20 Ways to Avoid Distractions While Working from Home

by Dr. R. Kay Green

Working from home presents a unique set of challenges, as many are finding out for the first time during this COVID-19 crisis. One of the main issues people face is maintaining focus during work hours, even though they are surrounded by at-home distractions like chores and family members. Here are 20 tips for avoiding distractions while working from home during the shelter-in-place.

  1. Maintain a strong work/life balance. It is easier to focus on work when you give yourself enough time to focus on your life. While working from home, it is tempting to let one bleed into the other, but this can lead to procrastination and difficulty in maintaining boundaries.
  2. Prioritize your to-do list. Distractions often happen because we are not sure what we are meant to be doing. Get rid of this confusion by knowing which items on your to-do list are the highest priority, and tackle those first.
  3. Download social media blockers on your computer. If you find yourself scrolling through Twitter or Facebook during work hours just a bit too much, there are extensions you can use to block these sites during work.
  4. Put your phone away. Scrolling through your phone is an easy way to lose time. While you do need it nearby to field work calls, putting it somewhere where it is not easy to reach but still easy to hear is ideal.
  5. Take scheduled breaks. Breaks help you stay motivated during the time that you are actually working. Letting your brain rest also improves focus and overall morale. Try getting up and stretching every hour or so.
  6. Get noise-canceling headphones. If your home is a louder one, this is a must. Keep your focus by playing music, or rain/nature noises to block out sounds. The headphones will also be a signal to others in the house not to bother you.
  7. Keep up good diet and exercise. Diet and exercise play a huge part in focus. If your body is in poor condition, your brain will be, too, and it is a lot harder to stay focused when you feel ill. Make sure to eat foods that keep you focused, and exercise regularly.
  8. Work away from chores and clutter. It is harder to focus when you are surrounded by clutter. If you can see the laundry that needs doing, the kitchen that needs cleaning, or the floor that needs sweeping, it will be harder to focus on work.
  9. Get an accountability partner. If you struggle with staying self-motivated, having someone that you check in with regularly can be a huge help. Let them know what you intend to accomplish for the day, and have them do the same to you in return!
  10. Play background music. As mentioned earlier, music can help block out unwanted noises. But the right music can also help improve focus on general. This is different for everyone, so experiment with the sort of music you listen to.
  11. Offer yourself rewards when staying focused. If your deadlines seem less pressing than usual, use rewards to motivate yourself. This will keep you on task and will make things much easier for you in the long run.
  12. Break up large tasks into smaller ones. It can be tough to stay motivated on long tasks, which leads to us getting distracted. But breaking them up into smaller tasks makes it easier to feel accomplished, which improves momentum.
  13. Turn off all non-essential notifications. Every time your phone buzzes, you lose your focus. Turn off notifications for apps that are not essential. This way, you are only looking at your phone for things that actually matter.
  14. Do not keep an email tab open. We lose a lot of time to our inboxes. Unless you are expecting something urgent, try not to have your email open all the time. This way, you can focus on the task at hand and only the task at hand.
  15. Use the Pomodoro technique. It can be hard to focus when you feel overwhelmed, or if you do not give your brain regular breaks. The Pomodoro method or a similar way of working helps to mitigate this. Set a timer and work through it, then give yourself a short break.
  16. Schedule updates with your coworkers. If you are used to keeping up-to-date with coworkers, this transition can have a negative effect on your focus. Using a platform like Zoom for scheduled check-ins keeps everyone motivated and on the same page.
  17. Make sure your technology is right for the job. If your computer is slow, it is harder to keep your momentum and easier to give in to distraction. Invest in a good, fast computer for work, and it will be much easier to keep up.
  18. Set long-term goals. Sometimes, we give in to distraction because we are not sure why we are doing something. Having long-term goals and making sure your daily tasks relate to them in some way will help with this.
  19. Create a family plan. There are some distractions that we cannot control: things like family. But talking with them and making them understand your schedule can be a great first step in minimizing the amount of distraction you have.
  20. Use a separate browser profile for work. Browsers like Google Chrome allow you to have different profiles, which affect things like search history, saved passwords, and bookmarks. Separating work from your usual profile is a good way to minimize online distractions.

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