People who work at home know that it’s hard to get things done. Most environments are not very conducive to productivity. I received one lesson on that in high school when I received an in-school suspension. Eight-second version of that story: I broke a rule I thought the school had no right to make and I got my one and only detention. My parents refused to let me serve it because it would inconvenience them, so I received an in-school suspension.
Focus and get things done
Let me just say that the day I spent in that little glass room, with no distractions other than half the school coming in to see if it really was me in the glass box, was the most productive day of my entire school career. It was just me and a stack of books. I knew that I had one whole school day to get as much work done as I could, and I had every intention of making good use of that time. Without all the transitions between classes, and especially without all the talk from teachers and students, I was able to focus like never before. Did I ever get things done!
Aside: Even though I had all the symptoms of ADHD, I didn’t have the label at that time. I made good grades, but not because I was able to pay attention (almost every class was BORING, and the teachers went over and over things I already knew, or else understood the first of the ten times they said it).
I sharpened my pencils at least a dozen times that day in the glass box, I wrote so much. I don’t remember all of the work I got done that day so many years ago, but I do remember a few things. I read an entire book for history class, completed several worksheets, took two or three tests, and wrote a 5-page English paper start-to-finish.
At the end of the day, I asked the principal if I could spend the next day in there, too, because I got so much work done. He laughed. I was serious! I didn’t want the suspension on my record, of course, but I did want to be in a little room, all by myself, with a pile of work to do. He told me no. The glass box (aka in-school suspension room) was reserved for students who had done bad things and needed to be punished. Oh, my, it was the exact opposite of punishment for me!
We can’t just lock ourselves in a room alone with our work, unfortunately. How I wish we could! How I try, but having children who are homeschooled and living in a tiny home, and having superhuman hearing all make that impossible. When you can be alone, though, it just might be the most productive day of your life.
Work at home productivity tips
As much as you are able to, set limits on interruptions and distractions. While it’s true that immersive media is bad for the brain, sometimes we just have to plop our kids in front of a video or something so we can get some work done. Sure, have that box of special toys, games, and coloring books for keeping your offspring entertained while you work, but anyone who’s done it can tell you that the novelty of that box wears off FAST, and unless you have a Rich Uncle Pennybags and plenty of room in your house, you can’t afford to have seven of those boxes. Depending on where you live and how loud your children are, sending the kids outside to play may or may not be of help to you. Where I live, it means mud-streaked floors for at least half of the year. Mud means more housework, which means less paying work gets done. Not ideal! So keep them occupied when you need to, and don’t feel guilty about it.
If you have someone to supervise them, slap on some headphones with instrumental music and work as hard and as fast as you can before the next interruption comes. In my experience, it takes some time to train yourself to ignore them (they have their dad here, they don’t need to ask me 300 questions an hour), and to train them to go to the other adult (you have your dad, you don’t need to ask me 300 questions an hour—or any, for that matter).
Priming your brain the night before with the things you’re going to get done the next day can increase productivity. Doing the most important/urgent task the first thing in the morning also helps. Brian Tracy calls it “eating that frog.”
I’m still working on ways I can get more done with the kids around, but here are some other tips for being more productive.
On this one, I’m a student right along with some of you (some of you are masters at this). I’m still learning how to prioritize so I can get things done. Sometimes, it seems like everything is important, and worse, that everything on my to-do list is equally important. Of course we all know it’s not true, but that doesn’t change the fact that it seems that way. To paraphrase Peter Drucker, it’s a total waste of time to do things that shouldn’t be done in the first place, no matter how efficiently we get them done.
So how do I determine what’s more important? I use the Stephen Covey quadrants, and I also ask myself, “Will this matter in a day, a week, a month, a year?” If it won’t matter in a year whether or not I did that item, then does it really matter today?
Figure out what’s important, in what order to get things done, get all the quiet you can buy, use a timer and bang out as much of the important things as you can. May you get all the things done you want to!
Have some great tips to share? Leave them in the comments.