How to actually get work done while working from home

Telecommuting can help you be incredibly productive. Commuting wastes time, and the office is full of distractions. You just have to set rules for yourself—and follow them.

When people hear that you work from home, their response is typically positive. They say, “Wow! You’re so lucky!” or “You must love that!”

The truth is, working from home can be great; it can also be a disaster. Picture this:

You rolled out of bed at 7:47 a.m. for your 8 a.m. conference call. Since then, you’ve been on calls back to back. It’s 2 p.m., you haven’t stepped out of your apartment once, and you’re still in your pajamas. You’re surrounded by cookie crumbs and pistachio shells, because—let’s be honest—that’s all you had in your pantry. You’re booked for the rest of the day and have way too much you want to accomplish. It’s not looking good.

I wish I was exaggerating, but my first few weeks of transitioning from working in the office to working from home looked just like what I’ve described above.

The good news is there are ways to make it great. Whether you’re telecommuting to the office or hanging out your own shingle as a freelancer, here are some tips to help you love working from home:

1. Set up a work station

It’s important to set up a work area in your home. This might be an office, a specific table, or even a corner of your apartment that is dedicated to work—and only work.

Be sure to invest in your work area and buy the supplies you need. A stapler, tape, highlighters, or even a printer are things you may miss once you leave the office, and it’s important to provision your work space at home to help you effectively do your job so you can be most productive.

Note: Many companies will reimburse you for this expense. Contact your HR department to inquire.

2. Work out in the morning

Although it sounds great to roll out of bed to take a work call five minutes later, it’s even better to wake up and get your adrenaline flowing. This can be through a workout, a short stretch session, or even a quick walk to the coffee shop. Just get up and moving.

At the very least, get up and hop in the shower to start your day fresh.

3. Take a midday walk—even if it’s just around the block

It’s amazing how easy it is to not leave your apartment when working from home. Everything you need is right there, isn’t it?

Trust me, your day will be better if you breathe some fresh air. If you have a five-minute, 15-minute, or one-hour break, put on an “away” message and go outside!

4. Talk to someone

Whether you plan a Skype date with a friend or just chat with your barista at the coffee shop, make it a priority to talk to someone. Even if your workplace was not the most social of spots, you will miss human interaction when working from home.

5. Plan your meals

News flash: Snacking on nothing but Oreos all day isn’t good for you.

Plan on eating your normal daily meals, just as you would if you were leaving your house to go to work, and keep healthy snacks around. My favorites are apples, almonds, and yogurt.

6. Keep your home—or at least your work area—clean

Treat your work area as you would an out-of-home office. Make sure it’s organized and tidy so you know where all your materials are.

7. Set work boundaries

It’s easy to log on early and log off late, and then answer emails and draft version 2.0 while watching a movie at 9 p.m. When you work from home, it’s important to set boundaries to separate work life and home life.

Set a log-on time and a log-off time, which means a time when you actually shut down your computer instead of leaving it on standby so you can check “just one more time.” There are tons of apps that can help you stay focused and get more work done.

If you work from home, how do you manage to stay organized and energized?

Samantha Roblin works with Gen Y women to help them reach their career goals and optimize their potential. She launched BEES: Be Extraordinary, Early Success as a platform for which women can set and reach career goals and be their best selves, now. A version of this article originally appeared on The Write Life, which helps writers create, connect and earn. Check out our list of 100 Best Websites for Writers.

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