Think about your typical day at the office. You sit down at your desk to get immersed in writing that grant proposal, balancing your monthly budget, or typing that staff memo, and then your phone rings. You begin working again only to become stopped by the third coworker who has knocked at your door in the span of 15 minutes. Just when you start getting back down to business, an instant message pops up from another coworker, your phone rings again, and your calendar alarm signals that it’s time for your 9:30 am meeting to commence. Does this sound familiar?
Days at the office can make you long for the option of working from home. Many of the common distractions that are lurking around your office are often non-existent at your abode. Chatty Cathy, Hovering Harry, and Loud Lisa are miles away and you don’t have the constant face-to-face interruptions from those who say, “Oh this’ll just take a minute.” When you know it’ll take at least five.
There are many benefits to working at home, or telecommuting, as it’s commonly referred, both for you and your employer. Your company saves money in the form of work space, and electronics and devices, not to mention saving on the amount of goods you use while at work–the coffee, utensils, paper, and other supplies add up. You save a good bit of money in the form of gas, wear and tear on your vehicle or travel fare, dress clothes, and time.
So what if tomorrow your boss tells you that your dream of being a telecommuter has come true? You can now work off site provided you continue to work independently, remain flexible, and show dependability. Uh-oh. As amazing as it is being away from the office, how are you going to stay on task and complete your work with the same dedication as when you’re (uninterrupted) at the office?
We have five ways to help you stay focused while working from home:
1. Make a Comfortable Space
You should be comfortable, but not TOO comfortable. If you can configure a setting similar to what you’re used to at work, minus the noise and coworkers, this would be familiar to you and should work well–think a sturdy desk with ample space and a supportive, upright chair. If sprawling out on the couch works for you and you’ll be able to be productive, give it a shot. But if after a few yawns you find yourself getting cozy and sleepy, step away from the couch and set up at a table. Lighting also factors into comfortability. If it’s too bright it may be distracting; if it’s too dim, the sleepy slumber feelings will take over.
2. Set a Schedule and Stick to It
If your typical day is eight hours and you have no set hours to be tied to your computer and/or phone, you’re lucky. You can split up your hours however you’d like. Work from 8:30 am – 10:30 am, take a break. Work again from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. Finish the day with a shift of 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm. BOOM, your eight hours of work are complete! But if you need to be working the same time as your coworkers who are on site, you may have to do the standard 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, minus a lunch break. Whatever you need to do, set it so you know when you should be working and when you are able to take a quick rejuvenation break.
3. Dress the Part
While it may be oh-so-comfortable to work in your footed, onesie pajamas, it can also cause you to be less than productive. If you’re all snuggly in your pjs, and especially if you’re working from the couch, this recreates your usual bedtime disposition. If you look like you’re going to bed, it may cause you to be sleepy and likely to go take a quick cat nap. Three hours later, you realize you’ve missed most of the day! Dress in some sort of casual clothing, not bedtime attire, to assimilate a dressed down version of what you’re used to wearing to the office. Dressing the part helps you to stay focused and stay out of the bed.
4. Remove Distractions
Unless you work in social media, yes, Facebook, Twitter, and the like ARE distractions. While you may be tempted to scroll through a few friends’ pages, or like a couple pictures on Instagram, don’t do it. It’s a time-suck trap! As mentioned above, when you’re scheduling those breaks, leave yourself time to quickly check the internet to get your daily (hourly) fix. Think of checking social media as a reward for getting XYZ assignment completed. Get your work done, take a five minute break, and then get back to the grind.
Television, other noises, significant others, family members, pets, and your cell phone are also culprits for high levels of distraction. Steer clear of them if at all possible while you’re working.
5. Gather Materials
Before you sit down to work, make sure you have everything you need. Are you able to access your company’s interoffice sites and databases? Do you have all the telephone numbers and email addresses you need for contacts? Are you going to have to print any documents and is your printer connected? Do you even have a printer? In addition to the devices and connections, you should also be sure you have all the simple items you need. Paper files, the notebook where you log all of your ideas, pens, highlighters, calculators, etc. If you don’t have what you need to perform your job and have to continually get up and down or drive to Staples, you cannot remain focused.
Keep in mind everyone’s work style is different. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see which is best for you to yield productivity and meet those deadlines. It may take you a few times to nail down the exact system that works for you so you can get your work done.
Do you telecommute? How many days a week do you do it? What keeps you focused while working at home?