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Most professionals agree working from home is a great experience. Your morning commute is a mere traversal between the coffee pot and your computer, and no one will ever know if you spend your entire day in yoga pants. For many of us, working from home means more freedom in your schedule to catch up on a few household chores or pick the kids up from school. But sometimes these benefits can also become challenges to productivity.
Your neighbor’s landscaping service, piles of laundry begging your attention or your restless pet attacking a squeaky toy during a conference call. (And of course, beloved friends and family who believe that work-from-home jobs translate directly into “available 24/7.”) Our ability to focus is constantly being tested.
As a remote employee, meeting goals in a timely manner has everything to do with your job security. Management can’t observe your work initiative in person, which means the proof is in the output. Here are some tips on how to keep your nose to the grindstone despite the numerous distractions at home.
Before you can improve your focus, you must understand where it falls short. Apps like TrackTime, TopTracker and Toggl run in the background of your computer system and can monitor everything from how many hours you spent in email to how long you fiddled with your Netflix account. Review a report of your activity to pinpoint the biggest distractions.
According to research, taking a 17-minute break every 52 minutes yields the most productivity. Set a timer and every 52 minutes—reward yourself with 17 minutes to do whatever activity is on your mind. Prep the slow cooker for dinner, switch a load of laundry, play fetch with Fido or briefly tune in to your favorite streaming show.
Research repeatedly shows that music improves productivity, concentration, morale and work efficiency. Spotify offers a series of “mood” and “focus” stations with playlists like “Brain Food” and “Deep Concentration” that help the brain settle into a state of attentiveness. Another music app, focus@will, applies principles of neuroscience to increase focus.
Apps like Wunderlist, todoist and ToodleDo allow work-from-homers to plan tasks, set due dates and reminders, assign priority levels and attach notes for each task. By scheduling every task on your plate, remote workers always know what their next objective is, which makes it more difficult to veer off track.
If social media sites and web surfing have a tendency to distract you from your work, apps like Freedom can help. This app allows you to block specific websites or applications for specific timeframes (for example, work hours) and even initiate a lock mode that prevents bypass until the block session has expired. Best of all, the block will be applied to all devices, rendering your smartphone and tablet useless for play.
If an email will take more than a few minutes to draft—opt for a quick phone call or video chat. With the average professional sending and receiving about 122 emails per day, we lose many time-managing communications. And as a remote worker, you can probably benefit from a more personal interaction with your coworkers.
Working from home equally benefits organizations and employees. But for the arrangement to be effective, you must learn how to stave off distractions at home and customize your work style to your behaviors.
Editor's Note: This post was previously published on Inc.com and has been republished here with permission.
Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.