Copyright 2006 Craig Binkley
Whether you own a full-time, home-based business or your job allows you to occasionally work from the comfort of your home, there are many things that can distract you from getting your work done. This article attempts to pinpoint a few of the more frequent, general types of distractions to be watchful for as you go about your daily business of working from home. It also offers suggestions on how to successfully handle them.
Imagine how much more productive we could be if we never had to deal with distractions in the workplace! But we do, and some days they seem to come from all directions. And don’t think that working from your home means they’ll occur less often or be easier to handle. In fact, I think the opposite is true: there will be more. You’d do well to expect to be distracted in the first place, because it IS a home, first & foremost. People do their “living” there, interacting with others & being themselves. The secret to effectively handling the distractions is simple: be flexible.
With that said, before we dive into the various distractions that might come your way, let’s look at the all-important “Work Schedule” and the flexibility it affords you.
WORK SCHEDULE: As you probably are aware, it’s very important to set up & maintain some sort of regular work schedule. And no, you don’t need to install a time clock, but you must have a reasonable schedule laid out that you plan to keep. If you have a job that allows you to work from home, more than likely you may already have a set schedule. If you own a home business, however, your schedule can be more flexible. Either way, I doubt there are many out there that who can merely “pick and choose” when they want to work and also be successful at it. I know for me, I need some sort of structure in my day. Set up a work schedule for yourself. It doesn’t have to written in stone, but it should be something you are willing to try to maintain.
The great thing about working from home is that you can set this schedule around the most important aspects in your life: family. You might also consider times you spend enjoying hobbies or traveling, that you probably wouldn’t have the freedom to do with an ordinary job. So have a work schedule set up, but be reasonable. You have flexibility working out of your home more so than any other office in the world, so take advantage of it. You’ll need to maintain some down-time, too.
Now for the “short list” of distractions I’ve seen:
IMMEDIATE FAMILY: Yeah, I know – you started your home business to be with your family. That’s GREAT, but you must also get work done. If you just started working from home, your family will surely want to see how you are doing and offer help (TIP: TAKE IT! Get your family involved in contributing to the household in this way. It’s a great life lesson.). But they may also think that since you’re there 24/7, you are free to just do as you please. While you have the benefit of being able to stop to meet someone’s immediate need, you must remember to get back to your schedule as soon as it’s reasonably possible, if you want to be successful. Show your work schedule to your spouse and children (you did make one, right?). Let them know that during this time you’re “at work”. Remember: be flexible, but not a pushover for distractions.
EXTENDED FAMILY/FRIENDS: Many people in this category will probably think that since you’re at home, it’s fine for them to just drop by and hang out. They wouldn’t likely drop in on you if you had a boss looking over your shoulder, but stopping by your house is somehow different. It’s totally understandable for them to think of it that way since, after all, it is your HOUSE. But you’ll be better off in the long run gently explaining that occasionally popping in is okay, however, during “x hours” you’re usually busy working. Or just simply say you’re busy trying to get some work done and you’ll give them a call later. More than likely they’ll understand and eventually adjust to your new schedule, too.
INTERNET/TELEVISION: While many home business owners rely on the Internet for their business, having the ability to surf the net on a whim can become a major distraction in the workplace. You know how it is: you decide to check the local news on your favorite site. You see a story and click on it, which in turn leads into another click, then another. (AKA “Web Entanglement”!) Before you know it, you have wasted precious time. Don’t get into the bad habit of extended distractions of this sort. Set a small amount of time aside for checking the weather or playing your favorite game, and stick to it.
The television in your home may or may not be a problem for you. If you were working in a standard job atmosphere, more than likely you wouldn’t have the opportunity to be distracted by a television. But if you work from home, it’s a real possibility. In fact, many people are “addicted” to television. It’s been shown in various studies that young children are easily mesmerized by it, to the point of effectively blocking out all other forms of communication while gazing at the “idiot box”. If you are not careful, it can rob you of your ability to concentrate. It will inevitably steal precious time from your work schedule and be a major distraction.
HOME OFFICE: You’ve heard the popular real estate agent’s mantra: Location, location, location! The same is true when it comes to distractions brought about because you’ve chosen the wrong place to set up your office. It’s all about location. Chose a place where you think you’ll have the least amount of interruptions and distractions. You may not have the space in your house to set up a private office. You may even be working at a desk in the corner of the living room. Regardless, set up your space-of-choice with privacy in mind. And while you’re at it, remember to try to have the things you need most often within reach. Avoid having to “go downstairs” to the filing cabinet, or needing to “grab the scissors” from the kitchen if at all possible. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get accomplished in a day’s time.
TELEPHONE: If you’re new to working from home, it might come as a surprise to you how often the phone rings during the day. I suggest subscribing to caller ID through your local telephone company and getting an answering machine. Many a telemarketer will steal minutes (or hours) off your workweek. Use the caller ID to identify the “perp” and then determine if you want to take time away to answer the call, or just let the answering machine get it for you. You can always return the call at a later time.
IN CONCLUSION: Like an away-from-home job, working from home can come with many distractions. How you handle them may go a long way in determining how successful you will become. Be flexible, but try to maintain a reasonable schedule. Remember that although you ARE working from home, you still have “work to do”.