Six Rules of Working from Home

work from homeWith all the snow and ice we’ve had this winter, some folks (my husband included) have been forced to spend some days telecommuting. I decided to work from home in May and have learned it that it has its perks – and its challenges. Here are my top six tips to for making sure your “work-from-home” experience is as productive – and enjoyable – as possible.

Be an “early bird.”  While it’s always tempting to sleep in, I get up no later than 6 am and typically get right to work. Sometimes I get up even earlier if I’m having trouble sleeping, but the good news is that I get so much done during that quiet time before 8 am. Being an “early bird” helps me clear any lingering projects off my plate so I’m ready to embrace whatever the day will bring.

Have an agenda.  It’s easy to push things off if you don’t have a concrete daily plan. I have office hours and I always make a list of what I’ll tackle during that time. It gives me a sense of direction and accomplishment once I’ve achieved what I’ve set out to do.

Take breaks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suddenly realized it’s 2 pm and I haven’t moved from my desk. Along with establishing a plan for my day, I’m sure to schedule small 5-minute breaks in between. Just getting up and making tea or throwing a load of clothes in the dryer will do. My daily 45-minute exercise break is a lovely perk.

No daytime TV. Watching TV may seem like a good idea for your break, but beware.  It’s proven that TV induces low alpha waves in the brain, which are responsible for relaxed meditative states. That relaxed state may also lead to lack of focus and can leave you feeling to aloof to get back to work. For this reason, I do not allow myself to turn on the TV until 5 pm.

Establish boundaries with others. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can drop everything when someone wants to have coffee or when your spouse wants to go to the movies. Yes, you can do this sometimes, but I try to let people know upfront that I’m ‘on the clock’ and that means the fun stuff will have to wait.

Reward yourself. There’s an obvious temptation to do so many counterproductive things like hang in your PJs while watching re-runs of The Real World.  Avoiding this kind of temptation can be tough, especially on days when you’re ahead of the game. So, when I’ve stuck to my schedule for the day, I reward myself with some Hartley’s chips or some TV time – after 5 pm, of course!

Some people think working from home is a glamorous gig, and it can be. It’s challenging, too, which is why some self-discipline is in order.

Do you work from home? Share a productivity rule that’s helped you.

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  1. Jason King Says: February 17, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Brilliant tips for small business owners like myself. I find taking short breaks is particularly useful and helps to prevent my stress levels from reaching boiling point.

    I must confess it’s the 6am rise that is a problem. I do some of my best work before I go to bed and find myself still typing away at 2-3am. So although 6am isn’t for me, I’m way ahead of the early birds 🙂

    • Rachel Strella Says: February 17, 2014 at 8:38 am

      That’s a great way to say it. We can easily get ‘caught up’ in what we’re doing and stress out.

      I used to be an evening person, too, but funny how things change!

  2. Nice article as it was shared by Dawn Mentzer and I took a moment to read. I have found that the boundaries is the most trying concept to embed into personal lives.

  3. These are great tips! As a WAHM, having an agenda and taking breaks is really important. Days with a toddler are completely unpredictable so I make sure I not only have a list, but prioritize it so the important stuff gets done first and that whatever I don’t get to are things that can wait until the next day.

    • Rachel Strella Says: February 19, 2014 at 9:59 am

      I can’t even imagine adding children to the mix, Margaret! You really have to prioritize your workload and I commend you for doing so!

  4. Mike Sansone Says: February 27, 2014 at 5:16 am

    Great piece, Rachel. I’ve been fortunate that we’ve become a one car household, so I drive my wife to work and pick her up daily. The “commute” separates my day, so I get that leaving the office at the office feeling. I also have a mini-orange construction cone to use as a “Do Not Disturb” sign when I need to focus.

    Thanks for the tips (permission?) on breaks and rewards – I’ll give that a try:-)

    • Rachel Strella Says: February 27, 2014 at 6:24 am

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. My husband and I commuted for a year when I had an office. I have to say it was a nice break to have a start and stop time because I had to. Love the cone! HAHA! I should try it!


  5. It is so tempting to let time slip away when you work from home. I find that if I start to get bogged down or non-productive a brisk walk around the block helps to clear the mind while being good for the body.

    • Rachel Strella Says: May 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

      You’re right about that Melinda. I little exercise and clear mind can do wonders for productivity!!

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