Top Ten Tips for Working at Home

Updated: March 07, 2011

1. Have a space for work, and keep it organized. If you have a home office, terrific, but if not, make sure you keep your work materials in one specific location, and keep it as neat and clean as you can. If you're a person that works well with clutter, fine, but I'd bet that most of us don't want our paperwork and documents scattered throughout the house. Don't let your work paraphernalia drown your personal space.

2. Know when to walk away. Because your office is your home and vice versa, it's easy to work way MORE hours than you would in a normal office, since you don't have a standard in/out time. But don't let your work overwhelm your personal life. Have set times for work, and know when to turn the computer off and walk away. If you want to work flexible hours - late at night, etc., that's fine (and one of the benefits of working from home), but be clear about when you're working and when you're not.

3. Make lists. Personally I live by lists. I make a to do list every day so I know what's on tap, and I work my way through it. This helps me stay on track and not forget anything important. If it helps you, use an application to keep track of tasks, like Evernote or Omnifocus for your iPhone or iPad.

4. Take breaks, especially a lunch break. When you're at home and you don't have co-workers to have lunch with, it's easy to stay glued to the computer every day and not budge. But that's draining and totally unhealthy. Take quick walks around the neighborhood a few times a day, and make sure you break for fuel, aka food.

5. Don't turn on the TV. I'm always amazed when I hear about people who work from home while simultaneously watching Oprah. Maybe it's just me, but I think it's difficult to concentrate on work projects when you're watching the latest gossip about Charlie Sheen. Keep the TV off, and if you need background sound, try a calm & low-key Pandora station (I like nature sounds, myself).

6. Unplug. Even if you walk away from your computer at 6, you're still tethered to work if you're watching your iPhone every 2 minutes. Let it go, and focus on dinner, working out, helping your kids with their homework - whatever your evening activities may be.

7. Get ready at a normal hour. It's so easy to stay in your pajamas all day ... but trust me, it doesn't feel as great as you'd think. You'll feel more professional and put together if you shower, shave and dress in the morning hours.

8. Set boundaries with family members. If you have kids or a spouse at home while you're working, make sure you establish some rules. Don't let your kids overrun you while on an important conference call, or let your spouse talk to you for a 1/2 hour about dinner plans. You need your concentration just like you would at a normal office, so set those same boundaries.

9. Have the proper equipment. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people aren't appropriately equipped to work from home. Make sure you have a RELIABLE computer, a steady internet connection, and all the tools you'd need in an office. Remember, there won't be an in-house IT person to help you with issues, so you want to make sure all your supplies and equipment are in tip top shape so you don't lose productivity time.

10. And last but not least, work outside your house every so often. Whether it's in a shared office space, or a public park, it feels great to get out into the world. Now that Starbucks has free wi-fi, it's my favorite place to work, aside from my home. Find a place that's comfortable for you, and make an effort to get there at least once a week. It'll refresh you.

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