Learn about the difference between emergencies and "impatientces".
- If you work from home and live with others, you will be interrupted. It is unavoidable. However, there are some strategies that you can put in place to minimize the impact and reduce the frequency of these interruptions. First, it's essential that you put extra buffer space in your day. I recommend that most people have about an hour and a half of buffer space in an average eight hour work day. This is the time that's scheduled for nothing to leave room for interruptions that happen in the pace of our modern lives.
If you work from home and have children or pets or act as a caregiver, I recommend you schedule even more buffer time in your day. This empty buffer space gives you flexibility and freedom to deal with these interruptions when they occur. They also help you set a much more reasonable expectation for how much work you can accomplish in a day. Much of the frustration for home-based workers comes when they tell themselves, "I'm going to focus on this project for six hours straight "and I'm going to get it done today." Then the baby cries or the cat claws at the door, or their children come in crying and their clever little plan falls apart and they feel devastated and frustrated.
Instead, by building a schedule that expects these things to happen, you will be prepared. You will feel more relaxed. Plus, if they don't happen, if the interruption gloriously does not occur, then you will feel like you have bonus time in your day. It's a strange paradox of our information overloaded world that we when you try to do less, you accomplish more. In addition to just having unstructured buffer time, plan so that your schedule has focused times for loved ones on a consistent basis.
For instance, a common scenario for many working parents is that their children arrive home at a certain time each day. While the children do not need constant attention, that first half hour of when they return home is usually when they want to tell you about their day, decompress. Make sure that you're there. For example, if your children get home at 3 o'clock each day, you may schedule time from 3 to 3:30 to give them attention for that first half hour and maybe a little buffer time, say 15 minutes, before and after to help you transition to it and transition back to work afterward.
You can also set the expectation for them that if they have questions or needs, they should ask it during that time. Then you're going to go back to work and be focused. During that time they need to take care of things themselves. Now that sounds great. Wouldn't it be nice if everything happened exactly that way? But it won't. When an unexpected interruptions comes from a family member, ask them or even ask yourself, "Can this wait until my finish line?" For instance, if I'm going to stop work at 5:30, can it wait till then? By asking this question, you're bringing attention to the need to stay focused.
You may realize that what you think is an emergency is really just an impatiency. If it can't wait until the end of the day, perhaps there's a natural break coming soon. Ask the person interrupting you, "Can this wait until 4 p.m.? "I'll be able to focus on it then." If the person is old enough to understand time, they can make a self-assessment. Even children can think about this and develop more awareness and respect for time. I'm not talking about not taking care of a loved one when they have a real need.
If there's a real need, then we must respond. But the simple question of "Can this wait?" helps us and our loved ones separate emergencies from impatiencies. Of course, what if it's with someone who can't understand time? What if it's with a very young child or even a pet? One tool you can use is to set a timer for yourself. Ask yourself, how long can I wait until I deal with this? Pick the longest reasonable amount of time.
For instance, if the dog can wait 10 minutes until I let them out, then set a timer for 10 minutes. Allow yourself to stay focused on what you're doing and then switch gears in the future. Clearly, this isn't perfect, and we can't expect perfection, but we can implement small changes into our day, little systems that will slow down the rate of interruptions and allow you to stay more focused while at work. And focus is everything when it comes to working from home.
- Creating a productive environment
- Creating a balanced schedule
- Using virtual meetings
- Staying responsive
- Balancing roles as a parent, caregiver, and professional
- Managing interruptions and emergencies at home