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How to avoid distractions when working from home

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Working from home can be difficult, especially if you’re new to it. Anything and everything can turn into a distraction. It’s how you deal with these distractions that will determine your productivity. I’ve put together 5 strategies you can use straight away to set yourself up for homeworking success.

Plug in music

Whichever online service (YouTube, Spotify, etc.) is available to you, use your headphones to plug into a soundscape of your choice. Experiment with what works best for you. Having a sound background to work to can work wonders for your concentration. Anything without words will work for most people, alternatively try world music in any language you don’t speak.

My personal favourites are Viking battle music (when I need to be creative), epic music (that’s usually film or gaming music for boring work to keep me going), beach sounds or rain. I recently discovered lofi which works really well (an instrumental, hip-hop based music style that’s often used in Japanese anime; it’s very relaxing, a bit jazzy and evokes positive emotions and nostalgia).

As I’m writing this, I am listening to Rainy Day at the Coffee Shop with rain, café noises and quiet jazz music underlay. I find all of these on YouTube which I have open in one of my browser windows. Many of these videos are 8 hours long or more, so there’s enough background for a whole workday and you don’t have to go back every few minutes to find another suitable video.

Kids, partners and other productivity intruders

Having children at home can be a major drain on your productivity but there are some strategies you can use to make it work.

  • Put up a sign – this works for adults and older children The sign indicates that you’re now in work mode and can’t be interrupted (unless there is a danger to life or limb). You can have another sign you put up when it’s ok to interrupt if you’re not working on deep focus tasks.

  • Get your partner onboard Take turns with your partner to look after the kids so you both get your respective tasks done.

  • It’s ok to use technology If you need some uninterrupted time for an hour or two, it’s ok to put on a movie or let them have some screen time on their own with tablets etc. There are some really good educational games, if needed.

  • Make sure your kids have a schedule Kids like sticking to a schedule, it gives their day structure like they are used to at school. Plan in some time when you have to work and provide something to occupy them during this time.

Turn off your private phone

Phones can be a major source of distraction. The constant pinging and buzzing can drive anyone mad when you’re trying to concentrate.

The simplest solution is: turn on flight mode. This means no calls or messages can come through and you can get on with your work until you’re ready for a break or at the end of the workday. It also saves you powering it off and on again which can sometimes take a while.

Simply turning the ringer off can work, too, but make sure the vibrate function is switched off as well. Otherwise you will still be notified of all sorts. And turn your phone upside down so you don’t see the screen flash with yet another notification.

Turn off email notifications on your computer

Do you really need to know the moment an email pings into your inbox? Chances are you don’t. All it does is interrupt your work flow as your attention gets pulled away by whatever email is popping in.

Deal with your emails at certain times of the day (2 or 3 times daily) and stay out of your inbox the rest of the time. Your productivity will thank you.

Don’t watch TV during the day

Whether it’s actual TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Tivo or wherever else you get your screentime fix, don’t do it during the day. Keep it as a reward for a productive working day in the evening.

Especially counter productive is having the TV on in the background. Your attention will be constantly pulled towards the “magic box”, even when it’s out your field of vision. Your mind will try and follow what’s going on and your attention will be split, making you extremely unproductive. If you can’t work in total silence, see the first tip in this article to improve performance.

… and finally

Make a list of your personal distractions and how you’re going to combat them. If you have a particularly persistent distraction that you can’t find a solution for, why not put it in the comments and I’ll see if I can help.

If you would like to improve your productivity while working from home, check out my online course: How to stay productive while working from home. It covers everything from setting up a suitable work space, planning, reducing distractions, improving your focus and much more. It's everything you need to make working from home everything you always wanted it to be. 😊


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