If you work from home chances are you know how frustrating it is to try to get anything done when the people around you don’t realize that you’re actually at work. So in this blog we’re talking about boundaries, we’re talking about communication, and we’re talking about how to stop the distractions or the interruptions so you can actually get stuff done.
Watch here or read below.Family Hijacking Your Work Time? 4 Steps to Stop Distractions When You Work From Home Click To Tweet
Before we jump into these strategies I want you to remind yourself that the people in your life are not intentionally trying to drive you crazy just accidentally.
Remember that we teach people how to treat us by both how we treat ourselves and by what we allow or what we’ve allowed in the past. If we want to change those patterns it takes time so be patient with yourself, be patient with those other people.
Step #1 – Set up for success
The first thing you must do is to set up your spaces for success.
If we’re working from the kitchen table it’s going to be too easy for people to interrupt us so we really need to add more friction to their path and we can do this with things like
- A dedicated office space
- A closed door
- A locked door
- A sign on the door
- Noise canceling headphones.
All of those things can go a really long way.
Also, think about things like separating your work and your personal line. I know a lot of us use our cell phone for both.
And also consider what work hours are most conducive to you getting the most important work done. If you’ve got kids coming home at three o’clock maybe three to five or three to seven you don’t even work because it’s just not realistic.
In fact, comment below and let me know what time of day you are most likely to get interrupted.
Step #2 – Set expectations
The next step is to set expectations but to do so ahead of time. And this means having some tough, uncomfortable conversations that you probably have been avoiding having and having a dedicated conversation about it.
In other words, I don’t want you to just nonchalantly bring this up while you’re discussing other things. I want you to actually call or sit down with the people that are interrupting you to have a conversation solely about this topic.
- Validate where they’re coming from.
- Have patience with them.
- Listen to them.
- And then ask them for their support.
Also, give them really clear direction.
Tell them when you are not available, tell them when you are available, and then make sure that you stick to what you tell them.
Because again, we’re teaching people how to treat us.
If you say you’re not available from 9-5 but you keep picking up the phone to chat with them you’re teaching them that you are in fact available and that they should be paying attention to what you do and not what you say.
Again, we get to be very specific in telling them exactly what we would like them to do, exactly how they can support us. Don’t just tell them what you want them to stop doing tell them what you would like them to do instead.
So for example, you might say, “I’m no longer going to be available between 9-5. I’d really love it if you would wait until after dinner time to give me a call.”
And a little bonus tip with this one; when they do forget, because they will because they’re human, have patience with them as well as with yourself. But when they do forget have a go-to phrase that you can respond with. In other words it might just be something as simple as, “I’m sorry, I’m at work right now. Can we talk about this later?” If you respond with that go-to phrase over, and over, and over again, you are going to teach them how to respect your time and your work hours.
Step #3 – Bring them into your why
Number three can also happen within that really important conversation. This is to bring them into your bigger “why”.
Not what you’re doing, not how you’re doing it, not when you’re doing it.
So in other words you’re not saying, “I’m working from these times in this way“, but you’re saying, “I’m really working on this bigger vision or I’m really trying to reach this bigger goal.” Paint the picture for them as to why this is so important not just what you’re doing but what’s the ultimate outcome, what’s the vision that you’re actually after.
For adults in your life you may really be talking about your bigger vision, your bigger goal, what you’re really wanting to create in the world.
For kids you probably want to bring it down to their level and talk to them about why it’s so important that you have time to work undistracted. So maybe this is because you’re going to have more time for them in the evening when you shut it all off and you’re completely zoned in with them or you’re working towards this big financial goal and when you hit it you’re all going to go to Disneyland.
But again, I have to repeat that you might have to repeat yourself.
You’re going to have to give them regular reminders of this because people run on habits. If they have a habit of interrupting you they have to learn a new habit so be patient with them and give them these same reminders. Remind them why you’re really doing this and remind them exactly how they can support you. Give them specific details on what they can do to support you in helping you reach that goal.
Step #4 – Be less accessible
And next, we need to make ourselves less accessible.
If you love to serve, and support, and care for other people, this is going to be the hardest one. You being less accessible means not being available to them, but also being less reliable, not being the person that solves their problems, or fills in for them, or helps them out every time they ask for it.
There are a lot of ways that you can become less accessible. For instance, put your phone on silent or put it on do not disturb when you’re in your most important work hours. When you’re working on your income producing activities you should have no way for anybody to contact you.
Also, stop checking your phone, your email, your social media before you’ve done those income producing activities.
When I get into my work day I haven’t looked at social, I haven’t looked at email, I haven’t looked at text messages, nothing. The first thing that I’m doing is sitting down to work on my Big Rocks, the most important things in your business.
And if you’re not sure what big rocks are make sure you check out my blog on Time Blocking where it describes it very, very well. I schedule those big rocks first in the day and I let nothing else come into my little zone, my circle until I’m done with those things.
If people have a tendency to just come over in the middle of day because they know you’re home stop answering the door. I know it’s going to be awkward and uncomfortable to sit there and hear them knocking on the door and not respond but these are the things that sometimes we need to do to set a firm boundary. If you’ve had that conversation, if you’ve set the expectations, and they’re still showing up not respecting you then you get to inconvenience them now. They get to have come all the way to your home for no reason.
Again, have the conversations first, set the expectations first, be patient, but at some point you get to draw the line and be a hard ass about it.
And going back to what I was saying about being less reliable…
If you are the person that everybody comes to instead of Googling something, if you’re the person that they come to when they have a challenge, when they need somebody to volunteer for something and you’re always saying yes you’ve trained them to come to you all the time. You need to start saying “no” and making yourself unavailable for those things so that they can start relying on other people in their life.
Now obviously with kids this is a little bit different. This is where it’s more about setting up that environment, getting them squared away, doing whatever we have to do to make sure that we just have space away from them. But for adults in your life you just get to be the hard ass.
Here’s the other thing too; I don’t want you to explain why. You don’t have to say, “No, because I am doing this,” or, “I can’t really take that on,” or over-justifying and over-explaining yourself is not going to be helpful to people who lack an understanding of your boundaries. The only thing that’s going to be helpful is a clear “no“.
You could potentially say, “No, but I could do [this] instead.” So for instance, “No, I’m not available at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday but I could help you out on Saturday when I’m not at work.”
P.S. If you would like to learn more about time blocking…
Be sure to also grab my free Time Blocking Boss guide, which will walk you through 7 steps to help you prioritize what matters (and still get everything done).
You can learn more here, or grab it by clicking the link below.
What about you, boss lady?
I would love to hear what’s worked for you. Leave a comment below letting us all know what helps you to minimize distractions or interruptions when you’re working from home.