How to Actually Get Work Done While Working from Home

Tips for writers on working from home
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When people hear that you work from home, their response is typically positive. They say, “Wow! You’re so lucky!” or “You must love that!”

The truth is, working from home can be great… and it can also be a disaster. Picture this:

You rolled out of bed at 7:47 a.m. for your 8:00 a.m. conference call. Since then, you’ve been on calls back to back. It’s 2 p.m., you haven’t stepped out of your apartment once, and you’re still in your pajamas. You’re surrounded by cookie crumbs and pistachio shells, because let’s be honest — that’s all you had in your pantry. You’re booked for the rest of the day and have way too much you want to accomplish… it’s not looking good.

I wish I was exaggerating, but my first few weeks of transitioning from working in the office to working from home looked just like what I’ve described above.

The good news is there are ways to make it great. Whether you’re telecommuting to the office or hanging out your own shingle as a freelancer, here are some tips to help you love working from home.

Set up a work station

It’s important to set up a work area in your home. This might be an office, a specific table, or even a corner of your apartment that is dedicated to work — and only work.

Be sure to invest in your work area and buy the supplies you need. A stapler, tape, highlighters, or even a printer are things you may miss once you leave the office, and it’s important to provision your work space at home to help you effectively do your job so you can be most productive.

Note: Many companies will reimburse you for this expense. Contact your HR department to inquire further.

Work out in the morning

Although it sounds great to roll out of bed to take a work call five minutes later, it’s even better to wake up and get your adrenaline flowing. This can be through a workout, a short stretch session, or even a quick walk to the coffee shop. Just get up and moving!

At the very least, get up and hop in the shower to start your day fresh.

Take a mid-day walk — even if it’s just around the block

It’s amazing how easy it is to not leave your apartment when working from home. Everything you need is right there, isn’t it?

Trust me, your day will be better if you breathe some fresh air. If you have a five-minute, 15-minute, or one-hour break, put on an “away” message and go outside!

Talk to someone

Whether you plan a Skype date with a friend or just chat with your barista at the coffee shop, make it a priority to talk to someone. Even if your workplace was not the most social of spots, you will miss human interaction when working from home.

Plan your meals

News flash: snacking only on Oreos all day isn’t good for you!

Plan on eating your normal daily meals, just like you would if you were leaving your house to go to work, and keep healthy snacks around. My personal favorites are apples, almonds and yogurt.

Keep your home — or at least your work area —  clean

Treat your work area like you would an out-of-home office. Make sure it’s organized and tidy so you know where all of your materials are.

Set work boundaries

It’s easy to log on early and log off late, and then answer emails and draft version 2.0 while watching a movie at 9 p.m. When you work from home, it’s important to set boundaries to separate work life and home life. (Click to tweet this idea).

Set a log-on time and a log-off time, which means a time when you actually shut down your computer instead of leaving it on to check “just one more time.” There are tons of apps that can help you stay focused and get more work done.

If you work from home, how do you manage to stay organized and energized? 

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Samantha Roblin works with Gen Y women to help them reach their career goals and optimize their potential. She launched BEES: Be Extraordinary, Early Success as a platform for which women can set and reach career goals and be thei... .

Samantha Roblin | @Samantha_Roblin

Samantha Roblin
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  1. “You’re still in my pajamas”

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. . . . and when you shut down your computer, shut it down—don’t leave it in standby mode. It’s too tempting to check e-mail “just one more time” or follow up on an idea that occurs to you while you’re brushing your teeth.

    • Exactly! And although a great idea may come to you at odd hours (i.e., when brushing your teeth), you’ll be more productive if you work on it when you’re focused during “work hours”.

  3. I think getting out of the house and scheduling time to see people are the most important for me!

  4. My father teleworked from home before teleworking actually existed (1980s). One of the things I remember was that he would be there almost the full eight hours and never leave the computer. When I’ve done teleworking from work, I find that I have to set the timer to make sure I stop for a few minutes and take a break. I didn’t realize until I did teleworking how much I do natural breaks like walking down to talk to someone about the status of something and then stopping off at the bathroom or the snack bar (I’m in a mall-sized building, and we’re spread out, so this is very easy to do!). Without those natural breaks, I was surprised at how exhausted I was!

    • I’ll second that dilemma.

      While my 4-year-old will sometimes force me out of my chair to get him a snack, I definitely take fewer breaks now that I work from home.

      It was so natural to chat for a few minutes with a colleague during the day and three of us had a ritual of walking four blocks to the best coffee shop (passing two on the way) to get in some exercise and social interaction mid-day. I always came back ready to dig in for the afternoon and with some creativity flowing.

      Now I rely on blogs like The Write Life to stretch my brain for a few minutes when I hit that exhaustion point. Will also start taking a walk mid-day. Thanks!

  5. Samantha – I’d add letting people (friends, family) know you’re actually WORKING at home. This doesn’t mean you’re free to meet for impromptu coffee/lunch or run errands for them. Yikes !

  6. This is such excellent advice! After years of working from home and transitioning into freelance writing from landscape design work, I still stumble in many areas of time management. I love your suggestions to get up (and out!) and to get moving at various times of the day.

  7. I don’t work from home, Samantha, but some of this information still applies. Eat right, etc.

    I’m trying to get to your website, but it’s asking for a password. Is there another way to get there?

  8. I have to admit, the picture you painted in the first paragraph sounds rather idyllic to me! When you have family the picture looks very different: our moring starts with the usual rush of breakfast, lunchboxes, “mom where’s my shoes?”, school run, etc. then when I get back to my ‘office’ I’m confronted by laundry, dirty dishes and general morning mess. By the time that is cleared and the first load of washing is in, its midmorning. Luckily I get time to stretch my legs – every time the washer stops and I have to move the clean load to thy tumble dryer and add a new dirty load.
    When I really have a deadline and work that has to be finished, I leave the house and go to a coffee shop or the library and just deal with the household chores in the evening.
    But I agree, a dedicated office space is essential otherwise you end up living in the office instead of working at home.

  9. Hey Samantha

    There’s such great advice here! When I used to work from home I even went to far as to prepare my lunch as if I was going to the office, so it was ready when I was hungry. Sounds OTT but doing this allowed time to meditate and take a decent break from my desk. I’m also a firm believer that working out in the morning is the only way to go, because let’s face it…ain’t gonna happen otherwise right?! 😉

  10. One more tip:

    If your work demands that you use your own personal computer, create another local account for work only. This way you would avoid distraction you might have on your personal account such as photos, videos, software pop-ups and more.

  11. The title of this article made me smile. Procrastination and distraction are the enemies of motivation. There are always so many ‘other’ things you can find to do when facing the daunting task of, well, working. Clearing out your Inbox, sorting the family photos, polishing the silver… okay, so that last one was flippant; the first two – definitely guilty. Self-discipline and planning are the key. If that doesn’t work, set an alarm on your phone to go off every half an hour. At that point, ask yourself how much of the previous half hour you spent actually working. Did you earn any money? Well, did you? If the alarm goes off four or five times and the answer each time is ‘no’, you may need to set yourself some targets and rewards to motivate you. For example, if I get 4 hours done today, I will have a Mars Bar/Glass of Wine tonight (that motivates me). What motivates you?

    • Love your suggestions, Sally! I definitely have days where more of those half hours are spent trying to get to work than actually working in an impactful way!

      Case in point: it’s 10 AM and I have only cleared out the inbox, despite knowing and advocating constantly to get one high impact task done BEFORE everything else. It’s so easy to get distracted without accountability!

  12. Thanks for the article. I can’t seem to get enough on the topic right now. 🙂 I do okay with breaks, but have to remind myself that I can do housework on my “lunch break” or after quitting time, not during work hours. My biggest problem is that social media is part of the job, and I need more discipline to confine it to set hours or half-hours.

  13. I like this and I am going to do some of these things. I am a writer. I been writing since I was in middle school but now I want to do more with my writing. I want to be a freelance writer and work from home
    I am looking into working at home jobs to get into to like telecommuting or call respitions, or blogging to get paid for it. Do any of you have any ideals you can give me to help be get started please. This would really mean a lot to me. I really do want to do this. Tara Boswell Horsley

    • Hi Tara, you might want to check out our Freelancing and Blogging sections for lots of posts on finding clients and getting started as a freelancer. Best of luck with the process!

      TWL Assistant Editor

      • I am researching teleworking from home work to do to get paid for it and plus I am going to do write from home. I had surgery for lung cancer and had the top part of my left lung removed. But the good news is that they got it all. Praise the Lord. The Lord is good all the time. If anyone I know of any teleworking I can check out to work from home let me know please. The Lord spoke to me to day and said he wanted me to write more since my cancer surgery that every one has a story or stories to tell but I don’t know where to begin. Could anyone give me any ideals where to begin.


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