Working from Home: A How-to Guide

home office

> It's noon on a Monday, and you're just rolling out of bed. Why get up any earlier? It's not like you have to get all gussied up and drive to the office. You'll get your work done sometime this afternoon...
> It's 9:00 am and you're desperately trying to get some work done, but everyone keeps interrupting you: your spouse, your kids, your mother, whoever. They want laundry, food, a shopping buddy, help with a project. You aren't doing anything important, are you?
> It's 4:00 on a busy afternoon and you can't find the papers you need to finish that project. Your office space is a mess, your desk is buried under several months' worth of supplies and invoices, and you feel so harried that you're about to take your best friend's advice and see a therapist.


Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? When you quit your "real" job and decided to follow your dream, did you ever imagine that the day-to-day trials of working from home would be so tough?

When I started working from two years ago, I experienced ALL of the scenarios I just mentioned (sometimes all in one day). I got very little work done and I felt completely disorganized, stressed out, and depressed. Eventually, I wised up and learned how to make things work, and I'm going to share those tips with you.

Create an office

I know it's comfy, but your living room/dining room/bedroom is not conducive to your business. I don't care what kind of work you're doing - whether you are a crafter, a musician, or a virtual assistant - you need an office. I spent over a year in disarray while working from my couch, but as soon as I claimed an area as "the office" and set up a real desk, my productivity - and happiness - soared.

Pick a spot in your home that's away from distractions (preferably with a door) and get some office furniture. Fill it with your personality so it becomes a space you want to work in, but don't bring in distractions that aren't related to your work. Make sure you also purchase organizational elements, such as file boxes and drawer sets, that will help you keep everything contained and easy to find. (Don't worry, it's all tax deductible.)

Learn to say "no"

People will try to distract you, and you must not let them. Just because you work from home doesn't mean you're free to answer the demands of family and friends during your office hours.

Practice saying "no" to yourself, too. While it's tempting to go out and have fun because you have a "flexible schedule," it won't help you in the long run. When it's time to work, it's time to work. The sooner you can get that through to your own head, the sooner you'll be able to say "no" to others.

You know what else helps? Setting regular office hours and sticking to them.

Stay motivated

I wrote about this back in January. One thing that keeps me going is tackling one project - or one part of a project - at a time. Usually inertia kicks in and I just keep going from there!

Another way to stay motivated: If you're working toward a goal - a super vacation or mini-break, a new car, paying the bills - print that goal out on a piece of paper and post it where you can see it. Maybe make up one of those "thermometer" charts and fill in a little bit every time you get closer to your goal. Totally motivating.

You may also want to join a community of like-minded entrepreneurs or craftspeople to help you find inspiration and ways to grow your business.

No matter what, keep going.

Believe that you can make this work, and eventually you will.


Need more?
Here are some great articles with even more tips and advice.


Do you have some great advice about working from home? Share it in the comments!


photo by Agnostic Preachers Kid

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Polly Danger

It's so nice to hear all of these things about working from home, because they've all been true for me at one point or another.

My husband and I both work from home, so about 6 months ago we made the drastic decision to get rid of our cell phones. We were both sick of feeling pressured to respond to text messages and phone calls no matter what we were doing. Now that we have only the house phone it's easy to not answer it during work hours. In the beginning it was so hard to hear the phone ring and not go running to answer it, but I realized that it was the only way to get the point across. Our families are slowly learning that work hours are work hours, even if our office is at home.

Once we got over the stinging desire to answer the phone at all costs, our work days become about a hundred percent more productive, and I only have to listen to parental rambling on the weekends!

Axel McCarthy

Great post. I have struggled with all these also.

One technique that has really helped me is called the Pomodoro Technique.

In a nutshell, I set a 25-minute timer and commit to work on one, and only one, thing for 25 minutes. I try to resist all other impulses during that 25 minute period: getting more coffee, changing to a different radio station, checking my email -- I try to postpone all these things during the period of focus. Then, when the timer goes off, I reward myself with 5 minutes of relaxation or coffee or whatever. Then I start another 25 minute period.

I find that a bunch of short rewards, spread through the day, is more motivating then one big reward I give myself.

Anyway great post.

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