Sometimes, working from home is just as much a curse as a blessing. The distractions are plentiful, and there’s no boss to raise an eyebrow when you’re online shopping.
Those built-in boundaries that help keep you focused in an office simply don’t exist when you work from home. If you watch a movie at your desk or lay your head down to take a nap, there are no coworkers to poke you awake.
The at-home, sanity-killing distractions are plentiful. Luckily, you can overcome every single one of the six most common work-from-home distractions and regain your focus to get back on the path to success. Here’s how.
1. Neighborhood noise
If you thought your neighborhood just peacefully slumbered while you were at the office, you were wrong. From lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and snow blowers to car horns and parents taking screaming children out for a walk, there are plenty of sounds to pull you away from work and drive you crazy.
Solutions: Block, Drown, or Escape the Noise
If you’re looking to block the noise, I’m a big fan of Hearos Xtreme Protection earplugs—you can get a box of 14 pairs for around seven bucks on Amazon. If you’re looking to drown it out, I like to visit Noisli.com and create a custom white noise blend made up of a rainstorm, leaves blowing, and just a touch of coffee shop ambient sound.
If, however, there’s no escaping the noise (and assuming you don’t want to shell out for a co-working space), nothing beats the silence or the price of the library. There’s free Wi-Fi and, generally, library patrons respect the silence.
2. Social Media
Sure, you might check social media in an office, but you certainly wouldn’t scroll down your feeds all day. At home…you can check back every five minutes, and there’s no one to call you out. Not only is it a productivity killer, you have no incentive to waste time. Your time is valuable.
Solutions: Block Sites, Turn Off Notifications, and Set a Timer
Save yourself from falling into the eternal scrolling trap by installing an app, such as Focus (for Mac users) or LeechBlock (a Chrome extension), that lets you decide which sites to block and for how long.
You’ll also want to turn off notifications on your phone. There is nothing urgent on social media. Better yet: move your phone outside your office or the room you’re working in. You can turn the sound on for phone calls in case of emergency. Consider sending calls straight to voicemail during work hours, adding people like your partner or children to the list of people whose calls will get through no matter what.
When you do check social media, set a timer. It’s worth repeating: your time is valuable. Consider your hourly rate and how much of that rate you want to spend on social media.
You want to get email from your favorite stores and sites because you want the updates. But, if you’re anything like me, you check email constantly just to see those updates.
Solutions: Open a Work-Only Email and Schedule Your Email Check-Ins
The most effective way to make sure you still get these emails but also make sure that they don’t distract you is to open a separate email account just for your retail and news emails and keep it entirely separate from your work email.
Then, while you’re working, you’re only allowed to check work email. (Is your other email still too distracting? Block the site with an app from #2.)
You may also consider keeping your email closed throughout the day and only opening it at two set times per day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This way, you can still send timely responses to emails, but don’t have to drop everything you’re doing every time your see the “1” pop up in your inbox.
4. Roommates or Family
Sometimes the people you live with don’t understand what it means to work from home. They mean well, but they have a hard time understanding you’re working. And that means you have deadlines you need to meet.
Solutions: You Need to Educate Your Loved Ones and You Need a Door
The best solution to this is to find yourself a room with a door.
It sounds flip, but it’s true: Working at the kitchen table makes you too accessible. A room with a door (even if it’s a bathroom!) cuts you off and makes you harder to get to.
You also need to gently explain to the people you live with that, unless the house is literally on fire, you cannot be disturbed between specified hours.
That said, if you need to take a video call with a client and you have a child on your lap or need to pause to tell your teenager to turn down the TV volume, the vast majority of clients are going to understand this. The silver lining, if there is one, of the COVID-19 pandemic is more people are used to juggling work and life. The important thing is you get your work done, not that you take your meetings from a locked closet.
Interestingly, for people working from home, one of the most tempting distractions from work is more work: housework. After all, doing housework when you should be doing your copywriting work feels like you’re still doing something useful. And you are, of course, but at a major detriment to the work that actually brings in income.
Solutions: Schedule or Outsource It
Housework can be a good brain break, but a break means that you get back to work; you don’t let housework derail your copywriting progress. What to do? Schedule your housework just like you’d schedule any other appointment: Block it off in your calendar and stick to that specified time. A 15-minute laundry folding break means only 15 minutes and only during the time you’ve blocked off.
Another option? Outsource it. Once you start making money as a copywriter, you may find it’s more cost-effective to hire someone to clean your house once a week or every other week (or whatever your preferred schedule). Again: your time is money. If you can earn $50 an hour and someone can clean your house at $25 an hour, it makes economical sense. Do the math and see if it makes sense for you.
This can feel uncomfortable to a lot of us, but think of it like this: you’re one professional running a small business helping another professional who is running a small business.
Afternoon drowsiness. ‘Nuff said.
Solutions: Nap, Fix Your Nighttime Routine, and Check Your Caffeine Intake
Well, this one’s easy: Nap! One of the benefits of working from home is that you actually can take advantage of those power naps the productivity experts are always raging about. Aim to nap for 20 minutes to an hour.
If you find you can’t nap for less than two hours, check your nighttime schedule—you may not be getting enough sleep there. Twenty minutes to an hour is a great way to recharge, but two hours is taking up way too much work time. Get your rest, but make sure you get it at the right time of day.
You may also survey your caffeine intake. Many of us naturally hit lulls throughout the day. But combatting it with caffeine may be preventing you from getting adequate sleep at night. See if cutting out caffeine after noon helps you fall asleep easier at night.
Your turn! How do you deal with home office distractions? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on May 12, 2022 by Nick Olds