How to Make Working from Home Work for You

Without fail, the first thing I always hear from people when I tell them that I work from home is, "Oh, you're so lucky!" I won't lie. I am so happy to avoid the soul-crushing DC commute. It's also great not to have to have separate wardrobes from work and home. But trust me, it's not as easy as you might think to spend every day at home.

I can feel eyes rolling already. I don't want your pity. Really! After 3 years of working remotely in some capacity, I'm simply here to share how I've made the adjustment from office to home work. The following are a few things I've learned along the way that continue to keep me sane and wildly productive.

working from home
working from home

Have a dedicated workspace

In simple terms this means: not your bed! Find some place you can lay out your computer, a notebook, and other work items comfortably (in an upright position). I have dedicated a whole room to my office, but you don't have to. Even if it's your kitchen table, that's okay. Working in bed or on the couch makes it too easy to just close your eyes for a second and drift off.

Make manageable to-do lists

Every night I create a to-do list for the next day. I used to list everything that needed to be done for the week, hoping I'd get to most of the items. Now I focus on avoiding overwhelm. I do this by listing no more than 1-2 major assignments per day and adding other small things (that have probably been on my mind for weeks) that I can complete with little effort. Today, for example, my list included: blog and complete professional development series. I also had: schedule financial planner meeting, update calendar, and organize client notes. These last three things are easy to check off, but otherwise would fall by the wayside if I loaded up on too many big projects.

Create a schedule (and stick to it)

When I first started working at home I got so distracted by other things to do around the house that my work was suffering. Leave the dishes and laundry for dedicated break times! It's important to identify when you're most productive and schedule your day around these times. Though I was never a morning person before, now that's when I'm most productive. So I start my days with coffee in front of the computer and tackling my writing tasks for about an hour and a half. Then I'll get ready for the day (see below) and return to email and work on a few easy to check-off items before having lunch and spending the afternoon with a second major task. Knowing what to expect keeps me on track while the day flies by.

Get dressed!

When I first started working from home I thought it unnecessary to get dressed until the end of the day. This left me feeling sluggish and sloppy. Now every day I shower, get dressed, and do my hair and makeup as soon as I finish my first big task for the day. It helps me feel better, which improves my output. It also allows me to hop on Skype at a moment's notice to chat with a client or colleague without worrying about how I look!

Break it up

There's this unmentioned guilt factor we all feel when working from home. It's as if we aren't sitting in front of our computers all day, someone will think we aren't working hard enough and revoke our right to telecommute. Most of the time, that's just us being paranoid. It's so important to get outside at least once a day. I walk my dog in the morning and then again midday. I put in my earbuds and play a bit of my favorite podcast. Even if it's just for ten minutes, it's important to have a change of scenery and breathe some fresh air. Ironically enough, this is also when many of my best ideas come to me.

Talk to someone at least once a day

The one thing I miss most about the office environment is human interaction. Most days I can go all day without talking to anyone face-to-face but my dog (that counts, right?). Whether it's scheduling a call with your boss or joining a Google hangout with a colleague, you need that collaboration.

Eat healthy

Unlike the office, when you're at home your fridge is close by. This can be beautiful or burdensome. I often find myself snacking through the day and feeling lightheaded from the lack of good nutrition. Eat the way you would any other day. Make lunch or go out and get it. And stick to water, not wine, until at least 5pm. You know you've been thinking about starting happy hour early and that's just a recipe for disaster.

What are some things that have worked for you when working from home?