Working at home (in your own business) has tremendous benefits – no long commute in the rush hour, no need to ask permission to go to the Dentist or leave early to pick the kids up from school. But it can also bring a whole draft of problems, especially if you are new to working at home. Losing the structure provided by an office setting can be very unsettling for some. Problems may include things like Never Actually Switching Off! Or other people are not respecting your time. Or just not getting organized enough to get anything done!!

So, when working at home, how do we remain productive – and keep a work-life balance?

I have compiled a list of tips for working at home that I have found helpful. (By the way, I have worked from home for over 11 years – and I wouldn’t return to an office for anything! However, I still find these tips extremely useful to remind myself what I should be doing every so often!)

Tips for Working at Home: 1. Define your Work Space.

You need to have a workplace – and that isn’t sitting on the sofa in front of the TV! If you don’t have a separate study (which is the ideal option), try setting yourself up with a desk in the spare bedroom or dining room. You need a space where you can shut the door and feel like you are at work and, therefore, feel like you have ‘finished work’ when you move out of that space at the end of your day. Psychologically, this is important as it changes your state of mind from “at home” to “at work.” Learn to FOCUS. Shocking the door in your separate space is vital – if the door is open, it can signal to your family that you are available to chat (or play!)

Wherever your workspace is, keep it tidy – the adage about a clean desk equalling a pure mind is true! The tidier and more organized your workspace, the more productive you will be. Also, ensure you have the equipment you need – in particular, a comfortable chair with back support.

Working at Home

Tips for Working at Home: 2. Set Ground Rules with Those Around You

Set your working hours (see tip 4) and ensure your friends and family know and respect this. You are NOT available for coffee, long lunches, or play! Your friends and family probably wouldn’t disturb you at an office with questions that can easily wait until you get home – but if a home is your office, they may not show the same restraint. Many friends and family will also think that as you work from home, you can immediately stop for coffee or a long lunch! Ensure that everyone understands that interruptions are for urgent matters only.

Tips for Working at Home: 3. Prepare for Work – Physically and Mentally

Have breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed. You don’t have to wear a suit – but don’t stay in your pajamas! Getting dressed first thing in the morning prepares you for work – it gets your mindset in the right place. Please don’t turn the computer on to check emails as you walk past the study first thing in the morning (I am guilty of this!) Suddenly, you realize it’s lunchtime, and you are still in your PJs with a stinking headache cos you haven’t had breakfast (let alone a shower!) Make sure you are in the right mindset for the day. Start the day properly.

Tips for Working at Home: 4. Set Regular Hours – and Stick to Them

A benefit of working at home is that you don’t have to work 9-5 if you don’t want to. I tend to work from 9.30-3.00 (with a break for lunch) and then 7.30-8.30 in the evening (after my Son is in bed). Think about what works for you. You may need to work early mornings or evenings to fit around your family life or communicate with colleagues in other time zones. Whatever hours you decide – stick to them! (You are allowed some leeway – but don’t let work run your life). This is one of the hardest ‘rules’ when working from home – it is so easy never to switch off. But a healthy work-life balance is important – even if you do work at home.

Tips for Working at Home: 5. Don’t think you need an Immaculate House!

Don’t spend more time on housework than on working! A bit of light housework in your ‘lunch hour’ is acceptable, as is popping the odd load of washing on, but when you are at work, you are at work – even if you are working at home. If you can afford a cleaner and you would have one if you were working a ‘proper job’ in an office – still get one. Please don’t think you must be a Superwoman (or Superman) and do it all yourself because other people think you have lots more time because you work from home!!

If you take your work seriously, especially if you have just started a new business at home, you need to put the hours into your work – not cleaning the house!! Schedule non-work time for household chores and get the rest of the family to do their share. You mustn’t take on every household job just because you work from home – those around you need to respect that although you are at home, you have serious work to do during your scheduled hours.

Tips for Working at Home: 6. Limit Distractions

If your work permits- TURN OFF the telephone so you can concentrate and get on without distraction. Only check your email at certain times of the day. It is so easy to get distracted by emails that you think you have to respond to IMMEDIATELY! If you do this, you will never get any tasks finished!

TURN OFF your Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc., while working. Check your IM at certain times and only go on Facebook during your break times. Working from home can be lonely, so using Social Media can feel like your lifeline to the world – but this can quickly take over your day and ruin your productivity.

Working at Home

Tips for Working at Home: 7. Make a Daily TO DO List

Making lists can help you focus and stop procrastinating – which, for some reason, we seem to do more of when we are at home alone!! I make a weekly list of tasks and then break that down into daily tasks. I use the Steven Covey approach to Time Management as much as possible, and the key thing for me is to focus on mine. BIG ROCKS. Don’t just pick the easy tasks – spend quality time on your Big Rocks, and your business will fly! If you struggle to focus (even with a to-do list), try planning what you will do each hour, which should help you stay productive!

Tips for Working at Home: 8. Create Small Deadlines

This follows from tip 7 – and can also help stop the dreaded procrastination! When you start the day, it seems like you have lots of time, and it can be easy to get sidetracked by the TV or the Telephone. Set targets for finishing pieces of work – e.g., “I will finish writing this blog by 11 am”. “I will complete this marketing activity by 1.00”. This helps to break up your day and keep you focused on the task.

Tips for Working at Home: 9. Don’t Just Take a Day Off because things get tough!

Don’t just take a day off because you don’t feel like working today!! If you are having a hard day, persevere and do some work anyway! If you are sick, be sick – take a proper day off to get better. If you organize a holiday day off, that’s fine – but don’t just decide you can’t be bothered to work today – that is a slippery slope to go down when suddenly you never achieve anything!

Tips for Working at Home: 10. Take Scheduled Breaks

There are various ways to do this – depending on your working style. But give yourself breaks. Some people find taking a 15-minute break for every hour worked helpful. Or maybe you would prefer to take a 15-minute break twice a day. In addition to small gaps, take a proper lunch break. Eat something healthy – AWAY FROM YOUR DESK! Leave the house and get some fresh air – it will make you much more productive when you return to your desk. Sitting in front of your computer with no breaks will result in ‘diminishing returns. You think you are working hard – but the results aren’t that great!!

Tips for Working at Home: 11. Finish when you finish.

Know when to stop working! Just because you are working at home doesn’t mean you should be working ALL THE TIME at home! Leave work at the end of the day. In an interview with Santa Clara University, Susan Seaburg (Field Development Manager for Hewlett-Packard) offers her input on working at home: “The good news is that now you can work anywhere – the bad news is that now you can work anywhere.” Most people go home to get away from work – you don’t have that option. So be careful that you still maintain a good work-life balance.

Tips for Working at Home: 12. Watch your Mood

Everything you listen to will influence your mood – or distract you from the task. I hate working in silence, so I put on some non-intrusive music to create background noise if I need to concentrate! (My husband is the opposite – he has to work in complete silence, so we use separate rooms if he works at home, too!) Suppose I do not have to concentrate too hard. In that case, I listen to educational audio – as a member of the Empower Network Inner Circle, I have access to a whole range of recordings by people at the top of internet marketing – so I listen to those daily. These can also be great to lift your mood if you are feeling a bit low or unfocused. Find what works for you and surround yourself with things that will give you the best frame of mind for whatever you’re doing.

Tips for Working at Home: 13. Seek opportunities to communicate with other humans!

If you know you can be too distracted, work in a café, hotel or library sometimes as this can change you from being at home all day. Most coffee shops have free wifi if you need to be on the internet. Attend training courses or local networking events to maintain human contact – and possibly pick up some business, too! Skype or Facebook chat rooms can also be good ways to communicate with the world world. I often use these methods as my team and colleagues are all over the World. But as mentioned earlier, don’t get sucked into spending hours chatting online and not getting anything else done. Make the odd phone call, too – don’t just use email. It is good for your sanity to speak to someone once in a while!

And last but not Least –

Be grateful that you CAN work at home. You don’t have to do the awful commute, you can be home when the kids get in from school, and you aren’t stuck in a windowless office or shared cubicle!! Above all, BE PRODUCTIVE so you can KEEP working at home! I hope you found my top tips for working at home useful. If you want to see how I make money working at home every day, please look at my blog site listed below.