The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth in remote and hybrid working, with more people than ever now spending at least some of their working hours at home.
There are loads of advantages to home working, so it’s no wonder it’s been embraced by many employees. It’s more convenient, it can reduce your carbon footprint, and studies have shown that it can make people happier and more productive.
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There’s no denying that it comes with challenges, though, from isolation to unreliable internet connections. The biggest problem, though, are the distractions you’ll face along the way – because our homes are filled with all the things we actually enjoy.
If you’re worried about that, deploy these nine tips. They’ll stop you from getting distracted when you’re working at home. And you don’t have to go far for more home-working help, either: we’ve got top tips for creating a productive working environment and a guide to building a better morning routine.
If you start your home-working days by lazing on the sofa or sitting at the dining table then you’re going to be more prone to distractions. Instead, you should use a different environment for your work so your brain gets the same signals as it would do if you went into the office.
For some people this will be a home office or a spare bedroom, and that’s great – it means you can have a dedicated workspace where your brain is ready to be productive. It keeps you away from the electronic devices and snacks that prove distracting throughout the day, too.
If you aren’t able to have a separate room, consider creating curtains with sheets or removing distracting items from the area where you will be working – those methods still work well when it comes to creating boundaries between your work venue and the rest of your life.
Tweak your smartphone
Many of us are constantly distracted by our phones, and that’s no surprise when so much of our lives is managed through those tiny screens – and when they spend all day pinging.
If you reach for your smartphone too often during the working day, use its various do not disturb options during your working hours so you’re not distracted with notifications, messages or calls. Adjust the settings to let important stuff through the net, and you’ll be good to go. And if you really want to remove distractions from your smartphone, consider turning off certain notifications permanently or consider uninstalling particular apps.
If you sit at your desk for hours, hammering away at your keyboard, your attention will waver and you’ll be more susceptible to distractions. If you want to reduce the chances of that happening, make sure you step away from your work for regular breaks.
A break every hour or two will give your brain a chance to rest and refresh – and it could give you a chance to give in to some of those distractions for a brief period. Giving yourself a break and the opportunity to do something fun and different will reset your brain and allow you to be more focused and productive when you get back to your desk.
Schedule your communications
It’s not just phones that spend all day pinging – email applications and communication software does it, too. And if you want to stop being distracted by those apps, consider disabling their notifications for most of your day and only allowing yourself certain windows of time to manage your communication instead.
You might assign five minutes every hour to email and messages, or you could schedule an hour at the end of the day to tackle all those missives. But, no matter how you do it, if you restrict the amount of time you devote to email and instant messaging you’ll be more productive and less distracted throughout your day.
Start the day right
Avoiding distractions doesn’t just mean taking the right steps during the working day – it can start from when you wake up. If you have a consistent and effective morning routine then your brain will be more alert and focused throughout the day, and you’ll be less susceptible to procrastination.
An effective morning routine will look different for everybody, of course, but the best ones tend to involve some healthy food, some exercise, a shower and some clean clothes alongside some mindfulness work like meditation. If you can take those steps you’ll give yourself a better chance of dodging distractions for the next eight hours.
Keep your place clean
We’ve already mentioned that it’s important to have a dedicated working space if you want to avoid distractions, but it’s not just about having that spot at home – it’s got to be clean and tidy, too. If you keep the space neat, free of clutter and full of natural light and plants, your brain will respond accordingly, with better concentration and focus.
Worried that your working day will be derailed by your TV or games console? There’s an easy step you can take to lower the chances of these distractions playing on your mind – unplug them from the wall. If you take that extra step first thing in the morning, you’ll be less likely to head over for a quick blast of your favorite game when work slows down. And if you’re really serious about avoiding distractions, consider putting your gaming laptop or console away in a drawer or cupboard until you’re done with work – because if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
Be stricter with your schedule
A productive, distraction-free workday doesn’t just mean scheduling time for your communications – you’ve got to be strict elsewhere.
Make sure that you prioritize difficult or important tasks for the morning when your brain is fresh, and avoid multi-tasking if possible – that makes it harder to maintain focus and can lead to a higher risk of procrastination. You're less likely to get distracted if you create a schedule with blocks of time dedicated to specific tasks.
Take care of yourself
You can implement every self-care tip and anti-distraction strategy you can imagine but, sometimes, they’re not going to be enough. If you’re tired or run down, it can be good to give in to distractions, leisure activities and rest – because if you keep trying to work, the situation will just get worse and you’ll be at risk of serious burnout.
Ultimately, you won’t be focused or productive if you're too tired. If you need to, give in to home working distractions now to ensure better concentration later.
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Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.