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Remote work

How to avoid distractions as a remote worker


Remote work is often cited as a cure to office distraction. It saves individuals from stressful commutes, office chatter, long coffee breaks, and pointless meetings. All this is true. 

But with great flexibility comes great distraction.

Dogs, kids, spouses, endless snacks and laundry.

Constant notifications, emails, and calls.

Without office etiquette or someone looking over your shoulder, it’s very easy to spend all day keeping yourself busy without getting any real work done. 

We've identified three categories of distraction that can easily permeate your workday, and leave you scrambling at 11pm to get that one thing done you promised yourself you would finish today. Here's how to reduce those distractions and make the most out of your remote work opportunity.

Minimize digital distraction

This is Joe. Don't be like Joe.

You will never be able to prevent digital distraction, but there are ways to manage it. The main sources of interruptions for a remote worker are communication tools  - email, Slack, and phones. 

Track your productive time

I didn’t realize how unproductive I was until I started to track it. There are numerous tools that will help you figure out how you’re spending your work day. Awareness is the first step towards action. Try downloading a time tracking tool and figure out how you spend your days. 

Take a weekly snapshot, and map it to what work actually makes you feel good. 

Services you could try include Rescuetime, Harvest, Holopod (that’s us!), and even something as simple as the Pomodoro technique. 

Batch your email

Set a goal to check your email at intervals. I’m not going to suggest checking it once/day - you’re not Tim Ferris. However, figure out the right interval for you. If I check my email mid-morning (after getting something done), and mid-afternoon - I can typically cover my bases. 

Manage your Slack status

Though an extremely useful tool for remote teams, Slack can be distracting. It’s important to be available . Try using Slack statuses to signal to your team when it’s best to contact you, or set their “do not disturb” feature.  

Go into Airplane mode

How many times have you checked your phone when reading this? Even seeing the word phone makes me want to check it. 

Choose video over text

The biggest drag on your time is going to be those half-conversations you get pulled into - you know the ones, where you’re messaging back and forth with someone for a few hours while your[re both half working on other stuff. It feels like work, but is a complete waste of energy. Instead of getting caught in those, schedule a time for a 15 minute video call to discuss what something in detail, and then get back to the deep work. You’ll find with more video, you’ll feel better connected to your team. Be intentional about deep work, and be intentional about conversations. Don’t start a Slack conversation without a goal, and have it drag on for days.

Optimize your personal workspace

If only my workspace looked like this...

Working from home is great, but some days it feels like you’re not at work. It’s easy to feel like a failure when asked to wash the dishes when you’re supposed to be doing a massive partnership deal. Have a conversation with your spouse (and your puppy) about work day boundaries, and try to stick to them. 

Have a dedicated workspace 

If possible have a separate room that you can work in, with a door that closes. If you have a spare bedroom, get a wall bed and transform it into a personal office. If you’re not lucky enough to have extra space - ensure you have desk setup that is only used for your work. It’s still fine to work from the kitchen table or the couch sometimes! Do not work from bed. 

Get out of the house 

Start your day off by commuting to your home office. This could be anything from a walk around the block to a walk to get your favorite latte. If you have the opportunity, spend a few hours a day at a coffee shop or co-working space. Take breaks every few hours. 

Keep your space tidy 

Be diligent about keeping your workspace pristine. If this is your home, you’ll need to clean it. Treat your workspace professionally, and you’ll get more done. Hiring a cleaner to come in once a week is often worth the investment. 

Focus on physical and mental health 

Try not to check your phone though...

Set strict working hours 

Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on getting 8 good hours of work in a day, and decide how to optimally break those down. If I get 3 hours of deep work a day and an hour of calls, it’s a good day. I try to shut everything off by 6pm, unless I’ve consciously decided to work late - in which case I do it out of choice, not necessity. 

Avoid “working” from your phone 

Don’t check your email and Slack messages first thing in the morning while you’re in bed. Easier said than done, but the impact on your mental health is enormous. Surprisingly little work is actually done through a phone, but it does have the ability to make it feel like you’re working all day. Stop pretending to work, and aim to have a few high fidelity calls once you’re at your computer instead of an all day Slack chat. 

Exercise daily

If you’ve saved yourself hours of commuting each day, put that time to good use by getting a workout in. It doesn’t matter what you do, but find a sport you like and try to do it every day. Even 20 minutes a day will change your life, and your work day. Every time I try to work without exercising, I get less done.

Sleep well

Setting strict working hours will help you sleep better. Set a goal of shutting down the laptop and phone 2 hours before your bed time. Try it for a week and see how amazing it feels.

Eat well

Working from home notoriously leads to over-snacking. Have a number of healthy snacks available to help you perform at your peak, and

Putting it all together 

If managed right, remote work is a superpower. It gives you freedom, flexibility, and time for what matters most. If you figure out now how to get your best work done every day, you'll open up a world of opportunity to build your best career from anywhere in the world.