5 Tips for Working at Home

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source: Aristocrat

The following is a guest post from Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists:

More and more of us are enjoying the freedom and flexibility of working from home. But, working from home also comes with it’s own set of challenges. Distractions abound when you mix your two worlds.

Here are my Top Five tips to make your time working from home as productive as possible.

1) Be disciplined about your schedule

Each day before you begin, use your notebook or calendar to set a schedule for the day, in the same way you would if you were working at an office. This is more than a To Do List, this is a rough “sketching out” of the actual hours of your day.

The thing is, when you work from home, “working hours” can easily become a slippery slope. It’s crucial to maintain time boundaries and decide what hours you’ll work each day. Once you’ve worked those hours, stop. (Yes, I know it’s hard. Do it anyway.) By maintaining these time boundaries, you honor your own mental health and your relationships with your significant other and your children. Resist the urge to let work seep into your every waking hour.

2) Build in breaks and take advantage of being at home

Come on! Working from home is awesome. It has tremendous upsides. Let’s take advantage of them, but responsibly.

Each day, I make two To Do Lists, one for work and one for home-related items. During the day, after I work for 90-120 minutes, I need to get up and move around or various parts of me will fall asleep. I use that break time to do a quick chore from my home list. Then, when I return to work at my desk, I’m smugly satisfied that I’ve been productive during my short time away.

In a long phone meeting? Put on your headset and do a (silent and) mindless chore like folding laundry. This is, of course, if you’re contributing to the meeting while doing so, and often, this is totally possible. For some sick reason, I get a kick out of folding clothes while talking to high-level executives. Seriously, if you knew who I’ve spoken to while folding underwear, you’d laugh.

3) Define your workspace

A great temptation when working from home can be to work in a makeshift space. Perched on the side of the kitchen cabinet, legs facing one direction and your body another? Leaning over your computer on your bed? You know who you are. Don’t risk your physical health by working in ways that are tough on your body. That’ll just make you cranky later. Make sure you’re comfortable and working in an ergonomically-correct form.

Honor your work by having all the tools you need to do your job, plus some pretty office supplies that inspire you. Reduce the clutter around you, which includes “visual clutter” (close your closet door!), so you can concentrate.

4) Vary where you work

Another huge advantage of working from home is that you aren’t stuck in your cubicle. Use this as a opportunity to vary where you work throughout the day. If you have a laptop, you might choose to spend the mornings at your desk and your afternoons outside at the patio table. Varying your work surroundings will keep your mind and body fresh.

I purchased this fantastic laptop desk, giving me the ability to work part of my day from my favorite living room chair without hurting my neck and shoulders. (Bonus: this “desk” even has a little drawer, perfect for sticky notes and pens. Or candy bars you don’t want your husband to find.)

You might also consider having a space you always move to when you have long phone meetings, one where you won’t be tempted to answer emails or browse the web while you’re supposed to be listening. Folding laundry is one thing, but composing email messages while you’re supposed to be listening is another.

5) Turn off the TV and home phone

It’s tempting to have “Law & Order” or “The View” on in the background of your work (I’m a huge offender here) and sometimes it’s fine, depending on the kind of task you’re working on at that moment. Sometimes, though, the background noise can be unconsciously draining.

Try starting your day off with a scheduled 90-minute period of time where you work in silence on your highest priority items. No TV, no music, home phone line turned off. Most importantly, and this is really tough: don’t check your email. (Yes, I said it.)

You’ll be surprised how much you’ll get accomplished in that short period of time. And because that work is concentrated on your most important tasks, that feeling of productivity will carry you through the rest of the day.

Working from home should be a blessing to our productivity, not a curse. I think that, with some strategies and discipline, you can have the best of both your work and home worlds.

Working from her home office in the San Francisco Bay Area, Meredith Schwartz is the Founder and Editor of Penelope Loves Lists, an organization inspiration blog. Meredith and her fellow readers make no apologies for their love of lists, notebooks, pretty office supplies and all manner of cool organizational tools. Are you a Penelope?

About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5, 3.5, 2 and a new baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

10 Responses to “ 5 Tips for Working at Home ”

  1. Hi Meredith,
    This is very timely, I’m working from home today and I can related to a lot of your points! I use a timer and set it for 50mins of work then I set for 10mins and do a quick task away from my desk, it might be for work or some housework tast or even putting the kettle on and making a bit of toast. I find I’m more productive this way than sitting at the computer for hours on end not moving.
    Jade @ No Longer 25´s last blog ..What’s Your Scent? My ComLuv Profile


  2. Every tip list about working from home mentions work slipping into non-work hours and finding it hard to stop working. Do people really have this problem? I find that most have the opposite problem, not working when ‘working’ from home. I know both my husband and I find it very easy to stop working or worse not work much at all.

    I think the “working too much” from home is a lie we tell to seem so productive.


  3. Thanks for this opportunity, Mandi!
    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last blog ..Couldn’t be more excited: my first guest post My ComLuv Profile


  4. Great tips, Meredith. I’ve been working on something like Tip #5, starting your day with 90-120 minutes of concentrated work. It’s incredibly effective–yet very hard to maintain. You’d think something that worked so well would be naturally self-reinforcing, but I find it is not.

    One thing I do at home that I would never do at work is take little breaks to do something physical. I like to do stretches during phone meetings. I like doing goofy stuff like jumping jacks and handstands (against the door) in between tasks.


  5. Oh I’ve been a very bad girl. I think I flunk “working from home.” No wonder I find myself “working” 12 hours a day and only being able to realistically bill for half the amount!
    Okay, printing out Meredith’s EXCELLENT article, taping it to my desk and going to implement.
    Wish me luck!


  6. These are great tips Meredith! There aren’t a ton of perks as a grad student, but sometimes I “work from home” instead of go into lab. Work from home is in quotes because I’m horrible at it – and it’s because I don’t do any of things you suggested. I have the TV on, I check email constantly, I don’t structure my day… This post is really helpful. Thank you!


  7. love the post, Meredith. I especially love your idea about alternating work with house stuff.

    I work in my company’s office and get home about 3pm. This will be good for my afternoon work time.


  8. These are fantastic tips! You really seemed to have mastered the balance between home life and work life when they share a space! I love that you build in time to do housework since people are going to do that anyways! :-)
    Laura´s last blog ..Money Update My ComLuv Profile


  9. I agree that a person can get A LOT done in 90 minutes without any distractions. Internet is a huge time waster for me, but I have trouble making myself stay away.
    Barb´s last blog ..January My ComLuv Profile


  10. [...] I’m a firm believer in turning off the T.V. and home phone as Meredith suggests in her 5 Tips for Working at Home that appeared as a guest post over at Organizing Your Way.  You’ve got to create a [...]

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