How to reduce distractions when you work from home

I have been working from home for about 15 years. I also have ADHD. And lots of streaming subscriptions. And a PlayStation. And hundreds of books. And a fellow who sometimes works from home and equally knows the presence of said streaming subscriptions, PlayStation, and books.

The thing is, my house is full of distractions. Yours probably is too. I may have different attention spans, but still my attention wanders. And, like many workers, it may take a pandemic for you to find that it can be hard to avoid these distractions while working from home. (Work already provides a lot of distractions if you’re not careful—the constant pings of email and Slack can make you feel like you’re working all the time but not really doing anything.)

Sure, there are productivity and project management apps. But Todoist won’t help you resist TikTok’s siren calls, and Trello isn’t one to catch up with the dog. At a certain point, you can manage your distractions just by managing yourself.

accept your distraction

The first step to reducing distractions while working from home is to acknowledge that you get distracted because humans are distracted. It is part of your nature. And that’s fine.

Take, for example, someone who keeps falling asleep because they hit the snooze button on their alarm nine times before they finally wake up. Seasoned oversleepers know that one way to overcome this is to place the alarm clock several feet from the bed—having to get out of bed and walk across the room to hit the snooze button every time the alarm goes off. Oversleeper is required. At a certain point, just staying awake becomes more comfortable.

You can do the same with distractions — setting yourself up for distractions. From Your attention is distracted when you inevitably succumb to them (if not already).

Let’s say your weakness is television, and you know that if you decide to “take a quick break” in front of the TV, it’s an even-money shot that you’ll still be on the couch three hours later.

If you can’t resist the siren call of your Vizio, prepare yourself for minimal failure, if not success. Don’t risk getting sucked into a binge-worthy hour-long drama with eight episodes to go—and if you do, don’t wait to freak out until the end of an episode, when you’ll probably be at your most desperate next. To see what happens. Instead, do something simple that gets in and out of the story fast. A children’s cartoon divided into six-minute installments. A documentary series that takes only five minutes to explain how baseball gloves are made before moving on to medical electrodes. A daytime talk show that tackles questions of a child’s paternity or a lover’s fidelity amid ads from mesothelioma lawyers. Something that will quickly set you up for something new.

Or rather, your weakness is a special phone app. You may benefit from some kind of obstacle to get caught in it. My editor Nathan tells me he has success logging out, or outright deleting, addictive apps if they’re on a deadline. Personally, I sometimes like to leave my phone in the next room. (After all, the phone is there My Convenience, not other people’s.

set daily limit

But let’s say you don’t want to go that far, either because you have a job that requires you to use your phone often or you have a bad case of nomophobia. You can set a daily time limit for individual apps in Android and iOS.

in android

Tap the chart to set your timer

set app timer page

Select your app and set your timer.

  • go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls
  • tap chart
  • tap set timer Next to the app you want to limit
  • Select the time frame you want to set, then tap group

in iOS

screen time page ios

Screen Time lets you set limits.

Select Apps Display for Screen Time

Choose which apps you want to limit.

  • go to Settings > Screen Time
  • Make sure Screen Time is on
  • go to App Limitations
  • tap add border
  • Select app categories or individual apps you want to limit
  • tap next
  • Select the time frame you want to set (optional: you can tap Customize Day To set a time limit for specific days)
  • tap add

(Oh, and don’t forget to disable push notifications.)

If you tend to be kind and understanding enough with someone (and especially if they also work from home), try the friend system. Get to know each other’s bad habits. Then, if one of you catches the other “trapped” in a distraction, gently call it to the other’s attention to get them out of it. A simple “Hey. You’re stuck. If you’re both committed to doing better then unstuck” can work wonders.

To be clear, the goal is not to avoid non-action at all costs. The goal is to manage distractions. Sometimes, it means bowing down.

schedule everything

While recovering from a car accident years ago, my occupational therapist told me to not only take frequent breaks while working from home, but Schedule They break on my calendar—and to stick to them religiously as if they were a work call or deadline. Exactly the same for household chores, hanging out, and just about anything else that wasn’t “work”. Even eating had to go on the calendar.

I smiled and nodded and ignored this advice. I kept fighting.

In the end, I gave up scheduling things like laundry, snacks, and exercise, such that I was never working for more than 55 uninterrupted minutes (and usually less). A typical day in my calendar consists of 30- to 55-minute work blocks, punctuated by work breaks, food breaks, exercise breaks, rest breaks, and chores. Every minute was accounted for during my scheduled workday.

And of course, my physical condition gradually improved. (By the way, I’m better now.) But there was a curious side effect: I was Way more productive. Scheduling my distractions and my other non-tasks into my day, forcing myself to engage in them as forcefully as any “work” task, forced me to be more efficient and more focused on my work. does. And sticking to a strict schedule for mundane things like “watch TV” and “do the laundry” has helped me manage my ADHD symptoms—without ever making it feel overwhelming.

(I also did more laundry.)

It turns out that it resembles the Pomodoro Technique—a time-management method developed in the 1980s, whereby you work in 25-minute intervals with short breaks. And my routine resembles the 52/17 rule even more — a Pomodoro variation proposed by the Droujim Group, the creators of the productivity app DeskTime. In 2014, the company found that the most productive users of DeskTime would work for 52 minutes at a time, then take a break for 17 minutes, and so on. His breaks became more “effective” because he would be 100 percent dedicated to taking breaks during those 17-minute allotments—and, by extension, more devoted during his 52-minute work.

The main thing here is that breaks need to happen, so put them on your calendar. To the extent practicable, Schedule everything during your work-from-home workday. Every thing That phone call will take you to your doctor’s office by the time you want to play Fortnite. (And, of course, your actual work.)

Exactly to meet the needs of your cohabitants. Roommates, partners, family, pets – anyone you live with wants something from you from time to time. You have to be really good at saying no (learn to say no is beyond the scope of this article) if you want to reduce distractions, but there are things you have to say yes to. At some point, the kids will need to be picked up, the trash will have to go out, cook/order dinner, etc. Schedule as much in advance as possible. And if you both work from home, tag-team responsibilities (for example, “I’ll take on toddler duty during even hours, you take on toddler duty during odd hours.”)

Also, don’t forget negative scheduling. Sometimes, distractions are even more unwanted than usual (like when you’re on a video call, working on a complex problem, or rushing to finish a project). as you would (or, at least, should do) Be communicative with your remote co-workers. Let the people you live with know in advance that tomorrow at 1:30-2:30 pm is off-limits. Or that if your door is completely closed, don’t knock.

The result of all this is that, in order to avoid distractions while working from home, you have to avoid the distractions of work as well. living From home. Unless you really have the kind of job where you have to be available 24/7, make sure you’re off the clock when you’re away – whether at dinner time, bedtime, family time or for alone time. You may not make the most of your work if you are making the most of your life.

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