Coping with ‘noise’ when working from home

I’ve been working from home for more than seven years now. Admittedly it used to include working from coffeeshops, but the routine was clear.

Then my wife retired. That rather messed with my routines, but I was just working things out when Covid-19 arrived.

My workplace hasn’t changed (apart from the locked-down coffeeshops). The biggest problem is the unceasing flow of information (noise) coming from every angle that steals time and drains energy:

  • There is important news about Covid-19
  • There is important news about what suppliers and clients and other businesses are doing
  • There is (some) important information about friends and family
  • There is the usual news of the day, unrelated to Covid-19
  • Then there is everything else

Sifting through all the noise is a major undertaking. Every friend, family member, business acquaintance and who knows who else has multiple access points to our lives: Facebook, LinkedIn, emails, WhatsApp and SMS to name the usual suspects.

And those on WhatsApp are also members of various groups. So, not only do they send us random messages, they send them multiple times.

But there are ways to fight back:

Every week decide what you want to do each day. It doesn’t have to be detailed unless you are a compulsive list maker, in which case you probably don’t need to read this.

Each evening, plan what you are going to do the next day and (roughly) when. Reward yourself with breaks when each task is complete.

Decide on a time to read and respond to emails. In between you might glance to check if anything is urgent. If not, it waits until the allotted time.

Read and respond to messages from friends you were in contact with prior to the lockdown in the same way as before (but within set times). Similarly with groups, but here be more cautious, since some groups have serial forwarders. You don’t have to reply to every message.

Social media is a black hole. It sucks us in from one intriguing story to another. Set yourself time limits and stick to them.

Time drains
What else drains your time? What do you waste time with? Decide which of them has to be addressed, and set times for doing so. Ignore what can be ignored.

Some of us resort to eating when bored. Be aware of what you eat. Try to eat your regular meals and limit the in-between stuff.

Jen started with Pilates before the lockdown, so she gets onto YouTube every morning. I walk. That’s rather restricted in a small complex. If, like mine, your work is sedentary, set your alarm to beep every hour, get up and move. Don’t just sit there, DO something.


How has your routine come apart?

What is your ‘noise’ factor?

Let us know what has helped you?



Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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