Interruptions are everywhere – at work and at home. Whether you’re sitting in the office and Karen strolls in to tell you all about her celery only diet, or your boss intercepts your afternoon snack run to share their brilliant idea to save money on ink, it just happens

You’re used to those interruptions, but your new coworkers at home… they’re a different story. 

For the next couple of weeks, your “coworkers” will be asking for juice mid-meeting, crapping their pants like it’s completely normal, and begging for food even though they literally just ate.

Your new coworkers don’t care if they’re pulling you away from important work – they want their crackers, and they want them now. 

Unfortunately, you cannot fire them – but you can train them and yourself to get through the day a little smoother by managing those adorable little distractions. 

For Those Pesky Notifications: We get it…you’ve practically reached settler status since social distancing started.

  1. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb (DND) and silent mode when you’re working. Only after finishing a project should you check on how little Susie is doing learning how to churn butter, and don’t forget to check your phone for texts, calls, and emails. And if your spouse or children go into panic mode when you don’t answer, add them to your “favorites” in your phone and allow their calls to ring through even when the phone is on DND mode so that you don’t miss them.
  2. Turn off all desktop notifications when an email, slack message, or any other communication comes through. You can use the Do Not Disturb feature if you have it, but if not, here’s how to do it for emails:
    1. Outlook
    2. Gmail

If you’re worried about missing an update, build breaks into your workday so you can take a break and check. Doing that makes break time a little more intentional, and allows you to stay in work mode a little longer. Now, the only interruptions you have to worry about is from your children. Or your cat. But minimizing all noise from your devices will allow you the brain space and time you need to be productive.

Get Organized

Let me guess; your office desk is uncluttered and unbothered for the most part. Right? That’s no longer true because while you’re working at home, your desk is the kitchen table, a dumping ground for mail, and an art studio. Who knows! But listen, now is not the time for your essential random papers to be sitting around the house – get creative! Here’s what I do:

  1. Get a small planner or notebook and use it daily for your to-do list. Writing everything down that you must complete today helps to focus your brain after the coffee wears off, and the children get rambunctious. That way, when the day goes off the rails, all your important to-dos are in the same place. If you’re a sticky-note user, sorry, they probably won’t cut it in what has now become a co-working space.
  2. Time block your day, starting now. By blocking time off on the calendar, you’re making space for all your work to get done, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite soft skills. Giving myself the ability to take control of my life by blocking the most productive time of the day in my Google Calendar is a trade secret… one everyone knows now. Using my Google Calendar helps me visualize and prioritize what has to get done each day — and be realistic about what I can get accomplished.

Hot Timeblocking Tip: Prioritize your most challenging work for a time of day when you are most productive. Try to push meetings or phone calls to a time when you are usually less productive. Save those productive hours for the items that have to get done!

Then, before you sign off for the day, block off time on your calendar for the following day to review what projects are approaching their deadline – so you don’t fall behind!

Stay In Touch

  1. You should be sending calendar invites for every meeting. Doing so helps minimize scheduling issues and no-shows. It also gives you a visual of your day and makes time blocking so much easier. 
  2. Team communication is critical! If you are used to having your team close by to connect and talk in person, install Slack, a messaging software, for communication. My team has always been virtual, and we use Slack to discuss projects for the back and forth. It’s much easier than email and saves room in your inbox for more important conversations.
  3. Sign up for Zoom! Video chats are always better than phone calls. You feel more connected to your team, and you can socialize with distance! And no, you don’t have to use the video feature, leaving PJs all day every day is a viable option. 
  4. Be intentional with your communication. Remember Do Not Disturb mode? Turn off all non-essential notifications on your phone – social media apps, news, etc. Your day will have enough craziness as it is. Eliminate all noise wherever possible, and reach out to those you want to — when you have the time.

For the Kids

Kids running around while you try to work got you frazzled? Oh my gosh, you have no idea… or maybe you do. I’ve been working from home for almost six years now, and to say it’s still tricky to navigate these waters is an understatement. But it’s different for you because you were basically tossed into the deep end. I’m throwing you a lifeline! And sharing my pro tips: 

  1. Create a schedule for the kids. Just like you, kids thrive in structured environments. If they know what to expect, it’ll give them a plan of action for all their energy, which in turn helps minimize interruptions. Remember, when you’re drafting out their days, Include snack time, quiet time, and screen time so that they don’t continually interrupt to ask, “Can I watch/eat/play now?”
  2. Let it get messy. The house will be messier because everyone is home and your eyes are not on the kids. Just let it happen. And then let them clean it up to earn their screen time!
  3. Your kids are still technically in school, which means you may have sacrificed your desk. Kudos to you! Nows, a perfect chance to order one of these laptop chill mats and make a move to a quiet corner in the house.

Most importantly: when a child interrupts (and they will, over and over and over despite your best efforts), give them 100% of your attention. When you do, it’s easier to turn back to work after they skip away fully assured of your love. You do lose a few moments of productivity, but for your child, those moments were everything.

If you find that it is all just too much and you’re unable to get things done in a day, cut out the excess. Don’t cut out your workout or “me time,” but social media could take a hike. Cutting back from the ‘gram or Facebook because your workspace is different is part of your new reality. Keep in mind; this is temporary, and the sooner we can all do our part with healing the world, the sooner we’ll be back dodging all the Karens of the world or our managers in the hall. 

One last thing… If you’re struggling with overwhelm, I suggest turning off the news or limiting your consumption to 30 minutes a day. Sure, check-in from time to time, but when you do, you’ll likely find more of the same. If I can help take anything off your plate, now’s a perfect time to ask. I’ve got a team of people behind me, ready to help you keep your head above water during this season of life. Click here to get on my calendar, and we’ll talk options and pivots – whatever you need to breathe easier.

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