As with any job, you may encounter challenges along your journey. The work-at-home path is not always as easy as it may sound. From burnout to distractions, these challenges can take on a whole new meaning when you’re in your home office. These experts share with us their tips on how they made it through and overcame the challenges that you may experience. Keep these tips in mind, stay focused on the end goals, and you too will find yourself becoming an expert.
Author & Artist
- Make a deal with yourself that you will only fixate on ONE small house project per day. If you tell yourself that you won’t do anything, you’ll end up doing eight loads of laundry. Painting the house is not considered “small”.
- Employ the “Do Not Disturb’ settings on your phone. Add your kid’s school number, spouce’s work or cell number so you don’t feel completely cut off if there is an emergency. All else can go to voicemail.
- Batches. Learned this one from Tim Ferris – set aside a specific time to check emails, or answer voicemail, or make lunch. Otherwise you end up dabbling here and there and lose the whole day. Set a timer for batch tasks and then get back to work!
- Distractions: When I first started working from home, it was easy to get distracted with laundry or chores that needed to be done. Grocery stores were less crowded in the middle of the day and it was easy to stay on top of the laundry. However, these chores were severely cutting into my work time. Now I schedule my day on my google calendar. That way I have designated work time. I try to get all of the chores done on the weekend or hit the grocery store after dinner. Maximizing my focused work time has helped me to be way more productive.
- Children and noise: I love my kids, but they also love to barge in my office during an important conference call. Having a door on my home office is key. The kids know that when my door is closed, I am busy and not to be bothered. If the door is cracked open, they can come tell me about their latest escapdes at school. I often speak with clients at night or sometimes on the weekend. My kids know that when I have a work call to make off hours, they need to be quiet by my office and we’ll play after the call is complete.
- Staying focused: Working several hours in row with no one to speak to at the water cooler can wear on my productivity. To break up work and also to get up from my desk, I have a chin up bar on my door. Getting up from my chair to do a few chin ups or push-ups helps to break up the monotony. A 20 minute stroll around the block is also a good way to unplug, get a little vitamin D and helps to refocus. Next on my list is a stand-up desk to avoid sitting as much as possible.
Bottom Line: Train the kids, minimize distractions with scheduling and stay focused to maximize your home office productivity.
Anna Blanch Rabe
- A separate work space is essential – even if it is in a converted closet or the corner of a room. Try to make it a place you want to be – with inspiring art and useful tools, equipment and files within arms reach. A dedicated room is also essential for tax deduct-ability.
- Set Boundaries, even with loved ones. Your work is no less important because you are working from home – communicate needs in terms of space, quiet times, or a closed room to take a conference call. It’s so easy to get pulled out of your work and distracted even by your favorite people.
- Consider hiring someone to clean your house once a week – it may be tax deductible (talk to your accountant) if you are working from home – and it may help keep you on track and free from distractions!
- Get a closed door office: At first, you may think that working in the kitchen or in some open area of the house is a good idea; however, you’ll soon find that it’s hard to avoid getting pulled into household issues or distracted by simple things like household chores. The truth is if the kids, family, and mail man can see you, then you might as well have an “available” sign on. It’s crucial to set up a home office that has a closed door. Not only does this create privacy, but it also allows you to stay focused and work with less interruptions.
- Get a daily routine:I’ve never been a big fan of a following a daily schedule and routine until I started working from home. A daily routine keeps you focused and appropriately allocates your time so that you can get everything done. One of the biggest challenges of working from home is balancing work and family time (the two become intermingled). Having a clear daily schedule enables you to clearly delineate time for both so that you can fully enjoy the time that you spend on either. Also, maintaining a calendar and task list is crucial to a successful daily routine.
- Get outside: One of the best freedom’s of working from home is the flexibility that it gives you on where/when you work. One great way to take advantage of this is to set aside time each day to get outside of the house. Whether this is a quick afternoon walk or lunch out with a friend, it’s important to spend time outside. The change in scenery will give you a boost of energy in the middle of the day and help you feel more refreshed when you return to work.
Anthony Neal Macri
“Just because you work from home, does not mean you are always working. One of the first things that can happen when we start working from home is completely forgetting the work/life balance. I quickly realized that I was waking up at 6am every morning and sometimes working until 7-8PM with barely any breaks. I think it’s important when working from home to have preset boundaries, always remembering that there is a time to work and a time to completely turn off every device and simply enjoy life. Not doing this will cause anyone to burn out quickly. ”
- Have a space dedicated to working only, that is kept clean and separate from the rest of your home
- Take regular breaks to stand up and stretch, including going outside and exercising
- Let your family know not to bother you during set working hours
“There’s a misconception that when you work from home, you get more work done because you don’t have the endless parade of workplace meetings in an office setting. But in the home environment you end up indulging in a world of other distractions, such as errands, preparing food, or living your personal life. The only way to overcome that is to treat your work-at-home hours the same as if you were clocking in. Set a goal to work for a certain amount of time, start a timer, and stick to it. When the time is up, then give yourself a solid block to dedicate to personal matters. This way, you’re still separating your work and personal life, instead of feeling like you’re always working.”
Montoya Digital Marketing
- Find your own rhythm. When are you most productive? In the morning? In the evening? Pay attention to what works best for you and take advantage of those times.
- Get out of the house! Join a networking group or meet potential referral partners for coffee – whatever it is, make it something that happens regularly..
- Walk away from work at the end of the day. When you work from home, it is easy to let work creep into you entire day. Whatever your end time is, stick to it and leave the rest of the work for tomorrow.
- Have a dedicated work space. A place where family knows that if you are there you are working and your time needs to be respected. This does not have to be an office. My work space is the back deck for the most part.
- Get involved with associations. Yes, this is helpful for sales leads, but it also helps you stay involved with peers so that you can continue to learn from each other and stay social.
- Wake up, shower, and get dressed for work. I have seen many people get burned out on working from home simply because they do not prepare their mind and body for going to work. Even if you accomplish a lot during the day, if you are still in your pjs and not showered at 5pm, you will not feel good about yourself.
Whether you’re a mother, professional, or student, we all have those nights we have to stay up after the whole city seems to have gone to sleep. I’ve found it can be one of the most productive work times for me undistracted by the world around, so I wanted to put together a list of some musts for you other late night owls (and let’s face it – we’ll all be there at one point!).
- Quiet Work space. A calm work environment is, in my opinion, one of the perks of working late at night. Without distractions you are already at an advantage. If you can’t stand the silence, turn on your favorite relaxing playlist.
- Sunrise is your alarm clock. Because I’m trying to make the most of the time I do have with the kids, I try to get most of my work done while they are asleep. That means my alarm usually goes off at 5-6am!
- Bright bulbs. Light signals your brain to stay alert so a well-lit work space is a must to get your best work done late at night.
- Invest in a clean house! When my house is clean I’m a lot more productive. We have someone who helps lean a couple times a month and it makes such a difference! Whether you have someone every week, once a month, or just spend a few hours cleaning instead of watching TV, it’s so much better when things are fresh and clean! It doesn’t last long at our house, somehow the kids can a a mess in 2 minutes, but the few minutes it is are heaven! Am I right??
- Need I say more? If you have leftover coffee from your late night long haul, pour your leftover coffee and creamer into an ice cube maker to make coffee ice cubes for a cold treat the next day. [Not a coffee drinker? Try mixing Coffee-Mate’s flavored creamers like Caramel Macchiato or Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookie with a tea latte or other hot drink.]
- Get comfortable. Crawl into a pair of cozy pajamas to work in comfort.
- Stable schedule. Sleeping in too long after a late night will throw your entire schedule out of whack. Wake up at your normal time the next morning to stay on track.
- Don’t sit still. Stretching or other quick exercises boost your heart rate and get your blood pumping again. I try to take a break every couple hours and just walk outside for some fresh air and reboot.
Dr. Elizabeth Minei
“One of the easiest traps to fall into is postponing work because of distractions—family, television, the call of sleeping in. Build discipline in around your preferences and therefore less distraction. Dedicate a consistent block of time for work when you know you are least likely to be distracted. If your favorite show is on at 4:00, or your kid has a baseball game, or you just like an afternoon nap, schedule your work day to start earlier so that you can watch tv, or go out, or take a nap without feeling guilty or leaving incomplete work. On the flip side, if you cannot resist sleeping in a bit, schedule your work day to start later but also end later.. The trick here is to do whatever you need to take your work day seriously. If that means regular phone alerts, or actually scheduling your work hours on your calendar, then do it..”
Note from Leslie
There are many things that can get in the way of success. But the biggest is yourself. Sure, external challenges and obstacles will appear, but those aren’t stop signs. They’re just things that need to be overcome. Every successful person experiences difficulties along the way. The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t are tenacity. So my biggest suggestion to achieiving work-at-home success is to never give up. You might have to make changes to deal with challenges, but as long as you keep making an effort, you’ll make it. Quitting should never be an option.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
Note: Work-At-Home Success contains advertising as well as screened work-at-home jobs and resources. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you register or buy using the link. Occasionally, WAHS publishes "Supporting Contributor" posts or paid reviews for which compensation is paid. These posts are marked as such. All opinions are my own. Click here for full details and disclosures.