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As a “work at home mum”, my workplace is rife with distraction – the washing that needs to go into the washing machine, the breakfast dishes that need to go into the dishwasher, the dishwasher than needs to be emptied, the kitchen floor that needs to be mopped, the kids toys strewn all over their bedroom floor, catching up with the next door neighbour for a coffee, checking out what’s happening on Facebook, getting stuck into that novel that’s calling me from my iPad … the list is endless! How well I can deal with these distractions, will directly impact on my productivity – or lack thereof!

There are no many distractions in our workplace, whether we work from home, from an office, or travelling from city to city. Keeping focused, whatever your work environment, can be a challenge. It can stop us from achieving a lot of focused work, and mean that we just end up pushing paper around all day and not really getting much done! And then there are the distractions we create ourselves, to get out of that task that we’ve been avoiding and procrastinating about!

Here are some tips to help you with your workplace distractions.

Avoid Distractions

Work somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. I had a vision of my babies playing at my feet while I could get on with my work – how wrong I was! My boys go to child care as they are definitely a distraction to my workplace!

Don’t have your emails automatically go to your inbox where you’re pinged or notified every time an email comes in. Curiosity generally gets the better of us and we jump over to see what it’s all about, or quickly respond because it won’t take long. However, that’s distracting you from the task at hand. Turn off your notifications, or set your email program to manually download emails when you instruct it to.

Turn off your phone – what could be so urgent that it can’t wait 1-2 hours while you get this job done? There’s message bank and you can return your calls after the job’s done.

Log out of social media – the ultimate time waster. Have you ever logged the amount of time you actually spend on social media? You may be in for a shock!

If your work day is particularly busy, find a time of the day (earlier or later than normal business hours) when you can clock on for a few hours to get some big jobs done with no distractions.

Plan Your Day/Week/Month

I live and breathe by my diary. My philosophy is that work gets completed in the order that it comes in. Sometimes there is an exception to this (when clients have babies, or they’re going on holiday or they’re being audited, etc) but generally it is first in, first served. As the work comes in I have a procedure to log the work and it gets put into my diary straight away.

It’s important to set realistic timeframes. Otherwise I’m putting way too much pressure on myself, and things will not get done. And there needs to be some leeway for those times where another client’s work needs to get slotted in, or I’m having a “scheduled afternoon” with my boys (these are important too)!

Plan your day and prioritise your tasks. Print your Calendar agenda and use this as your To Do List. Put tasks in order and work through the list. Don’t move onto the next task until the last one is complete (or at a point where you can go no further). When you get interrupted or side-tracked, refer back to the list!

Batch similar activities together to take advantage of the workflow – administrative tasks, returning calls, answering emails, etc.

Working from Home

Many of us these days are working from home, for a number of reasons. As mentioned above, there are numerous distractions in this particular workplace! This is how I try to keep my distractions to a minimum:

While my kids are still at home in the morning, I’m a mum. My phone doesn’t get answered, emails don’t get looked at. Kids are sorted for child care and dropped off. We don’t have a specific time that we need to be out the door – this is one luxury of working for myself – although I am reasonable about it.

Before dropping the kids off, the washing is hung out (load put on the night before), dishwasher emptied (washed during the night), breakfast dishes put in the dishwasher. A quick tidy up of toys before walking out the door.

When I return from dropping the kids off I make myself a coffee and get straight into the office. If the kids have delayed me in the morning (they’re toddlers, so that’s not unlikely!) and dishes don’t get done, they’ll wait until lunch time.

Morning tea is a coffee at my desk.

Lunch is 60-90 minutes away from the office. It’s during this time that I can get the dishes done, the toys picked up – or I can sit down and get stuck into that book or even go for a walk (that’s never happened, but I wish it would!). Now 90 minutes isn’t a “normal” lunch break, but I figure this as another perk of working for myself.

After lunch it’s straight back to the office. Another coffee at my desk for afternoon tea.

Hubby gets home with the kids any time between 4.30pm and 5.30pm, and that’s my queue to close up the office for the day.

Some Extra Tips

My family and friends know that I work from home. They know they can’t come for a visit during the day, or call for a social chat – just as they couldn’t if I were working in an employer’s office.

I have a cleaner who comes in once a week. She takes care of all the basics, leaving me to get on with being a business women, a wife and a mum – I’m not super-woman (as much as I’d like to be) and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything!

I utilise online groceries. Again, this means that groceries are delivered at a time specified by me during the day. The fridge and freezer stuff is put straight away, the rest stays on the bench until “after work”. This means that my evening and weekend time is spent with my family, not doing cleaning and groceries.

Guest Post: Sarah Stein – WAHM Bookeeping Expert

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