I accomplish far more when I work from home than when I go to the office, no doubt because of my experience as a successful freelance writer. You can’t make a living writing if you’re distracted at home!
These tips are inspired by Sam, an accountant who wants to know how to work from home without getting distracted…
“I work in an accounting firm and have the option of working from home 2 days a week. I’ve tried it, but find that I can’t focus on work when I’m at home, due to all the distractions and projects. How do I stay focused when I work from home? I want it to work, to be a telecommuter, but I also want to stay productive and keep my job. What are your tips?” – on How to Telecommute – 5 Tips for Working From Home.
If you haven’t read The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, you need to get it today. Ferriss shares dozens of tips for being productive and effective – you’ll cut your work day in half.
How to Work From Home Without Getting Distracted
I’m just finishing a 9 month contract with Big Brothers as a Mentoring Coordinator; I spent far more time working from home than in the office. And, I got much more accomplished when I worked from home. The office is teeming with interesting people to talk to, random distractions, and unexpected invitations to lunch, impromptu meetings, etc.
For me, the office is the least productive place to work. My home is the most productive – but as I said, my job as a successful freelance writer required me to know how to work from home without getting distracted!
Figure out why you can’t stay focused
Some people – like my husband – have a hard time working from home because they’re tempted to work on home projects (eg, fix leaky taps, wash the car, take the remote control helicopter for a spin to make sure it still works). Other people miss the social aspects of work , such as the water cooler discussions. And others just don’t have the discipline to actually do work when they’re at home.
If you don’t like to work from home because you miss the socialization, then none of my tips on how to work from home without getting distracted won’t work. You can’t re-create the social aspects of the office at home, which means telecommuting isn’t the right option for you.
Recruit an accountability partner
Find someone at work you can be honest with. Tell him that you have a hard time working from home without getting distracted, and you need to “confess” how you spend your time. Trust me – if you have to ‘fess up to spending an extra hour playing with the dog instead of checking your work email, you’ll get to that email faster.
Schedule regular check-ins with your accountability partner, and be honest about how you spend your time.
If you want to work from home because you’re having problems at work, read When You Hate Your Job – 8 Ways to Turn Your Career Around.
Stay in touch with your colleagues and supervisors
Here’s a great tip from Alison Green, on How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind (or Your Job):
“When you’re telecommuting, you risk losing your connection to your boss and co-workers, and even having people wonder what you’re doing all day. To combat this, proactively let people know where projects stand and what your priorities are for the week. Additionally, while you should always stay on top of your email and phone messages, it’s especially important if you telecommute. If you let emails or phone messages go unanswered, you risk people thinking that you’re not working as hard as you would if your colleagues could see you.”
Being available via email, phone, or Skype is crucial when you’re working from home. This doesn’t just show your colleagues that you’re actually working, it keeps you accountable to yourself.
Stay focused on your career goals
After I’m finished my contract with Big Brothers (at the end of this month), I’m starting my MSW (Master’s of Social Work) at UBC (University of British Columbia). Part of my motivation to do a really good job as a Mentoring Coordinator was my next step, to graduate school. I needed good references to get into grad school – and just as importantly, I needed to know that I did a good job in my contract with Big Brothers.
What are your career goals? Keep them on the tip of your tongue. Knowing where you want to go next is a great way to stay focused when you work from home.
If you’re not sure what your career goals are – or if you want a new job – read How to Choose a New Career When You’re Over 40.
Are you good or bad at working from home without getting distracted? Tips and comments welcome below…