As a remote worker, you already know that
maximizing your productivity is essential. That means you’re going to need high
amounts of focus and concentration.
However, that focus and concentration doesn’t
come easily. Working outside of a traditional office setup leaves you
vulnerable to all sorts of distractions, some of them being in the form of
Who am I to talk about noise and distraction?
Hi, my name’s Madison Perry and I’ve spent the
last couple of years as the Marketing Manager for a start-up in Dallas called NoiseAware.
We are the world’s first “privacy safe noise monitoring solution”, a technology
that keeps short-term rentals (and the communities that they’re in) noise free.
I’m also a graduate from the University of
Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner), so I’m used to spending time in environments with
lots of people and as a result – lots of noise.
During my time at Oklahoma (and working in a
startup environment), I came up with some ways on how to be productive in areas
with tons of noise and distractions.
I hope you get as much value from this article as I did when making it!
Why Distraction Costs You More Than You Think
As I said earlier, there is no shortage of
distractions in the world of today. Internet, TV, other people talking, random
noises, the list goes on and on. It can all seem pretty overbearing at times.
Beyond being overbearing, there’s a price
(mentally) that you pay when you get distracted and fail to focus on completing
As human beings, our natural default mode is
to focus on whatever we’re doing single-mindedly. Our physiology and psychology
are designed to take the most effective route from point A to point B. This
saves our brain a lot of energy and uses it for what is most important.
When you focus on a source of distraction, you
are essentially “switching tasks” and as a result, you incur a what is known as
a “cognitive switching penalty”. This
is the price that your brain pays for having to “load” different aspects of a
It takes the human brain, on average 25 minutes to refocus on a certain task
after an interruption. Over the course of a day, you can easily see how this
can add up and make a task take much longer than it reasonably should have.
What does all of this mean?
It means multi-tasking is largely a myth. You
can’t have the main focus on two different things at the same time. For
example, you cannot text and drive (effectively) at the same time. When you do
both, your overall ability to do both effectively is compromised.
So now that you know why distractions are so bad, let me give you some of my best tips to minimizing them and even avoiding them.
Strategy # 1: Noise canceling headphones (with optional white noise)
As a remote worker, you may find that you’ll
want to work out in public to prevent the creeping sense of isolation that
affects so many people. You may like working somewhere like a coffee shop or
some other area where there’s a lot of traffic around.
If you do, then you’ll definitely need to invest in some noise-canceling headphones. There’s a lot of them out there – but check out this list from TechRadar for some of the best.
Strategy # 2: Places designated for quiet
If you still find that you just can’t really
focus in an area with a ton of people coming in and out frequently, I recommend
that you find a co-working space or a library. The former is a bit tricky
because there’s no real law against talking at a somewhat loud volume. It’s up
to the person to be courteous. The latter is more likely to yield better
results for quiet because it’s…well… a library.
Experiment with both and see which one works
Strategy # 3: Make a schedule + plan breaks
Throughout the day, as your mind gets
fatigued, you’ll find it tempting to reach for distractions.
You just want anything to break the tedium of
working on a project, especially one that’s really hard. What ends up happening?
Thirty minutes on Facebook there, some minutes watching YouTube here, some
games…a couple of hours later – you find that you got sucked into the black
hole of doing nothing.
How do you prevent this? You need to create a
schedule. You need to create structure. Plan your day out in advance the night
before and schedule breaks in the form of 10 minutes.
That will give your mind some time to reset
itself after you’ve been working hard for stretches of 30 minutes or an hour.
If you don’t give yourself breaks, you’ll find yourself having unplanned distractions and falling victim to wasting time.
Strategy # 4: Have designated “work” clothes
When you work remotely, it is very easy to
fall into the trap of working during “non-work hours”. I don’t even mean
working during odd times, I mean having your work unnecessary spill over into
the realm of personal time or “me time”.
How do you prevent this from happening?
One strategy is to wear different clothes for
work and different clothes for when you’re just “hanging out”.
The distinction between work clothes and
non-work clothes is intended to signal to your mind “hey, now we’re working.
It’s time to get serious.”
When people work in an office, they obviously
get dressed up for work. That time between getting ready for work and commuting
puts the brain in a mental shift to “work mode”.
You should be doing the same.
Strategy 5: Get an Internet blocker
This is easily one of the most effective
strategies to increase your productivity. Since the Internet remains an
omnipresent distraction, what’s the best way to stop that distraction? Simple.
Block the Internet.
But you’ll most likely need the Internet for
things like group chat, research, and viewing specific sites. Well, there’s a
way you can block specific sites.
There’s a lot more, but those two are basic blockers that meet the majority of people’s needs.
Strategy 6: Go with the Flow
My final strategy for reducing distractions
and producing creative work is to just accept it.
What do I mean by that?
When people look for distractions or
purposefully allow themselves to get distracted, they are looking for a way out
of their current situation – that situation being work.
As I said before, the brain doesn’t like to
use energy and will do whatever it can to not do so. This means wasting time
My best advice is to fully focus on work and
do your best at it. Cal Newport touches on this in his book Deep Work, where he tells
“knowledge workers” (that’s us!) that focusing on specific tasks for specific
periods of time will make us healthier, happier, and most importantly of all –
more productive in the long-run.
I’d recommend following his advice because you’ll find that over time, it’ll be worth it.
Being a remote worker is tough because you’ll
find that you’ll face challenges that the normal person who works in an office
You may be in different time zones than the
rest of your teammates and that can drastically shift your plans and even overall
time you get started during work.
You may not even have a dedicated office,
which can make structuring your day and tasks very difficult.
But with a little creative insight, a little
planning, and a lot of desire and willpower, you’ll find that you can end up
being much more productive than you may have been in an ordinary office
I hope you enjoyed my tips and that you’re
able to use them to the fullest in your journey to be a better remote worker!