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5 tips for making the most out of working from home

A new home could mean a new home office. Here’s how to set yourself up for work-at-home success.

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As I write this, I’m wearing pajamas. OK, good – now that I’ve convinced you1 that working from home is something everyone should try, I can get right to my tips on how to be successful while doing it.

Create an environment that works for you

When it comes to the home office, function and comfort take precedence over style. One day you may be able to outfit your home office with sleek, sophisticated furniture and tech, but if you recently bought a home (or are thinking about it) you may not be swimming in discretionary income – and that’s OK! The most important factor for productivity is to have a dedicated work station2 for the day, emphasis on “for the day.” Don’t have a home office, or even a writing desk? Clear off the kitchen table and set up your laptop. Voila, your kitchen table is now your work station for the day – and you should treat it as such. It’s not exactly “The Secret”, but having a space dedicated to work, even temporarily, can help keep distractions to a minimum.

Minimize distractions

The most common concern about working from home usually goes something like this: “But how can you get ANYTHING done at home with so many distractions?” It’s a little ironic, because if you can harness a bit of willpower, there are FEWER inherent distractions at home than in the office. No meetings. No overheard conversations. No one stopping over to chat about the big game last night. Not that these are bad– they just stop you from getting work done. Put simply, at home you can control your environment. Don’t turn on the TV, keep the phone on silent, limit your internet use to work purposes, and you should be set. (Easier said than done, but isn’t that true at the office, too?)

Take breaks – just don’t get carried away

Unless you’re a chronic procrastinator and don’t deserve one3 , breaks are an important part of a healthy workday. A trip to the water cooler, chatting with a co-worker or taking a walk around the office can recharge you. At home, go for a quick walk around the block if you’ve been sitting too long, or do some stretches to get the blood flowing. Just make sure you don’t turn a 5-minute break into a 30-minute YouTube binge just because no one’s around to shame you for watching all those cat videos. Again.

Set a schedule with daily goals

While you should try to set goals to get the most out of your day regardless of where you’re working, it’s even more important at home, where no one else will schedule your day. Maintain a routine: Log in at the same time each morning, make to-do lists, and build your breaks around achievement of your goals.

Make sure you have all the tools you need

Modern technology may give you remote access to a wealth of tools, but you’ll never be able to print without a printer. At home you’ll likely be without some tools that you take for granted at the office: that printer, a scanner, those really huge binder clips, Jane’s infallible and instant proofing, other humans and their irreplaceable knowledge. If you only work at home occasionally, plan ahead to work on tasks you have the tools for. For me, that means working from home when I know I can focus on just writing. Because isn’t your brain the most important tool of all?

Footnotes

1Maybe you’re not a fan of pajamas? Here are more benefits to working remotely:

  • No chance of having to fake knowledge of sports or Game of Thrones when you’re cornered in the elevator
  • No unscheduled meetings
  • Access to all your favorite mugs
  • Drink your own coffee instead of that dark sludge brewed in the break room
  • No one will judge you when you nap during your lunch break

2Sometimes I can write just as well sitting on my couch (in my pajamas), laptop on lap, than I can at any desk. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not. Find what works for you!
3Note to Editor: I know, takes one to know one.