all the time. Find interactive toys that toss tennis balls or hide a treat within a puzzle to keep them busy after clocking in for the day.
If you need to walk a dog during the day, this is a great reason to get out into fresh air and take a screen break. This will also help you to shut out distractions when you return to work because you will feel recharged and refreshed.
Create a DND Sign
Young children don’t always understand why you need quiet time to work, but older ones might. Get them involved by drawing a Do Not Disturb sign and colour it however they like. Hang it on your office door so they know when you’re in a meeting or on the phone. Even though they might still charge through occasionally, they’ll feel better about giving you space because they worked so hard on the DND sign and felt included.
Talking to children about your work, when you are available and when you need quiet time, can be really helpful in setting boundaries and helping them to understand.
Listen to Background Noise
Adding noise seems counterproductive to managing interruptions when working from home, but it’s helpful if you find the right kind.
A recent study found we can change our brain activity during cognitive tasks by playing ambient noise such as outdoor sounds or white noise.
Clinical pyschologist, Professor Roland Rotz talked about introducing ‘fidgeting’ to help maintain focus in our interview in volume 2 of The Homeworker magazine. One kind of ‘fidget’ is background noise such as music, which can act as a stimulant to the brain and help you to focus on the activity you’re working on. In this article here, we look at how music could help you to concentrate and be less distracted by interruptions when working from home.
Set Notifications to Silent
Anyone can adjust their notification settings to ring for phone calls and nothing else. The social media updates and spam emails can wait for your next break. Explore your settings and play around with which notifications you’d like and which should fall silent.
Scheduling in specific time for your emails, social media, and messages will help you to be less distracted by them. You can then turn your phone over or put it away without worrying about missing something important.
Finish Your Housework
Housework can sometimes interrupt your workday. It’s challenging to feel productive when you’re sitting amid dirty dishes and clothes. We can sometimes use housework as a procrastination tool and it can become a distraction. Aim to finish your housework at the end of the day or do short tasks only in your work breaks. You will then have a clean environment that supports your work schedule and won’t be tempted or distracted by household chores.
Manage Interruptions When Working From Home
After you know how to manage interruptions when working from home, try a few of these ideas. Some may work better than others depending on your typical distractions and what helps you concentrate. Give yourself time to get used to your work environment and you’ll find the best way to stay productive while minimising interruptions.
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