When you’re working from home, it can be tempting to stay in your pajamas, take frequent snack breaks, and work your schedule around daytime TV shows. But in reality, if you want to be as productive as possible, you’ve got to set some personal rules, and stick to them. Set these 10 rules for yourself and you’ll create the best work environment—at home.
1. Designate an office space. When you’re at home, it can be tempting to bring your laptop to bed or lay out on the living room couch. But it is best to designate a specific area in your home that is for work only, even if it’s just a corner and not an office. It helps you stay organized, and being in that work-only space will get your mind in the right mode.
2. Invest in an actual desk, and a good chair. Using your coffee table or a nightstand to get your work done isn’t good for your productivity—or your back. Check out Ikea’s table bar for desk options that range from $19.99 to $189, and stores, such as Target, have a variety of affordable, yet comfortable, desk chairs that are easy to put together.
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3. Create a schedule. Without a set timeframe, you’ll allow yourself to get distracted and pulled in by the many things that can sidetrack you at home. If you have set hours, like you would in an office, you’ll be more motivated to get what needs to be done within those hours. And that also means not allowing your work to trickle into the late night hours, which it will affect your productivity the next day.
4. Ditch the PJs. One of the benefits of working from home should be that you can roll out of bed, stay in your PJs, and not worry about what you look like, right? Wrong. A shower, clean clothes, and a good breakfast will get you out of lazy-mode and into a working one. A good rule to remember is if you wouldn’t do it at an actual office, you probably shouldn’t do it working at home.
5. Turn off the TV. While there are many benefits to working from home, the ability to watch daytime TV and catch up on your DVR should not be one of them. Leave the Jersey Shore reruns for before or after-work hours.
6. Assign a break time—and stick to it. While you should definitely have a set schedule, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. Go outside and get a little sunlight, which many experts say stimulates the hormones that wake you up and boost your mood. Just make sure you stick to the allotted break time, and don’t let it stretch from an hour to three or four.
7. Allot personal time. A Nielsen survey last year revealed that the average person spends more than 7 hours on Facebook each month. Add checking personal e-mail and returning calls, and you can easily waste your entire work day on your social life. So keep the personal to-do list for your personal time, before or after your work schedule begins.
8. If the ideas aren’t flowing, don’t just give up for the day. Just because there’s not a boss over your shoulder monitoring you doesn’t mean that you can give up and head to the couch when things get tough. When you start that habit, it will continue, and before you know it, you’ll end up on the couch every day, getting nothing done.
9. Interact. Being at home can get a little lonely, and unlike when you’re in an office environment, you can go for hours without talking to another human. Interaction and conversation with another person can be refreshing and also spark ideas, so whether it’s the postman, a neighbor, or the woman at the local Starbucks, squeeze a little face-to-face into your day.
10. Close the door. If you are working during hours when your family is home, a closed door (or, if you don’t have a door, a sign or a signal that everyone has agreed upon) lets everyone know to respect your workspace, and that you shouldn’t be disturbed.