When people start working from home, often their thoughts turn toward their sudden ability to catch that afternoon yoga session they’ve been missing, or the opportunity to take the dog on long, leisurely hikes every day. While it’s true that working from home does allow you the freedom to choose your own schedule, the flip side is that the discipline it takes to succeed now has to come from you instead of an ever-present boss. Here’s how to succeed when your home is also now your office.
To ensure you’re maintaining good relationships with your boss and co-workers, schedule regular virtual meeting times. Use programs such as GotoMeeting, Google Hangouts or Skype to meet and discuss the day’s tasks. That can help you stay motivated and in tune with the flow of the office.
Also use social media sites such as LinkedIn to "meet" new connections and stay up on who’s who in your industry. To keep your skills up to par, seek out online courses from community colleges or technical colleges, which can help you learn everything from how to best use Microsoft Office to more advanced topics such as web coding, tracking your expenses and more.
Track your time with an app
To show your bosses you’re actually working -- and to monitor your own work flow -- use a web-based tool such as Worksnaps or Hivedesk. Both apps take screenshots of your computer and store them for your boss’ viewing, as well as tracking the tasks workers are doing. Naturally, you’ll want to take advantage of the apps’ tutorials before you start to best learn how to use them.
Rely on a schedule
To make money, you still need to work a certain number of hours every day and every week. You might be delighted that your boss is no longer breathing down your neck every day, but guess what? You have to learn to do that for yourself. Step one is deciding what hours you’ll work -- whether that’s a traditional 9 to 5, or an alternative schedule -- and then finding ways to reward or penalize yourself when you don’t stick to it. For example, you might reward yourself with that new purse for sticking to your schedule the entire week, or deny yourself dessert if you don’t log your daily hours one day. On the other hand, take breaks as you would at a regular job, as they can help your mind rest and regenerate.
Use a timer if you have to
Distraction happens fast. One study published in Psychology Today found students were only able to maintain their concentration for three short minutes -- especially when surrounded by technology such as computers and smart phones. To keep yourself from the distractions that can derail your productivity, try setting a timer. Give yourself one hour to complete a specific task, for example, and give yourself a small reward, such as five minutes of social media time, when you meet your goal.
Create a dedicated work space
You’ll be more able to get into work mode when you have a space in your home that’s meant only for doing work. For the more fortunate, that means an entire office space with four walls and door. For those living in smaller homes, your living room, garage or basement might have to do double duty. Still, having an organized desk that’s tucked slightly away from the rest of your stuff -- and perhaps facing away from the rest of the furniture and clutter in the room -- can put you into work mode.
Keep friends and family at bay
When you start working from home, your friends might suddenly think you’re available for long lunches anytime. Your family, meanwhile, might think you’re available for settling family disputes or preparing impromptu meals, just as you were anytime you were home in the past. Lay down the ground rules with your loved ones right away. You’ve created a schedule for yourself; now share it with your people to let them know when not to disturb you. If necessary, put a “do not disturb” sign on the office door, or post your schedule for all to see.
Being a successful at-home worker can be more difficult than it seems at first, but you’ll have the most success by enforcing some discipline upon yourself right away.
Image courtesy Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr