Working at home: Ditching Distractions

One of the benefits of working from home is the flexibility to work anytime and anywhere. However, that also means being able to shut out the distractions that surround you at any given time. For me that can mean tuning out the TV, letting the answering machine pick up calls or shutting down my email program – whatever it takes to allow me to focus on the project at hand. Over the years, I’ve found a few things that have helped me accomplish this on a regular basis:

Set Aside Time
Having set working hours or setting aside a certain amount of time each day is extremely important when working from home. The times when I’ve gone through my days hoping that I’ll find the time to get some work done are the times that I’ve struggled the most.

I know of many work-at-home moms that band together and create a co-op where they take turns watching the kids while the other moms in the group work. This way each mom spends a few hours a week away from work while babysitting, but in return is able to focus solely on her business during the times her children are away.

Organize (But Not While You’re Supposed To Be Working)
I’m not an organized person by nature, but when it comes to my business I know that I must be. I’m a list person, so I make a series of lists at the beginning of each week for what needs to be accomplished each day. This helps keep me on track and gives me an idea of how much work time I need to aside each day.

Professional organizer Megan Spears agrees. She states, “The benefits of list making can allow you to relieve your mind of all those things swirling around up inside. Making that list can allow you to empty your mind of information so that you won’t stress about “trying to remember” tasks or activities.”

Turn It Off
A short while ago I took a day and tracked everything that I spent time doing. Hands down, my big time waster was checking my email – especially during time when I was supposed to be doing something else. I’ve learned that when I’m writing or working on a project, the email program must be turned off. This goes for other time wasters such as the television and even the phone. When I’m working, I generally let the answering machine do it’s job. I try to be careful, though, to return calls in a reasonable amount of time.

Know When To Multitask … And When Not To
One of the dilemmas that work-at-home moms face is balance. Because we want to accomplish as much as possible in a given day, we are tempted to do as many things at a time as possible. This can work with menial tasks (think cooking dinner while updating your favorite social networking website), but when you’re handling work for a client or in the midst of a large project it is actually more effective to focus one just that one thing.

Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking, puts it this way:

“When people attempt to multitask, what they are really doing is switching rapidly back and forth between tasks. This is why I prefer to refer to multitasking as switchtasking . It is these switches that cause people to lose time. In this way, switchtasking causes us to be exponentially less productive.”

We don’t want to lose the freedom that being a work-at-home mom allows, but by re-evaluating how we’re spending our time we can increase our efficiency and eliminate distraction. By making these few simple changes we can not only get more done, but also do a better job of balancing our professional lives and our personal ones.

– Jill Hart

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