work from home

How to Focus When You Work from Home

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More and more of us are working from home nowadays. With fast broadband and mobile phones, we’re no longer tied to an office. Employers are becoming increasingly willing to consider remote working arrangements, and you may well have taken advantage of these yourself.

Alternatively, your whole job may be home based. Perhaps you’re a freelancer or you run a small business. Maybe you’re fitting in some part time work or even studying around looking after your family.

There are lots of advantages to working from home – flexibility, no commute, and the ability to take care of any little chores that crop up during the day. There are also down sides – it can be much harder to focus with interruptions family or flatmates, and you may find yourself constantly distracted by the television, computer games, the fridge…

Here are some ways to make it easier.

Set Working Hours

Having a “start” (and a “stop”) time for work is particularly crucial when you’re working from your home. It’s very easy to put off starting work in favour of doing the dishes, watching day time TV, or popping to the shops. If you’re a freelancer you might get away with this – though clients may well expect to be able to phone you during normal business hours. If you’re telecommuting and your boss realises you’re spending the morning in your pyjamas in front of the television, you could lose your flexi-work privileges.

By having fixed hours, you help train your brain to be in “work” mood at 9am (or whatever time you choose) each day. You also avoid letting work spill over into the evening or even long into the night.

Designate a Specific “Work” Space in Your Home

Many of us work on laptops nowadays, which can be extremely handy – but not if it means trying to “work” while curled up on the sofa with the television blaring a few feet away.

Just like having set hours for work, having a specific space where you work (even if that’s just a desk in the corner of the spare room) can help you to get straight into the right mood for cracking on with your task list.

Having a proper working set up also means you’re less likely to risk back ache or RSI from using computer equipment in awkward positions. You’ll find it easier to pick up where you left off, too; if you’re constantly moving your work around the house, it’s easy to lose important papers.

Close Your Door to Avoid Interruptions

If at all possible, make sure your workspace is in a room which the rest of the household won’t need access to during the day (so working at the kitchen table isn’t ideal…)

When you need to focus on a particular task, close the door. This lets everyone else know that you’re working, and that you’re only to be interrupted if it’s really important. Don’t feel that you’re being rude or inaccessible by doing this; from their point of view, they’d prefer to know when you need to concentrate so that they don’t annoy you by constantly popping in at a bad moment.

If you don’t have a door to close, try wearing headphones while working. You don’t have to actually listen to anything – but the headphones will stop people wandering past and trying to hold a conversation.

Get Out to a Coffee Shop

Finally, if you’re really struggling to focus when working from home … then don’t work from home! Grab your laptop and anything else you need, and head out to a local coffee shop. Without all the distractions around the house, you’ll find it easier to concentrate (plus, if you’re paying several bucks for a coffee, you’ll want to make the most of your time there).

If you find coffee shops too noisy, try your local library. In nice weather, you might even write outside in a park.

Do you work from home, some or all of the time? Have you got any great tips to add about staying focused?

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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