Person trying to work from home with a cat draped over their arms while they attempt to type

Are you new to working from home?  Do you feel like you’re not getting anything done?

You’re not alone. Really, you’re seriously not alone, now that CoVID-19 has forced most of us to “shelter in place” and work from home.

Working from home is tough. Trust me. I’ve been working from home for twenty years. And while I still get distracted and don’t always accomplish everything on my daily checklist, I have learned a tip or two on how to find a work/home balance & stay productive.

Develop A New Routine

If you’re used to a 9:00 – 5:00 routine of going to work and then coming home, working remotely from home is probably jarring. It’s difficult to establish & keep a routine consistently every day when there are so many wanted & unwanted distractions.

To set-up, a daily schedule that’s going to be effective, take into consideration everything that needs to happen during the day. And when I say everything, I mean everything.  List the non-work-related stuff too – homeschooling the kiddos, laundry, making meals, etc.

I find that creating “work blocks” throughout the day works better than trying to work for a traditional eight hours. Blocking allows me to focus on work while taking care of my family too.

Blocking also helps my schedule to be flexible. When our children were younger, I blocked work time during their afternoon naps and in the evenings after they went to bed. Or block work time for earlier in the morning before the rest of the house awakens.

I like the flexibility that blocking provides. It allows me to work around my family’s schedules like homeschooling while still being productive at work.

Eliminate Distractions

I know this is easier said than done. Truly, I can find distractions in almost anything especially when I’m trying to avoid a specific work-related project.

And the distractions are everywhere! They’re not just work-related texts and emails, but now it’s the availability of Netflix, social media, children & pets. This is part of the reason why “Blocking” (see my first suggestion) works better than attempting to work a typical 8-hour workday.

How to Eliminate Distractions

  • I personally build in the distractions as part of my non-work blocks. Watch a TV show during lunch. Schedule “game time” with your children. Work when they are “at school” in the next room (of course, this one really only works if your children don’t need any help with their school work.)
  • If possible establish an area or room in your home as your personal office. Preferably this should be an area/room without a TV. If there is a TV in the room, keep it turned off.
  • Multi-tasking is a fallacy – it’s more like multi-distracting – nothing will get done well. So, if the kiddos are watching “Daniel the Tiger”, work in another room or area. At the very least, put on some noise-canceling earphones.
  • Electronics aren’t the only distractions. Keep your workspace organized. I admit I struggle with this. But being organized is a key ingredient to efficient time management.
  • The same applies to a clean and organized home. Again, easier said than done, especially with schools closed and children cooped-up at home. This is where “Blocking” comes in handy as you can block times throughout the day to devote to housework.
  • Turn off app notifications or put them on silent, especially when you really need to focus. I wear a smartwatch and the only notifications I receive are phone calls & texts. Nothing else. I have to check my emails, social media & other apps rather than being “notified”. This allows me to keep my phone on silent, so I can better concentrate on the task at hand.
    • I also only look at social media (personal use, not for my clients) after I’ve gone through my emails and then only for 5 minutes or so. I only check my emails 2-3 times a day (morning, mid-day, and late afternoon), so that helps eliminate the black hole of social media.

I have more tips, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you too much!  After all this is probably all very, very new to you.  Or at least the part about also having your children home 24/7 while you attempt to work.

More “Working from Home” tips coming next week.

P.S.  I have no idea how to stop a cat from distracting you.  Cats are cats and do what they want to do when they want to do it.  Sorry, no cat hacks here!

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