By: Andrea Cannistraci
Working from home allows tremendous flexibility and is a total work life balance game changer. It does, however, come with a few challenges. Distractions ranks pretty high on that list.
Minimizing distraction starts with setting boundaries for yourself and for your family and friends. While you might have flexibility with your working hours, it’s important to set dedicated work hours and communicate those hours to your internal team, clients, family and friends. Stick to those hours—if not you will find yourself working 24/7 and getting burned out… or not working at all and not having a job.
I’ve found that having dedicated office space in my home is helpful in setting boundaries as well. When I’m in that area of my home, I’m working. The door is usually closed, as this signals to my family that I’m unavailable. They know that when the door is closed, they need to knock (or just leave me alone.) I often only close the door to focus when I’m on a call or deep in numbers or writing. Other times, I’ll leave it open, and my family knows I’m open for a break.
Taking breaks is key. If you are finding yourself becoming distracted, you may just need a break. A break can mean walking to the kitchen for a coffee, or wandering outside to get the mail, or taking a 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood. Whatever works for you is what matters. Take a real break for lunch. Do not eat lunch at your desk. Take snack breaks. Take water breaks.
Oftentimes, I hit the local coffee shop or the beach to work. A change of scenery is what I need to refocus and jump start my creativity. When I’m at home, I easily get distracted by household chores. Getting out of my home often helps me to focus on work and only work. Calendaring helps also.
I have a master calendar that reflects my life—it includes both work and personal. I have time blocked off to drop off/pick up my daughter at Montessori School, go to doctors appointments, and attend meetings. I even block gym time, lunch time, and break times. I live by my calendar, and those little ding dong reminders keep me on track and distraction-free.
Since I do work from home, I regularly receive FedEx and UPS deliveries that I must sign, however, the added distractions of sales people knocking and interrupting my work day became too much. I invested in an inexpensive “No Solicitation” sign for my front door, and now if I hear a knock, I know I need to answer it.
There’s a lot of construction happening in my neighborhood currently, and that means loud noise. I’m thankful that I invested in a pair of good wireless headphones not only for the video calls, but to block out noise when I need silence to concentrate.
It’s hard to concentrate when you have a cluttered desk. Knick-knacks, receipts, junk mail, Post-It notes, and bills on your desk are total distractions. Take a few minutes each evening before you sign off for the day to clean, straighten, and organize your desk. Simply clearing away the clutter from the day will help you end your day and separate work time from “going home” time. You’ll also feel great when you log on the next morning, and you have a neat and orderly clean slate in which to start.
I usually start my day reviewing my to-do list for the day and my calendar. Knowing how my day looks and what I need to accomplish helps me focus and minimize distractions. I schedule out the tasks that need to be completed for the day around my standing appointments. My work is deadline heavy. There’s always a hotel contract due, a client byline due, award submission or speaking engagement deadline, or a timely social media post. I always start with those deadline sensitive deliverables and go from there. If there are a few admin or “mindless” tasks, I’ll knock them out of the way first –it always feels good to cross off a few line items straight away.
Andrea Cannistraci, CMM is President & Founder of andgreat—a marketing, branding, and events firm that specializes in helping businesses design unique and unforgettable experiential marketing programs. She’s a seasoned marketer with over 19 years experience across multiple functions of marketing. Follow her on Twitter @acannistraci, on Instagram @Andgreat17, on LinkedIn, and her blog.