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Working from home can be challenging for many, especially if you aren’t used to it. But even if you have been doing it for years now, you might still struggle if you don’t use the right tactics to protect yourself from home distractions.
Kids, pets, smartphone addiction, and all kinds of entertainment that are available for you at home when nobody is watching make it almost impossible to be productive.
Depending on your current life situation, you may find it hard to stay focused on working in a place that your brain usually associates with “after-work” rest and relaxation. You may even think that there are too many distractions at home, and it’s just not for you.
But if you are reading this, you haven’t lost hope yet.
You know you can overcome most, if not all, of the work-from-home distractions if only you could find the right tools and strategies applicable to you.
Luckily, you found this guide.
We’ll take a look at six main sources of interruptions that are super common for someone who works from home – and the ways to deal with them effectively.
Whenever you decide to stop wasting time, making excuses, and blaming everyone and everything around you for your low productivity, implement these strategies and start taking responsibility for your life!
Too many distractions at home?
If you find it difficult to concentrate on work in the home setting, you are not alone. In fact, 99% of workers admit that they experience interruptions during the day.
According to Statista’s research conducted in the midst of the pandemic, the biggest distractions for home workers come from social media and housemates, followed closely by modern addictions like binge-watching TV shows, gaming, and online shopping.
Knowing how to handle each kind of distraction is important for ensuring top-notch performance, regardless of your field of work.
You might be good at setting boundaries with people but lose yourself in scrolling social media feeds. Another person might be using mobile app blockers like a pro and still get distracted by the dog.
Understanding your own sources of distractions that affect your work-from-home productivity and dealing with them in a smart way is the key to having good progress at the end of every workday.
Things that define your WFH distractions
Home distractions may be totally different for everyone, depending on:
- who you live with
- whether or not you have children and pets
- what is it that you do
- how old you are
- whether or not your friends and relatives take your work seriously
- how noisy your neighbors and neighborhood are
- your good and bad work habits
- whether you have any systems in place or use any productivity tools
- how addicted you are to social media platforms
- whether you have team members or work alone
- …and more
That’s why you need to look critically at your own day and uncover your personal biggest distractions to tame!
In this guide, we’ll discuss several typical home office interruption factors that are all possible to keep under control. For each of them, I’ll give you some practical tips you can apply to your workflow to stop these things from lowering your productivity.
6 biggest distractions when working from home
Remote work can be both a blessing and a curse unless you set the ground rules for your own sake.
These are the top 6 most common distractions that stop you from being productive at home and practical ideas on how to handle them:
1. Family and roommate interruptions
When working from home becomes a necessity, single people who live alone are arguably the lucky ones!
If this is you, you may as well skip this particular point and go straight to the next one. You basically have a personal office already that is even better than a real office full of distracting coworkers!
However, if that’s not your case and you indeed live with your life partner, a bunch of kids, other relatives, or at least one roommate, you may be susceptible to unlimited human-generated distractions during your workday.
How to handle household distractions
If you recognize that your main distractions at home come from family members or other people who live with you, it’s time to set some boundaries.
First of all, have “the talk” with every person who is part of your life on a daily basis. Let your close ones know exactly what you are doing, why it’s important to you, and that you need some quiet daily time to focus in order to succeed.
If you have a schedule for your day, share it with everyone as well. Ask friends not to call you during your working hours, and reinforce this boundary by not answering the calls if they do anyway.
Implementing boundaries is usually easier with adults, but there are a few things you can do to teach your kids that their mommy or daddy is busy and shouldn’t be disturbed:
- Have a fixed workspace.
When your kids see you sitting in the dining room with a laptop, they might not even realize that you are working. As soon as you declare some specific place at home as your office and sit there whenever you need to work, they’ll start to see a pattern and treat it accordingly. The ideal case is, of course, having a separate room for your home office and a Do Not Disturb sign, but if that’s not possible, work with what you have.
- Look busy and professional.
When you are in the same room with children, put a pair of noise-canceling headphones on and look serious. Come up with simple hand signals so you can clearly stop someone approaching you when it’s not a good time. Wearing more or less professional clothes instead of pajamas or your usual loungewear also gives everyone a clue that you are dressing up for work and not just sitting there browsing the Internet.
- Make them take you seriously.
If you already had the talk and your children still come knocking at your door all the time, you need to use a more serious approach to teach them the right behavior. What you say means much less to them than what you do, and if you say you are busy but still respond to their every call, they get mixed signals from you and never leave you alone. Explain to them again that you can’t be disturbed when you are in your “office,” and make an effort not to respond to the knocking every time.
- Develop a reward system.
If nothing else works, you can always promise a child some treat if they don’t interrupt you, say, for two hours in a row. Depending on their age, you may gradually extend this timeframe. By treats, I don’t necessarily mean unhealthy sweets! Come up with small perks according to their preferences and make it worth their while.
2. Social media and smartphones
Let’s face it, our social media feeds and smartphones are designed to keep us engaged, and it’s no surprise they can be a significant source of distraction.
Being aware of the ways social media and smartphones waste your time is essential for maintaining productivity while working from home. By blocking certain apps, turning off notifications, or not bringing the phone to your workspace, you’ll be better equipped to stay focused.
Thankfully, there are quite a few accessible modern tools that can help you regain control over your work performance.
How to handle social media distractions
Here’s a list of tips and tools to help you manage social media and smartphone distractions for better work productivity:
- Set boundaries.
Establish specific times for checking your social media feeds or personal messages on your smartphone. This can help you avoid mindlessly scrolling during work hours and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Use Do Not Disturb or Work Mode on your phone to avoid temptations, or lock it away if you don’t trust yourself.
- Work in focused sessions.
Utilize one of the focus apps to stay on track and motivated. These apps often use proven productivity techniques to enhance concentration and protect you from getting distracted, making it easier to complete tasks efficiently.
- Create a dedicated workspace.
Set up a separate comfortable area in your home for work and leave your phone in another room. This physical separation can help reinforce the distinction between work and leisure, which helps your brain focus.
- Block distracting websites.
Use dedicated software tools to restrict access to social media during work hours. These blockers can be customized to block specific sites or limit the time spent on them, increasing your work productivity.
- Turn off notifications.
Silence your phone or disable notifications for non-essential apps when you are working. Doing this reduces the constant urge to check your phone, allowing you to stay focused.
3. Distracting noise
Background noise can be a huge distraction when working from home, making it challenging to maintain focus and productivity.
It’s not uncommon to be annoyed at home by loud housemates, noisy neighbors, sounds from the street, or the constant hum of household appliances. All these noises can disrupt your workflow and make it difficult to concentrate on your tasks.
The impact of background noise on your work-from-home experience cannot be underestimated. It can undermine your ability to think clearly or creatively, cause mental fatigue, and stress you out, pretty much killing your chances of having a productive day.
Moreover, the unpredictable nature of these noises makes it difficult to establish a consistent and quiet work environment, leading to constant interruptions and frustration.
Ways to handle noise distractions at home
Here is what you can do to combat noise and create an undistracted work environment:
- Wear noise-canceling headphones.
Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out all external sounds. These headphones are a game-changer when you need to concentrate and get important work done.
- Listen to concentration music.
Try using a service like Brain.fm, which offers scientifically designed background music to improve focus and productivity. This can help you create an ideal work vibe, even when there is a lot of noise around you. (Read my full Brain.fm review here.)
- Soundproofing your home office.
Depending on your line of work, it might be a good idea to invest in soundproofing solutions for your home office, such as adding acoustic panels or weatherstripping doors and windows. These measures can significantly reduce noise levels, providing a more pleasant work environment.
- Establish a quiet work schedule.
If possible, coordinate with your housemates or family members to establish designated quiet hours during the day when everyone agrees to minimize noise and leave your work uninterrupted.
4. Email notifications
Emails don’t care that you are at home. They appear out of thin air, interrupt your process, and accumulate really fast if you don’t have a system to manage them regularly!
Personally, I used to struggle with this one a lot.
I am a very responsible and accountable person. When I was younger, I thought that being professional meant responding instantly to everyone. Therefore I used to receive immediate notifications and answer messages and emails the moment someone needed me.
Now I know better.
But if you happen to be like that version of me, you are in trouble.
Being this accessible can make you look great and benefit other people a lot, but it’s not healthy for your own productivity, nor for your project’s wellbeing in the long run.
Research shows that email usage habits directly affect your productivity and stress levels in the workplace, and not in a good way.
How to minimize email distractions at home
In one of my favorite books of all time, called The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss recommends checking your inbox no more than twice a day at specific times and setting up an autoresponder so people are aware of your schedule. If I remember correctly, in the book, he claimed to check his business emails just once a week.
Obviously, this is not realistic for everyone.
For me, the most effective way is to check emails between two or three bigger tasks during the day. I have a Do Not Disturb mode turned on for all but two separate hours of the day.
Here are some ways to manage emails that work for me and others:
- Leverage Do Not Disturb mode.
Activate this mode in your email client to minimize interruptions while working. Batch your emails and read them in bulk after completing important tasks to keep your inbox under control. Set up an autoresponder to keep everyone informed.
- Use an AI email assistant and set up filters.
Utilize one of the modern AI-powered email assistant tools to organize your mail and set up smart inbox filters to categorize incoming emails automatically.
- Unsubscribe from junk: Immediately unsubscribe from irrelevant subscriptions to reduce clutter. It might feel easier to just delete them, but it adds up month after month, eating at your work time. Also, archive or delete read emails promptly to maintain a clean and organized workspace.
5. Pets seeking attention
If you are a happy owner of one or several “fur babies” that roam freely around your house while you are working remotely, you don’t need me to tell you how utterly disrespectful they can be to your focused state when they need your attention.
Here are a few painfully funny real-life examples of working from home with pets!
Puppies on your knees, cats on your keyboard, and dogs under your desk already create plenty of distractions from your working mood, but things get even worse when it’s time for an important Zoom meeting.
How to work from home with pets
While there are lots of creative ways in which your fur family members can ruin your productivity, there are also some strategic steps you can take to make uninterrupted work possible:
- Get your pets tired in advance.
Go on a long walk before a big meeting and make sure they get enough exercise to leave you alone for a while. At the same time, make sure not to exhaust yourself, as there is a long workday ahead of you, and you may need that energy!
- Use noise-canceling software.
A smart voice assistant tool like Krisp is a lifesaver for pet owners as it removes noise from your dogs barking or playing with squeaky toys in the background during online meetings.
- Distract them strategically with good toys.
Give your dog something to pay attention to instead of you! Many pet owners find Chewy toys the most effective for entertaining their puppies during the remote working day.
- Take frequent breaks that benefit you both!
Sitting behind your laptop all day long is harmful to your health in many ways. Every doctor will tell you to give yourself a break every once in a while. When stretching your back and resting your eyes, why not cuddle with your pets to give them that much-needed attention?
6. Internet and games
Internet and gaming addiction can pose significant challenges for those working from home, particularly when it comes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance and taking advantage of flexible work arrangements.
The freedom that comes with remote work can sometimes lead to indulging in distractions like online shopping, browsing Reddit, binge-watching Netflix, or spending countless hours gaming instead of working.
These activities can be incredibly tempting, especially when there is no physical separation between your work and leisure spaces. As a result, procrastination becomes all too easy, and work productivity suffers.
How to avoid procrastination
When Internet and digital addictions take over, it becomes challenging to focus on work tasks, and the lines between personal and professional life become blurred. This can lead to increased stress and a feeling of being overwhelmed as work tasks pile up and the pressure to catch up intensifies.
But not to worry! No matter how big of a procrastinator you are now, you can gradually learn to become amazingly productive at home! The trick is to find all the sources of procrastination that ruin your day and deal with each of them one by one by identifying the reasons behind them.
Read these if you struggle with procrastination:
- 12 Best Apps & Tools To Overcome Procrastination
- How To Avoid Procrastination And Laziness: 10-Step Strategy
- 20 Best Books About Procrastination To Read In 2023
- 7 Powerful Affirmations For Beating Procrastination
- Procrastination Is Ruining Your Life? Let’s Fix It In 8 Steps
Now you are prepared for all the distractions at home!
Here you have them: six main sources of distractions to be aware of when you are working from home. Hope you find my solutions useful and they help you become a more productive remote worker!
One thing I didn’t mention that is also important is the ability to manage time well, prioritizing work-related tasks before neverending household chores. Interestingly, many people feel the need to do housework during working hours just because they are at home.
According to different sources, it can take more than 20 minutes to get back into a flow state with your task after a short, seemingly harmless interruption. That’s why it is important to minimize working-from-home distractions as much as possible and protect your productive flow during the day.