Your Home Office: DistractionsGary Opper, CPA, CFPdistraction solutions, successful home business
There are many things that can draw your attention away from
getting your work done at your home office. With each distraction,
your days get shorter. One more thing doesn't get done that
The key to running a successful home business is to treat the
office like a traditional business environment. As suggested by
interior designer Marcy Hoffman, "You need to create a space so
that when you walk over to that space, you are going through an
invisible door to work. This fosters a mental process workers must
go through in order to be successful." This article will list
distractions and their solutions so that you can make your workday
Pets are just one of the possible distractions that will prevent
you from getting your work done. They will venture into your office
and demand your attention. You don't want the dog barking, the cat
meowing or the parakeet talking.
Even former President Clinton's dog, Buddy, distracted him
occasionally. (Several things distracted former President Clinton
from work at his home office!) According to Clinton, "I could be
talking to [then-Russian President] Boris Yeltsin on the phone, and
he doesn't care; he just starts barking. The whole federal budget
could be at issue. Buddy doesn't care; he just starts barking. And
he'll keep right on barking until I go out and throw that ball with
him for a while." Your pet may need to go for a walk, eat or be
entertained. There are several solutions, to avoid this dilemma.
-Get a pet sitter;
-Ask a friend to watch your pet;
-Keep it in another room;
-Keep it in its cage;
-Put it outside; and
-Train your pet to know that work time is your time.
Children demand just as much, if not more, attention than a pet.
They will come into your office out of boredom and expect you to
have free time to spend with them. Unfortunately, during the day,
this may cause a loss of business. Your children might interrupt
you due to boredom, hunger, illness, attention, assistance or
-Send them to camp if it's summertime;
-Send them to after-school care during the school year;
-Hire a baby sitter or nanny;
-Have them stay at a friend or relative's house;
-Have them go to the movies; and
-Put them to work.
Have your child file away the papers that you have lying around
your office. They can put those files away that have already been
processed. If you make them feel needed, then they will be less apt
to get in the way of business matters.
Visitors ring your doorbell constantly, be they your friends, your
neighbors or simply strangers selling something, giving something
away or informing you of various issues. If your doorbell is
constantly ringing, this will distract you from getting your daily
Solutions to this problem include:
-Place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door;
-If you live in a gated community, inform your guard that you do
not want disruptions and that you will keep him informed of whom
you would like to see; and
-Just ignore it.
One unavoidable disruption is people doing maintenance at your
home or a neighbor's home on your street. You will hear a
lawnmower, a new home being built or street-repair crews.
An easy solution to this nuisance is to drown it out with music.
In order to drown out the noise, put on some soothing, classical
music or any radio station that will not play a song with lyrics
that might tempt you to sing along.
The sound of water is therapeutic, and a fountain can not only
drown out noises from outside, but also alleviate stress.
Did you promise to love, honor and cherish your spouse through
sickness, health and disruptions? If your spouse is constantly
distracting you from your work, then it's time to lay down the
The following suggestions may be of some use:
-Send him/her on errands;
-Involve him/her in the business; or
-Make him/her understand that during work hours, you're not to be
disturbed with non-work matters.
Ask your spouse to run some errands during the day. You can
profit from his/her free time by putting him/her to work in your
office or having him/her make phone calls, soliciting business for
These days, a computer can do just about anything. It can even
tempt you away from your responsibilities. You may be tempted to
log on and chat, answer e-mail or play your favorite computer
To end your issues with technology, you could:
-Put your computers in another room;
-Set a time limit or schedule playtime;
-Have a separate business screen name; or
-Enforce a no-playtime policy during work.
Keep your computers in another room so that they aren't staring
you in the face, tempting you away from your responsibilities. You
can also set a time limit on your computer to only allow yourself
to go online only at certain times (e.g., non-business hours).
Having separate business screen names will keep you from being
distracted by personal instant messages and e-mails.
The kitchen is calling you. It's right there, asking for you to
explore its cabinets. Solve your hunger pains through:
Use your willpower to avoid those tempting treats. Put up signs
around your kitchen, warning you to keep away from the food.
Schedule your meals so that you are only allotted a certain amount
of kitchen time. Stay out of the kitchen to keep the pounds
Television is a major distraction for a home office. Having a
television set in your office is not a wise idea. There will be a
constant temptation to see what's on.
To solve this problem, simply remove your television from your
Trade magazines, personal mail and recreational reading material
can distract you from keeping your mind on business. These items
will draw your attention away from the tasks in front of you.
A couple of solutions to this issue are:
-Don't check your personal mail until after business hours;
-Keep recreational reading out of the office.
Make sure you use business hours for business work. Keep the
magazines and reading material that you read for pleasure out of
your office. Fewer distractions equal more time to get work
Your friends decide to call you and see if you are available to go
out that evening. Your mom wants to know when you're coming to
To handle these pesky personal calls:
-Have separate business and personal telephones;
-Turn your home phone's ringer off; and
-Set up an answering machine that will pick up your personal
telephone on the first ring.
Have a separate phone line installed for your business calls.
That way, non-business related calls can be filtered. For instance,
you can turn off the ringer on your personal line so that you
aren't interrupted. You could also have an answering machine set up
to answer your personal line on the first ring, making it more
efficient for you to screen your personal calls if you so
You have to mow the lawn and measure the levels of chemicals in
your pool. The filter on your air conditioning vent needs changing,
and you're out of dog food.
Chores can be taken care of by:
-Putting them out of your mind;
-Doing errands/chores on weekends and at night;
-Having your spouse/children help out; or
-Hiring someone to help you out with those extra chores that you
don't seem to have the time to do.
If you have a list of errands to do, put them off until the
weekend or nighttime. If something is important and has to be done
that day, ask your spouse or child for assistance.
You might be tempted to take a nap since your bed is so close by
and you stayed up late, working. Keep your bedroom door closed
during the day so that the bed is not tempting you. Stay in your
Henry David Thoreau said, "The really efficient laborer will be
found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task,
surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure." Working out of your
home can simultaneously provide those feelings of ease and leisure,
but it can also distract you from the work that needs immediate
It is imperative that you maintain a separate business
environment within your home to provide as few distractions and as
much profit to your company as possible. As stated at the beginning
of the article, treat your office as if it were a real business
environment. Don't let yourself get distracted by the luxuries that
Gary Opper, CPA, CFP is the president of Approved Financial
Corporation and is past president of the Florida Association of Mortgage
Brokers Miami Chapter. He may be reached at (954) 384-4557 or