One of the biggest challenges at-home workers face is staying productive and on task. While working from home sounds like it would be an ideal situation, the truth is that there are many additional distractions at home that you probably didn’t have in an office environment.
There’s housework that must be completed, friends and relatives who don’t understand you still do actually work, television, pets and children. There are a few things you can focus on that will allow you to be more productive at home while still enjoying the freedom of working on a more flexible schedule.
Insist on Interruption-Free Work Time
Harris Interactive conducted a poll for Ask.com which queried more than 2,000 professionals about what makes an optimally productive work environment. It found that one of the top things professionals say helps them be more productive is to have uninterrupted work time to really focus a project. The problem? You may or may not have a separate office in your home.
Your family may not understand that you have to sit and work without them talking to you or coming to you for minor tasks.
- If you have a separate room you can use to set up a work space, this is ideal as you can shut the door and put a “do not interrupt” sign on it. If you do not, find a corner or quiet area of your home you can designate as “do not interrupt” space.
- Insist on work time as interruption-free time. You may need to constantly remind family and friends the first few weeks. Simply say, “Is this an emergency?” If it is not, then say, “I’m sorry, but I’m in the middle of work. I will call you back after five when I wrap up for the day.”
- If you still can’t gain this interruption-free time, consider going to a local coffee shop, the library or even renting office space a couple of times a week so you can focus on your work without any interruption.
About 63 percent of those surveyed in the Harris Poll preferred a personal work space without interruptions. This environment translates well at home, too.
Take Frequent Breaks
Have you ever sat working on a project for a long period of time and suddenly realize you’ve zoned out and aren’t focusing on the work? This is the time frame when most mistakes are made and you feel burned out.
An article in The Atlantic explores a recent study completed by Hiroshima University. The study found that workers are most productive if they work for about 52 minutes, take a break for 17 minutes and then resume for another 52 minutes. Repeating this pattern throughout the day allows you to maintain focus.
Another benefit? You can use that 17 minutes to complete household tasks that have been calling your name, get in a bit of exercise or grab something to eat. Since exercise can help you regain focus, you may want to bike around the block to get a bit of fresh air and refocus your energy.
Ignore Your Email Inbox
According to The Guardian, humans are hard-wired to procrastinate.
Apparently there are two different responses from the brain on how to handle tasks that need completed. The one response is reserved for survival, while the other is more deliberate. The survival mode takes precedence, while things like completing that blog post or creating a quote for a potential client takes second place. The study suggests that one way humans waste a lot of time is with technology and that includes checking your email multiple times a day.
A study conducted by Xobni discovered that Americans are obsessed with email. 72 percent check emails during downtime, including when they’re supposed to be relaxing or sleeping. This constant distraction leads to lack of focus. Make it a rule to only check your email at set times, such as first thing in the morning, around noon and again before calling it a day. One exception is if you are expecting an important email from a client during a specific time frame. There are many distractions clamoring to steal your time when you work from home.
Having a plan in place for how you’ll deal with those distractions and maintain focus will go a long way toward increasing your productivity and helping you succeed.