As more of us take telecommuting jobs or take on side-hustles based at home, it can be tough to concentrate on work when our next Netflix binge is just a button away—or we need to clean up the kitchen. In other words, we know we have to get work done—but the distractions are just too tempting to ignore.
"It is absurdly easy to be sidetracked at home," commiserates Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot. "The comfort of your house—your bed, your couch—are enough distraction, but add to that social media, Netflix binging, and an impromptu baked good that you must get now, and you have a recipe for a lot of unproductive hours."
With no one watching you, it's easier to get distracted, adds career coach Hallie Crawford. For example, it's easier to say you will finish a work project a little later—and then never get to it," Crawford says. Plus, working in your pajamas doesn't exactly inspire professionalism, she points out.
But you've got bills that need to be paid—and we're not talking about yet another way to avoid your task list. It's time to get to work and make money, not excuses. So here's how to beat the seven distractions you're most likely to face from your home office—aka the couch.
1. The TV
Whether a new show sits on our DVR or we just want a little "background" noise to ease the loneliness of working from home, "the TV inevitably is distracting," warns Crawford. Using it for background noise? Then consider swapping a TV show for a Spotify station, which may increase your productivity rather than distract you, Crawford says.
Otherwise, give yourself a TV break as a reward for a job well-done, suggests millennial career expert Jill Jacinto. "Whether it is leaving the office to grab a coffee, scrolling Instagram, reading the latest article on Glamour or chatting with coworkers, you are not working 90 hours straight at the office," she says. "So when you work at home, reward yourself with the same structured breaks. If you want to watch a 25 minute TV show, do it. But set an alarm for one episode length."
2. Dirty dishes—or anything need to clean
When you come from a long day of work, cleaning may be the last thing you want to do. But when a sink full of dirty dishes stares you in the face all day, you may not be able to ignore their call—and this goes double for a living room that looks like a disaster. Crawford advises that you begin your day by tidying your workspace, whether it's a desk or a coffee table, then allow yourself to do the dishes you create throughout the day, after lunch. "Those are things you may do when at a regular office," she says. "However, save your urge to clean your entire home until your allotted work time is over. Do what needs to be done to prepare for work, then get to work."
3. The Internet
When you have a boss and coworkers looking over your cubicle wall, you might not be tempted by cat videos. But at home, the only thing more distracting than the internet might be your IRL cat. "If you need to take a short break from a project, checking the latest videos you enjoy can be a good way to relax your mind and focus on something else," says Crawford. But if you're likely to go down a rabbit hole of digital content, then consider setting a timer to keep yourself on track—or use software like RescueTime, which will "help track and monitor the sites and applications that are distracting you," says Jacinto.
Now that you work from home, you can call your BFF in the middle of the day, or meet her for an afternoon caffeine fix—when you should be working. The good news is that "friends are sometimes a good distraction," says Jacinto. "Understand that having a conversation with them can help, energize you, and make your day less lonely." The key is to not allow them to take over your entire workday. Try to set a clock on your friend time before it starts, suggests Elizaga. For example, "when you call them, frame the call as a quickie, and say, 'hey, I just wanted to say a quick hi! I have about 10 minutes to chat. What’s up?'" she says. "That way, there’s no expectation that you’ll be lazing on the couch chatting with her for an hour, and you’ll get the BFF boost that you need."
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5. A good book
"I have definitely been guilty of starting a great book and spending the whole day consuming it," Jacinto admits. But of course, you can't spend a whole work day wrapped up in a good book. "If you want to use one of your breaks for a reading session, go ahead," says Jacinto, "but read only a chapter and then call it day." Alternatively, try listening to a book on audio, says Crawford. If you can still do your work while it plays—especially your more mundane tasks—you could accomplish quite a bit without ever having to put your book "down."
6. Your significant other
If your S.O. is home during your work time, who could blame you from wanting to trade a boring report for a seriously relaxing snuggle session? But when it comes to your romantic relationship, "good communication and boundaries are essential," says Crawford. (And we must say, that's true even when you don't work from home.) "Talk over how you can respect each other's working space and schedules," Crawford advises. "Of course, this doesn't mean you can't talk to your significant other if they are home while you are working. If you were at a regular office, you probably have conversations with your workmates throughout the day. The key is to be balanced. Keep it short and sweet, as if you were at an office."
7. Your kids
If you have children, work from home, and can't afford hired help, you're in for a whole 'nother kind of distraction—the kind that tugs on your heart strings. "Kids can be the toughest because they can't honor or understand boundaries as easily," explains Crawford. But that doesn't mean you can't work around your kids. "Think about and schedule your day according to when you will work versus when you will spend time with your kids," Crawford advises. "Determine how you will keep them entertained during the time you need to work—schedule a play date with a neighbor, let them choose a movie. Realize that because kids can be a big distraction, that you can only accomplish so much while they're at home, so set your goals wisely, and find ways to have others help you with watching them when you can."