7 Ways To Beat Distractions When Working from Home

Last Updated Nov 5, 2008 3:28 PM EST

2525249713_3549bc674b_m.jpgAs a freelance writer, my office is located in my home. I constantly grapple with the challenge of staying focused on my work with so many distractions surrounding me. There's a dog to be walked, laundry to be done, broken latches to be fixed, a yard to rake... and when you're a procrastinator like me, all these chores seem much more appealing than toiling away on a project.

And of course, there are those distractions outside my control: the gardener at my neighbor's house with his electric blower, the delivery truck rumbling by, the persistently cackling crow breaking my concentration.

Those of you who work from home regularly or occasionally know what I'm talking about, so I thought you'd appreciate a few tips on how to stay focused in a non-office environment.
  1. Raj Dash, writing on Freelance Switch, suggests working in the basement or using white-noise generators to carve out some quiet. You could also try ear plugs or a more high-tech option like professional noise-reducing earmuffs.
  2. If it's the little sounds that bug you but a din doesn't distract, work in a coffee shop instead. (Bonus benefit: snacks and beverages on hand.)
  3. Doug Heacock at Underpants Office tries to get his chores done before the workday starts, to keep them from interfering during his housebound business hours.
  4. If that doesn't work for you, create a schedule that allocates your saved commute time for the home-related tasks on your mind. If you normally commute an hour round-trip to your office, break that 60 minutes into shorter chunks to let you empty the dishwasher, run a quick errand, or mow the lawn without guilt.
  5. If there's no avoiding the distraction for the moment -- the dog barking furiously at the mailman as he makes his rounds, the pipes groaning while your upstairs neighbor showers -- work on administrative tasks and chores instead. File your e-mail, update your to-do list, and focus on things that need to get done but don't require a lot of concentration. This keeps your productivity high and gets you primed for work when the distraction ceases.
  6. If you regularly work from home, consider installing a separate phone line for business. This allows you to ignore calls that come in on your home phone since you know they're not work-related. As an alternative, ask your boss and co-workers to call your cell phone or e-mail you instead.
  7. Give in to some distractions in the name of taking breaks. When I eat lunch, I check news Web sites, read a chapter or two in a novel, or watch a TV show I've TiVo'd. I'd take the same time off if I was in an office, and the short pause refreshes and recharges me.
How do you stay focused and productive when working from home? Share your tips and ideas in the comments section. If we get enough good feedback, I'll collect the best suggestions and print them in a future post.

(image by garethjmsaunders via Flickr, CC 2.0)
  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.

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