One of the biggest productivity drains that most freelance writers and other small business owners complain about is distractions.
All day, every day, we are surrounded by circumstances that distract us from the work we are trying get done.
Luckily, there are ways to keep distractions to a minimum.
Handling distractions is a key part of becoming more productive. In this post, I explain how you can quickly and effectively handle five of the most common distractions freelance writers and other work-at-home professionals face.
This post is part of my series on How to Get More Done and Earn More $$.
Distraction #1. Noise
If you’re one of those people who can focus in a noisy environment, count yourself lucky. If you’re like the rest of us and find too much noise to be distracting, there are some steps you can take to manage the noise level around you.
Here are four tips to help you work well in a noisy environment:
- Shut the door. Not every freelance writer has a home office with a door, but if you do — use it. Also train family members that when your home office door is shut you are working and they need to be quiet. Post a sign on your door if you have to.
- Use noise-canceling headphones. Good noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can help reduce the noise around you. If you decide to go this route, it does pay to spend a little more and get a good pair. Note: Don’t use noise-canceling headphones if, for some reason, you need to hear the noises around you. (For example, if you care for a small child.)
- Work off-hours. So, you don’t have a private office and your house is noisy. You can still escape the noise for a few hours by getting up before everyone else or by working after everyone else has gone to bed. I know tons of writers who do this.
- Turn ringers and alarms off. This may seem like common sense, but it helps. In the age of voice mail, it’s acceptable to turn your ring tone down or off when you need to focus. Just don’t forget to check it from time to time.
Distraction #2. Other People
You work from your home, but your friends and family don’t see it that way. All they know is that you’re at home and they think that means you’re available.
Other people be a huge annoyance and distraction for the home-based business owner. One of the most effective ways to deal with this distraction is also one of the hardest. You need to learn to say “no,” when that friend calls you to go shopping or to the movies during the day.
Also, get in the habit of mentioning your work. I used to be guilty of not mentioning my work. As a result, I was plagued with friends wanting to hang out or teachers wanting me to volunteer during the day.
Once I started saying things like, “I’d really like to help, but I’m working on a tight deadline right now” and “I have to research and complete a report for my client by Friday,” the would-be distracters backed off.
Managing how people perceive your small business is your responsibility. Don’t downplay the work part of working from home.
Distraction #3. The Web
The Internet is where many of find our writing assignments. We also use it for research and to network with clients and other writers.
The Web can also be a huge distraction. If you’ve ever spent an entire afternoon taking mindless quizzes or playing a social game, you know what I mean.
There are techniques you can use to improve your focus even while you’re online. Here are several tricks to keep you on task:
- Use a timer for social media. Decide how much time you’re going to spend on social media each day. Set an alarm to go off when your allotted time is over.
- Choose an Internet-free day. Yes, you use the Internet to promote your business and to do research. But you do an awful lot offline too.
- Track your time. The amount of time you waste may surprise you. Apps like ManicTime and RescueTime are designed to let you know how you spend your time online.
Distraction #4. Chores
If you work from home, you’re likely surrounded by undone chores. The temptation to take “just a few minutes” to tackle them can be overwhelming. If you’re not careful, those few minutes can grow until they absorb a good part of your work day.
In most cases, you can allow those undone chores to remain undone for a just a bit longer until you complete your work.
Need to wash the windows? If you can still see out of them, go ahead and save your window cleaning for a less busy day?
What about that messy closet? Should you spend a few hours to sort it out? No, you should not. Not if you want to meet your deadlines, anyway.
See what I mean?
One way to tackle the temptation of chores is to set up core work hours for yourself. Set a block of time aside for your business tasks and commit to using that time only for business tasks. Make a similar commitment to handle household chores during your “off hours” (the time you have not set aside for work).
Remember, if you were in a traditional job your employer wouldn’t want you to stop working in the middle of the day to clean the office windows (unless window cleaning was your job…). You should give your home business the same importance. After all, it is a real job–isn’t it?
Dictraction #5. Worry
I have a small confession to make. I can be a worrier sometimes.
Unfortunately, worry can be a huge distraction. I know that if something is bothering me it tends to occupy a lot of my thoughts.
If you struggle with worry, consider doing the following:
- Banish negative thinking. Remind yourself that much of what we worry about never comes to pass. Instead of thinking about negative possible outcomes to your problems, imagine positive ones.
- Talk to someone. I don’t know why, but speaking a worry to someone else often robs it of its power. Plus, a supportive friend can lend valuable perspective to your problems.
- Get professional help. For some people, worry may be overwhelming no matter what they do. If this happens to you, don’t go it alone. Find a competent mental health professional.
What distractions do you face and how do you overcome them?
Share your thoughts in the comments.