Working at home means you no longer have to cope with the distractions of an office environment. No more ringing phones, loud talking or coworkers interrupting you. A home office is not an interference-free zone, though. In fact, you’ll find a whole new genre of distractions when you work at home.
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The noise of loud neighbors through thin apartment walls, friends and family calling and texting, the internet – all of these can all be totally distracting and stand in the way of your ability to focus and do your work.
The better you can focus, the better you can think, work, make your clients happy, earn good money and succeed. The ability to focus is very important for freelancers working at home, so I’ve written 11 ways you can stay focused when you work at home.
11 Ways to Stay Focused When You Work at Home
1. Keep your home office clean and organized – You’ve probably set up an office area in your home as your primary work space. Whether it’s an entire room or your entire sofa, keep it organized and keep it clutter free and clean. Well-organized spaces can help you think more clearly, focus better and be more productive.
2. Set up a secondary work space – Wherever you do most of your work, if it becomes noisy at times due to loud neighbors or other loud entities, move to another room so you can better focus.
Don’t just plop down in another spot with your laptop to wait out the noise, though. Bring other things you might need to work efficiently there for a while. Setting up this secondary work space can help you continue to feel like you’re really working and not just hanging out temporarily in another place in your home. You’ll be able to focus more easily than struggling through the noise in your primary work space.
3. Block noise – Working in another spot in your home may not do the trick if the noise is too permeating. Turning on some soft music may block it out. If the noise is too loud or if you find music itself to be distracting, you may want to try noise canceling headphones like these. A lot of freelancers who work at home swear by noise canceling headphones.
4. Get a focus app – Perhaps noise is not so much of a distraction for you. Maybe the internet is more of a problem. You may find that an app can help with that. There are quite a few apps – such as Cold Turkey, Freedom and Forest – that block the things on the internet that distract people from working. One of these may well be able to help you stay focused when you work at home.
5. Dress for success – You’re probably happy that you don’t have to follow an office dress code any longer, but how you dress when you work from home is still somewhat important.
A common image people have of working at home is typing on a laptop in your pajamas. This is actually not such a great idea. When you’re working from home, don’t dress like you’re ready to lie down and go to sleep. Put on something comfortable but something that at the same time reminds you that you are indeed working. You’ll be able to focus better and be more productive.
6. Take a lot of breaks – Everyone’s mind needs to rest from work. A productivity app called DeskTime shows that the most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break. Even if you work from home, you need pretty frequent breaks.
You may be someone who feels like you can focus for hours on end without stopping, but make yourself take breaks anyway. If necessary, make a note to yourself of where to pick up when you come back so you won’t waste time trying to figure out what you were doing. Taking breaks refreshes you, replenishes your mental and physical energy and helps you focus better once you resume working.
7. Exercise – You may have some extra energy now that you don’t have to wear yourself out fighting rush hour traffic and trudging into an office every day. You can use some of that extra energy to exercise. Getting exercise helps you to clear your head and focus better. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do it, just do some type of exercise – walking, yoga, weight training, exercise classes, whatever – a minimum of three times a week.
8. Meditate – External distractions like noise and the internet are one thing. Internal distractions like worry, sadness or even excitement are another. Emotions and thoughts can really cause you to have trouble focusing. Possibly the best way to deal with mental distraction is by meditating. This will help you clear your mind, feel calmer and be able to focus and think better.
9. Set goals and deadlines – You no doubt have deadlines for submitting work to your clients, and you may not want any more. But setting deadlines – or at least setting goals – for other aspects of your work can help make sure you don’t lose sight of things.
Give yourself soft deadlines for answering emails, returning calls and other things that keep you in business. You can help yourself focus by making these goals clear to yourself. Write them down and track your progress with a goal planner like this Panda Planner or this Goal Getter.
10. Set boundaries – Some people who don’t work at home can have trouble understanding that people who do work at home really actually need to work. Let your family, friends and anyone else who might have reason to interrupt you know that when you’re working, you really need to focus and get things done just like people who don’t work at home. Tell them that you might not be answering their calls and messages until after your work is finished each day.
11. Know when to surrender – Maybe you’ve been struggling to focus for an hour or more and just can’t make it happen. Fortunately, since you work at home, you can go do something else – something you have to do or something you just want to do – then come back in an hour or two.
When you return, you will have given your brain the long break it needs from work as well as the time and space to think about and do other things. A long break will allow you to be in a different place mentally when you go back to your computer so you’ll have a better chance of focusing and doing what you need to do.
Implement some – or all – of these focus tips and you will get a lot accomplished in your home office.