Make the most of your home office time with these 10 tips.
If you’re like me, the number one issue I struggle with while working from home is managing distractions. Between email, Facebook, YouTube, as well as all the offline distractions, getting work done at home can be a challenge.
Here are 10 tips for how to deal with the distractions of working out of your home office.
Set Up a Dedicated Workspace
Having a dedicated workspace, especially if it has a door, can be a boon to productivity at home. It helps me get in the “work mindset” and avoid the distractions that can come with shared family space. The temptation to get distracted from the TV, family or the dog is much less if you are in a dedicated workspace.
Screen Your Calls
These days, most people have a cell phone with caller ID. Make a point of being selective when taking calls while working. Make sure they are work-related and at least as urgent as the task you are currently working on. Otherwise, wait until later to return the call.
If you are working on an urgent task, consider turning off your phone completely (or at least put the ringer on silent) if at all possible.
If your company relies on the phone as an essential part of the business, consider using a virtual PBX service. A virtual PBX will allow you to manage your phone calls from anywhere.
Separate Work Time from Family Time
One of the numerous benefits of working from home is you potentially have more time to spend with your family. If you have an essential task to accomplish, family time can be a double edge sword.
The best way to deal with family-related interruptions is to set defined work hours when you are in the home office. I often like to go outside, walk around the block, and return home to make it feel like I’m heading off to work. I find it a great way to get in the work mindset.
Communication with your family members will make this process easier. Set clear boundaries and have a defined work schedule that everyone is aware of. You can even hang a small whiteboard or chalkboard outside your office showing your “office hours.”
Dress for Work
Dress the same for your home office as you would for a traditional office. You don’t have to go too crazy, but avoid working in your pajamas. After all, you would go to work that way. I find this tip, along with the suggestion above about “leaving for work” in the morning, the best way to get in the work mindset at the beginning of the day.
Get an Early Start
One of the best productivity tips is to get an early start to your day. Do any household chores in the morning before starting work. Getting household chores done outside of work hours will help you resist the temptation to run a load of laundry during the day while you are working.
Get out of the House
A change of scenery can be just what you need to spark productivity. Visit a coffee shop, local library or coworking space with WiFi access when you have a block of work to accomplish.
I find this suggestion works best if I’m doing computer work, rather than making phone calls with all the background noise. Everyone is different, but I’m able to concentrate on work better with the random background noise of a coffee shop. If I need a quiet space, the local library is an often overlooked resource.
As a bonus, getting out of the house can help combat the feelings of loneliness that sometimes affect solo entrepreneurs.
Spend a few minutes in the morning planning and prioritizing the tasks that you need to accomplish today. Focus on the 2 or 3 essential tasks, rather than making a long to-do list. A long to-do list in itself can be a distraction if you spend time thinking about everything that needs to be done.
One tool for prioritizing tasks is the Eisenhower matrix, invented by the 34th President of the United States.
The matrix is based on 4 quadrants:
- Urgent: Must Do
- Urgent/Less Important: Schedule
- Important/Less Urgent: Delegate
- Not Urgent/Not Important: Ignore
Tasks in quadrant 1 should be the ones you focus on.
Tasks in quadrant 2 can be scheduled to be worked on at an appropriate time.
Tasks in quadrant 3 can be delegated to someone else, such as an assistant.
Tasks in quadrant 4 since they are of low value, and should be ignored if possible
Here’s a video that covers the Eisenhower matrix in more detail:
Use a Time Management Hack
Many time management systems exist to help you accomplish tasks. One popular one is the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro technique involves dividing work into blocks (typically 25 minutes) separated by short breaks. The idea is to focus on one specific task exclusively for the 25 minutes (a ‘Pomodoro’). Take a short break then either finish the previous task or tackle a new one.
I find this technique forces me to plan ahead, concentrate on the tasks that need to be accomplished, as well as set my focus. You may have to adjust the time periods to suit your individual work style, but avoid making them too long (hard to concentrate for the whole time) or too short (hard to accomplish a block of work).
Batch Similar Types of Work
This suggestion combines the concepts of the previous 2 suggestions.
Set aside a block of time for a bunch of similar tasks, such as answering emails or returning phone calls. Batching tasks will avoid the inevitable interruption that occurs if you answer ‘just one’ email or phone call while working on something else.
I use this trick with the urgent but less important tasks in my daily Eisenhower matrix. Schedule a block of time, perhaps once or twice a day to get caught up on email and phone conversations.
Working from home affords you the freedom to make your own schedule and be your own boss. This freedom can also be a roadblock to staying focused and getting the important tasks done. Hopefully, this article gives you some tools to make you more productive when working out of your home office.