“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

— Maya Angelou

Working from home is wonderful. You have the ability to set your own hours, create your own work environment, escape difficult coworkers, and all of the comforts of home are around you. Let us not forget, coffee is only a hands reach away and nobody can judge your taste in office supplies.

Yet, there are some difficulties when working from home, as well. The most common complaint I have seen and experienced myself is distractions. Whether the distractions are the people living with you, housework, or entertainment, the list of possible distractions is long.

Thankfully, you don’t have to let the fear of distractions or the loss of productivity get in the way of your dream job. Whether the distractions come from your own inability to focus or having people frequently attempting to talk with you when you are on the clock, there are tips and tricks that can help.

Tip One: Break the Procrastination Cycle

A clinical psychologist and former professor, Dr. Bill Knaus, has studied the subject of procrastination extensively. Dr. Knaus has found what he refers to as “paradoxical procrastination rewards.” While procrastination may give you short-term rewards that feel good at the moment, in the long-term they will obstruct your goals and create a cycle of further procrastination.
While a supposedly “quick” coffee break feels satisfying, if you waste away over half an hour on your phone the time you have to work is further limited. This may seem like a small waste of time, but moments such as these add up without our realizing it. They seem so insignificant in our mind that we barely recall it happening. We most definitely do not realize how much time is passing when we are wasting these moments.

While these paradoxical procrastination rewards may induce a cycle of procrastination, you can reverse it. One method of doing this is by setting yourself a goal, such as “I won’t look at my phone until I write one-thousand words”, and then sticking to it. During the beginning, it may be difficult to stick to your goal but it is vital that you hold yourself accountable in order to break the cycle. Dr. Knaus found that following a process such as this greatly reduces procrastination impulses within two weeks. Before long you will find yourself enjoying the long-term benefits of breaking the procrastination cycle, and you won’t look back.

Tip Two: Lessen Outward Distractions

The number of outward distractions, such as your beloved family talking with you, can only be limited by a certain amount depending on your situation. If your distraction is people contacting you through your phone this is the easiest distraction to manage. Simply, let people know that you are working and set your phone to silent. Many phones even have options to send out an automated message when set to silent or driving so that it will let people know you are busy and will contact them shortly.

Obviously, one of the most difficult outward distractions is when you have children or are the caretaker of someone else. Ideally, you will have times when another person is present who can take over parenting or caretaker duties, but if this is not the case do your best to set up a designated workspace and time. Hopefully, this will ensure that people know to disturb you as little as possible when you are in this space.

If you are unable to set a designated workspace where people know to give you a little space, then I have found the most simple and effective solution to be a sign. I have previously used simple signs that I designed and printed out before hanging on the door. I have now upgraded to a magnetic whiteboard, which has been incredibly successful. I can easily customize my message depending on the day, and others can even leave me messages on it. If whiteboards are not your style, a chalkboard could be a cute shabby-chic or rustic option.

While these tips help, the most important one is to communicate with your loved ones and those around you. They need to understand that you do not resent their interaction with you, but that your productivity and work is incredibly important to you. If your loved ones understand how important it is to you and have a clear understanding of when you are working so that they may give you space, then all you can do is hope they will honor your wishes when they are able.

Tip Three: Decrease Stress

I don’t know about you, but I do know that the times I find myself procrastinating the cause is almost always stress. I find myself overwhelmed by the task at hand or outside circumstances, and before I know it I am just trying to find excuses to not work. Sometimes this means that I have gone long overdue without a break. Remember, breaks are an important part of the work process and not only give the body a chance to rest but the brain a chance to recuperate, as well. However, make sure that the break does not get away from you and turn into hours off of work. I prefer to time my breaks so that I do not stay kept away from work, but instead can go back to it refreshed.

If the matter is not as simple as needing a break, but that you have something which is genuinely upsetting you, then the situation may be more difficult. Yet, we all have days that we have to work despite outward circumstances causing us emotional turmoil. 

Deep breathing, on its own or paired with either yoga or meditation, has been shown in studies to greatly reduce stress and balance the mood. According to The American Institute of Stress and Dr. Herbert Benson, this is because deep breathing creates a relaxation response. This response changes the way our body and mind react to stress. Some of the physiological reactions to the relaxation response induced by deep breathing include decreased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, relaxed muscle tension, and increased nitric oxide.

Yet, this powerful relaxation response is not activated when we just lay in bed reading a book or sit on the couch and watch TV. In order to gain these benefits, we need to achieve a state in which our minds are active, focused, and calm while we are breathing deeply. The American Institute of Stress has even found that only twenty to thirty minutes of deep breathing from the abdomen during the span of a day can greatly decrease both stress and anxiety. Part of the way in which it does this is by increasing the oxygen flow to the brain, therefore stimulating the parasympathetic portion of the nervous system.

I find that I am at my most productive after taking a short ten minutes to focus on deep breathing while doing a few stretches. These few minutes loosen up my muscles, refresh my brain, and I am able to go back to work mentally energized and motivated.

I hope that these tips help you as much as they have helped me. While working as a freelance writer is my dream and working from home has many benefits, that does not mean it is always the ideal environment. Yet, with these few tips, I find myself able to increase my productivity at least two-fold. 

I was inspired to write this article not only because I constantly find myself needing to use these tips, but because the most recent project a client hired me for was ghostwriting a witty and humorous book on beating procrastination and increasing willpower. This book was not only fun to write, but it was fulfilling to provide information that I have found helpful myself that is also backed by science. If you are interested in hiring me as a writer to provide you with articles, manage a blog, or ghostwrite a book you may contact me at email@rachelkwriter.com.