4.5.11 – Question of the Week: How To Stay Focused If You Work From Home?

A few weeks back when I was speaking to a group of US federal workers, one person asked how she could stay focused while working from home.  She wanted to work from home, given her long commute into the Washington DC area, but found herself easily distracted when in the home office.  Here are a couple of tips to stay productive:

  1. Have goals.  You may already have yearly goals, probably as part of your annual review process. However, you should have monthly, weekly and even daily goals of what you need to get done. Yes, I have lots of ‘to-do’ lists but I also have my essential daily/weekly goals of what is critical.  I’m also a big David Allen fan and his Getting Things Done (GTD) approach (link below).  
  2. Plan your day.  Based on your goals, plan your day and week.  This should include breaks and any personal errands too.  Household chores calling you?  That’s fine as long as it is part of your schedule.  Think of it this way: if you worked in a traditional office you would use your lunch hour for personal errands, so it is okay to do the same if you work from home or a place where your boss is not standing over you.  As long as it is part of your daily plan and not interfering with your primary goal, getting work done, you should be okay.   
  3. Recognize your distractions.  It never fails to amaze me how many people want to work from home and assume how easy it will be.  Don’t be fooled, working from home has many challenges.  Do you have kids? A spouse at home?  Pets?  Telemarketers/solicitors that constantly try to get your attention?  Think of all the potential distracters that could interfere with your work and then develop some mitigation plans.  If you have family members, roommates, or other people around your home office, set the expectations up front of what you expect in terms of noise level, working hours, etc.    
  4. Check your home office set up.  Is your home office facilitating your work or hindering it?  Are you trying to work out of the bedroom or living room, in a high traffic area or right next to the television?  Do you have a quiet place away from noise and distractions?  Check out Jeff Zbar, Chief Home Officer, and some of his tips for setting up your home office (link below).  Having the right home office can be critical to avoiding distractions.

Not everyone is cut out to work from a home office.  Working from home requires self-discipline, solid organizational skills, and the ability to work.  However, I believe that anyone can do it if they have the desire and the right mindset. 

David Allen: www.davidco.com

Jeff Zbar: www.chiefhomeofficer.com


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