8 Ways to Stay Focused When Working Remotely


Freelance business owners are experts at managing distractions when working remotely. We asked the Upwork Facebook community for their tips on staying focused through the work day. From time management techniques to setting up boundaries for friends and family, here is a sample of what they had to say.

“I manage distractions by:

  1. Creating my own space at home — This means having a noise free home office and making it clear to my family when I am working for a living so they know when is the right time to interact with me. By doing so, I am given the space I need to focus on my work.
  2. Practicing time management — This involves scheduling all my activities so I know what my priorities are and what I need to accomplish. Knowing your priorities helps you organize and keep yourself busy working rather than doing unnecessary things.
  3. Avoiding switch-tasking* — I have realized that when I do a lot of things at the same time (e.g. check emails, surf the net, etc.) I am likely to accomplish less, my productivity is diminished and I am out of focus. Most of the time, switch-tasking causes distractions, lost productivity, and lost time. Hence, I try to focus and accomplish my tasks one at a time; finish one and move on to the next. By doing this, I can eliminate distractions (unnecessary tasks/tasks of less priority) and be more productive.”

Michelle Suarez-Delos Santos

[* Editor’s Note: “Switch-tasking” was a new term for us! While multitasking specifically refers to doing two or more things at the same time, switch-tasking specifically refers to flipping between different tasks.]

“I believe planning and following a schedule helps: Knowing all the things you need to do, focusing on small goals, and having a break between them. However, larger distractions exist and sometimes there are personal problems that need to be solved. So you need to also have the ability to reschedule your tasks to deal with the unexpected. Working remotely gives you a lot of freedom and your productivity will rely on how you use this freedom.”

Luisa Schetinger

“I do meditation to increase my concentration that helps me avoid distraction.”

— Vinay Gosain

“It is all about choosing a convenient place to work and working within your concentration time limit. Do not over work.”

— Mark Levis

“I live off-grid in the bush of Alaska. Our cabin is small, 12×16, and there are no rooms (unless you count the loft occupied by our 12-year-old son). Along with freelancing, I homeschool and do my part on the homestead. The most important thing to remember is that distractions happen. Once you realize you can’t stop them, you can learn to manage them.

“We have a fairly set routine. Breakfast, assignments given for school, dad works outside while son does school work. They both know that while they’re doing their thing, I work. I occasionally have to stop to answer school related questions, or help my husband find something. But when those distractions pop up, they are addressed and dealt with accordingly. Not all of them are deserving of my time or attention.

“Balance is the key and having your priorities set for others to see helps with that balance. They also know if they ask me something and don’t get a response that’s my way of telling them to figure it out on their own, they don’t really need me. Schedule everything in your day. Routine is your friend!”

Diana Kennedy

“To avoid distractions use the Pomodoro method while working. It will remind you when to focus and when to

Hendar Rismanto

“I turn off the Internet and just work offline when I can. With the Internet up, it’s so tempting to check social media and news sites. I also work in 30-minute to 1-hour blocks in which I try not to leave work until the time lapses.”—

Prospero Ecap Pulma

“To be honest, I work better with distractions—it’s part of having work in the creative field. I take frequent breaks (hourly) to walk and get a drink. If I think of something I need to order on Amazon, I do it; if I need to pay a bill online, I do it. I have 10+ projects going at one time so I rotate based on client deadlines, but also based on my mood. I’m no good to anybody if I’ve been staring at the same screen for 4+ hours.”— Amy Smith

— Amy Smith

Melanie Feltham

Contributing Author

As the Social Media Community Manager at Upwork, Melanie Feltham works closely with the social team to engage Upwork’s active social audience. Her spare time is spent walking the lakeshore near her home office in Toronto, drawing and painting wildlife, and working on passion projects–the latest, a book about misconceptions spread by popular media.

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