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Do You Have Any Tips For Staying Focused While Working From Home?
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Working from home requires a strategy...

I thought this would be a great topic since so many of us are at-home workers or have virtual businesses.

Working from home is great, but there is a balance you have to work out to where you can concentrate long enough to actually get some work done.

I thought I’d share some of my tips I’ve picked up over the years, including how to stay focused when you have something exciting like a new baby in the house or when kids are home for the summer.

50 Minute Time Boxing

I quite often use a kitchen timer (a mechanical one with a tick-tick) and give myself a 50 minute window to complete a task.

In fact, I quite often break up my day into 50 minute segments (10 minute breaks in between, with a longer break for lunch) and schedule what I’m going to do in each segment. For example, writing the article could fit into one such window, and quite often you end up so focused that you end up writing notes or starting points for further articles within the same segment.

You’d then schedule another segment, say after a few days where you’d go back through one or more articles to polish it up and so on.

The value of the ticking clock and the 50 minute deadline is that it gives you lots of focus – so you shut the door, don’t allow any interruptions and give 100% focus to the task at hand. So you’re not checking emails, or the news, or chatting to someone on Skype, etc. during that window of time.

Schedule When You Check Email

It also helps not to constantly check email as it’s continually distracting and has a massive negative effect on productivity.

I often check it only every couple of days or so, with a specific window of time in which to open and reply or otherwise process emails, and maybe scan it in between just in case anything urgent comes up that needs to take priority there and then.

If you currently have things set up so that your email client automatically checks for new messages, you can change the settings so that email is only checked when you manually press the “get mail” button .

Use Voicemail To Your Best Advantage

Similarly, when you’re in your 50 minute work window, don’t answer your cell phone or landline telephone. If it rings just let it go to voicemail .

For landlines, place the answering machine somewhere else or turn the volume off so you’re not distracted by any message coming through. You can always check voicemails sometime later when it’s more convenient to you.

Work and Kids…

In terms of working from home when the kids are off school, I now work in a dedicated area of the house, and when I need to focus the door is shut and the children know not to disturb me or start knocking on the door unless it’s a life-threatening emergency (which has actually happened on a couple of occasions, but all kids lived to tell the tale).

Before this ‘rule’ I was frequently disturbed for various reasons, such as the latest picture they’d drawn, or sympathy for a cut knee. But they’ve learned to respect the rule, and it works very well.

In between my work windows, I’ll spend time with them then and relieve my wife for a bit. I tend to work a bit of a reduced schedule anyway, and that let’s us spend more time as a family.

In terms of noise interference while I am trying to focus, headphones and iTunes really help!

Working with a Newborn in the House…

A few thoughts on this…

1 -Lower your work expectations, at least for the first weeks…

In terms of having a new baby in the house (which out of four children, three have been born while I’ve been running my own business, so I have more than a little experience!) it’s really about firstly accepting that disruption to normal routines is inevitable and to accept it, especially for the first couple weeks or so.

Take the pressure off of yourself and plan to work less, at least for the first couple weeks, and enjoy that time out!

2 -Remember what it’s all about…

Secondly it’s actually a real privilege to have been at home and able to spend a lot more time with the baby and supporting my wife where I can. Being grateful for a work-from-home situation and getting to spend extra time with family does wonders for increasing patience and helping a person to focus.

3 -Communication and encouragement is key.

Thirdly, another thing that really has made a difference is helping my wife to understand that although I am at home, and however tempting it can be to immediately request my assistance, that doesn’t mean I can always just down tools and help out with every mini-emergency (and with a new baby, there are several!) .

For example, I wouldn’t be around at all if I had a normal ‘job’, at least after the first couple weeks or so. It was actually quite empowering for my wife to realize she was able to manage and cope perfectly well, with less assistance required from me except the odd, more real crisis moment, usually involving hastily run baths and a change of clothes!

It’s worth it!

This lifestyle of being able to spend every day working from home, having as much family time as possible, with an extremely flexible schedule and able to travel any time of the year is what drew me to be interested in starting my own business to begin with.

There is certainly less structure than a regular job, and that requires more innovation and resolve on my part. Yes, there are some special situations that make it hard to focus, but you kind of get used to the noise and learn to tune the appropriate things out to some extent (the 50 minute time boxing helps a lot with that!).

Now, what I really want to know is:

Do YOU have any tips for staying focused when working from home?

What about working with kids in the house?


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9 Responses to “Do You Have Any Tips For Staying Focused While Working From Home?”

  1. I find that getting little bits done on a very frequent basis helps a lot. My daughter is 2 years old and can be very disruptive when she’s around so it’s very difficult to get any decent time in chunks.

    The key is to have a clear task to complete and get little bits of it done whenever you have the chance. Switch off the phone and email for a while and just focus.

  2. Sir,
    To work at home better we should feel free to ask the help from our family members if it is required in any form. we can remember our past when we were struggling to work in the office and now we have improved. we can conclude that in what topic we are going to work that will help only to concentrate in the required field.

    with regards,
    R.Umamaheshwaran

  3. Think of a reward you’ll get at the end of the 50 minutes, IF you are productive during your 50 minutes. It’ll be a small reward most likely, but it helps me keep going in the afternoon when I feel sluggish.

  4. Given that I’m a solopreneur and my business is tripartite, meaning I coach clients, edit books—fiction and non-fiction—as well as write reports, e-courses, articles and books, I could easily get distracted and lose my way. Furthermore, I participate in on and offline events and do marketing, etc. Not to mention I have my domestic and personal life. As such, I have to micro-manage tasks to get through each day

    To get focused in my business life and life in general, I use a desk diary. I prefer this rather than an online diary more from habit. In addition, I tend to retain things better when I write. I find that prioritising tasks in my diary and ticking them off as I go through the day gives me a sense of direction. In addition, I am able to gauge my production level, and therefore, determine how successful I am at reaching my goals and intentions.

  5. Mark Demers says:

    I just keep on day and night and I forgo sleep when I really want to get something done. Late night when everyone`s sleeping is the quietest time and the best time for doing any writing because there are no interruptions ever. You don`t waste your time either because you want to get finished – the only draw back is finishing before your piece is really ready- I always set time aside to proof read all my writing I have done at night. After sleeping you always find things you can make better but the majority of the work I get done at night.
    There`s nothing worse than being in the groove while writing and a phone call distracts you.
    I also work on Sundays when it`s quiet. During the weekdays it`s always too hectic for me to write without interruptions.

  6. As a homeworking copywriter, as well as an author of How to Work from Home and a mentor for freelancers on the subject here are a couple of thoughts.

    The reason we get distracted when working from home (or anywhere else for that matter), is because we not fully absorbed in the task in hand (think how we stay involved with an exciting film or book when we want and tune out everything else). And one of the main reasons this can happen is because we are ill at ease in our working space. So, take a more flexible approach to your working space.

    For example, my office is gloomy in the mornings, which makes me think about how nice it would be to working in a brighter environment. So, rather than let that thought distract me, I pick up my laptop and go and work in sunnier rooms. My mood quite literally lightens and rather than being resentful, I get more done.

    Also, a cluttered office can be subconsciously very distracting. So, from time to time institute and out of sight out of mind policy. Grab all those miscellaneous files, documents, folders, books and knick-knacks that are knocking around and put them inside some archive boxed. You can start feeling in control immediately. This really works if you’re faced with a crucial deadline.

  7. I would say…the best way is to create a secluded home office, and the most important thing, TREAT IT AS AN OFFICE!

  8. I totally agree with your tips when working at home. I always set my priorities the day before and if I can get the top most important done for that day, I am happy, if I get more or all of them done, it’s a great achievement. What is also important is what are you spending your time on – making money tasks or busy tasks example checking emails, meetings etc. Spend most of your time on money money tasks – sales and marketing.

  9. Brimshack says:

    Time-Boxing eh? I’ll try it.

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