What are your tips to work from home and not be distracted?

Posted by Colleen Young, Connect Director @colleenyoung, Fri, Mar 20 12:16pm

More and more people are being asked to work from home. For some people, this might be a regular part of your work routine. For others, you might be adjusting to a whole new work setup.

Are you working from home? How is it going? What are your tips to stay focused and not be distracted?

That's a great question. I have been working from home for almost 30 years and it definitely requires a different sort of discipline than being in the office. Here are some suggestions:

1) Set up a designated work area that is not in the middle of where the family will be hanging out or watching TV. (A lot of people try to use the dining table and find it's a noisy difficult place to work). Make sure you have a desk that's the right level and a comfortable chair so you don't end up with a repetitive stress injury such as carpel tunnel syndrome.
2) Set designated times when you start and end work, just like you did at the office. Schedule breaks and take them at the scheduled time. During your working time, remain focused on your work and ignore or delay any distractions until after your work hours are over. (Unless someone is bleeding, of course.)
3) Train your family that when you're working, they should not disturb you. The standard we use in our house is that if you would not have called me in the office about it, it should wait until after I am done working.
4) Unless being on social media is part of your job, stay off of it during working hours. If you feel like you really must check social media, do it during your breaks and keep track of how long you are on it. A quick 5 minutes to check Facebook can easily turn into an hour of surfing around reading stories online.

Finally, while some people have trouble with distractions when working at home, others have trouble shutting work off and leaving it behind at the end of the day, or with stopping when it's time in order to ensure a work/life balance. That's why the designated start/end times are so important, and also why it's helpful to have your work life in a separate area of the house. In my case, I can literally walk away and shut the door, which is a visual reminder that I'm done working and need to let work issues go.

I'm happy to answer questions if anyone is having struggles or wants advice on how to make this work.

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@colleenyoung I've worked from home the past 20 years and it does take a lot of discipline to stay focused. When I don't want to be distracted by activity at my bird feeder outside of my window, I just close the blinds. Lately that doesn't work for me since I have a new kitty that whines to go outside whether the blinds are open or closed. I've thought about locking her out of my computer room but then there is the scratching at the door and louder whining because she knows I'm in there. So I'm open to some new suggestions!

One thing that has helped me in the past was having some soft elevator music playing in the background – kind of puts me in thinking mode and I can concentrate better. It does sound counter intuitive but it works for me.

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Hmmm, between Mayo Connect and Master Gardener activities, I guess I work from home (except there is no paycheck.) This is not new to me – for 20 years I was an intermittent home worker, but then I had a dedicated space. To complicate matters now, I live 6 months of the year in a tiny house, with my only table right inside a patio door where my presence is obvious to all my (retired) friends passing by. And I sit next to my spouse, who is surfing and commenting… I have taken to putting in headphones, sometimes connected to a conference call, sometimes John's elevator music, and sometimes dead air. It is my signal to think twice before interrupting and it works.
On the other end of the spectrum, I am guilty of not stopping at times. With the abundance of message right now, I have capped my on-line time at 4 hours, then the machine goes off unless I am studying Spanish. This is my sanity-saver. My computer is such a symbol of work to me that I don't use it for reading – I turn to old fashioned books.
Sue

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@sueinmn

Hmmm, between Mayo Connect and Master Gardener activities, I guess I work from home (except there is no paycheck.) This is not new to me – for 20 years I was an intermittent home worker, but then I had a dedicated space. To complicate matters now, I live 6 months of the year in a tiny house, with my only table right inside a patio door where my presence is obvious to all my (retired) friends passing by. And I sit next to my spouse, who is surfing and commenting… I have taken to putting in headphones, sometimes connected to a conference call, sometimes John's elevator music, and sometimes dead air. It is my signal to think twice before interrupting and it works.
On the other end of the spectrum, I am guilty of not stopping at times. With the abundance of message right now, I have capped my on-line time at 4 hours, then the machine goes off unless I am studying Spanish. This is my sanity-saver. My computer is such a symbol of work to me that I don't use it for reading – I turn to old fashioned books.
Sue

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How great that you are studying Spanish on the computer, @sueinmn. Do you mind if I ask what software you are using?

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@hopeful33250

How great that you are studying Spanish on the computer, @sueinmn. Do you mind if I ask what software you are using?

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@hopeful33250 Hi Teresa, I use an app called Duolingo, the free version. It is on my phone tablet and laptop, and stays synced so I can work on it on any device whenever I have a few minutes. I knew quite a bit when I was young, but want to improve because many of our Mexican friends have family members who don't speak English and we like to socialize with them. I have been faithfully doing at least 20 minutes per day for over 10 months. Now I'm trying to practice whenever I can, easy to do here in Deep South Texas with lots of native speakers, TV and radio and signs – and people are willing to speak more slowly if I ask. It will get a little harder when we get to Minnesota but two of our immediate neighbors speak Spanish in their homes, and my next door neighbor teen has been in a Spanish immersion school since kindergarten and loves to talk with me. It drives his Dad crazy when he doesn't understand.
My husband is studying both German, which he learned in school, and Spanish, so his progress with each has been a bit slower. I'm thinking of adding German in case we do manage to take our planned tour to Europe in September.
I'm really enjoying the challenge and the discipline of doing it every day.

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@sueinmn

@hopeful33250 Hi Teresa, I use an app called Duolingo, the free version. It is on my phone tablet and laptop, and stays synced so I can work on it on any device whenever I have a few minutes. I knew quite a bit when I was young, but want to improve because many of our Mexican friends have family members who don't speak English and we like to socialize with them. I have been faithfully doing at least 20 minutes per day for over 10 months. Now I'm trying to practice whenever I can, easy to do here in Deep South Texas with lots of native speakers, TV and radio and signs – and people are willing to speak more slowly if I ask. It will get a little harder when we get to Minnesota but two of our immediate neighbors speak Spanish in their homes, and my next door neighbor teen has been in a Spanish immersion school since kindergarten and loves to talk with me. It drives his Dad crazy when he doesn't understand.
My husband is studying both German, which he learned in school, and Spanish, so his progress with each has been a bit slower. I'm thinking of adding German in case we do manage to take our planned tour to Europe in September.
I'm really enjoying the challenge and the discipline of doing it every day.

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Thanks, @sueinmn, I had no idea there was a free app for languages. I'm going to check that out. I definitely need a challenge right now during this time of no contact😀

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@hopeful33250

Thanks, @sueinmn, I had no idea there was a free app for languages. I'm going to check that out. I definitely need a challenge right now during this time of no contact😀

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@hopeful33250 Teresa – Here's how to find it in a browser: https://www.duolingo.com. On your phone or tablet, go to your App store, whatever it is called, and search for Duolingo. I think I'll post the link in one of the "how to stay busy" discussions. Extremely easy to use. There is a paid version for anyone who cannot tolerate clicking past a few ads – but they are not intrusive.
Sue

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@sueinmn

@hopeful33250 Teresa – Here's how to find it in a browser: https://www.duolingo.com. On your phone or tablet, go to your App store, whatever it is called, and search for Duolingo. I think I'll post the link in one of the "how to stay busy" discussions. Extremely easy to use. There is a paid version for anyone who cannot tolerate clicking past a few ads – but they are not intrusive.
Sue

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I put it on my phone after you mentioned it yesterday Sue @sueinmn. It seems much easier to use than another free one I have used. Might give this a try when things get a little quieter here at home. Thanks for the tip!

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@coloradogirl

That's a great question. I have been working from home for almost 30 years and it definitely requires a different sort of discipline than being in the office. Here are some suggestions:

1) Set up a designated work area that is not in the middle of where the family will be hanging out or watching TV. (A lot of people try to use the dining table and find it's a noisy difficult place to work). Make sure you have a desk that's the right level and a comfortable chair so you don't end up with a repetitive stress injury such as carpel tunnel syndrome.
2) Set designated times when you start and end work, just like you did at the office. Schedule breaks and take them at the scheduled time. During your working time, remain focused on your work and ignore or delay any distractions until after your work hours are over. (Unless someone is bleeding, of course.)
3) Train your family that when you're working, they should not disturb you. The standard we use in our house is that if you would not have called me in the office about it, it should wait until after I am done working.
4) Unless being on social media is part of your job, stay off of it during working hours. If you feel like you really must check social media, do it during your breaks and keep track of how long you are on it. A quick 5 minutes to check Facebook can easily turn into an hour of surfing around reading stories online.

Finally, while some people have trouble with distractions when working at home, others have trouble shutting work off and leaving it behind at the end of the day, or with stopping when it's time in order to ensure a work/life balance. That's why the designated start/end times are so important, and also why it's helpful to have your work life in a separate area of the house. In my case, I can literally walk away and shut the door, which is a visual reminder that I'm done working and need to let work issues go.

I'm happy to answer questions if anyone is having struggles or wants advice on how to make this work.

Jump to this post

@coloradogirl I use to work from home my husband built an office for me and when I turned on the gas heater there and shut the door my son new not to bother me then like you You have to discipline yourself and others .

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My dog has a kennel in the garage and he’s been trained that’s his “office” during work hours. Keep regular hours. I update computers at 6 am. I have my coffee and toast in my office by 7:30 am. Now is the time to set up a room /closet as an office with a closable door. Train your family that is working time only and it had better be an emergency just like when you are at regular work for you to be disturbed. Read but don’t answer family texts unless it’s a true problem. Drink tea/coffee like you do at work. Play a low radio in the background with your music. Follow your same working schedule.

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I have been working from home for many years now! My small green division seem to be doing the best. Just started spring season with bundle sale!

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I've been teleworking for 10 years.
Give it a few days and wake up late.
Don't feel stressed, it's new for many people.
Don't feel you have to prove you are working. Relax and settle in.
Have a few areas where you can set up for comfort at different times.
Listen to talk radio No TV.
Get coffee and drinks.
Eat light multiple times. Keeps me moving and helps me watch what I eat.
Still Wash You Hands.

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@sueinmn

@hopeful33250 Teresa – Here's how to find it in a browser: https://www.duolingo.com. On your phone or tablet, go to your App store, whatever it is called, and search for Duolingo. I think I'll post the link in one of the "how to stay busy" discussions. Extremely easy to use. There is a paid version for anyone who cannot tolerate clicking past a few ads – but they are not intrusive.
Sue

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@sueinmn Such a great idea, Sue! Thanks for posting this in another discussion.

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Taking a short break and walking outside gives you a refresh mind when returning back to work station, even if only for 10 minutes. I feel more focus when continuing with work tasks.

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@tigre101010

Taking a short break and walking outside gives you a refresh mind when returning back to work station, even if only for 10 minutes. I feel more focus when continuing with work tasks.

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@tigre101010 Claudina, what great advice. When I was chained to the office desk, I made it a practice to go for walks two or three times a day. That offered the mind a break as well as stretching the muscles. It also reduced my trips to the chiropractor.

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