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I’ve worked out of a home office for the last fifteen years, so I’m familiar with what can happen to prevent you from getting the day’s hours done . . .
1.) Sitting at the computer contemplating graphs triggers a brain-dead feeling. So you find something else to do that will prod your brain cells back to life.
2.) With your love of civil yet energetic discussion, you inadvertently befriend the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to your door, ensuring regular visits even though you live way out of town.
3.) There’s always an urgent appointment that takes up flexible hours in your day: taxes, the doctor, the gravely ill dog’s visit to the vet, coffee with a friend in town.
4.) You check your personal e-mail first thing in the morning, and take a long, involved side trip on an off-the-clock task that you should have been able to address in ten to thirty minutes.
5.) You have the rare inspiration and energy to produce a tightly written post on Ricochet.
6.) Your mind goes numb as soon as you open the tracking chart into which you’re supposed to be plugging dates.
7.) A neighbor knocks on the door to greet you with the news that her car broke down, and can she wait for her ride in the house, since it’s cold outside? You feel rude leaving her in the living room to work at your desk, so you entertain her and her baby.
8.) Laundry, dishes, issues with pets, and bills delay your start. You put in an hour and then break for lunch.
9.) Your lunch break, which includes too much Ricochet reading, a short walk, and chores such as a phone call to make that tax appointment, is rather extended. When it’s done, the brain is too foggy to focus on proofing a detailed training schedule.
10.) Just as you’re getting into the groove, movement outside catches your attention, and you watch incredulously as three strange dogs that were trotting down the street together wander into your yard and start chasing your chickens. You immediately go outside to chase them off, and are drawn into a day swirling with feathers, upset German Shepherd owner, and animal control.
11.) You sense the house falling apart as you attempt to concentrate with your school-age daughters home for the summer. There is fighting and messes. One day, you find they have lit votive candles in the loft.
12.) A family member whom you have not talked to for a while calls with interesting news.
13.) A neighbor drops by and starts chatting. You invite him/her in.
14.) With intentions to review 121 student surveys, you sit down and can’t seem to get anywhere. Your attention is ragged, fatigue is strong, and it feels easier and more appealing to check for comments and likes on something you’ve posted.
15.) Thirty minutes into the morning, it feels like you’ve been at the project for hours. Without a meeting with the boss to energize you, problems you encounter feel like walls. Waning energy is pinching your brain. You give up by defaulting to easier, more fun tasks, or divert your energies to other “priorities” that have nothing to do with your job.
Below are several things that help me get going when there are no due dates in sight to push me out of the doldrums. What can you add to this list?
1.) The aforementioned meetings with my boss and co-workers give me fuel for an hour, a day, or longer. I work off my notes, where I’ve put stars next to action items. Telling my boss what I’m working on so as to create expectations from him is a good way to stir up additional feelings of urgency.
2.) Sometimes, it helps to set a timer for half-hour increments and work away on various tasks that I’d otherwise put off. Any movement on these really makes a difference.
3.) I again remind myself that any movement on a task I’m avoiding, no matter how small that movement is, makes a difference. Create the document, give it a title, file it in the right place. Set up the table. Maybe after that, I’ll have some momentum and start filling in the chart. When the due date looms, I’ll want to go back in time and thank myself for completing that tiny action, because it can be a lifesaver.
4.) This is not the most disciplined or professional way to go, but experimenting with a new app for a particular function, or presenting bland information in a novel way can keep me engaged.
5.) I try to reserve this for my most tired days: when my brain is feeling like a limp rag, I give myself permission to do my favorite task, which is not unproductive–reviewing and organizing links to materials and resources for the school.
6.) To work around the distraction of family in the house, I’ve recently started listening to rain sounds here. With my ears filled with pattering precipitation, I get engrossed in my work.
7.) When I went through a stage where I would start as early in the morning as I could, I would persevere through several hours and finish, then not know what to do with myself the rest of the day. I just can’t seem to get that early start, even though I want to. Next to urgency and due dates, the early start is probably the best productivity secret I have, but it’s not easy to do.
How do you stay focused when you work from home?Published in