How to Minimize and Deal With Interruptions When You’re Working From Home
People used to think working from home was a luxury. Us long-time remote and freelance workers heard from friends and relatives how “lucky” we were to be able to work from home all the time!
Now, those same friends and relatives are non-stop complaining about the distractions they face as remote workers, as a majority of workforces globally have switched to remote work arrangements. Not so luxurious afterall, is it?
Fortunately, there are some very useful tips and techniques to minimize distractions and interruptions when you’re working from home, and I’m going to share some tried-and-true methods for exactly that purpose.
Set a strict “distraction free” work schedule
I don’t mean a 9 to 5 schedule, that’s just your regular work hours. Having a schedule means having a set work routine where you have periods of deep work focus, followed by measured breaks. This is proven to increase productivity, such as the Pomodoro technique where you focus nonstop on a task for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, and repeat the cycle.
Having a routine work schedule like that allows you to be much more productive and less at risk of burnout from overworking, or waste precious time scrolling social media.
According to Follow Up Boss, it’s important to set aside at least one hour per day for distraction-free work. This will be your strictest work hour(s), where absolutely no distractions are allowed to creep in.
You’ll be able to accomplish enough in that timeframe that small distractions during the rest of the workday won’t impact your productivity, since you already accomplished a lot.
Comb your work area for distractions
Outside interruptions can certainly be a problem for remote workers, but so can personal distractions. According to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task” after a distraction.
That means checking your Facebook for even a couple minutes is really going to impact your productivity. In other words, turn off your phone or at least block yourself from opening social media and other distractful apps during work hours. This takes willpower, but it pays off.
It helps to know your distraction triggers, even minute sounds like a ticking wall-clock can break your concentration if you allow it.
Go through your work area and eliminate any distractions, and if you aren’t keen on wearing headphones all the time, consider white-noise to mask out little noise distractions like a fan or white noise generator machine.
Be firm with family members
This is an important one for remote workers, because it’s sometimes difficult to separate your work life from family life. Whether it’s a spouse asking you to buy milk, toddlers barging into your work room, or in-laws showing up unannounced, family members can be a major cause of work interruptions.
You’ll need to set firm boundaries with your family. If you have your own office room, hanging a sign and locking the door during your work hours will help a lot, but if you don’t have that luxury, try setting up your work area in a more remote area of your home, and even hanging up curtains around your work area to create more privacy.
Let visitors know at the door
Whether it’s friends or a package delivery knocking at the door, visitors will surely interrupt your work flow. Again, hanging signs will help here. You can consider hanging a polite sign on your front door such as “Busy Working Between AM – PM, Please Don’t Knock”.
You can also leave instructions for delivery people to leave a package at the door, unless a signature is required, in which case you can designate another household member to sign for packages.
Get a babysitter
Parents who worked remotely previously had the luxury of children attending daycares or school during the day, but when the global pandemic hit, work-from-home parents found themselves at their wits end trying to get work done with children in the house.
In this situation you’ll really need to figure out a solution, whether it’s a neighbor who can watch younger children during the day, or a professional daycare service. You’ll have to factor it into your budget, but you really have no other choice.