Taking Work Home

How to Stay Productive Outside the Office

It’s 2014, and thanks to mobile phones, laptop computers and the Internet, more and more of us are moving outside the traditional workplace. Whether you’re a full-time remote worker or someone who just takes things home from the office now and again, you may find it challenging to stay productive. After all, home is supposed to be a place of rest, not work.

That said, millions of people are working from home every day, and most of them find ways to be productive. Here’s their secret.

It’s work. On any other work day, you need to get up at a reasonable hour and get ready. People who work at home, by and large, don’t roll out of bed in their pajamas, shuffle off to the computer and type up a storm while snacking on nachos. The successful ones bathe, groom themselves, put on their work clothes, eat breakfast and go through all the other motions of their daily routines. There’s no better way to get mentally prepared.

That also means you need to block off time. There’s a reason most bosses don’t let their employees work whatever hours they want, and it’s not (just) that they can’t keep the building open 24/7. When there are no physical walls keeping you in the office, it’s even more important to organize your time with a fixed agenda. Otherwise, you’ll fall prey to distractions and time-wasters, and you’ll look back at your day and wonder why nothing got done.

Once you’ve fixed your working hours, shut the door to your office – and don’t open it for anything short of the house burning down. You wouldn’t take personal calls and entertain visitors at the company office, so don’t do it in your home office, either. Make sure your friends and family know that you’re at work and can’t be disturbed.

Speaking of shutting the door, do your best to separate business from pleasure. When possible, that means having a designated space where you only go for work activities. If you can afford a second computer (or have one provided by your employer), have one machine that you use only for work. If you need to use the same computer for both work and recreation, set up separate accounts. Make sure your “work” account has the websites you need for business bookmarked and the programs you use for work purposes accessible, and keep your games, entertainment sites and social media far away.

This may mean you need to outsource. If you’re a parent, you know it’s impossible to get anything done with a kid tugging on your sleeve. Hire a babysitter. Likewise, you can’t get much done in the way of cleaning and organizing while you’re working, so get a professional cleaning service to help. The extra money you make with your increased productivity will more than offset the cost, and as a bonus, you can write off cleaning your home office as a business expense.

Finally, when you’re done with work, stop working. The upside of working at home is that you’re always at home; the downside is that you’re always at work. If you press on until it’s time for bed (or later), you’ll burn yourself out. Set time aside to spend with your family, play games, go to the gym or just relax. It’s worth it.

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