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Tips on Managing Time While Working in a Home Office

written by: Nacie•edited by: John Garger•updated: 1/5/2011

One of the greatest perks of working from home is the ability to set your own schedule. However, this freedom can cause focus problems for some, especially those new at working in a home office. Read on to learn how to manage time while working from home.

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    Making Your Own Hours: Ups and Downs

    Next to missing commuting traffic, the best part of working from home is the luxury of working on your own time. This is a benefit that allows people who work in a home office spend more time with their families and pursue their own interests. However, it also open up an opportunity for procrastination and decreased productivity.

    This is because the number one mistake people make when working at home is not setting ground rules for themselves and their families about their work time. Luckily, there are many steps at-homers can take to ensure they maximize work and their personal lives while working from home. These steps include getting into a routine, planning for a week in advance, and managing the family’s expectations. For tips on how to move your business to working at home, check out Working at Home - Part 1: Geting Your Boss to Approve Working From Home.

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    Getting Into a Routine

    Many leave the office to work from home because the monotony of a daily routine is frustrating and doesn’t fit with their lifestyle. However, if you are just starting to work from home, it is recommended that you initially create a work routine for yourself so you don’t succumb to the temptations of procrastination. After you are established at home, you can gradually wean yourself off the routine.

    To create a routine that works best for you and maximizes both your personal and professional time, start by making a list of common activities or chores you need to accomplish during your average day and how long it will take to complete them. Next, estimate of how many hours of work you have per day. Finally, consider how much time per day you would like to spend with your family and friends. Using these three categories, begin filling in your day based around the most beneficial model for you, including a wake-up time and projected bed-time. Remember that since you are working on your own time, you can break up your work into small chunks of time and spread them throughout your day, however it is recommended you keep the chunks at least 1.5 hours for maximized productivity. Write your schedule down and post it near your at-home workspace as a reminder. For help setting up your workspace, check out Working at Home - Part 2: Making a Home Office Space.

    Follow your routine for one week and see how it fits with your work and personal obligations. Are you getting all your work done in a comfortable time frame? Do you feel stressed, or like you aren’t giving one area of your life enough attention? If you need to adjust your schedule, feel free to do so. Just be sure you hang a revised copy where you can see it.

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    Working in a home office can be a real drain on your time. Learning how to manage family and friends while working in a home office is one of the keys to success. Often, family and friends do not take the work-at-home person's work seriously. Learn how to manage family and friends while you work in a home office.
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    Plan the Week Ahead

    It helps if you use Sunday or Monday night to look at the week ahead and judge how various events or activities may interfere with your routine and ability to get your work done. If you have an obligation one day that disrupts your schedule, move your blocks of time around to accommodate it as well as ensure you are able to complete your work for the week. It is true that you will never be able to fully anticipate what a week brings in terms of unexpected interruptions and distractions from your work, but it will save you from scrambling if you do your best to adjust your routine ahead of time. Be sure you always keep track of upcoming events and revise your posted schedule for the week to reflect any changes.

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    Managing Your Family and Friends

    Many people who work at home have to deal with family and friends who don’t take their work seriously and respect the at-homer's work time. “John works at home, so I can drop the kids off with him while I go to the salon," “You are around, can drive me to the airport?" and “You don’t mind if I come in for a cup of coffee?" are common phrases at-homers hear while trying to work. It is frustrating, disrespectful, and always counterproductive.

    The best way to avoid having to hear these phrases is to have a discussion with the people close to you when you first start working from home about respecting your boundaries and getting them familiar with your schedule. After this discussion, you shouldn’t be afraid to say “no" if they don’t respect your schedule. If your office is in a dedicated room of your house, shut the door during your working hours, post your schedule on the door, and turn off the ringer on your personal phone. Remember to be firm with everyone from the start about respecting your work time, or you will set a precedent that it is OK to ignore your work time.