There are a lot of benefits of working from home, from being able to see more of your kids to a flexible schedule and more.  But it’s also very dangerous if you’re easily lured in by procrastination and the numerous distractions that can present themselves and hamper your work and productivity.  If you’re going to work from home, be it a day here or there, or full-time, you’ll want to plan it out.  Here are some tips for successfully working from home:

  1. Make yourself an office, or at least a work “station” area. This will be the spot that you do your work.  If you don’t have a room that you can turn into a home office, you can set up shop at the kitchen table, although this is not ideal.  Taking your laptop and plopping down on the couch in front of the television will present many temptations.  You’ll want to make sure that your home office has everything that you need, and that may even mean getting an extra phoneline, be it a landline or a Skype account where you can be contacted at.  Invest in a good desk, chair, and computer so you’ll be comfortable working, but not so comfortable that you’ll be tempted to slack-off.
  2. Try to set aside long periods of time for work. Working from home can give you much more flexible hours, but if you’re constantly interupted it’s going to be a lot harder to get things done.  Try to make sure you get a few large blocks of time.  For example, if you need to get in 8 hours of work, make 3 blocks of 3 hours, 2 hours, and another 3 hours.  If you need to run errands or take care of other things, do them outside of the blocks of time during your “breaks.”
  3. Try to leave the house each day. Nothing will drive you crazier faster than being at home 24/7.  It’s a great opportunity to go for a walk outside, clear your head, and get your bearings.
  4. Create a to-do list for the tasks you need to accomplish each day. Because it is so easy to get off task while working from home, having a checklist of the things you need to get done will help you visualize your progress.  I’m not typically a list person, but I have found this to be very helpful, and when I’m slacking off it’s clearly visible by the lack of things checked off.
  5. Minimize distractions and set limits online. If the bulk of your work is done on a computer, you probably know all to well the distractions of the internet.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of Facebook or other sites if you keep it open on one of your browser tabs all day.  Allow yourself to check in before you start your work and on breaks only.  When it’s work time, close any non-work related tabs and websites. If you keep Facebook open, you will undoubtedly keep flipping back to it to see if there’s anything new posted.
  6. Don’t procrastinate.  Look at your to-do list and actually do everything on it.  Don’t do 90 percent of it and tell yourself that you’ll just make it up and do it tomorrow.  You’ll create a cycle of constantly pushing things off to another day that is very hard to get out of.  There will be days when an emergency interrupts your work, as there would be if you were going into the office each day. If you’re already behind it can really put you back further.
  7. Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat a good breakfast so you don’t have to stop working when the hunger pangs kick in, and schedule yourself a reasonable lunch break.  Some also find it helpful to dress as if they were going to work.  It’s not necessary to put on a suit, but something more than sweatpants and a tshirt might help you feel more on-task. Schedule a lunch date to maintain social connections outside of your home.

Working from home takes discipline.  If you’re just starting out, it may take you a little time to find your groove, but if you follow the tips above you’ll find it a lot easier.  The key is to keep a good work-life balance, establish boundaries, and take care of yourself.

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