Freelancing from your home is often a good idea. You work in a familiar surrounding, can take a break whenever you want, don’t have to deal with traffic to get to work. In fact, you can work in your pajamas (unless you have some strict dress rules in your home) and open a bottle of beer and no one will bat an eyelid to this. But for all that, if you choose to freelance from home, be ready to deal with some distractions at home from your kids, pets, phones, doorbells and other sources.
Tips to Deal with Distractions at Home
Fortunately, there are some good ways to deal with distractions at home as a freelancer, so here are a few:
- Turn your work area into an office
If you work from home, or telecommuting you might be tempted to work at a dinner table, from the couch (right in front of TV as well) or a number of other places around your house. But you shouldn’t. Because every time you sit a dinner table to work, you might get a sudden craving to grab a snack , or watch something on TV. So say goodbye to your attempt at working on that project.
Pick a place in your house with the least foot traffic (that’s definitely not either the dinning room or the living room) and turn that room into your office. For most, including me, that’s your bedroom, but if you sleep in the same room with your spouse, it would be very hard to limit them access to the room they use as well. So, make sure it’s a room you can have enough privacy in while working.
- Set your work hours
Ah, now we’re potentially leaving that whole freelancing “work whenever you want” territory, right? Not necessarily. You still don’t have to work 9-5, but having specific work hours will help you immensely.
First, this will make sure that you establish a steady routine and become more disciplined. You’ll need to be quite disciplined if you want to work as a freelancer, trust me. No more last-minute and rush projects for you.
Second, having set work hours also means that those living with you will know at what time of the day you are not to be disturbed (unless it’s an emergency like a fire in your house).
- Turn off your phone
As much as smartphones and smartwatches are a gift today, they can also be a distraction when you try to work on something and you keep getting bombarded with notifications from Facebook, messages and whatnot. I don’t even have Facebook on my phone, for this very reason. For other things, I try to keep myself disciplined enough not to jump to my phone whenever it makes a sound. If you can’t keep yourself from checking your phone every five minutes, consider turning off WiFi.
Yes, you’ll be unavailable for a time, but it will help you keep focused on the task in front of you.
- Set your email-checking time
We humans seem to have become preconditioned to check our email every 5-10 minutes. We check our email first in the morning, while we brush our teeth in the bathroom, during meals, while we’re supposed to have a time with the family or friends… you see where I’m getting at with this? You need to stop acting like this, not just if you want to cope with distractions at home, but if you want to have a more fulfilling life in general.
Schedule your email-checking time instead. I usually check my email after I had a breakfast, right before I start to work and once more after lunch. That way I know if any of the clients want to talk about something regarding the project before I start working on it. Remember, communication is key when freelancing, so be sure to let your clients know at what time they can reach you as well.
- Fight the temptation!
What temptation you should be fighting? Any, really, that makes you get off your chair, browse the Internet or call someone while you’re supposed to be working. This is why you need to turn your work room into a temptation-free area. For example, I don’t have a TV in my room/office, my desk is clear of everything except for my laptop, second monitor, speakers, notebook and a bottle of water (always keep it handy).
- Set a browser just for work
Let’s face it, your Internet browser is probably full of distractions like plugins, apps, bookmarks, tabs and so on. It can be very hard not to take a peek at your favorite website, check Facebook or go on YouTube to look at some of the channels you subscribed to.
Keep your browser clean and you won’t be tempted to look at these things at all! This is why it’s a good idea to use a work-dedicated browser and install and bookmark only what’s really necessary for your work on it. Of course, this also means you should close your regular browser, as it is now just one big distraction.
- Take breaks
The longer you work, the less and less attention you can devote to what you are working on. Most people can focus completely on something for about half an hour before their mind starts wandering off. This is the time when you need to step away from your keyboard, get off the chair, leave your office and say hi to the folks living with you. Take a few minutes, see who called you in the meantime, make yourself some tea or coffee, grab a quick snack and then get back to work.
One way to do this is to use the Pomodoro technique. It’s better to deal with things now then allow them to become a distraction later.
- Follow a schedule and set deadlines for projects
Finally, a very good way to cope with distractions at home while you’re trying to freelance is to set a clear schedule and a deadline for projects you are working on. For example, I use an app called Trello to set deadlines for different clients and their projects. Every time I start working with a new client and he sets a project for me, I create a card for him and set a deadline for his project, even if the client hasn’t done that himself. This just helps me keep a better eye on what project I should focus on more on a specific day.
- Put headphones on
Your kids are too noisy, the dog is barking, TV is blaring, neighbor won’t get off the doorbell? All these distractions are not allowing you to focus on your work? There’s a perfect solution for that. Put on a pair of headphones and play your favorite music to drown them all down.
- Install a distraction-free writing tool
For me as a writer, distraction-free writing apps are really helpful. For example, as I’m writing this post on WordPress, I have distraction-free mode (little square in the upper-right) turned on. This hides the draft menu on the left and everything else not related to the writing area itself. Or, if you’re not writing in WP, you can check a distraction-free program like FocusWriter, which works on Windows, Linux and Max and is free.
- Get out and join a coworking space
Of course, if you still find yourself unable to deal with distractions at home, you can always start working in a coworking space. People there will probably be more understanding not to interrupt you when they see you are hard at work on something.
Working from home has many benefits, but if you can’t focus on your work, it becomes more a problem than an advantage. Striking the balance between work and home becomes even harder when you bring work home with you. Also, if people know that you are always home, they will usually think of you as someone who is always available and you’ll never get anything done because of all interruptions and distractions. But by following these 11 tips above, you’ll be able to cope with distractions at home a lot better and get more work done.
What distracts you the most when you work at home? How do you deal with distractions at home as a freelancer? Let me know in the comments below.