Dealing With Distractions

I live with family.  It’s true.  Gallup polls show I’m not alone.  That’s not to say I’m sitting on the couch all day watching The Walking Dead.  I’ll have you know I’ve been out of the loop on the last season, so please don’t ruin it for me.  I don’t want to hear about how Shane was really Judith’s father or how Daryl and Michonne are having a little of warrior babies.

Writers can work at home.  So can translators, virtual assistants, web developers, and travel agents.  And there’s no shame in working from home either.  The way I see it, I’ve got two jobs right now: writing and finding stabler work.  And I’m happy to say that my family understands a lot of effort goes into these two things.

That said, even with a cozy little office (or scary if the dim lighting freaks you out), I still have to deal with distractions.  This is probably the bane of the worker-at-home’s existence.  People think, Well, he’s home, so he can help me put together my bookshelf or run some errands with me.  No, sorry.  If we had clones, sure, but we don’t.

Here are a handful of tips I’ve tried out lately.  Some have been more successful than others, but on the whole, it’s pretty solid advice I can give so you can get the most out of your day without being a douche to your peers.

Work when people aren’t around.

The first tip sounds the most obvious: get your most important stuff done either early in the morning or late in the evening.  Either way, the goal is to hammer through it when everyone else is asleep.  I personally advocate getting things done early in the morning so you don’t feel pressed for time late at night, which, of course, you would be.  Besides, why would you want to spend you nights working when you could be with friends and family?

Clue people in.

No one’s a mind reader except Professor X.  You’re going to have to sit down with your family or housemates and tell them, “Listen, I don’t mean to be antisocial, but during the day, I do have to get X, Y, and Z done.”  If you do work from home, distractions could mean lost income.  If you’re job hunting, distractions could mean missed opportunities, which is just as bad.  The people you live with (hopefully) want you to succeed, so you need to give them a chance to help you, even in a passive way.

The Doors.

Doors aren’t just an amazing band, they’re a great thing to have in your office, and I’ll go so far as saying half the reason you should have an office is just to have a door.  I have a nice little code with my family.  If the door’s open, come on in and bug me.  If it’s halfway open, bug me only if it’s important.  If it’s closed, I’m pretty much not at home.  In exchange for this understanding, I try to keep the door closed as little as possible so they don’t feel I’m shutting them out 24/7.

Headphones are code for fuck off!

I’d say use this as a last resort, but nothing says “I’m busy and can’t talk right now” like a pair of headphones.  I have a pair of earbuds, but I’ve noticed over-ear headphones are back in vogue.  Plus, they have the benefit of being not-so-subtle.

Accept that you WILL be distracted.

You should just make peace with the fact that you’re going to be interrupted no matter what.  If a kid breaks a leg while you’ve got the door closed, your spouse isn’t going to give two shits about your private time.  Fingers crossed, that won’t happen, but the point I’m trying to get across is that people got their own lives too and things to do.  Sure, they’ll try giving you as much space as you ask for, but if they do need to butt in, there’s no sense in being bitchy over it.  Take a breath, be a grown-up, and accommodate them.

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