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Productivity

How to Minimize Distractions While Working From Home

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Picture this: You’re nestled into your home office, zeroed in on the project you’ve been tackling all morning. Your fingers are racing across the keyboard, and you’re in the zone. But then, an uproar in the living room – your kids have declared a sibling war. A second later, your spouse is at the door asking for a hand with the laundry.

Sounds familiar? As someone who also works from home, I can certainly nod my head in agreement with this.

Isn’t it interesting how distractions seem to be an inherent part of working from home? It’s your kids needing attention, your partner asking for a bit of help, errands that need to be run, or those ever-present household chores. The very flexibility that enticed you to embrace a home office scenario is the same thing creating a tricky paradox – it makes focusing a tad more challenging. It almost seems as though the comfort of our homes has been undermining our productivity.

But hold up, let’s be realistic. It’s improbable that we can fully erase distractions at home – it’s not just a workplace, it’s a living space shared with your loved ones. There will always be moments when your child needs your attention or when the laundry pile becomes a mountain.

However, that doesn’t mean we are at the mercy of these interruptions. There are strategies we can employ to significantly minimize distractions while working from home, keeping the scales tilted in favor of productivity and balance.

How to Not Get Distracted While Working From Home

Here are 6 strategies to ensure those distractions take a back seat while you are working from home.

1. Identify the Sources of Your Distractions

First things first, understanding the root cause of your distractions is crucial. Are they external or internal?

External Distractions

External distractions are the ones that come knocking from the outside. Think about the neighbor’s lawn mower humming away, your phone buzzing with notifications, or your furry friend begging for a game of fetch. They are anything that involuntarily pulls your attention away from your work involuntarily.

A few more potential productivity thieves include:

  • Unplanned phone calls
  • Constant flow of emails
  • Notifications from apps or pings from colleagues
  • Visual distractions or movements around
  • Disruptive noise or even soothing music
  • Family members needing your attention
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Internal Distractions

On the flip side, internal distractions are the tricky ones that start within us. They are like whispers in your head that slowly grow into loud chants, pulling your attention away from your work. These can include:

  • Negative Thoughts: Worry, anxiety, or frustration can act like quicksand, pulling you deeper into a state of distraction, making it hard to focus on your tasks.
  • Impulses: These are the sudden urges that tend to make you veer off the path, like the urge to check your phone or the desire to abandon your desk and start tackling the dishes in the sink.
  • Daydreaming: A drifting mind can be a potent distractor. One moment you are typing away, the next you are daydreaming about your next vacation or mentally crafting a grocery list.

By identifying these sources, you can start to tailor your own action plan to counter the distractions.

2. Eliminate as Many External Distractions as Possible

Taking a stand against external distractions is your next big step. The trick here is simple: when you need to focus, just move yourself away from the distractions.

Here’re some suggestions on how to create an environment that supports your work:

  • Silence your phone notifications.
  • Wear noise-canceling headphones.
  • Keep your office door closed when you’re in work mode.
  • Make your schedule your fortress. Block out times where you can’t be interrupted by sudden calls or impromptu meetings.
  • Inform your family members about these “do not disturb” times, so they can help maintain the peace.
  • Move your workspace to a quieter part of the house.
  • Use an app to block access to social media during your work hours.

3. Face Your Internal Distractions Head-On

Internal distractions are often our brain’s crafty way of avoiding discomfort. We humans are wired to seek relief from discomfort rather than being driven by rewards or punishments. When faced with a taxing physical or mental task, we instinctively seek ways to soothe ourselves.

This quest for comfort can manifest in various forms. For example, staring at a challenging work problem can suddenly make doing the laundry seem enticing, or a tedious task can send us tumbling down the social media rabbit hole.

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So, what’s the plan of action?

Break Down Overwhelming Tasks

The key here is to break them down into more manageable chunks. It’s like tackling a jigsaw puzzle, one piece at a time.

Divide the work into smaller tasks, each with a clear goal. This way, instead of being faced with a mountain, you’re tackling a series of smaller hills. It’s less daunting and helps maintain your focus.

Review the Tedious Tasks

Consider if it’s something that could be automated or delegated. This leans into the power of leverage, freeing up your time and mental energy for more critical tasks.

However, if it’s something that has to be done by you, plan your attack strategically. Time block it and commit to completing it within that specific time period.

In fact, consider scheduling these tasks as a ‘brain break’ from more demanding activities. After a rigorous brainstorming session or in-between tasks that require significant mental effort, these tasks can provide a respite. It’s like a breather for your brain while still keeping your productivity engine chugging.

4. Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique blends simplicity with productivity. It’s named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer its creator used, but don’t worry, no cooking is involved here.

The idea is to divide your work into 25-minute intervals, known as ‘Pomodoros,’ each followed by a 5-minute break. After completing four Pomodoros, you reward yourself with a longer break, about 15 to 30 minutes. This cycle continues throughout your workday.

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Now, you might be wondering, how does chopping up your day like this keep distractions at bay? Let’s break it down:

Firstly, the regular short breaks give your brain a chance to rest and reset. This pause can help clear your mind, making it less likely to wander and fall prey to internal distractions. Think of it as regular pit stops during a long drive, refreshing you for the next leg of your journey.

Secondly, the technique breaks your tasks into bite-sized chunks that are easier to digest. Instead of looking at a huge project, you’re only focusing on the next 25 minutes. This makes even the most daunting tasks seem more manageable and less likely to push your brain into distraction-seeking mode.

In essence, the Pomodoro Technique helps transform your work day from a marathon into a series of manageable sprints. This way, you keep up a steady pace, stay focused, and maintain productivity without burning out or getting overwhelmed by distractions.

5. Be Prepared to Get Distracted

Here’s a bit of reality check: when you’re working from home, distractions will occasionally come calling, no matter how well you’ve planned. If you have kids or pets, you probably know this all too well.

This is why you need to be prepared for these interruptions. You need to have some tricks up your sleeve to regain your focus quickly. Here’s what I do, and it might work for you too:

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I tend to jot down where I’m at in my task before dealing with the interruption. That way, when I return to work, I don’t have to rewind and restart from the beginning. It’s like pausing a movie to grab popcorn; when you come back, you pick up right where you left off.

Sometimes, if it’s possible, I try to wrap up the current task within the next 5-10 minutes before turning my attention elsewhere. It’s about finding a logical stopping point, so you can switch gears without leaving a task hanging in mid-air.

A golden rule though, is to avoid multitasking. It might sound like a good idea to juggle multiple tasks, but in reality, you’re just quickly switching between tasks.[1] This scattered focus can compromise the quality of your work, leading to missed details or errors. Plus, it’s actually not as efficient as you might think. Concentrating on one task at a time lets you delve deeper and finish tasks more quickly and effectively.

6. Train Up Your Focus Muscle

And finally, let’s talk about flexing that brain muscle. Just like the muscles in your body, your brain benefits from regular workouts to improve its focus and concentration.

One highly effective brain workout is practicing mindfulness and meditation.[2] Mindfulness training can improve attention and focus, helping you to remain present and fully engaged in your current task, rather than letting your thoughts stray.[3]

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It’s recommended to set aside a few minutes each day for mindfulness or meditation. You don’t need to spend hours on it; even just a 5-minute daily practice can make a difference over time.

If you’re new to these practices, you can start with a simple breathing exercise: close your eyes, breathe deeply, and focus solely on your breath. Each time your mind wanders, gently guide it back to your breathing.

To make it even easier, I personally use the Mindful Focus Toolkit. It’s filled with practical mindfulness exercises that you can use anytime, anywhere to boost your focus. It’s now part of the LifeHack All-Access Membership Bundle, and it’s definitely worth exploring if you’re serious about training your focus muscle.

Final Thoughts

It might seem like an uphill battle some days, with kids causing chaos, pets demanding attention, or household chores calling your name. But remember, you’re in control.

From identifying your distractions and eliminating as many as you can, to breaking up tasks, preparing for inevitable interruptions, and training your focus muscle, each tactic is a step towards a more productive work-from-home life.

At the end of the day, it’s about doing your best in the environment you have, being adaptable, and keeping a positive mindset. After all, working from home can be a blessing, granting you flexibility and freedom that a traditional office setting may not provide. It’s a matter of making the most of it.

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Distractions are surely part of the deal. But with a bit of planning and a healthy dose of self-discipline, you’ll find yourself not just surviving in this work-from-home world, but truly thriving.

TL;DR

Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

How to Minimize Distractions While Working From Home

Identify both your external and internal distractions to understand what disrupts your focus while working from home.

Minimize external distractions by taking simple steps like muting phone notifications, wearing noise-canceling headphones, or setting a designated work schedule.

Tackle internal distractions by breaking down overwhelming tasks into manageable ones and managing tedious tasks effectively.

Implement the Pomodoro Technique to manage your time better and allow for brain breaks, which can improve focus and productivity.

Be prepared for distractions and have strategies on hand to regain focus quickly. Avoid multitasking as it can compromise the quality of your work.

Train your focus muscle through regular practice of mindfulness and meditation. Use tools such as the Mindful Focus Toolkit to make the practice easier and more effective.

Understand that distractions are a part of working from home, but with the right strategies and attitude, they can be managed effectively to improve productivity and work satisfaction.

Reference

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