Manage summer distractions while working from home

Jul 09, 2020
By Moira Dunne

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, many people are still working from home over the summer months. Staying focused can be difficult, as home working presents many distractions. In last month’s article, I gave some tips for managing distractions at home.

The summer introduces a new set of distractions, however, such as good weather and school holidays. In this article, I will outline some strategies to help maintain motivation and productivity in the months ahead.

The challenge is to stay focused so you can get your work done. There are two things you can do: manage yourself and manage others.

Manage yourself

Managing yourself means understanding what impacts on your productivity while placing a high value on your time. Think of your workday as a simple equation: you have X amount of work to do in Y amount of time. Be clear about the work you should prioritise each week and each day. Then, protect your time for those priorities by negotiating when asked to do additional pieces of work and saying no to non-essential activities. This can be hard to do, but it is essential to stay on track.

If you find that summer weather affects your productivity, turn this distraction into a motivator. By setting a goal to finish on time, you will be more inclined to stay on track during the day. You will procrastinate less and not be as distracted by time-wasting activities. Instead, you will be focused on the prize of getting out into that good weather. Be strategic and adjust your plan if you know the forecast is good, for example, starting earlier than usual so you can get through all your work to finish early.

Manage others

Working at home while minding children is hard. Now that the school term is finished, your homework routine is probably gone. Is it time for a new plan? Involve your kids in coming up with ideas and create a summer routine together. Design the plan to incorporate your work hours. One approach is to work in time blocks to take advantage of the quiet times in your house. To optimise your productivity, plan to work on your priority tasks during these high-focus time blocks. Save your low-level, administrative tasks for periods when there will be more noise and distraction.

Here is a sample schedule that may help you plan your alternative workday:

  • 6am to 8am: high-focus work.
  • 8am to 8:30am: breakfast with the kids.
  • 8:30am to 10am: kids’ activities while you do low-focus tasks like email responses or attend an online meeting.
  • 10am to 12pm: outdoor activity with the kids.
  • 12 noon to 2pm: high-focus work while your kids have some downtime and a lunch picnic.
  • 2pm to 3pm: time away from work for an activity with the kids.
  • 3pm to 5pm: low-focus tasks like email responses or online meetings.

If necessary, do a short time block later to complete some administrative tasks.

Design a plan that suits your parenting and working responsibilities. Perhaps you can avail of a summer camp or childminding by a relative to increase your options and flexibility.

Be productive

To be productive, you must be pragmatic about your circumstances and do what you can to optimise your working time. By using a well-planned routine, you can give yourself a higher chance of managing your time and productivity. Have a great summer!

Moira Dunne is a productivity consultant and Founder and Director at