Abigail Barnes describes different ways to avoid distractions when working from home

New Year, same challenges: how to live and work from home while juggling a huge variety of other job roles, while also being surrounded by constant distractions from things that ring, vibrate and flash, alerting you to calls, texts, messages, updates, meetings, conversations and news from both a business and personal perspective.  So how do you avoid these distractions?


Making the ability to focus and remain focused is the Holy Grail. Studies show that it takes most people around 20 minutes to focus on a task and 20 minutes to re-focus if they are interrupted.

With the average person being contacted on 5-10 different platforms a day, all of which slowly start to diminish our brain’s ability to focus for long periods of time, our brain becomes programmed to do what Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work calls “shallow work”.

Investigate Your Environment

With working from home still very much on the agenda this year, take some time to audit your home set-up and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s working for me right now?
  • What’s not working for me right now?

Then make the adjustments that you need and are possible given the circumstances. Perhaps certain times of the day work better for some tasks than others. Maybe different locations suit different activities. Maybe you need to review your working hours with your boss and team and split them up around your current situation.

Get creative, try new things, stick with what works and ditch what doesn’t. There are no hard and fast rules for the world we are finding ourselves in right now. Your wellbeing matters as much as your productivity, and we can’t have one without the other anymore.

Set Deadlines and Identify Rewards

Research suggests that when we work in 60-90-minute blocks of time we give ourselves enough time to focus on the task at hand.

How can you break down your to do list and projects into tasks that you can do for a chunk of time?  Decide what is the best time of day for each one, set a deadline and identify how you will reward yourself, maybe with a cup of tea, lunch break, walk or a meditation.

Create New Habits and Routines

Now that you have reviewed your work set-up and ways you can chunk your time to be more productive, I want to share three things you can try to avoid distractions and remain focused working from home.

1. To-Do List

Start it on paper, listing out everything that needs to get done before taking it online and prioritising the tasks and activities. Yes, the brain is like a computer in how it operates and processes data, but it also works best with visual cues. This tip won’t work for everyone, so if it’s not for you move on.

2. Kitchen Timer

For my second recommendation, you’ll need to go into your kitchen and dig out your cooking timer (the one you use for boiling eggs or baking cakes).

Once you know what task/activity you’re working on set the timer for 60-90 minutes. There is something very calming about the ticking that allows your brain to relax and focus. It will even start to associate the sound with concentration.

3. Download This App

My third recommendation is to download an app to your phone called Forest. It is a productivity focus tool that locks your phone for a set amount of time (you choose how long). While it grows a cartoon tree you can concentrate without distractions. If you try to touch your phone before the time is up a notification pops up and you have to choose to kill the tree you were growing.

The app then plants either the alive or dead tree into your ‘Forest’ and awards you points (that can be exchanged for different types of trees). You can track your performance over time both visually and numerically.

It is also available to download as a Google Chrome plug-in for your desktop.


Reach out to me on social media and let me know what you try. Experimentation is the key to success as is the ability to be adaptable in an ever-changing world.

Check out Abigail’s latest #adminchat on our YouTube Channel for more on this topic: https://youtu.be/TVJeZffcg0E

Abigail Barnes is the founder of Success by Design Training and an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker, and corporate trainer on time management and productive wellbeing. She is a qualified coach and creator of the renowned 888 Formula. Success by ... (Read More)

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