The words “I work from home,” inspire equal parts envy and horror. Envy because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to avoid the getting-dressed up, shared bathrooms, and chatty co-workers that come with a typical office job? Horror because the first question people ask is how in the world do you get anything done? Of course they ask that. Because being given the option of staying home instead of commuting to an HQ generally materializes images of staying in your pajamas all day, ordering delivery, and watching Netflix for hours until you pass out on your couch, wrapped taco-style in your duvet.

Yeah, it would be great if “I work from home” really meant “I don’t work at all.” But it doesn’t. The work doesn’t just magically disappear just because you don’t leave your front door in the morning. It’s still there, and, for the most part, people who have this lifestyle actually end up working more than the ones that don’t—either because they need to prove to their bosses that they can actually get stuff done from the comfort of their home office, or because they are self-employed, and are therefore wearing several hats. Whether you already work from home, are curious how people in this strange category of lifestyle do it, or are interested in joining us in the near future (come over to the dark side…), here are my tips to working from home—and actually being productive.

  1. Set boundaries. Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean it’s Sunday. Make a list of rules for things you absolutely cannot do while on the clock—and stick to them. Examples include no watching TV, taking a quick nap, running an errand, or talking to your mom on the phone. Sure, if you work for yourself, or have a more flexible schedule, being able to do these things in the middle of the workday is a huge perk. But even if you decide you can still get stuff done while also doing other tasks regular professionals wouldn’t be able to do, set firm rules around them. Maybe you let yourself go to the gym at nine in the morning, but only if you tack an extra hour to your workday. Maybe you work way more efficiently if you take a power nap, but set a strict 3pm time for it. The bottom line is, it’s easy to become unproductive when you’re working in an environment without readily enforceable rules—so you need to be the one to keep yourself in line.
  2. Create goals and schedules. Every person working from home needs a document or calendar where they can craft a daily game plan—which includes tasks that need to get done, along with important events/meetings. Without co-workers to remind you, or a company-wide calendar, you’d be surprised by how many important phone calls you can completely forget about, right up until someone is hitting up your cell. Similarly, working from home for hours on end can often feel like an alternate universe—where the hours seem to melt together, until suddenly it’s 5 P.M…and you’ve barely accomplished anything. Blocking off time to do specific tasks can help you maximize each hour. For example, from 9-10 you work on X, from 10-10:20 you only do Y. Then stick to it!
  3. Get out of the house. This might seem completely counterintuitive. You’re working at home—so, shouldn’t you stay there? While you definitely shouldn’t use your flexible schedule as an all-day excuse to go on long walks and back-to-back workout classes, leaving during your lunch break, and then after work hours, is necessary. Spending all day at home can make you feel like a hermit, so it’s important to schedule in some much-needed time with friends or other professionals in your field. Remember, working from home means you’re missing out on the social interactions you’d normally have in an office, so make sure to make up for it by regularly getting out of the house post-work. Social relationships are a key component in overall happiness, and people with a higher well-being are actually statistically more productive—so this is a good idea on all fronts.
  4. Hold yourself accountable for progress. If you still work for a company—and are not freelance, or self-employed—you might have a manager tracking your work. If you don’t, you should still set a system where you can audit how well you’re doing. At the end of the week, or even the end of the month, see how many goals you’ve met. If you aren’t happy with the results, strategize ways that you can do better, then implement them. When you don’t have a manager, it’s crucial to constantly check in with yourself to ensure you’re doing everything as efficiently as possible.

These are my tips to working from home and getting stuff done—what are yours?

What are your tips?

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