At-home distractions and how to combat them

by Sara Lundenberger, director of nonprofit consulting | Sep 24, 2020 |

Consulting, Small Business |

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When we decided to temporarily close our office in March and our team started working from home, we had a lot to figure out. Luckily, I had a desk and a semi-dedicated office space to work in, but not everyone on our team was so lucky. Each of us had to figure out how to adjust to a new routine and the distractions that can come from working at home.

When we were in the office, we all adjusted to coworkers and the normal interruptions of office life. I usually fixed this by putting in my headphones. My coworkers knew that if my headphones were in, I was really trying to focus on a task and would wait to ask me a question until the headphones came off. At home, however, I don’t feel the need to wear headphones, but interruptions still exist. It might be the dog needing to go out, a delivery arriving or even a friend stopping by while they were out. Keeping those interruptions to a minimum can be nearly impossible when you are at home and can really throw you off track. Here are some of the common distractions I’ve dealt with over the last few months and ways I’ve worked to eliminate them:

Other living things

I feel like I am a little luckier than most since the only other living thing in my house is Lucy, my overly excited dog. However, I will say the downfall of this is that I don’t have anyone else that can answer the door or quiet down the dog when I’m on a call. For the rest of my coworkers who have young kids, older kids or partners also working from home, there can be a lot going on around you. Some days you just can’t lock the door and focus only on your work when you still have to make lunch for kids or, now that school has started, get them moving on their online classes.

Your neighborhood

My desk is in a spare room upstairs that overlooks my front yard and the road. I love to open the window and enjoy the breeze when I can. Unfortunately, that means I’m constantly distracted by everything going on outside. I realized how much activity I miss by being away from home all day. The lawn maintenance crews, road crews (they resurfaced my street over a two-day period and I was mesmerized!), delivery trucks, dog walkers, runners, kids riding bikes and more. It’s crazy out there! I’ve had to force myself to shut the window and the blinds and turn on some music to really block out what’s going on. I also find my neighbors and their routines so interesting and often wonder if they do the same to me!

Household chores

How many times since we’ve been working from home have you thought of running down to the basement to quickly throw in a load of laundry, or start picking up things laying around the house and find yourself running the sweeper in the middle of the day. It can be really hard not to get dragged down by doing household chores during the day, since after all, you are home! If you must, set a timer so that you can remind yourself to stop loading the dishwasher and get back to work.

Lack of motivation

Starting our sixth month of working from home, I’ve found that some days it can just be really hard to get motivated to work. Whether you are getting up in the morning and following your same routine, complete with full makeup and dress clothes or tend to start slow in the morning and wear sweats all day, it can be difficult to transition from “home-life” to “work-life” without leaving home and physically going to the office. I find that If I make a list each afternoon of what I want to get accomplished tomorrow, I’m much more likely to get up and get started rather than sorting through emails and trying to decide what I want to work on next.

How to combat distractions at home:

    ⋅ Give yourself a space that is your “workspace.” It might be your kitchen table, but it will help you get in the frame of mind to work.
    ⋅ Get dressed! This is a tough one for me, as I tend to change from my pajamas to a pair of sweatpants, but at least I’m not in the same clothes I slept in.
    ⋅ Set a schedule. This can be really helpful if you are trying to navigate school or taking care of little kids on top of your workload.
    ⋅ Take time to be away from your desk. When you are in the office, I’m guessing you aren’t sitting at your desk for eight straight hours. You might be meeting a client or friend for lunch, leaving for a meeting, chatting in the lunchroom with coworkers, etc. Working from home can be isolating because we aren’t doing those things. Take time to go downstairs and eat lunch or take 15 minutes to take the dog or your kids on a walk. I’ve even taken my lunchtime and worked out on my new spin bike (I could write a million blogs about how much I love it). Those little chances for your body and brain to reset our important and need to continue even if you aren’t at the office.
    ⋅ Give yourself a break. This is hard. We are all mentally and physically drained from having to completely change the way we work and the way we interact with the outside world. You are going to have good days and bad days. Hopefully you work for a company that understands mental health is just as important as physical health and provides you the opportunity to work on both.

Working from home can be a tough transition, but it can and obviously has been successful for a lot of us. I think we will see more work from home options as we move forward because it has been shown to be a viable option for those that need a little more flexibility in their workday. Try not to get too distracted throughout your day and you will see a positive turn in your productivity. Now get back to work!

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