How to Avoid Distractions When Working from Home

How to Achieve Work/Life Balance

Work from Home

Working from home has a lot of advantages. But it also has at least one major disadvantage: distractions.

"No commute. No drive-by meetings. No dress code. Remote working can seem like a dream -- until personal obligations get in the way," says Harvard Business Review contributor Elizabeth Grace Saunders. "These distractions are easy to ignore in an office, but at home it can be difficult to draw the line between personal and professional time."

The secret to drawing that line successfully, according to Saunders, is boundaries. "As someone who has worked from home for 12 years, and been a time management coach for remote workers, I've seen and experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly," she continues. "I've found that the most focused and effective remote workers set up boundaries for themselves so that they can actually get work done."

Although there are many ways to establish boundaries at home, one of the easiest is creating "office hours."

"It may sound silly, but if you want to have a focused day of work, pretend you're not working from home," Saunders advises. "Before I became a time management coach, my schedule was chaotic. I didn't have a set time that I would be at my computer, and I would often schedule personal appointments or run errands during the day. And since my personal life didn't have boundaries, my work life didn't either. When I was home, I would feel guilty for not checking business email at all hours of the day and night. I never felt that I could truly rest."

That changed when Saunders established a defined workday -- for her, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

"I'd ask myself, 'If I was in an office, would I do this task during the day?' If the answer was no, I knew I needed to do the activity before or after office hours. Household chores, errands, and spending time with friends all became activities that needed to happen before or after work," Saunders explains. "Sure, I would still field an occasional call from a friend during my lunch break, or if I had an urgent task like an emergency car repair, I'd make it happen during the day. But these were exceptions, not the rule. In setting this boundary, I not only created dedicated work time but also found that I could focus on personal items guilt-free 'after hours.'"

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Contact Successful Meetings Editor in Chief Vincent Alonzo with your "How To" ideas.