How to Stay Productive Working From Home When You're Easily Distracted

For many people, home is a safe space to retreat after the grueling work week. Walk in the door, pants and bras come off, and it’s time to relax, veg out and if you’re feeling ambitious, maybe make dinner instead of ordering out. But how do you turn the place you unwind into a productive environment, and stay motivated to get work done? Well, we spoke to work-from-home pros across all many several industries and here’s what they had to say.

1. Stay organized

Allie Busalacchi, a production associate for ABC News, works part-time as a data steward for the consulting firm QuintilesIMS. She says the key to working from home is being self-motivated and knowing your work style. 

“I’ll break down my weekly goals into daily goals, then into hourly goals. I like to schedule my days working from home to ensure I’m staying on track for the week. I always schedule in breaks as well, and I keep the goals realistic and attainable,” Allie says. “Whether you’re a morning person or a night person, working from home allows you to set a schedule that will work best for you.”

When you work from home, chances are you won’t have immediate access to coworkers or supervisors to ask for help or keep you on track. Try collaborating with apps like Google Drive, Asana or Slack to make sure everyone is on the same page. Are you more of an early bird or night owl? Does your job allow you to choose the hours you work from home or are the hours assigned? These are important questions to ask yourself when setting up your work from schedule. 

2. Limit distractions

A quick internet search can easy turn into an hour spent watching recipe videos on Facebook or lead you into the depths of YouTube. Suddenly hours have gone by and you still haven't gotten anything done. Freelance writer and graphic designer Victoria Feinster says she turns off all social media when a large task is at hand.

Related: How to Teach Online & Earn Money

“Take more steps to minimize distractions before they become a problem," she explains. "When I need to focus, all social media goes away: WiFi gets turned off, phone goes into another room. Social media can be your friend (colleagues to chat with! news to absorb! cat pictures to enjoy!) but it can also be a black hole of procrastination. Treat it like a tool and put it away when you're not using it.”

3.  Switch up your workspace

The same lethargic and uninspiring feeling you get sitting under fluorescent lights in an office all day can happen to you at home too. Sitting in the same place for too long can stifle productivity and leave you at a roadblock. Laura Dettman, a social media community manager, moves locations throughout the day to stay focused.

“I tend to do my work sitting on the couch a lot, but find myself eventually getting sleepy. I will then move myself to the dining room table where I get the most lighting. I can spread out all my stuff on and has bright lighting that keeps me wide awake,” says Laura.

And when home gets a little too boring, she turns coffee shops into her office.

“Since I do not have the option to occasionally work from an office, when I feel myself getting too distracted at home, I will make Starbucks my office. A Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks in one hand and my planner in the other...and I'm ready to take on my day's work.”

Pro-tip: Always keep a few places in mind where you can work from besides your living room like a coffee shop, local library or even a public park with WiFi if you like to be outside. If you're able to splurge, you can even try joining a co-working community like The Wing.

4. Take breaks

This goes hand-in-hand with switching up your workspace. If you would take breaks in an office job, why wouldn't you take breaks working from home? You want to make sure you give yourself time to refresh to avoid burning-out.

Deanna Thornton works as a recruiter in a hybrid role that allows her to split her time between the office and home. She says while it’s important to keep a schedule, you shouldn’t feel bad about tending to personal tasks if you need to.

Related: 4 Ways to Be Productive After Work

“It’s nice to be home when you can to do other stuff like laundry and run errands or even go out of town and still work,” says Deanna.  “I also still try to take a lunch so I don’t get sucked into the vortex of working all day.”

Try separating your workload into "power hours," with one hour of distraction free working followed by a 15 minute break. If you're taking a quick break, go ahead and load the dishwasher or start a load of laundry, but be cautious of letting hours go by doing everything else besides your job. 

There are so many benefits to working from home, independence, the freedom to create your own schedule (hello, sleeping in!). and prioritizing tasks as you see fit. Not having a commute is a huge benefit in terms of expense and time saved, too. Finding the balance between taking advantage of these freedoms and being effective in your role may difficult at first, but it’s totally doable if you set realistic goals and hold yourself accountable.

 

Ebony Joseph is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. She began her career as a student at the University of Florida, learning the foundations of journalism through public radio. During her time at UF, Ebony interned at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. and worked with public radio stations across Florida as both an intern and freelance reporter. She has also produced and anchored newscasts for WUFT-TV, North Central Florida’s PBS member station.
Ebony’s work has been featured on the Today Show, ABC News, the Huffington Post, BBC America and the Miami Herald. She has also contributed to Health News Florida and The Independent Florida Alligator, the largest student-run newspaper in the country. When she's not stressing over whether or not she is "adulting" properly, you can find her in an improv class or catching up on the latest Real Housewives drama. You can follow her ramblings and musings @wheresebony.

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