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January 2012



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By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

Many people would love to work from home. You can wake up whenever you want. You can spend the day in your PJs. You can work from the couch. And your schedule can be as wide open as you like.

While it’s true that working from home has its advantages — flexibility being a big one — it’s not the paradise you might think it is.

Distractions abound, especially when family members are home — or others call or come over, thinking that you’re simply not that busy. (Unfortunately, many people don’t take working from home very seriously.) There’s always a household chore that needs to be done. And you don’t get paid for resting, so you’re often working longer hours.

Here are seven tips that take these concerns into account and truly work.


1. Understand that productivity isn’t one-size-fits-all. “People need to develop systems and strategies that fit with how they work,” said Leslie Truex, author of The Work-At-Home Success Bible and owner of WorkAtHomeSuccess.com.

For example, Truex is a visual person, so filing and storing items isn’t helpful for her. “I have to have tools and strategies that keep things where I can see them without clutter,” she said. She also prefers web-based tools, like an e-calendar, which she can access from her phone when she’s out and about.

2. Give yourself structure.  Working from home means that you’re mixing personal items with professional ones. “If there are no homes for things, then it’s likely items will end up landing where they don’t belong,” according to Sara Caputo, MA, productivity coach, consultant and author of the e-book The Productivity Puzzle.  That’s why it’s important to have a separate, organized area for your work. Creating a sense of structure includes everything from your filing system to your calendar.

3. Set a clear schedule every day. “Making sure you have a well-functioning road map for your day is what I consider a key to success in business and life,” Caputo said. This is especially helpful when you get distracted, because you know exactly where to pick up or the next thing you need to work on.

4. Rank your priorities. When there’s a long list of to-dos, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. What do you tackle first? Second? Or third?

Truex employs an interesting strategy: “I rank importance by what will make money the quickest, so activities that most directly result in income [such as] direct services or marketing are listed first and activities that don’t result in income or at least not in immediate future income go later on the list [such as] busy work [or] filing.”

Other entrepreneurs start with tasks they find most fascinating. Or they undertake the toughest tasks first.

5. Eliminate interruptions. Identify your specific interruptions during the day, and figure out how to eliminate them. For instance, you might hire a babysitter for your kids for several hours a day, let your phone go to voicemail, create a separate work area and even post a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door so neighbors know you’re working, Truex suggested.

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