How to Manage Distractions During Your Workday
The nature of my work and industry has allowed me to be either a work-at-home employee or an on-site employee for stretches of time. For over a decade of those years, my circumstances were quite challenging as I juggled career and family responsibilities as a single mother of two. Both work environments have their challenges for any parent, but, as a friend told me long ago, “You find a way.”
My children were very young when I became a single parent, and our well-being depended upon my focus on both them and my career. I measured success during that time by my professional growth, the dozens of industry awards I won, the lasting peer relationships I developed … and keeping two thriving youngsters on a good path, along with caring for our two dogs and a rabbit. Constantly shifting priorities became the norm. As you can imagine, outcomes were not always optimum, but I did my best.
Under normal conditions, at-home workers are more productive and they are more satisfied with their jobs, but these pandemic-era times are not ordinary. The backdrop to workers’ days are filled with worries about the pandemic, profound social unrest, joblessness, health issues, childcare, virtual learning, isolation, caring remotely for extended family, pet care, and much more. One of the findings in a recent report, Gender Differences in the Impact of COVID-19, is “women carried a heavier load than men in providing childcare after schools closed due to COVID-19. Compared to 14 percent of men, 44 percent of women reported being the only one in the household providing care.”
Meandering minds can be further driven to distraction by online shopping and non-work-related research, puzzles and games, etc. With career and life intertwined for many work-at-home employees, projects are taking longer to do, which can add even more stress.
In the past, I have experienced some of the chaos of having young children at your feet needing your attention while working, meeting deadlines into the wee hours, and doing it all over again the next day. Many employees will continue to work from home beyond this pandemic spell as companies plan to continue to save on real estate. But how can you successfully put yourself in a work-only bubble at home? Well, you can’t. Our women-owned company, Twirling Tiger Media, has always been a virtual company, and family caregiving plays a major role in my business partner’s life too. Here are some road-tested tips, complied from our past blogs and Knowledge Center, to help better shape your at-home workdays, and attain “good enough” results.
CREATE (SOME) STRUCTURE
- Stick to a self-care morning routine by using what would typically be your commute time to shower, dress, exercise, journal, meditate or listen to music.
- Create a schedule for your housemates (school-aged kids, adults, pets).
- Work during specific hours, and only stop for scheduled self-care or caregiving breaks.
- Jot down a weekly priority list. Cross off the completed items as a way to acknowledge your progress.
- Create a system for checking your messages … try checking for five minutes every half hour. Keep responses clear and brief.
- Have a morning, or weekly, online check-in where coworkers offer a quick rundown of what they’re working on to minimize message interruptions.
LESSEN “OFFICE” DISTRACTIONS
- Organize a designated work area and keep clutter to a minimum.
- Temporarily relocate to a quiet or creative space (when possible).
- Tidy up your desk and your files at day’s end.
- Remove devices and online notifications to dive into “deep work.”
- Cut back on meetings and the number of people that need to be involved in any decision.
- Avoid household chores and media during your designated work hours.
- Review notes, talk up goals and do some additional research to re-engage and get back in control.
- Still overwhelmed? Take a walk to clear your mind, soothe the soul and find new physical and creative reserves.
With my empty nest, I have only to co-parent our Boston terrier during my workdays. Regardless of any amount of freedom, creating a workday plan gives you an idea of what you are going to do in advance, rather than winging it and wondering what to do next.
Good luck out there.