Skip to main content

Don't get distracted from working at home


Home office
Photo by furnishu/stock.xchng

After I returned to work full-time a few years ago (after working a part-time schedule while my children were young), I was able to telecommute from home two days a week.  How I looked forward to the days I did not have to fight metro Detroit traffic on I-696.  And how convenient it was to throw a couple loads of laundry in the wash.

After a corporate reorganization eliminated our business unit (nicely worded, huh?) along with our jobs, I used the experience as an opportunity to see if I could work from home as a freelancer.  Would I have the discipline?  The motivation?  Could I be free enough from distractions to actually get things done? 

It's a harder to work from home when you don't have a defined workload like I did when I was employed with a technology services corporation.  Then, I knew what I had to do every day, whether it was building product structures or teleconferencing with colleagues.  As a freelancer, it seems it's easier to get distracted when you don't actually report to anyone.  You essentially work for yourself, alone and without the expectation that you will perform a set amount of work each day. 

If you are someone who works from home, whether for yourself or somebody else as a contractor or permanent employee, you've probably experienced a few distractions of your own that occasionally prevent you from doing work you get paid to do. 

A quick review of the web offers the following suggestions to keep you on track as a home-based worker.

1.  Set a working schedule.  Don't be afraid to mold it to your natural schedule especially if you are likely to be more productive at certain times of the day.  So set it, and stick with it.

2.  Establish a functional workspace.  Make sure it has everything you need to get the job done - i.e. supplies, software, fast Internet connection - and represents a separation of work from home.  (Or in my case, the laundry room.)  You will be freer from the natural distractions of daily home maintenance.

3.  If you have young children, consider putting them in daycare for a few hours each day.

4.  Get dressed as though you are going to work.  Or at the very least, shower, shave and dress appropriately.  Don't stay in your PJs lest you be tempted to turn on The View.

5.  For those times that require sustained focus, turn off your phone, e-mail and IM privileges.  And don't go on Facebook!  (THESE will be hard.)

6.  Take breaks.  Your brain needs a little refreshing after a couple hours of intense concentration.  Reward yourself with a quick walk around the block or a game of "fetch" with your dog.  Or whatever you define as a welcome break.

7.  Since you won't have colleagues around to motivate you, you must learn to rely on self-direction and self-motivation.  Figure out ways to keep yourself motivated whether it's a long-term goal you are trying to achieve, or a sense that the work itself has its own rewards.  Whatever works to keep you going.

Finally, here's a video that aptly illustrates the distractions one mom experiences while working from home.  Warning: the quality of the video is a little lacking, but it's worth a few giggles.

Distracted work-at-home mom


  • Maria Larmer 5 years ago

    Thanks for those tips. Although some of them are familiar, it helps to be 'told' all over again. Writers need mentors to remind them what they must do to stay focused! Thanks for the mentoring!