The Hardest Thing About Working from Home: Getting BACK in the Zone


I love working from home. You may already know that since I’ve been talking about it for the past 15 years. As much as I enjoy my freedom and being my own boss, I’m still finding myself struggling when it comes to focus. Or, rather, refocus.

For me, the hardest thing about working from home is getting  back to a place where I’m 100% focused. If I take a lunch hour or attend an appointment, it’s hard for me to get back “in the zone.”

Staying focused isn’t the problem; Keeping focused is

There have been a million blog posts and articles written about how to focus when you work from home. I’ve tried them all:

  • A dedicated home office: I have one. Sort of. The problem isn’t having my own space, it’s coming back to it.
  • Apps to help with focus: I use them when I’m on book deadline. My favorites are Anti-Social, Focus Keeper, and Focus Aid.
  • Keeping to a schedule: I work best when my family is out of the house and schedule my work day around their absence. Scheduling is never a problem.
  • Use an editorial calendar: Again, great for keeping me on task. Not the issue.
  • To do lists: I live by to do lists. Nothing makes me happier than to check things off. My handwritten to-do lists are my most effective method of staying on task.
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All these things work – and I use them. Yet, they don’t help me when I leave work to do something else. I can power through distraction, as long as I don’t leave my desk.

Taking breaks, another popular suggestion, don’t always work for me. If I break, I don’t want to go back to work. For me, the issue isn’t staying focused while working. My issue is getting back into the zone after breaking for lunch. (“Breaking for lunch can mean running errands, handling appointments, or enjoying lunch with friends).

I do my best work when I don’t break at all. If I sit down early in the morning and don’t get up until late afternoon, I don’t have this problem. I mean, I grab a quick lunch or cup of coffee, but I can’t leave my desk for extended periods of time or I’ll lose focus. This isn’t realistic for everyone, but it’s how I’m most productive

My struggle with working from home

I know telecommuters often struggle with focus. I don’t see many people talking about this particular issue, though.

Here are some of the things I’m trying as a way to stay in the zone throughout my day:

  • Schedule appointments for first thing in the morning. If I’m going to the dentist or having a hair cut, I always ask for the first appointment in the morning. This way I begin working after I come home and don’t have to split my attention.
  • Schedule errands for early in the morning.  Because I prefer to go grocery shopping and run other errands when stores are empty, I run most errands at around 8:00 a.m.
  • Don’t answer the phone. Sorry, Mom. No personal calls when I’m working.
  • Schedule luncheons for days when I can afford the distraction. Lunch with my telecommuting friends helps to keep me from getting too lonely and I don’t want to give it up. So I don’t attend lunch if I’m on deadline or have to pay strict attention to a project.
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Now, I realize not everyone has this problem, but it’s my biggest struggle. I have no problem handling all aspects of my job as long as I don’t leave my desk for extended periods of time.

My solution is to carve out six to eight uninterrupted hours even if I have to make adjustments to my schedule. As long as I can stay in the zone, I’m golden.

Do you struggle with getting back into the zone when working from home? What is your greatest challenge as a telecommuter?

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One Thought on “The Hardest Thing About Working from Home: Getting BACK in the Zone

  1. Ashok Patidar on October 24, 2016 at 9:56 am said:

    I found your post while I was searching for any tips on whether working overtime from home office would be good for me or not in long run. It is an interesting post. I am working from home since last 2 year and I can match my thoughts with yours on maintaining focus. I strongly believe that no distance between our home-office and home could be the real cause behind this. You do everything to keep yourself away from your real home, but psychologically your mind knows that you are still in home. Perhaps no walking, no change in environment, no commute, no new people seeing,etc, all these are being missed by our mind.

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