After spending 15 years in finance, working on trading desks in offices and on the road, I thought I had learned to manage distractions. Oh, how wrong I was. Last August, after leaving my position at a major investment bank to become an entrepreneur, I rejoiced at giving up my commute to launch HATCHEDit.com from my home office—but what I found is that there are more pitfalls and distractions that I never even imagined. Some of them are beautiful, like my daughter taking her first steps, and some of them are self-inflicted, like social media. What follows is a list of 10 tips to avoid distractions and prevent interruptions in order to make your work-from-home scenario a success.
1. Remove Distractions
Turn off the television. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to fall into this vacuum of distraction. And while you're at it, remind your loved ones that even though you are home, you are working. I actually close the door to my office; I figure, out of sight, out of mind. Generally, this is pretty effective at keeping anyone from interrupting me.
2. Get Dressed
Let me tell you, the temptation to work in yoga pants is sometimes overwhelming. I fight it everyday. Sometimes I do give into temptation, but, more often than not, I remember that part of being productive is feeling like you are ready to conquer the world. I am pretty sure that none of us would set out to make our mark in flannel pajamas. So get up and get dressed to impress. I promise you will start the day energized and end up being more productive.
3. Set a Schedule and Goals
Part of the beauty of being an entrepreneur is being your own boss. This is also one of the largest challenges. You have to manage yourself like you are managing an employee. Every morning, I make a list of two key items: 1.) What I owe other people, and 2.) What other people owe me. The rest of the day is then scheduled around accountability for those two items on the list. Tasks go into my HATCHEDit Calendar, and knowing that I have to complete those tasks by a certain time each day gives me the kick in the pants to buckle down and get to work.
4. Schedule Social Networking
Set aside a specific, limited time for social networking. It is so very easy to get sucked into reading updates on Twitter and Facebook, and next thing you know, it’s noon. In this day and age, utilizing social networks is necessary. They are an avenue to gain valuable information and also to reach your client base very efficiently. However, remember it is only a tool and should be used as such. For me, this means scheduling a block of time every morning to catch up on our Facebook page, review tweets that are relevant, read blog posts that are related to our industry, and post our own content to our blog.
5. Dedicate Office Space
Just like getting dressed can put you in a productive frame of mind, I've found that sitting at a desk, rather than on the sofa, is key to a productive day. Having a space dedicated just to my business also allows me to better separate work from my personal life, which can be so very hard to do when you are working from home.
6. Set Aside Time for Your Personal Tasks
Use the time you would normally use to commute to get your personal tasks out of the way. I used to spend over an hour commuting each morning. Now I spend that time getting personal matters out of the way—making the bed, picking up dry-cleaning, and so on.
7. The Coffee Shop is Key
I am social by nature, so cabin fever has been one of my biggest obstacles to overcome since I started working from home. Getting out of my house for a bit gives me a much needed break, and I find that I can sometimes be even more productive there than at home. (No interruptions!)
8. Clean It Up
A clean and organized home helps me feel like I have a clean and organized brain. If clutter starts to pile up—especially around my desk—I find that I'm easily distracted (usually by the thought that I need to clean up the mess!).
9. Take a Lunch Break
Here at home, it's easy to grab a snack from the pantry and power through. Taking a lunch break, however, is crucial for giving your brain a break. It doesn’t need to be long; just 30 minutes will allow you to recharge and refocus.
10. Step Away from the Computer
One of the challenges of working from home is knowing when to stop. This is one of my biggest hang-ups and my husband’s biggest complaint. We decided that family dinner time should be computer free, so at the very least, from 5:30pm until my daughter goes to bed, it’s dedicated family time. Oh sure, I'll turn on the laptop a little later in the evening, but everyone needs a break!
Everyone dreams of working from home and it can be a wonderful experience. However, distractions are a part of working from home, just like from anywhere else. As you determine what your biggest distractions are, you’ll need to figure out the best way to manage through them. I hope these few tips at least give you a solid point of reference.