The events of the past few years have completely transformed the nature of what “being at the office” means for hundreds of millions of people around the world. If you’re one of those people, “going to work” now simply means going into your home office environment and sitting down at your computer.
Working from home eliminates the need for lengthy – and expensive, given today’s gas prices – morning and afternoon commutes. It’s also enabled many at-home workers to spend more time with their families and improve their work-life balance.
Others, however, have found that being productive while working at home isn’t always so easy. There are plenty of distractions at home that don’t exist in a traditional office, from family members and pets to the nonstop temptation of the ever-present web browser.
If you enjoy working at home and want to continue doing so, you need to show your employer that you’re just as productive as an in-office employee and perhaps even more so. To do that, you need your home office environment to be as conducive to productivity as it can be. That requires you to eliminate distractions and other factors that conspire to keep your mind off of your job.
Here’s how to do it.
If you’re a smoker, there’s a good chance that you’re stepping outside for cigarette breaks even though you’re at home. After all, you don’t want to expose your family and pets to secondhand smoke. Smoking inside also hurts your home’s resale value – and good luck trying to remove the smell of smoke from your home office after you’ve spent years of your life chain smoking in it. Every time you step away from your desk for a cigarette, though, you’re doing something that’s completely unproductive – and with nobody looking over your shoulder, there have probably been a few times when you’ve returned to your desk only to find that a half hour had passed. Stop smoking and grab a vape pen from a company like V2 Cigs UK instead. That way, when you need a nicotine fix, there’s no reason why you can’t stay at your desk.
Run Applications in Full-Screen Mode
One of the drawbacks of having a computer that can switch between applications on demand is that distractions are always a click away. Sports scores, news headlines, social media, instant messaging apps, games – you can switch between any of those things on demand, and your computer won’t even break a sweat. The problem is that – just like the smoke breaks mentioned above – time passes extremely quickly when you’re doing something that’s more entertaining than getting work done. Before you know it, you’ll look at the clock and realize that you’ve whiled away half of the afternoon and gotten absolutely nothing done.
The main point that we made in the previous section of this article is that you can’t be productive if you aren’t at your desk. Likewise, you’re not working if the main application that you use for work isn’t the thing that’s on your screen. Keeping that application in the foreground at all times will go a long way toward ensuring that you’re always as productive as you can be. To reduce the temptation to switch between applications, run your main application in full-screen mode and close other applications to prevent them from displaying notifications. You should also try the application’s “Focus” or “Distraction Free” mode if one is available.
Close Your Web Browser
When you’re trying to work, it’s likely that you’ll deal with more distractions from your web browser than from any other source. There’s just so much information and entertainment available at any given time, from sports scores to social media feeds – and you will never, ever run out of things to read and see. There’s only one solution: If you want to get things done while you’re working at home, you need to close your web browser.
What if closing your web browser isn’t an option because you need it in order to do your work? If that’s the case, you’ll need to work a little harder to eliminate those distractions. Try setting a rule in your home’s router to block your favorite web-based distractions during working hours.
Turn Your Phone Off
If your employer requires you to remain available by phone or email while you’re working, there isn’t much that you can do about it – you might receive a call while you’re working, and you’ll simply have to drop what you’re doing and take the call. If that’s not the case for you, though, turn your phone off when you’re working. So far, this article has focused on eliminating the potential distractions on your primary work device. Those steps won’t produce the desired effect, though, if the distractions simply move to another screen. Those calls and text messages from your friends don’t require instant responses – they’ll still be there when your work is done.
Clean and Organize Your Work Environment
Have you ever tried to do chores around your house while you’re supposed to be working? There’s always something around the house that needs to be done, whether it’s vacuuming the floor, doing the dishes, taking the clothes out of the dryer or something else. The problem here is that, once again, you’re not working if you aren’t at your desk.
Speaking of house chores, it is extremely difficult to stay on task when your home office environment is filled with reminders of the other things you’re supposed to be doing. When you look around your home office, do you see a dusty desk, cluttered shelves and a dingy floor? Every day, the fact that you’re avoiding those cleaning chores is going to weigh on you and prevent you from staying on task – so get them done. Take an afternoon off to clean your home office from the floor to the ceiling. Dust the surfaces, vacuum the floor and move the clutter to another room. You’ll find it much easier to keep your mind uncluttered if your environment is uncluttered.