I've been blessed to work from home almost continually since 1989. Over the years, I've tried a couple of times to go back into office work, but it just didn't suit my nature. Not having to spend eight hours a day on a 'cube farm' is a wonderful thing, and I'd like to share my tips on how to maintain productivity when working from home.
Maintain a daily in-office routine
By this I mean get up, wash up, and get dressed as if you're going to work (casual business attire is fine), and follow the standard business hours that you've set for yourself. If you've decided that your workday is from 8:00am until 4:30pm, then with only few exceptions find yourself working during that timeframe. Keep a space reserved in the house that is to be used exclusively as your office.
The truth of the matter is that most folks who have never worked from home don't really understand the dynamic. They think that you can just up and play, run errands, and talk on the phone without restriction and without consequence. You and I know though that the set-in-stone formula for working at home is time=money. It's up to you to set boundaries about when people can call, come by, and ask you for favors.
Create a system for meal preparation
Maintaining high productivity hinges a lot on how you feel, and how you feel depends to a great degree on what you eat. Get a system in place where you can prepare meals and snacks in advance so that when hunger hits you aren't tempted to hit the fast food joints. Place an emphasis on lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, filtered water, and healthy snacks.
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise in every day
As above, your productivity success is affected to a great degree by how you feel, and exercise can help with that. It doesn't have to be a complicated routine; you don't even have to go to the gym. Try walking around your neighborhood for 30 minutes or working out to an exercise DVD. Just get moving! Your choice of exercise is only limited by your creativity.
Use productivity systems
Use little productivity techniques, like the Pomodoro system. This is where you use a simple kitchen timer and work and then take rest breaks in intervals. There are also apps that you can install on your computer to block websites that can kill your productivity.
Take a lunch break every day
It's important that you give your mind a rest during the course of your workday. Plan a lunch break that's not only long enough to have time to eat, but use it to return phone calls and emails, take care of simple household issues that may arise during the day, and even run a short errand or two.
All of the above tips taken alone may seem very simple, but when combined they make for a day that is very productive, that minimizes stress, and that will leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Incorporate a few of them, or even all of them, into your own workday and come back and let me know how it works out for you.
*Photo: David Svensson via Flickr
[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 06/22/2014 (no longer published there).]