I had an amusing conversation with a client the other day. She was telling me how she wanted to work from home more but is worried about the impact on her productivity because she gets very distracted. She went on to tell me about a time when she was studying. She was at her desk looking out her bedroom window and noticed weeds in the garden. She decided that she couldn’t possibly study whilst those weeds were there so proceeded to spend the afternoon weeding. She was very proud of her efforts! She is also convinced her parents loved it when she was studying because their garden never looked better.
Besides this story tickling my funny bone, I could certainly resonate with it. When I first started my business and was solely working from home I too got extremely distracted by washing, watering plants, playing with the cat, going out for coffee, housework of some sort, anything really! This new found freedom was something I wasn’t used to and I took full advantage of my autonomy! I was having a great time however, my productivity suffered – a lot! After 10 years doing this, I have gotten much better!
With flexible working arrangements becoming more accepted, technology supporting working remotely and the attraction to not having to be at a desk when toiling away, I am often asked the question about how am I productive when I work from home. How do I not get distracted and focus? It seems that many people do struggle with this.
My response is that you must get into good habits. I do get distracted, especially when I am doing something challenging or that’s not on my ‘passionate about’ list, however, I can’t afford to give in to the distraction both from a time and productivity perspective. If I waste time, I have to work longer or my work suffers. That’s something I choose not to happen.
So to assist you with being productive at home, I thought I’d share five things that work for me.
This may seem obvious but get things out of your way. Remove them from your sight. This includes removing the ‘ding’ from your email notifications and putting your phone on silent when you need to concentrate. Never have the TV on and I suggest just having music play rather than a radio on which I find very distracting (I actually work in silence! I find I’m much more productive this way).
Set Time Limits
This works a treat for me. If I have a task such as writing a proposal, writing a blog post, responding to social media requests or comments, I allocate a time that this task will be done by. Often I allow 25-minute blocks. For a blog it may be an hour and a proposal, depending on the size, it may be a couple of hours (or I’ll break down larger tasks to bite-sized chunks). This limits the possibility for distraction and increases focus. I will never sit there trying to do one thing for hours upon hours. It simply doesn’t work for me. At the end of your time block, allow yourself a little break, make a coffee or to get up and put the washing on or walk the dog. The trick is it’s a reward for productivity – in that order. Not the other way around! You’re an adult, you know what you’ve got to get done.
Value Your Time
By working from home you are saving valuable time on the commute to and from work. What can you do with this extra time you have? Can you fit in a gym session and start looking after your health? Meditate? Use it as reflection time? Have a healthy breakfast? Take the kids to school? The trick is not to get into bad habits now that you have ‘extra’ time on your side. And understand if you waste time you will never get it back. Value your time and use it wisely.
Start Good Habits
Get clarity on how you will spend your day/s at home. Create your days to ensure they work for you. I have dedicated tasks that I will do on a particular day that I am home. I know what I will be working on prior to the day starting and what I need to have completed by the time the day is done. You must, must, must have a to-do-list sorted listing the tasks you will spend your time on during those days and they need to be important tasks, not simply comfort zone tasks.
Establish a Cost Structure
I establish a cost structure for distractions and wasting time. It puts things into perspective and can often assist in ‘talking you down’ from that thing you absolutely must do, like my client and her weeding!
If I must clean out my wardrobe right now, how much will that cost me in time and money? What is the productive thing I would be doing instead and what is that value to me?
If I waste this time right now, what will this cost me? Generally, it’s time with my husband, family or friends, I can’t get out and do the things I love doing, I’ll be tired and grumpy as I have to work later, a day on the weekend lost because I have to work it.
Sometimes, I’ll absorb the cost and do what I want anyway but it’s an informed decision. This week, I absorbed the cost and am sitting here on a sunny Saturday afternoon writing this blog not feeling the benefit of the spend!! But I take responsibility for my decision.
Being productive whilst working from home comes back to getting into good habits, valuing your time and making working from home work for you. What works for you may not work for me and vice-versa. The key is to have clarity on what you need to be doing when and understanding how you will execute! And I love the time I save on commuting, That in itself makes working from home absolutely gold for me! What is the value to you?