The traffic sputtering outside your window. Your neighbor’s Swedish death metal playlist. Your partner grabbing a snack or coffee from the kitchen every few minutes or stepping into your home office space to complete that one “little” chore.
If you’ve been working from home for a while, you may have been excited about the change at first, only to find that excitement losing its luster over time.
As a single parent who founded and operated a fully remote legal recruiting company in 2012 on top of raising a young child, life and business coach and Arootah consultant Kirsten Franklin, esq. has been there.
“At first, it seems like a dream come true,” she says. “But, in reality, you may have lost the separation you needed to compartmentalize your life. In addition, you’ve suddenly become accessible 24/7 to both work and family.”
When you’re distracted by your spouse, partner, or kids, working from home (or WFH) isn’t always easy, so Franklin is sharing several strategies to help you stay focused on work when you’re working and on family when you’re not.
Your Most Common WFH Focus Struggles
While we all have individual challenges with staying focused when working at home, we can almost always trace these distractions back to one cause: the merging of work and home life.
Even if you’re working from a dedicated home office with soundproofing and a door, you’ll likely still struggle to separate work and home life.
“You still face the fact that now you seem to be more available to your work and your family,” Franklin explains. “The household and family tasks that aren’t normally in your face all day are now there constantly: dishes, laundry, hungry children, pets, significant others, roommates, whatever it is. It’s now readily available to nag at you, and you are accessible. And, bonus, you’ve lost the camaraderie of your office mates and even those slight mental breaks to leave your office to grab coffee and chat. Now, you’re in the same space 24/7 and this, in and of itself, is wearing on a person.”
How to Focus on Work When Working from Home
So, how can you go about maintaining focus despite distractions? Franklin points to two main tools you need to have:
- A system
Build a System that Supports You
“Create a system that works for you and your family,” Franklin says. “This system should include active working hours and a dedicated workspace—and a knock-and-wait-before-entry policy, if possible.”
She also recommends avoiding household chores by ensuring they are out of sight and, therefore, out of mind.
Your system should also include:
- Designated times for checking your mobile phone
- Keeping office communications on internal platforms, such as Slack
“My rule,” Franklin explains, “is that everyone emails or texts me unless it is a true emergency. Emergencies are clearly defined with a system in place.”
To ensure your system works, you also need to set clear boundaries for your team members, your family members, and yourself.
Franklin recommends establishing boundaries around:
- When you’re available
- To whom you’re available
- How soon you’re going to respond to communications such as emails and texts
If you feel bad about setting those boundaries, Franklin reminds you to “remember—the time is yours.”
She adds, “I own my businesses that I work from home for, but I still work in time for everything. Sometimes, when my child was younger, I would work for about 30 to 40 minutes, then break to spend time with my daughter. Since I have a standard max of about 20 minutes for meetings, unless they’re the larger company meetings, I would be able to get everything needed to be done.”
How to Focus on Family When WFH Is Done
There’s more to work-life balance than increasing your productivity when working from home. Having the right boundaries and systems in place can also help you ensure that, when you do log off for the day, you’re truly logged off—physically and mentally. Franklin recommends that you create a routine for ending your workday, just like you might establish a routine in the morning when you get ready for work.
“Create a specific trigger that clearly states to you, your mind, and others your workday is over,” she says. “Some might take a bath, take a walk outside, or do something else that ends their workday.”
If you find you still have trouble disconnecting your mind from your working space, you may want to consider putting extra effort towards developing healthy habits that improve your overall mental wellness.
Franklin suggests the following:
- Maintain regular bedtimes and waking times
- Limit your tech use immediately after waking up
While it can be tempting to roll over and check those emails right away, try to wait at least 30 minutes. What are you supposed to do during that half-hour? You could, Franklin suggests, try meditation.
The Bottom Line
However, you decide to create your boundaries, Franklin says consistency is the key to WFH work-life balance. By dedicating yourself to upholding those boundaries, you’ll begin to see the results in your life—from greater productivity during the workday to higher-quality family time at night.
Need support setting boundaries and establishing a system that works for you? Talk to an Arootah Life Coach, like Franklin, to gain more valuable insight and tips on how you can optimize your work-life balance.