If you work from home, avoiding distractions is close to impossible. Family members and friends don’t respect your working hours, notifications keep flowing in, and your mind wanders at its own discretion. These interruptions lead to a painful productivity loss but being productive at home isn’t impossible.
If you could just avoid distractions and stay focused, you would find flow more often. And flow is just what you need that deliver the top-quality stuff you’re aiming for.
I could now give you a list of numbers and stats about how many times people get interrupted and other blabla. But that’s not what you’re here for right? We all know the answer is too much. You’re here because you want solutions. So that’s what you’ll get.
Three ways to avoid distractions while working from home:
Set goals and plan your day to find focus
The first step to avoiding distractions is to plan your day well and set good deadlines. Set tasks for the day ahead so you know what to focus on. Why? Because if you’re not sure what to focus on, it’s not easy to distinguish between concentration and distraction. In Nir Eyal’s words: ‘You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from. If you don’t schedule your day, you can’t possibly know the difference between what you intended to do and what was a distraction.’
So planning and focus are deeply connected with intent. If you’re clear about what you want to achieve, it’s a whole lot easier to zone in. Clear goals lead to better concentration and higher motivation .
Knowing what you’re working on and why takes you a step closer to a flow state. Once you get into that state, your concentration and focus will be so high you might forget about your distractions altogether.
Have you ever been so focused on winning a game of FIFA or Call of Duty that you didn’t hear your mom calling for dinner? That’s the concentration level you’re aiming for. However, you’re going to be focused on the even more satisfying goal of completing a top-quality project.
Set goals and plan ahead to work with intent and avoid distractions.
Set up your environment to avoid distractions
Distractions and interruptions are everywhere. They never pause and never hide. Fortunately, we can set up our environments to avoid distractions.
I’m not just talking about what’s around you. I’m talking physical, mental and virtual environments.
By creating a peaceful and organised workspace, you prevent visual triggers from interrupting your thought process. Always tidy up after work to disconnect and start afresh the next day.
Mental distractions are very often overlooked, yet they are ever-present. Find some mindfulness practices to learn how to focus on the present. Your mental environment also benefits from habits and routines. Create automated actions to have more productive days without distractions.
Finally, set up your virtual environment to limit distractions. Turn off push notifications. If you need further protection from other online evil, such as social media, consider installing an extension to block access to certain websites.
Avoid distractions by setting up your mind, workspace and virtual environment for optimal focus.
Use your phone sparingly
For starters, it’s best to avoid the use of your phone altogether. Put it in flight mode. Or at least put it on ‘do not disturb’ and leave it face down, preferably out of reach and out of sight.
However, the phone can be a productivity tool as well. You might use it for to-do lists, as a habit tracker or to practise the Pomodoro technique.
As with everything, your phone isn’t harmful when it’s used in the right amounts. The iPhone lets you set time limits for apps. I’m sure Android phones have similar functionalities. Use this feature to limit social media and gaming time. If you want to use those apps beyond your limit, you’ll need to introduce a passcode. I advise you to ask a friend or family member to set that code. If you set it yourself, it just won’t work.
You might also want to curb your overall smartphone use. People have become so addicted that they often feel anxious if they don’t have access to their phone. It’s called nomophobia. Even with phones within reach, people are compelled by anxiousness to check for new notifications regularly. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this interferes with their ability to focus. Moreover, people who do this literally train themselves to seek distraction.
This is where Pomodoro apps, such as forest, come in handy. Set timers to indicate how long you should focus on work and how long you’re allowed to check social media in between. The former should be at least three times as long as the latter.
As wandering to your phone is often unconscious at first, make it harder to reach your social media apps. Don’t leave them on your start screen. It’s even better if you put them in a folder somewhere far away.
Use your phone wisely and be aware of the overall consequences of phone addiction
Say goodbye to distractions
Even though avoiding distractions while working from home isn’t an easy task, it’s one you’ll better get used to. Covid-19 has changed the world forever. Start creating a distraction-free environment because full-time office work may well be a thing of the past already.
Remember to plan well in order to improve focus. Don’t let that focus be interrupted by any preventable distractions. Set up your environment to limit noise and visual interruptions. This includes your phone.
And don’t forget, avoiding distractions helps you induce flow. You can do it.
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Sources and further reading/watching on how to avoid distractions
- Heckhausen, Jutta & Heckhausen, Hanz. Motivation and Action. Springer — https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-319-65094-4
- Sörqvist, Patrik & Marsh, John E. How Concentration Shields Against Distraction. NCBI— https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4536538/
- Ay Mires, Ericson. LifeHack — https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/10-critical-tips-prevent-distraction-and-sharpen-your-focus.html
- D’Onfro, Jillian. CNBC — https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/03/how-to-curb-you-smartphone-addiction-in-2018.html
- Eyal, Nir. Nir & Far — https://www.nirandfar.com/schedule-maker/
- Glavesky, Steve. HBR — https://hbr.org/2019/12/10-quick-tips-for-avoiding-distractions-at-work
- Olivia, Krauth. TechRepublic — https://www.techrepublic.com/article/11-ways-to-eliminate-distractions-while-working-from-home/
- Zipkin, Nina. Entrepreneur — https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/240176
- VIDEO: David Goleman on Focus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTfYv3IEOqM&list=PLTwM19ISWSJnzFJnoJ6aMUI6XUDjb52nC&index=6&t=0s