When you’re trapped in a cubicle farm, working from home sure
seems grand. But the reality can be slightly more complicated.
“Staying focused on your top priorities is especially important
when you don’t have an on-site supervisor to keep your attention on
the big picture, or when you are the supervisor,” said Leslie
Godwin, a career and life-transition coach in Calabasas, Calif.
Being productive in a home-office environment boils down to two
key issues: focus and discipline.
“It’s way too easy to get distracted by what Stephen Covey calls
‘urgent, but not important’ items and lose sight of ‘important, but
not urgent’ ones,” Godwin said. “This means don’t take a non
critical phone call when you should be working on your marketing
Try this tip. Figure out when you’re most productive early in
the morning or midafternoon and schedule your most important tasks
then. Build other tasks around them.
“Start each day with a review of your schedule and to-do list,”
Godwin advised. “You’re more likely to get that important item
checked off, if it’s scheduled, and not just in a file somewhere on
Having a dedicated workspace helps, too, said Arik Anderson,
vice president of Freer Travel and a home-based agent in Newtown
“I used to have my office in the living room,” said Andersen.
“The TV would be on, et cetera. When I moved to a bigger place, the
first thing I did was create an office. It’s really helped me stay
motivated and focused.”
If you don’t have room to spare, try to make your part of the
kitchen or den as professional as possible. This doesn’t mean that
you have to have a cubicle or clunky filing cabinets.
Home-based agent, Jamie Losiri, a partner with Travel Ortelius
in San Francisco, said she likes to keep it quite simple.
“Some of my favorite organizational tools are Palm
Pilot/calculator, a calendar and a filing system,” she said,
meaning you can take your office almost anywhere.
Working at home is still work. “There must be a balance between
work and play, especially if you work from home,” Losiri said. “You
cannot allow family and friends to interrupt you while you are
She has established work hours and asked family and friends to
“respect my time as if I were working in an office.”
When the inevitable interruptions occur, remain as businesslike
as possible. When your spouse, neighbor or mother-in-law pops in,
say, “I’m working now but can take a break later.” Or, stick a sign
on the door: “In meeting, please don’t interrupt.’”
That will work on adults, but what about your children?
“If you’re the primary caretaker, working at home with kids is
like bringing them to work with you, but worse,” Godwin said.
“Working from home is not being a stay-at-home parent.”
Godwin counsels strongly against saying, “I can’t now, I’m
“Your child will always remember that mantra, and it’ll cost you
thousands of dollars for their psychotherapy,” she said.
“It’s better to give them your full attention for a few minutes,
then either invite them to bring a book or homework in and join
you, or tell them you’ll see them at some specific time and stick
to it,” she said.
Finding an effective and efficient way to work at home will
maintain your productivity, without sacrificing your personal
You’ll also be able to enjoy the benefits of having breakfast
with your family or reading a book while neighbors are stalled in
“And,” Godwin added, “try not to make your friends and
colleagues envious that your commute takes less than a minute.”