OK, so I’m inspired to write about distractions again today simply because I’m stuck in a hospital room at the moment with my lovely mum, and did you know hospitals are ripe with distractions?
Who’d a thunk it right?
But I’m certain if I was home, I’d still be distracted because quite frankly… it’s a daily battle!
When you’re working from home, you need lots of will power.
No really, I mean LOTS.
I sometimes think that working from home takes up a lot more of my energy than working for my dreaded J.O.B. ever did. There are just too many things clamoring to be done on a daily basis—and that alone can make it hard to focus.
The dirty dishes. The boys playing. Emails and paper work. Television (although, admittedly, it can be a great source of inspiration at times). That unmade bed. The Internet. That hamper full of clothes. Facebook. The boys fighting or crying. Twitter. That clutter in the living room. The ringing phone. Errands. Oh my!
Everything and anything can be a distraction (and usually is!)—it’s simply way too easy to get sidetracked if you’re not careful.
So how should you (and me!) battle distractions?
Great question, and luckily one I’ve got a few answers to.
For starters, you need to learn how to compartmentalize your life.
There should be a place and a time for work, and a separate place and time for everything else.
Mind you, this is much easier said than done. Preachin’ to the choir with that, as I know firsthand how hard it can be.
I’m sure many of you choose to work at home because you want to be closer to your kids and family. This was a major motivator for me.
Well, that and boatloads of cash… I’m still working on that boatloads of cash part, it’s a process.
So this makes it quite difficult to separate your home life from your work life—but it is important. It is just a lot easier to resist distractions that way and overcome that unhealthy habit of procrastination.
So be like serial killers and compartmentalize. Oh, or paramedics. They do it too.
You know, if you’re uncomfy identifying with serial killers and all.
You need to find your own space.
You need to assign a spot in your house that you can call your office. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a desk and a chair—what’s important is that it is a space that you can go to for work. Having your own space conditions you for work—and that helps keep distractions away.
It’s like a little switch in your brain that once you hook up properly, flips every time you sit down at your “place of work”. It says ‘Time to be productive!’ Or maybe “Time to make money!” Whichever tickles your fancy the most.
It will also help if you condition everyone in the household to understand that your workspace is a sacred place where you do “serious” work. This will often help to minimize some of those pesky little distractions too.
You need to schedule your time.
People work differently. Some prefer following a rigid work schedule, while others abhor routines. (And that would be me!)
But no matter what your work process is, you cannot deny that there are deadlines you need to meet. This is when time management becomes important—it helps you get your work done on time, every time.
You can usually categorize the type of tasks you do into two biggies: routine tasks that may or may not need to be done every day, and urgent-need-it-like yesterday tasks that usually have a high return on the time you invest in them.
Believe it or not, it’s the routine tasks that can distract you from work.
Because these are the type of tasks that make you seem busy and productive when you’re really not doing the work that you ought to be doing. You know… that thing that should have been done yesterday that you need to bill for in order to pay your rent or oh… I don’t know… buy food maybe?
Emails, phone calls and social media (Twitter and Facebook, especially) are time suckers. If you don’t get a grip on it, you can spend so many hours doing these routine tasks—it can sidetrack you from doing what you’re really supposed to do.
It’s best to set a specific time for each task: emailing, phone calls and interacting in social media. When you do set a time, don’t do anything else but these tasks. You really need to sit down and get these out of the way so you don’t get bothered by them when you’re in the middle of writing a blog post or getting that proposal for a client done.
Be strict about it.
And I say this as I’m totally Tweeting about writing this and checking my stream.
Lol See? And you thought I was perfect! I am though… perfectly imperfect. Now do as I say, not as I do, and you’ll thank me later.
That said, don’t be too anal about religiously following a set schedule. There will be times when you need to adjust your schedule to accommodate urgent tasks.
As a freelancer, it is common to have a client call on you to finish last-minute tasks—you need to know how to be flexible with your time, bend in the wind, and accommodate the unexpected on occasion.
If it’s the house chores that get you distracted, set a schedule for them, too. This will help you stop thinking about those dirty dishes or the laundry when you’re in the middle of working.
Sorry, but just thinking about them won’t get anything done—not the dirty dishes, not the dirty laundry and for darn sure not your work. So schedule it out, stop thinking, and start doing.
Managing your time properly is like a mental boot camp that trains you to focus—to be in the moment and do only what you’re supposed to do at that particular moment in time.
And yes, we’ve already established that this is all easier said than done. But hey… you need to start somewhere, right? So stop procrastinating already.