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How To Work From Home Without Going Completely Insane

Working from home — everyone’s dream come true, right? If so, then how come a lot of people have trouble focusing on the task at hand? Perhaps because there’s no one to hold them accountable? Or perhaps because their comfy couch, TV, and alluring bed are nearby, making it easy for them to get distracted, sneak in a nap or an episode of their favorite show on Netflix? With these tips, you can (and will) be productive working from home.
Here’s how:

1. Turn off the WiFi.

But I need it for work, I hear you saying as you toss your cereal at me through your computer screen. (I swear, so much of the world’s procrastination is due to Internet distractions: YouTube videos, Facebook, emailing everyone you know right back the moment they write to you, etc.) Even if you do need to be online for work, you can do your non-Internet-reliant work first, then fill in the blanks later, once the majority of your work is done. Don’t trust yourself?

Install something like Freedom onto your computer, which blocks you from accessing the Internet. Once you see how much more you get done, you’ll be hooked (and not to online games).

2. Create a work space.

Yes, some people work in pajamas on their couch, but I find it’s better to sit in an upright chair (without the temptation to lie down and “accidentally” fall asleep) behind a desk. That way, it truly gets me in the mood to work. Try it. You’ll see.

3. Don’t answer personal emails and calls during work hours.

Yes, you are your own CEO at your house, but if you want to be the most productive, hold off on doing personal tasks. You are not only your CEO, but also your top employee, so you need to take yourself seriously. Personally, if I am writing from home, I give myself a five-minute break—i.e., reward—at the end of each hour to check personal emails or Facebook, but that’s it. Five minutes. Any more, and it’s too distracting, so if you have bad discipline, wait until the end of the day.

4. Set your work hours.

What will your home work hours be? Some people flourish in the morning, while others do so after midnight, when the world’s asleep, and yet others need to work the same hours their clients are awake. By getting into a set routine, you’ll be more productive.

5. Make a plan.

Have a chart of daily, weekly, and monthly goals to accomplish. At day’s end, make sure you’re on track and, if not, figure out what happened that threw you off. (Did you spend an hour on the phone with your mom? Did you take a two-hour lunch break instead of an hour? Did you get stuck playing Candy Crush… again?)

6. Have someone hold you accountable.

Tell a friend (or colleague) about your work goals for the day—or week—and have them check in with you each day or week to see if you’ve accomplished all you set out to do. Like having a gym buddy, they’ll help you stay on course.

7. Take breaks.

All that said above, make sure to take breaks. When I first started freelance writing from home, I’d work and work and work and not take breaks. But, when I started to get bleary-eyed, I realized the importance of stepping outside now and then, walking around the block, eating snacks (not to mention lunch!), and so forth.

Though working from home takes some practice (and a lot of discipline), it is doable. However, if all else fails, go work at a coffee shop (without Internet even) or rent a communal office space.