Home > Remote Workers Q&A > How do you avoid becoming distracted when working remotely?

    How do you avoid becoming distracted when working remotely?

  • CarouLLou

    Don’t really try to avoid it… I love so much what I do, it’s actually hard to pull me off my computer…

  • Ben Dodson

    I have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that I bought for working in an open-plan office but they work at home for me as the act of putting them on puts me into “work mode.” The only problem was that if the doorbell went (side note: great advantage of working from home is you never miss an Amazon delivery) I wouldn’t hear it; I fixed that by hooking it up to a Philips Hue lightbulb on my desk so I get a visual alert.

  • Andrea Bing

    I’m pretty focused on this job. I always have work or online learning that I can do to keep myself occupied.

  • Jonathan Kalan

    Set daily and weekly goals, and if you don’t hit them, try to understand what factors—internal or external—led to your distraction.

  • Dawn Pensack

    I set a list of what I HAVE to get done for the day. I stick to this and try my hardest to get it done. If I get distracted, then I’m working more hours but will only log 8…so I’m essentially working much longer hours for no benefit. That helps me stay focused.

  • Audrey Fairbrother

    I honestly think it’s easy when you enjoy what you’re doing. I actually look forward to logging on. Putting on a pair of good headphones and some classical music on Pandora helps me stay in the zone when working on big projects.

  • Kelli Neely

    It is easy for me, since my children are now grown and out of the house. If you have small children, you will still need to take them to daycare!

  • Karen LaGraff

    I believe that it is critical to have a secure, dedicated space to work. In other words, a real work space, not sitting at the kitchen table or on the sofa. It helps to have a room with a door. The room to my home office has a door, and when I am in there, my family understands that I am “at” work.

  • Randle Browning

    I definitely get distracted by shiny things! Most often it is actually a colleague who needs help with something. I set an away message on our chat platform when I need to focus, and it helps to work in a public place or near someone else (even if it’s not someone who works at Skillcrush), because I’d be less likely to fall into an Instagram hole without noticing the minutes ticking by. Another trick is to keep my phone on silent and in my bag or out of sight.

  • Kat Christofer

    Life is distracting by nature, but you can minimize as much as possible if you know what you need and when. I go AFK if focus wanes, do something physical, come back.

  • Hillary Heinz

    I am so much more productive in my remote job than I was at my traditional job. Our team’s scrum project management methodologies certainly help with that and I’d gamble to say that companies and teams with remote workers generally have tighter processes because it simply becomes more of a necessity.

    More personally speaking, I don’t switch up my work environment TOO much and if I do, I try to plan ahead and give myself time to adjust. A change of scenery is nice but definitely affects productivity. For example, it would be crazy stressful to work in a new space/place every day!

  • Theresa Cramer

    I don’t. I have no problem getting up and throwing in a load of laundry or vacuuming in the middle of the afternoon when I need a break from the computer. Just like when I was in an office I’d get up and walk around and talk to my coworkers.

  • Mike & Anne Howard

    If you have a deadline, close your email and social media until the project is complete. Put in a nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones and some music that gets you cranking. It’s okay to take on projects around the house in the middle of the day (that’s one of the benefits of working remotely), but only do them if you can actually finish them in less than 15 minutes, then back to work.

  • Kristen Marano

    This has been a huge challenge for me. It’s amazing how much time I can waste, if I’m trying to write, while picking up my phone every few minutes to tweet, scroll Instagram, and check email.

    To avoid situations like this, I recently started using the timer on my iPhone to encourage myself to focus on one task at a time. If I’m pitching media story lines, then I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes, and tell myself that I need to have the task complete when the timer goes off. When I’m under time constraints there’s no room for distractions.

  • Shannon O'Donnell

    I use a set playlist on Spotify, headphones, and a specific set of goals for that work session. So, before sitting down I identify my tasks on a set of Trello cards. Then I put on a playlist, close out of all browser tabs, and get down to work. I don’t often have issues focusing anymore, but at times I have used browser apps like Stay Focused to keep me from accessing Facebook, or casually turning to my reading list in Pocket. Using these apps occasionally has allowed me to teach myself laser-tight focus during my work sessions. Since I would often rather be out experiencing the world, I aim for hyper productive work sessions—no internet surfing allowed during a work session.`

  • Jenn Leaver

    I have a dedicated office, which cuts down on a lot of distractions. I know that when I go into my office, there’s nothing to do but work! If I’m feeling really distracted, I’ll give in to that. If there’s something on my mind, like an urgent errand I know I need to run or a huge pile of laundry that needs to be folded, I’ll take a break and take care of whatever needs to be done. I’ve found that if I try to work while I’m distracted, I usually end up getting very little actually done. It’s better to just address it head on and then come back to my computer feeling more relaxed.

  • David Daniel

    For me, it is a constant mental state. That said, in addition to what I have mentioned before, I also don’t worry too much about working ‘correct hours.’ Thus, if i need to take extra time running an errand, I have typically more than made up for it by working until late at night.  

  • Roxanne M. Tamayo

    To be honest, when I first started working remotely, I had a hard time concentrating. For example, I found myself checking Facebook way too frequently. It took me a while to lessen my usage.

    One technique that works for me is going off the grid for a day by going to a place without my phone away from my home. That way I don’t have the option of doing chores like washing my clothes or checking Facebook. It takes a lot of patience, but you just need to develop discipline. 

  • Lisette Sutherland

    I make a to-do list with my top 5 priority tasks and then use the pomodoro technique to timebox my day. This gives me plenty of focus time and plenty of breaks. I also find that going running or cycling in the middle of the day helps reset my energy levels.

  • Jay Meistrich

    I only work when I really want to. If I feel tired or get an urge to check Facebook or Reddit, I close my laptop and go for a walk. Then I go back to work after I’ve walked it off. I usually need a walking break like this every two or three hours.

    I work offline most of the time. Not only is this a battery saver, but it makes distraction a conscious choice. It’s easy to mindlessly tab over to Facebook, but having to turn on wifi first makes distraction a decision.

  • Lauren Antonian

    I limit distractions by creating a dedicated space for working that is not part of any personal space.

  • Christine Bielak

    I have a dedicated room that is my office; no bringing the laptop outside. I take frequent short breaks to get the “wanderlust” out of my system. Coffee machine and the laundry always whisper “come hither” and it’s best, for me, to quickly attend to something during a 5-minute break than to try to totally ignore it.

  • Colin Wright

    I make sure I’m doing work I’m really excited about, and allow myself to feel good about closing loops. That keeps me ever- moving toward the next complete project, rather than dilly-dallying.

  • Liz McGrory

    At the beginning of the week, in my paper calendar (I use an online one as well, but love paper) I transfer data from my monthly calendar to my weekly one. I also need to write a list of assignments. That list may have follow-ups I need to do or writing assignments with how many days or weeks I have left.

    Also, when I find that I am distracted I ask myself why. Am I procrastinating for a reason? Maybe I just need a movement break so that I can regain my focus. Becoming emotionally intelligent has helped me immensely in keeping the focus on my priorities.  

  • Taryn Barnes

    I’m an analog person, so the majority of my writing is done via pen and paper. I only use tech when I’m editing or submitting assignments. I also try and keep the windows of my web browser to a minimum. Lastly, social media is reserved only for when I’m “off the clock.”

  • Jen Hubley Luckwaldt

    I cannot stress enough the importance of having a separate space for work. I close the door to my office, shut down social media, and hunker down.

  • Chris Schain

    Honestly, it’s not as difficult as some might think. Again, it comes down to discipline. I don’t turn the TV on while I’m working and I’m very strict about the time I put in and the to-do list I make nearly every day. In my view, working from home is a privilege and I don’t like to abuse it.

  • Jan Lindborg

    I control the amount of work I do. I’m pretty motivated, so usually make sure I have more work than I can do in a day. I will say that when I don’t have a lot of work, I allow myself to get distracted. Having my own dedicated space with a door I can close really helps. Terrible daytime TV also helps. I do read online newspapers and Facebook at intervals during the day—it’s my version of the water-cooler conversations, coffee run, or smoke break.

  • James Clark

    I am most productive in the morning so I avoid meetings then. I work better by myself so I prefer cafes over co-working spaces.

  • Tom Paronis

    I learned to shut out the outside world. I found that the early start helped as well. These days it’s easier because I’m an empty nester.

  • Jennifer Bird

    I have a dedicated office in our house with doors. When I’m in my office, I’m at work.

  • Scott Hanselman

    I walk around when I’m distracted then come back when I’m ready again.

  • Conni Biesalski

    I really enjoy working in co-working spaces or “working” cafes, as I can get better in the working vibe than at home or in a hotel. I take frequent breaks to move or read a book or talk to a friend on the phone. I also find that meditation and yoga in the morning really helps with my productivity.

  • Jodi Ettenberg

    I don’t use apps to do so, as they don’t address the underlying problem of discipline. They just hold your hands for a bit.

    I try to divide up my time and tasks in ways that keep my brain feeling the varied nature of the different work. If I tired of writing, I move to editing photos.

    I do wall stretches on breaks, and try to move around when I remember to.

    I close my tabs for Facebook or the web, and sometimes even turn off WiFi when I’m writing and want to get into a phase of deep work.

    We are all in a constant battle with our minds in that sense, given how accessible distractions are. But I think the meditation helps my focus, and I basically just sit with the discomfort of wanting to do something else when I am working, if it arises. It’s not easy for any of us! But I think it’s still more effective than using an app that shuts off my browser.