Pigeon of Discontent: “I Get Distracted When I Work From Home.”

Each week, I post a video about some Pigeon of Discontent raised by a reader. Because, as much as we try to find the Bluebird of Happiness, we’re also plagued by those small but pesky Pigeons of Discontent.

This week’s Pigeon of Discontent, suggested by a reader, is: “I get distracted when I work from home.


If you want to read more about this resolution, check out…

Problem with procrastination? Try this: Do nothing.

7 tips for avoiding procrastination: Without delay is the easiest way.

Have you found any good strategies for getting work done at home–or for fighting distractions, generally? It’s hard, and it seems as though it’s getting harder all the time.

You can post your own Pigeon of Discontent at any time; also, from time to time, I’ll make a special call for suggestions.

You can check out the archives of videos here. It’s crazy–my YouTube channel has passed the mark for one million viewers.

  • spase26

    the best strategy i’ve found so far is to use earplugs!!! i’m very easily distracted by noise – kitchen sounds, cars outside, conversations between my family members, etc.
    strangely enough the focus it brings also helps me to not check fb or email every 5 minutes, heh!

  • peninith1

    Pavlovian? Maybe, but I love my old friend the simple kitchen timer. If I need to focus on something, generally I still need to take a five or ten minute break every hour, just to move. The kitchen timer helps me to ‘set it and forget it’ , just focus on what must be done (in my case as a retired person this is usually financial paperwork or a self-imposed writing task), and when the bell rings, I can get up and go do the next thing. If this sounds childish, oh well . . . I break time down into hour, half hour, and even 15 minute work sessions this way, and you would be amazed at how much you can get done, and how intently you can focus if you just GIVE yourself completely to that time. If you do your main job for an hour and then (use the timer to prevent yourself from stretching this out!) take a ten-minute break and do a couple of those little things like emptying the dishwasher, your day will fly by and you will be productive. The biggest merit of the timer for me is, that if I don’t hear it ringing, I know I still have time left to devote entirely to what I’m doing. I don’t need to stop and check–the first step to frittering away time!

    • Xenia

      I need to do the same thing. Set the timer in my kitchen, no distractions until the timer goes off. Lately I’ve been using the timer on my iPhone. Speaking of which, I need to do that now!!!

  • Rachel

    I think I would find a coffee shop distracting with people coming and going–too many visual distractions.

    I’ve never had the opportunity to work from home, but if I did, I think that my breaks would be more productive. For example, if I took a break at home, I could unload the dishwasher. But at work, I usually end up checking Facebook or looking at products on Amazon (not productive at all).

  • Rorie

    I work from home full-time and I admit it’s easy to become distracted. What helps for me is to try to deal with those pesky chores (throwing in a load of laundry, unloading the dishwasher, walking the dog, making a phone call) either before my workday begins or during small breaks throughout the day. Or if it’s something I had forgotten to plan for and take care of before work or during a break, I try to handle it immediately when it pops into my mind, instead of having it nag at me throughout the workday. (There are times that I can’t be away from my desk for hours at a time. That’s when I write down what needs to be done and get to it as soon as I can.)
    I feel fortunate that I have the flexibility to work and get the laundry done at the same time, but I understand that the work-from-home scenario is not good for everyone. It takes a certain discipline, but the people I know who are good at it are the ones who separate their work time from their chore time and fun time.

  • Lia

    I have never commented on your blog before. I just wanted to say how checking your blog every few days brings me a lot of happiness. (Your videos are my favorite!)
    I love your books and you are a great source of inspiration to me.
    Thank you for everything : )

    • gretchenrubin

      Awww, thanks!

  • Cruella

    I absolutely need to get out of the house, a bit like a bear in a cage. A brisk walk, gulps of fresh air, yeah, and lists work fine too.

  • Anne

    I work from home, and the way I handle distractions is to have a chore rota for home stuff. I use an iPad app called “Home Routine” for this, but you could just as easily do it by hand, or in a number of other ways.
    Basically, I tidy one room every day. I do laundry on Mondays and Thursdays, period. Each day has certain assigned chores, and when I’m through with them, I’m done. After I check off everything I need to do for a day, I don’t think about the house.

    Since I have begun to manage my house like a job, I can interface it with other work. Before I did this, I was handling my house in a more free form way, and it didn’t work in combination with work responsibilities. It wasn’t the mixture of home and work that was really the problem, it was the issue of trying to be an amateur and a professional simultaneously.

  • Wow great advice! I probably spend just as much time in the kitchen as I do working – when I work for home. Which is why Gretchens “go to the library” advice is stellar. However, my laptop doesn’t have everything saved on it that I’d like – plus it’s only half the size of my 25 inch computer monitor! So I feel that the productivity balances out.

    Does anyone work from home who has a dog? I feel like I get so distracted playing with Oscar or wanting to take him on walks. I just hate for him to spend his days lying around while I work…

    • Rorie

      Hi TJ. I do work from home and have a golden retriever who will be turning 1 in about a week. When he was little, I’d take him out of the crate at 6 a.m., when I get up, and before I got started on my workday, at around 8, I’d take him for a brisk walk (about 25 minutes’ long). He no longer needs to be in the crate, so I take him for a walk around 10:30 and let him roam freely inside and outside the house all day. He usually finds a toy to play with (or an area of the yard to dig up) on his own, but I will play ball with him when I take breaks throughout the day. I work in a different part of the house than he’s in, so it’s easy for me to separate my work area from my dog area. If that’s not the case for you, plan some time when you would typically take a break, like every couple hours, and get a walk or some rigorous play time in so your dog will be happy about resting in between. Good luck.

      • Thanks Rorie! That’s true – a vigorous walk would probably tire him out enough to get him not to want my attention. He always has to be by my feet and will whine otherwise though – your dog sounds much more independent :).

        I appreciate it!

  • mellen

    Hi Gretchen,

    “…like a librarian [eye-roll]” As if there is something wrong with being a librarian? LOL!

    Bought Happier at Home and am savoring it one chapter per week.

    -Mary Ellen
    who works for the Stanford University Libraries