5 Ways to Rethink Your Work-at-Home Situation
As countless people began working from home for the first time in their lives, time and again I’ve heard them express one especially common worry:
“How can I get any work done when I have so many distractions?”
The fact is, there’s no way to just poof away every distraction available. So to keep disruptions at bay, you need to start with how you approach them and the idea of work itself — in other words, the solution is to reassess how you think about productivity and where it can occur.
Read on to learn five points to consider if you’re worried distractions are keeping you from being the best smart home worker you can be.
1. Appreciate the Absent Annoyances
Although there’s plenty to distract you in your own digs, the upshot is that, at home, you’re free from office disruptions.
Before you tell yourself your home situation is unmanageable, keep in mind that there was also plenty in the office to take you out of a work mindset: loud coworkers, noise from other rooms, someone running the copier for an hour.
But working from home, those distractions all disappear. Not only are you away from the environment where those issues popped up, but just by muting your inbox and setting your status to DND, presto! You’ve officially nixed your nagging workplace woes.
So anytime you find yourself lamenting the distractions at home, remember that you pulled through distractions at the office, too — only, now, you can turn those issues off.
2. Stick to Your Own Deadlines
Except, the initial problem was that home does have plenty of its own distractions. After all, you’ve probably got a TV, books, an overly affectionate pet or two — and no manager over your shoulder to keep you on task.
As self-explanatory as it may sound, the key to overcoming these obstacles is self-policing. To boil it down, this means staying aware of your deadlines and making certain you stick to them on your own.
One specific way to aid with this is to make use of task management software like Jira, Wrike or Asana, which all let you create tasks just for your own purposes.
Another way is to create short-term milestones for yourself. Set explicit goals on a smaller scale; instead of saying “I need the audits done by the end of the month,” say “I need four expense reports processed today.”
With this approach, you can track progress (and procrastination) on a smaller scale, making it easier to manage yourself.
3. Re-Evaluate Your Work Boundaries
But — what happens if you aren’t making progress? Suppose that siren call of Netflix cuts through your carefully crafted work schedule. What then?
Though this question is too complex to fully answer in this post alone, the solution in brief is to separate yourself from your home’s biggest distractions — both physically and mentally.
The physical side works on a case-by-case basis, like stowing your phone far from from your workplace or shutting yourself away from roommates or family. The mental aspect, meanwhile, entails putting an internal boundary against distractions.
Again, it’s important to embrace the mindset that, so long as a task sits in front of you, that has to be your focus, not the diversions you naturally associate with home. Learn to notice when that craving for a distraction pops into your head, then to brush the thought aside.
Call it self-help, call it a kind of meditation — the point is, focus has to come from internal conditions as well as external ones.
4. Make Distractions Your New Breaks
To approach this whole issue from another angle, though, it’s worth pointing out that work-time distractions aren’t necessarily a problem.
As psychological studies have shown, giving your brain some off-time is good for your work in the long term. With a brief period to reset, you’ll be able to come back to your task refreshed and more capable of getting those to-dos done.
Consider that what you call “distractions” may actually be a way to reset your thinking — or potentially some comfortable background noise to make your work more manageable.
5. Know When to Quit
But perhaps most crucial for settling into a work-at-home routine is learning to recognize your accomplishments.
A negative habit the office instills in us is the need to act busy just to look it, even if we’ve done the most we can for that day. Whether due to workplace standards or social pressure, finishing early doesn’t always create more time for you.
This mindset can easily bleed into remote working. Sometimes, despite how you’ve finished the day’s work and your mental energy is totally sapped, there’s a nagging fear that you can’t leave your laptop behind due to some abstract sense of “professionalism.”
The thing is, at home, you can afford to measure your work by what you’ve completed, not by your total hours online.
When turning your attention away from distractions and toward work, think about “tasks” instead of time. Remember, completed projects are a helpful, concrete way of measuring your progress; focusing on time, on the other hand, is arbitrary at best and unhealthy at worst.
So if you’ve already finished with what work you had that day, then great! Feel free to give into a distraction or two. In fact, if you have no other commitments, it’s even fine to log off early.
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