If you work from home either full-time or part-time, you might find that you have trouble keeping yourself on task. For some people, this is an all-around problem but for most of us, there are just one or two things that really get us off track. Identifying that these things are problems for us and then choosing to do something about the problem can help get us back on task and able to work from home more efficiently. This leaves us more time to actually enjoy doing the things that we do from home that aren’t work. Separating work tasks and other home life in this way can make it much easier to enjoy the benefits of working from home.

So, the first step is identifying what it is that takes you away from the tasks at hand. Even if you don’t think that you have a huge task management problem, you should spend a day paying close attention to what you do with your time. You’d be surprised at how much productivity is lost each day by getting sidetracked while you’re trying to get work done. Make mental or actual notes about everything you do during one day of working from home and pay attention to how much time is spent on each. Then you can ask yourself if you really need to spend your time in that way.

For me, there were two big distractions which were constantly taking my mind off of my work focus: email and IM. I had my instant message programs running all day and had them set so that I would receive notifications every time that I received new email. This seemed great because if a client needed me, they could hop online and ask me a quick question and get an immediate response. I thought that it was benefiting my business. But then I realized how many times I ended up embroiled in IM conversations that went on longer than they needed to or caught up answering email that was more personal than work-related. More than this, I realized that even quick disturbances would cause me to lose focus and I’d have to take time to get back on track.

Even after I’d realized that this was a problem, I kept it up for awhile, because I genuinely believed that there was work I’d miss out on if I wasn’t getting immediate notifications. Finally, I set up a new email account and gave the address only to the few clients whose work was important enough to warrant taking time out of my day to give them attention. I then set my IM to only notify me when that particular account received email. I was able to stay on top of those important tasks without compromising the rest of my work day.

For some people, IM and email are not the problem, but most people who work from home have the distraction that regularly gets them off task. The phone is it for some people; it rings and they feel like they have to answer it and then they get sidetracked. For others, it is family knocking on the door or friends who show up in the middle of the day to “grab a quick bite”. And of course, the self is sometimes the biggest enemy to staying on task; you get up and wander through the house, look out the window, make something to eat, check the TV really quickly.

Whatever your distraction is, the first step is to identify it. The next is to commit to changing it. And then you can put the plan into action by eliminating the distraction. This can mean turning off the IM programs or the phone, setting appropriate boundaries with family and friends or absolutely insisting to yourself that you stay on track for a certain amount of time. Being organized with your time, sticking to commitments you make to yourself about when certain things will get done and rewarding yourself by making your “at home free time” completely work-free will all lead to a more positive and more productive work-from-home environment.

Any suggestions, ideas? Feel free to comment on this article!

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