54 Ways To Avoid Distractions While Working From Home

Image a day where you start working, finish everything that you planned to get done in the day and even have some extra time to spare. By managing your distractions, you can eventually achieve this.

Distractions can be broken down into a few different categories. You may have distractions from other people, emails, social media, background noise, etc.

Overcoming all the distractions doesn’t happen overnight. You have to build good habits and train yourself over time. That’s why in this article, we will look at:

  • How to avoid common distractions from people, work, social media, and environmental noise
  • Building your drive for work productivity and focus
  • How to correct distracting elements of your home office location and setup
  • Ways to maintain your energy throughout the workday

Here’s What A Distraction Free Day Looks Like

If you are able to successfully apply the techniques, tips and tricks mentioned in this article, here’s what your day can look like:

  • A going to work routine and your drive for work gets you in the flow of working
  • You have a small prioritized list of goals for the day that you plan to finish before the end of the work day
  • A segment of your day is dedicated to checking email, messages, work related social media, etc. You limit these distractions to only this dedicated segment
  • You work in planned work and break sessions that are distraction free, productive, healthy, and sustainable
  • The methods you’ve employed to prevent distractions are effective throughout the day, keeping you focused at work
  • You are able to maintain good energy levels throughout the day including after work

Avoiding Distractions From Social Media And Internet Pulls

How many times do you find yourself opening a social media app like Instagram or Reddit and realize you’ve been scrolling for the past 15 minutes?

Coupled with the lower level of accountability while working from home, distractions related to the internet are the greatest source of distractions for many people.

However, you owe it to yourself to finish the planned work for the day efficiently and save these pulls for after work.

You will see your work performance improve and you won’t be spending as much time working after work hours or on weekends. This will do wonders for your work-life balance as well.

1. Take Planned Social Media Breaks

  • Instead of checking or responding to every notification whenever you receive them, plan times during the day where you allow yourself to check social media and messages
  • When you batch up your social media interactions you actually process them more efficiently
  • Moreover, you don’t constantly break your flow of work allowing you to be more efficient with work as well
  • I recommend the Pomodoro technique for managing your work and break times. Refer to step 29 for further details

2. Silence Your Phone

  • Putting your phones and notifications on silence is a way to keep your focus on your work
  • We are intrinsically curious about pings on our phone and will start to wonder who we got the notification from, which app was it from, etc.

3. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

  • Expanding on the last point, disabling visual notifications by putting your phone out of sight is an added step to just silencing your phone
  • If your phone is not sitting in front of you, you’re more likely to forget about checking it and focus on work
  • Having your phone out of arms reach gives you an additional opportunity to question whether you should be going for it
  • Similarly, don’t keep social media webpages or chat apps open in the background. If you receive a notification, or even see the browser tab or app icon you may get distracted and pulled from work. It’s best to close non work related tabs and apps

4. App Blockers and Limits

  • If you know you’ll lose focus and end up going on social media, you can block these apps on your phone or computer for a set time period
  • There are some all purpose app blockers that work with all your devices. I recommend Freedom

5. Disconnect From The Internet

  • If you are doing some offline work that doesn’t require the internet, you can remove the ethernet cable or disable the WIFI on your computer
  • Again, it’s an additional step that you have to do to get back online and extra bit of time where you can question the need for it and get back on track

6. Reduce Listening To Music Or Podcasts While Working If You Get Distracted By It

  • Many people enjoy listening to music or podcasts in the background, but are you able to focus fully on your work with these on? Would you be able to get your work done faster if they weren’t on?
  • Some people may be able to manage this kind of multitasking, personally I can manage doing work with instrumental music, but anything with lyrics will pull my attention from time to time
  • Check out my full article on whether listening to podcasts while working is a good idea.

Distractions From Other People

If you are working from home with your family around, you will most likely face distractions from them. Sometimes, family members may not respect work-life boundaries because you are working from home.

You may also be distracted by people ringing your bell or calling you on the phone. People from the office can also disrupt your work flow by messaging or calling you, not just the duct cleaning services.

Here are some ways to manage these distractions gracefully and increase your productivity during the day.

7. Clear And Candid Communication of Working Boundaries

  • Have a candid conversation with you family upfront and early on
  • Let them know that this is in fact how you make a living and you need their help to maintain a work boundary so you can deliver and perform at work
  • With their support, you may be able to finish your work earlier in the day and that is additional time you have to give back to them in turn

8. Establish And Communicate A Work Schedule With A Dedicated Do Not Disturb Time

  • Set clear do not disturb times throughout the day where you keep a deep focus on your work
  • Let your coworkers and family know that you are not to be disturbed in this time unless it’s an emergency; set clear expectations
  • Mark out this slot in your calendar so people do not book you in meetings or message you

9. Don’t Send Mixed Signals

  • If you’ve scheduled time in the day to do work and communicated it with others, don’t be the one to interact with others during this time
  • The way to have others keep the integrity of your work boundary is if you keep it yourself

10. Have Specific Call Times And Share Them With Others

  • Similar to setting a time for deep work, set some time designated for your coworkers to call or reach out to you
  • You are bundling up the coworker interactions in one or two chunks which keeps your overall day more efficient
  • Imagine getting distracted five different times during the day by calls or messages from coworkers and then needing 5 minutes to get back in the zone of work. It’s so much wasted time and loss of productivity
  • Make it clear that you are not to be disturbed except for emergencies outside of these call times

11. Block Off Time On Your Calendar First

  • Block off times during the day that you want to have zero distractions and absolutely focus on your work before you get booked and have no time left
  • You need to be in charge of your work schedule so you can build good and consistent habits. You don’t want to only have time to work in small slots between meetings

12. Would They Call You If You Were At The Office?

  • Ask your family members to consider this question before they interrupt you for something
  • If they wouldn’t call you for the interruption when you are in the office, then they should wait until after work

13. Close The Door And Hang A Sign

  • Closing the door is a good signal for others that you are busy and don’t want to be disturbed
  • For added measure, you can hang a sign reflecting your do not disturb status

14. Sound Cancelling Headphones Or Background White Noise

  • If you do have to work in an environment with other people, having background noise or music can drown out they noise
  • Sound cancelling headphones can also do the same, but are a little bit more expensive

15. Locate Your Office In The Quiet Area Of The House

  • You don’t want your office to be near the busy area of the house that is prone to noise
  • An upstairs office can provide additional privacy away from the hustle and bustle of the living room and entryway downstairs
  • If you are considering upstairs vs. downstairs for your home office setup, consider my article about the differences

Office Related Distractions (Emails, Skype Messages, etc.)

You work most efficiently when you have a flow going. Emails, messages or pings can kill that flow and many people try to answer them as soon as possible.

Actually, if you think about it, from a productivity standpoint you want to be the person that doesn’t respond for a while. When you are able to do this, it means you are in control of your time and you are spending it on getting your work done as opposed to your time being controlled by the distractions.

16. Set A Dedicated Time To Check Over Emails And Messages

  • Schedule an hour or so of time solely for the purpose of bringing your inbox to zero unread emails
  • You aren’t performing the tasks requested in the emails or replying to them in this time unless its really quick. Instead, you want to schedule time during you day to get these tasks done and reply to the email
  • In this dedicated time slot, also go through your work related messages, voice mails, social media, etc. Ideally, you won’t do this again until the next day
  • Having a dedicated time for this allows you to batch process these insignificant tasks and have the rest of your day to focus on your deliverables and goals for the day

17. Schedule Answering The Emails And Performing Tasks That Come Out Of It

  • You want to have a one touch policy when you are sorting your inbox for the day
  • Read the email once, and decide whether you need to schedule a task for it, whether you need to reply to it (another task), or move on to the next email
  • This is important so that you can actually batch process your insignificant tasks and get through all of them in the allocated time. You don’t want to address everything you need to do for each email only to find out you’ve only done 5 out of 15 in an hour

18. Pause Inbox

  • While you are working, pause your inbox so you don’t get alerts distracting you
  • For Microsoft Outlook, you can use this free addon called Boomerang

19. Rules

  • Rules allow you to filter and sort your emails in buckets and also do special alerts based on the filters
  • For example, you can play a sound when you get an email from you boss, as its probably something you need to address right away
  • You can also sort emails from specific senders, about specific topics, etc. These can bet set to go directly to other folders and not your inbox saving you time when you need to go through important emails

20. Have A Default Away Message On Your Work Apps

  • Set a default away message on your work messaging apps like Watsapp business
  • It can be something to the effect of “Hey I’ve received your message and am currently busy. I will get back to you shortly”
  • This is great because you aren’t bothered by the notifications and the other person gets an acknowledgement that their message was received knows you’ll get back to them later

Dealing With General Noise

Sometimes there are distractions present due to the environment. You may live in the city near the subway and can hear the hustle and bustle related to that.

There could be construction happening in your neighborhood and even the occasional fire truck or ambulance rushing through.

We can definitely do something to minimize the distractions from these environmental factors.

21. Create Your Own Background Noise To Drown Out The Rest

  • You can play background music or white noise or put on some noise cancelling headphones to drown out the outside noise

22. Sound Proof Your Home Office

  • Many default houses don’t have great soundproofing. If you are going to be working from home for an extended time, soundproofing your home office may be appealing to you
  • There are many actions you can take to soundproof different parts of a room. I recommend this guide

23. Create A Travel Work Setup To Go Somewhere Else To Work

  • Having a setup that you can take on the go and get your work done on is a nice to have for situations where your home work environment becomes too distracting
  • If you use a laptop for work, this means having a carrying case or bag and a wireless mouse handy so you can just grab it and go
  • If you prefer to change up your surroundings while working, you can take your travel setup to different places in your house and keep changing it up

Building Your Drive For Work and Staying Focused While Working

Until now, we’ve generally been looking at ways of dealing with distractions by eliminating their likelihood or ignoring them.

Let’s take a look at a slightly different way now and focus on building our drive to do work over the distractions.

Getting in this mindset will train us to withstand those distracting thoughts such as the urge to check social media and keep working instead.

Overall, you will be developing a good habit that should serve you well for any important tasks you need get done in the future.

24. Have A Long AND Short Term To Do Lists

  • Long term milestones (every month or couple of months) are a great way to stay motivated and keep your goals in mind
  • I like to have a decent reward allocated with each milestone as a treat to myself for achieving the milestone
  • Short term plans (weekly or biweekly) help breakdown your larger overall goals into smaller manageable chunks
  • Having a short term to do list keeps your mind clear and priorities straight for the near future

25. Have A Priority List For The Day

  • Break you short term plans into a daily prioritized list of tasks that you need to get done today
  • Have a list of maximum three tasks that you MUST get done today, you can also include additional smaller tasks as side tasks for after you finish the main three
  • This helps you clearly define your intentions for the work day and helps to keep you on track
  • Use an analog todo list or a notebook if you want to remove any sort of non work digital distraction

26. Breakdown Tasks Into Multiple Smaller Bite Sized Chunks

  • High level tasks can seem daunting and provide a barrier to start working on them
  • Break the task down into smaller, clear, and focused tasks that you can achieve in one work session (about 25 minutes ideally)
  • Complete the smaller tasks and you’ll be done the bigger task before you know it

27. Have A Daily Work Schedule And Stick To It

  • In light of a lot of these distraction management techniques, it makes a lot of sense to have a daily work schedule
  • Allocate time for going over emails and messages, time for deep focus work, and time for meetings and calls
  • Have a consistent schedule will provide structure to your day and turn working into a habit. Eventually, work will stop seeming like a chore

28. Do One Thing At A Time

  • Multitasking can be a good way to fail at all the tasks you are trying to do
  • It’s best to tackle one task at a time
  • This can also apply to listening to music or podcasts if you can’t get your work done with them on. At the end of the day, you know what best suits you, you may actually work better with background music

29. Schedule Regular Breaks In Your Day (Pomodoro Technique)

  • This can look something like working continuously and with focus for 25 minute stretches and taking 5 minute breaks. This would be one session and you repeat the session a few times until lunchtime. After lunch, you would do a second run of 25 minute work to 5 minute break sessions until the end of the day
  • This is actually the timing recommended by the well known Pomodoro technique. The original Pomodoro technique gives you a 25 minute break after 4 regular sessions, but you can adapt this to better suit the work day. For example, you could work 6 sessions from 9 am to 12 pm and take 30 minutes or an hour for lunch before continuing again
  • The 25 minute work windows give you a sense of urgency in getting your work done while preventing procrastination
  • The 5 minute breaks ensure you have time to take care of yourself, stretch, eat snacks, etc.
  • At the end of the day, this is just a framework that many people, including me, use. You are free to make changes to better suit your work style and needs

30. Have A Morning Routine

  • When you go to the office everyday, there is structure in what you do; you have breakfast, put on your work clothes, drive your car or take the bus, get a coffee, etc.
  • Having a morning routine provides a similar structure to your work from home day
  • This gives you a proper transition from your home life to work mode and its a good signal for your brain that it’s time to get productive

31. Don’t Stay In Your Pajamas

  • Expanding on the previous point, changing from your pajamas to a different set of clothes for work can be part of the morning routine bringing structure and transition to working at home
  • You don’t have to go all out and wear business attire, although you can if you prefer
  • Your work clothes can be comfy. What’s important is the process of changing clothes before and after work

32. Set The Mood

  • If you light a scented candle or have a specific color mood lighting in your home office you can encourage yourself to want to work
  • Overtime, you brain gets trained to associate those cues with work and you’ll be in work mode when you smell the scent again or experience that kind of lighting

33. Start Early

  • The early hours of the day are often the best for getting work done
  • If you are working before many people even get to the office, or other people in you house have woken up, that is premium undisturbed time where you’ll have maximum focus
  • You’ll want to tackle the hardest thing during this time, where you are fresh and have energy
  • You may want to have a coffee and start the fire place and set the mood for working in the early hours, a sort of ritual

34. Get Over The Mental Resistance To Start Working

  • Often times we know we need to get work done but can’t bring ourselves to start. Yet, when we do start we can continue working for a decent period of time
  • This is a result of our bodies and mind wanting to preserve the momentum of what we are doing
  • That way to get over this is to make the transition from the non working state to the working state gradual
  • For example, break that huge task into a small digestible one. One that you know how to finish and won’t take too much time. You’ll find that its easier to get started if what you are doing is planned out and short

35. Benchmark How You Work For Process Improvement

  • Keep some notes about what times you work most effectively and what times you don’t work effectively
  • Plan you deep focus work sessions at those effective times and plan to the more insignificant tasks at the other times

36. Be Aware Of You Biggest Distractions

  • When you know what your biggest distractions are, it’s easier to keep an eye out for them to avoid them
  • Maybe you need to block certain apps and websites, or you need to put your phone out of arms reach. Identify the root cause of the problem for you and have a targeted solution that will work best for your case

37. Deal With Distractions You Don’t Have Control Over Quickly And Efficiently

  • There are distractions that we have the option of avoiding, and then there are some distractions that we don’t
  • Calls from family members, your boss, and the doorbell ringing are some examples
  • In this case, it’s best to deal with them quickly and get back on track

Ideal Home Office Location To Avoid Distractions

You may be getting distracted a lot because you’ve set up your office in a particularly bad location. In this section, we’ll take a look at some things you can do to improve the home office location to minimize the amount of distractions occurring.

38. Move Your Office Upstairs If You Live In A Busy House

  • Downstairs, you may be distracted by the kids watching TV or people moving in the hallway or going in and out the front door
  • If you are working from a room upstairs, chances are you’ll have less noisy traffic and a decent view outside

39. Have A Dedicated Work Space

  • It’s important to have a dedicated location for work that is only for work so that you transition from a home life to a work mode
  • This is a good way to tell your brain that it’s time to work and focus
  • It’s easier to establish boundaries with your family and distractions if you have a physical boundary as well such as a dedicated work location. You can let family members know to not disturb you in this location unless it’s super important

40. Have Natural Light In Your Office

  • You want you home office to have ample natural light
  • Natural light reduces fatigue and will improve your overall mood as well
  • Ideally you want to position your desk perpendicular to the window so the natural light doesn’t get in your eyes or cause glares on the monitors, buy you are still sitting in it

41. Try Not To Have Your Office As Your Bedroom

  • Unfortunately, many people have to resort to having their work space in the bedroom just because there is no other space in the house
  • However, try to have a separation between these two spaces as you don’t want to be spending all day everyday in your bedroom and its not great for mental health in the long run
  • You want to be able to walk into and out of your office to have a transition from being at home and going to work when you are working from home

Desk Setup and Organization For Fewer Distractions

Is your home office desk optimized for productivity? Or are their devices and trinkets that pull your attention away from the work you need to get done?

Let’s take a look at how you can optimize and organize your desk to reduce distractions.

42. Keep The Workspace Clean And Tidy

  • It can be very distracting when your desk is cluttered and messy. Your thoughts will go towards wanting to clean the space or at least thinking about it negatively
  • A clean and tidy workspace is actually inspirational and productive and sends positive signals to your brain
  • When you are organized in person and the stuff around you is organized that tends to reflect in your work and work ethic over time

43. Use A Wireless Keyboard And Mouse

  • Wireless peripherals are a great way to remove the clutter and tangling of cables on your desk leading back to the previous point

44. Purchase A Monitor Arm

  • A monitor arm can do wonders to make your desk more organized
  • It will improve the amount of workspace that you have on your desk
  • Not to mention, monitor arms allow you to have an ideal posture while working and this is essential for preventing work fatigue and being able to stay productive for the work day
  • Check out my article on why monitor arms are worth it here

45. Improve Productivity With A Dual Monitor Setup

  • Similar to how your clutter and mess on your desk can detract you from working, so can clutter in your digital space
  • A dual monitor can give you a productivity boost by preventing you to constantly switch between applications

46. Visualize Your Goals On A Vision Board

  • A vision board or white board can provide you with inspiration while working and prevent you from being distracted
  • If you find yourself looking around for a distraction from work, having organized goals listed on the board can motivate you to get back on track

47. Treat Your Body Well With A Comfortable Ergonomic Chair

  • Chances are you will be sitting most of the day in this chair and it’s super important for your posture and health to have an ergonomic one
  • Furthermore, a comfortable chair will reduce fatigue as well as the distraction to constantly switch positions as you are sitting

48. Have A Change Of Pace While Working With A Standing Desk

  • Similar to the last point, a standing desk is another great tool to improve work health
  • Ideally you want to switch from the sitting position to standing and back to switching as it best suits you

Maintaining Energy For Work Throughout The Day

Last but not least, a lot of the time we can get distracted from work because we feel tired and sleepy and don’t have the energy to carry on. At these times, you may find it more relaxing to turn on a YouTube video or go on social media.

It’s important to maintain good energy levels while working so these distractions don’t cross our minds. Here’s how we can do that.

49. Take A Lunch Break

  • Sometimes when you are in the flow of things, it’s easy to forget to take a break to eat lunch and refuel your body
  • You’ll find yourself getting tired in the evening time and may even get aches from not eating

50. Keep A Water Bottle Handy

51. Don’t Overeat During The Day

  • I personally have this problem where I’m super tired and sleepy right after eating lunch
  • A way to alleviate this is to not overeat during the day
  • Furthermore, try to breakdown a large meal into multiple smaller meals that are well separated
  • You may even go for a smaller lunch paired with a snack at a spaced out time

52. Get Better Sleep

  • Sleep is essential for having a productive, distraction free, focused and energetic work day
  • Many people tend to sleep late and use an alarm clock to wake up in time for work. Ideally, you want to respect your body’s natural sleep cycle and let it wake up naturally
  • One way to achieve this is to sleep earlier and use the alarm clock as an insurance mechanism in case you over sleep. With enough practice your body gets in the habit of waking up at the same time daily
  • Another way to support good sleeping habits is to have a wind down ritual at the end of the day where you stop using your phone and computer and prepare for bed in a technology free way

53. Get More Sunlight Exposure

  • Vitamin D helps to maintain your energy levels throughout the day
  • In colder climates and if you stay indoors a lot, you may not get enough Vitamin D for the day. This can be a contributing factor to why you don’t have enough energy during the day
  • The best way to get Vitamin D is through sunlight exposure. While supplements can work and are often recommended, it’s difficult to get the full amount solely on supplements
  • You can’t get Vitamin D from sunlight coming through the windows. It’s best to go for a short walk in the sun daily

54. Get More Exercise