I am not a fan of summer’s hot temperatures but summer does mean baseball. But baseball also means I get distracted looking up the starting pitchers for the Atlanta Braves or the latest stats on Freddie Freeman.
Honestly, baseball is not my only distraction. And let’s be honest. We all lose focus occasionally (or once a day). Nearly everyone gets drawn into social media. Oh, and don’t forget the email panic where you check every 15 minutes just in case you have a note from a potential client.
But those are not even my biggest distractions. I do a lot of research. Let’s say I am researching bird of North America. I see that a bird is a native of a place I have thought would be a great spot for a vacation. My bird research leads to more personal research about a vacation destination. I waste 15 minutes before I snap back to reality. But hey, I am great at trivia!
So how do you overcome it? The truth is, you may never have a day when you are not distracted at least once or twice. But I have found some ways that work for me.
- Work blocks–I have written about this before but it is a part of how I stay focused. I set aside a certain amount of time for each task I do. If I know I must complete a task in an hour, I am less likely to wonder to la-la land for 20 minutes.
- When I need to be online, I only keep the tabs relevant to what I am working on active. I don’t want to know if an email is coming in or if I have a Facebook notification.
- I work at home so it’s not just online distractions that can complicate my life. I often turn off my phone or hand it to my husband. I keep the door to my “office” closed for many tasks. I also have my desk facing a window and I have a group of birds and squirrels that love to put on a show for me every day. Sadly, some days I lower the blinds. I also try to limit personal conversations, even with the husband, during the work day.
Finally, if you have been around me you know I am a planner and a list maker. I always try to complete my to-do-list. And I try to reach the weekly goals outlined on my calendars.
This all sounds so easy but it is hard to do. How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?
I am a child of the 70s and 80s and I remember when I dreamed about working in a city, wearing cute clothes and eating at trendy restaurants.
Flash forward to 2017 and my dreams are about working at home, wearing my pajamas and eating mac and cheese for breakfast. Add in some trips to interesting small towns, the Smoky Mountains and maybe a big city or two and you have described my ideal life.
In today’s society, working from home has become a career goal not only for moms with young children but for people who hate fighting traffic or who just don’t like having to deal with office politics or boring meetings. I work at home only part-time. I have a full-time broadcasting gig that I get up very early to do so most days I am home by 2 p.m. For 18 months in the late 2000s, working at home was my only source of income. I have found that I have a routine I follow no matter how many hours I work.
- I wear pajamas or something equally comfortable. Even on non-freelance days, I put on my pajamas as soon as I come home. The only exception is if we have plans for a short time later.
- I always put my computer in front of a window or facing outdoors. Years ago I had a desk on my back porch. Those were the days. My current view may not be the most scenic but I like it.
- I tend to work in blocks of time. I have a difficult time sitting for long periods of time. The longest I will sit is about two hours. A four-hour work day usually consists of an hour and 15 to 20 minutes at a time with 10 to 30-minute breaks. While it turns four hours of work into a six-hour stretch, I am more productive this way.
- I keep the door shut when I don’t want to be disturbed. If I am researching an article or pitching clients, the door is open. When I am writing, it’s almost always closed. My family has learned to only contact me in dire emergencies. Problems with Netflix, opening a package or taking clothes out of the dryer are not dire emergencies!
Finally, get the image of home workers basking in their filth out of your head. One thing I do every day is shower. When I was working at home full-time there may have been several days when I didn’t put on shoes but my feet were clean. For me, taking a shower officially started my day.
If you work at home, what are your routines?