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Tips for Success Working From Home

Written by Matt Jabs - 13 Comments

“The work-at-home lifestyle can be incredibly satisfying and an effective way to be closer to your family.”

-Mitch Thrower

Tips for Success Working From HomeWorking from home is a dream that many of us tend to put up on a pedestal as an ideal scenario. I’ve heard many people say they’d be happy if they could just work from home… But would working from home really solve their problems and bring them happiness? Many who already work from home say that it takes a much higher level of self-discipline to succeed as compared to working outside the home.

Let’s examine a few key topics relevant to working from home and outline a rough road map to success.

Self discipline

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… Self-discipline with all of them came first.”

-Harry S. Truman

As I transition from my old job to my new job, I have been blessed with an entire week off from work. In fact, as I type this article, I am waiting at my mechanic’s shop while they change the oil on my wife’s vehicle.

When this week started, it seemed like I was going to get so much done during my time off, but I have actually accomplished very little. Why is this? I see it as little more than a lack of self discipline.

After this short stint of freedom from employment, I would liken working from home with no self-discipline to driving a car with no feet… There is just no way to be successful. If you are thinking of making the switch to home-based employment, make sure that you have a high level of self-discipline and self-motivation or success will likely elude you.

The grass is always greener

“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.”

-Robert Fulghum

If you have a bad attitude, and/or are stuck working a job you’re not crazy about, it is easy to fall victim to the grass is greener syndrome where anything looks better than the current situation. Why do you want to work from home? Is it because you hate your job? Perhaps you’re just lazy or have a bad attitude. If either are true, chances are you would be just as unhappy working from home as you are in your current job.

Before you set out to begin working from home, try adjusting your attitude and/or your work ethic and examine your current situation again.

Rough road map to work from home success

Proper attitude and discipline are key to succeeding as a home-based worker. Follow these additional tips to increase your likelihood of success.

  1. Turn off the TV. Perhaps the best advice is to ensure that you do not plop yourself down in front of the television. Avoid doing this at all costs. The TV has a unique ability to suck the work and motivation right out of you. Some people like the television for background noise, but I would argue against this being beneficial for most situations. Rather than using a TV for background noise, try turning on the radio… Music can be very motivating.
  2. Create a work space. Be sure to have a space designated to work. It is advisable to stay out of areas of comfort like your bedroom, the living room, etc. Your work space should be a space devoted to work, not relaxation. When you are there, you are working. Period. Make the space motivating and exciting. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and be sure to paint and decorate your space with colors and things that drive you and persuade you to accomplish.
  3. Set goals. What are you shooting for? What do you wish to accomplish? Make sure you write these things down and put them some place where you will see them often. Set both long term and short term goals. Your short-term goals should break your long term goals down into achievable chunks.
  4. Have and maintain a schedule. Use a calendar to keep track of what needs to be done each week. Spend at least 30 minutes each day populating your calendar with jobs, tasks, and errands that need to be done. Planning things out helps to motivate and maintain purpose and direction, along with showing you precisely what work needs to be done each day.
  5. Make lists. Use your goals and schedule to create daily to-do lists. Create your to-do list for the next day at the end of each work day, that way you come to get to your work space each morning with clearly defined tasks.
  6. Get up and go to work. Treat your home-based work just as you would any other job… Get up, take a shower, head over to your work space, and get to work. Do not let yourself wander into other areas of the house, just get ready then get right down to business.

In closing…

If you have ever worked from home, or are considering making the move, please share your experience here to help others along their way. Be sure to include any tips that I may have overlooked.

Published on May 20th, 2010
Modified on May 25th, 2010 - 13 Comments
Filed under: Working

About the author: is a thirty-something IT manager and blogger who wants to help himself and others get out of debt. He writes about personal finance and debt-free living at Debt Free Adventure.

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13 Responses to “Tips for Success Working From Home”

  1. 1
    Fern Says:

    In a home business, or any business I suppose, e-mail can kill you.

    Yes, you have to respond to customers, keep up with your suppliers, etc. But you can’t afford to be on call to your e-mail all day at home. Read, respond, send e-mail only at one or two specific and scheduled times a day.

    The same is true of phone calls, to some extent. Here, I handle all incoming calls (unless I’m out picking up supplies or such). I TOTALLY screen calls rather than let them interrupt the ‘directly brings in money’ time of my husband. Folks who call us on our published land-line tend to want basic info, or – more often! – people trying to sell us goods/services. All things I can handle.

    Continuing customers, especially high-value ones, have been given my husband’s cell phone number. They have higher access …. but even then, husband will be able to turn off the phone when he needs to concentrate on a specific task.

  2. 2
    Jessie Says:

    I’ve worked from home for about 3.5 years now. Everybody tells me how jealous they are that I can do that (and don’t get me wrong, there are definite perks), but I’m pretty jealous of people who get to go to the office – I miss it a lot. The one tip I have is to make sure you get out of the house too. I’m not particularly social by nature and I love myself some sweat pants, but even I go a little stir crazy if I haven’t put on real clothes and gone out in a while. Working form home makes it all too easy for me to suddenly realize I haven’t left my house for a week.

  3. 3
    Rosa Says:

    Me too, Jessie.

    Working from home has been really good for me – among other things, the extra commute hour every day was killer when my son was younger – but now I’ve been home more than a year, and I’m missing the office. We’ve had a bunch of reorgs and I feel really out of the loop because so much information gets exchanged informally when things are changing.

    Also it is hard to get others to respect my work space/time – I tend to overcommit with both family stuff and work, and then the deficit comes out of time i should be sleeping. With more defined work hours it is easier to not overcommit with family and social stuff.

    On the other hand, as a working mom, being able to use my breaks to do some housework – for instance, while my lunch is in the microwave I’m loading or unloading the dishwasher, instead of chatting with coworkers – has freed up my outside of work time a lot. And being able to work flex hours – so with a sick child, I can be with him and then when he goes to sleep work for a while – has been a godsend. When I worked in the office, all of my vacation time went to kid stuff (illness, doctor’s visits, etc.)

    Oh, and I work a few Saturdays a month for business reasons, and my job doesn’t heat/cool the office on weekends, so being warm in winter and cool in summer when I have to work weekends is pretty awesome. Pity the folks in the office those days.

  4. 4
    Squirrelers Says:

    Working from home can be a huge benefit for people in terms of work-life balance. I’m big on the idea that health, wealth, and relationships are all interrelated to some degree, so balance is good. If a job allows for working from home, its a great option.

    Two aspects to be careful with:

    1) People contact. Do you need to be in contact with others, for that “human” interaction? I think most of us do, though the degree to which we need it varies by person. If you need that water cooler time, lunch with coworkers, and those daily inperson interactions, then working from home my leave a void in your satisfaction on the job.

    2) Multitasking temptations. You have to able to resist too much multitasking. In fact, I would recommend focusing on your job and viewing multitasking opportunities as a bonus.

  5. 5
    Mike Piper Says:

    I’ve been self-employed (from home) for most of my working life.

    I absolutely agree that there are things you can do to make things go more smoothly (removing any possible distractions being the most important for me), but I think it primarily comes down to one thing: Caring.

    The reason you get up and go to work each morning when you have a job is that you’re aware of the ramifications of not going to work. When you’re self-employed, the ramifications are still there, they’re just not as obvious or immediate.

    As long as you care more about whatever it is that you’re doing than you do about watching TV, you’ll get the work done.

  6. 6
    Aryn Says:

    I work from home once a week and I love it, however I do tend to work an extra hour those days. I’ve discovered that I also tend to eat less when I’m not in the office (the office kitchen is loaded with free snacks.)

    The key for me is treating it like any other workday. I get up, get ready, and head into my home office where I fire up the company email, instant messaging, etc. I do like to use my one day a week to have home service people come over or run a couple errands during my “lunch,” but that usually doesn’t take too much time.

  7. 7
    Jenni Says:

    This is a very timely article for me! I have just discussed with my adviser working from ‘home’ (actually my boyfriend’s home several states away) during the summer. Since he will be on constant travel, we’ll have to discuss work via telecon and email anyway. As to staying on task, I do all of my research on the computer and organize/manage myself–I only see my adviser if we’re having group meeting or I have a question, and he won’t be around anyway for that face-to-face interaction.

    Of course I’m very excited to be able to spend evenings and weekends with my boyfriend (we’ve been long distance for 3 years now), but I am aware of the challenges. I’m very insistent on getting a desk and making my own ’space’ to work in. My other concern is that I won’t have a car while I’m there, so I might feel trapped in the apartment. I think the main thing will to be acknowledging these facts and talking out solutions to them with my BF.

    Finally, I just recently read the Four-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris. A lot of the book doesn’t really fit my life goals at the moment, but many of his suggestions on time management, email (only check it twice a day! I used to think that was impossible), and making the hours in which you work really productive are all going to be very useful to me!

  8. 8
    Car Negotiation Coach Says:

    Great post! I’ve worked from home for 10 years, off and on and especially agree with #2 and #3.

    I’d also add that once you learn a little about yourself you can schedule certain activities for different parts of the day to keep you going.

    A couple examples…

    I’m horrible in the morning so I try to schedule calls around 10 or so. It makes me get up and prepare, but gives me enough time for my coffee to kick-in.

    I try to run errands at lunch to break up the day, get outta of the house and gain some perspective.

    I’m most productive late at night so after everyone else is asleep and there are no distractions, I put a couple of solid hours in.

  9. 9
    Ace @ aceofwealth.com Says:

    This is a really great post! I think that being able to work from home is all about mindset. Striking a balance is truly important to prevent the effects of the “grass is greener.” Working at home or being your own boss allows you freedom that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Maybe you can sleep in until noon everyday, but you end up working late into the night.

    #6 to me is such an important tip. This is an extremely easy cycle to fall into, where you just can take the leap to get yourself to start. Finding a way to get yourself to take the first step can be so important, I’m glad that you touched on it.

  10. 10
    Sasha A. Rae Says:

    The internet is both my tool and my nemesis. It can be the ultimate distraction. Surfing the cyber-highway can be just as much of a time suck as Facebook-ing it all day or feeding your e-ddiction! A recent tip I heard was to open one window for your actual work and another for your surfing, so you can see where you’re spending your time and how you’re getting distracted. I don’t know if this stops you from wasting time on the internet or not.

    Still, working from home has definite perks and I love it. It just requires a different kind of self-discipline than working in an office does.

  11. 11
    Funny about Money Says:

    Nice post. I’ve worked from home and at offices off & on over the years. Both have their advantages. Given a choice, I’ll take home, mostly because I’m not fond of commuting and I don’t like having my time wasted, which is something you just have to get used to in an office.

    I’d add two points to your list:

    * Treat your work time like office time, and don’t allow anyone to gainsay you. For most people, work is a place, not an activity. This means that when they see you’re at home, they assume you’re not working. Therefore, they think you can drop whatever you’re doing to do whatever they want you to do instead. Answering the phone professionally and being firm about the use of your time will help to combat this.

    * Join professional and trade groups, and make it a point to attend meetings. Also, schedule time for volunteer work, preferably of a kind that uses your professional skills. Both of these will help bring in more work, but more to the point, they also help with the sense of isolation some people suffer when they try to work at home.

  12. 12
    gone Says:

    I work at home – Internet-based job – and I love it. All I have to do is meet my deadlines and no one asks any questions. They don’t even care where I am. I could be at an Internet cafe in Thailand and they wouldn’t care. I do editing for three organizations. I am good at it, have the right degree (MA), plus I speak and understand an uncommon language – I had to work to get here but no way would I ever go back to the 9-5 grind! If you can get this work then get it. I have absolutely no problems with missing people and not having to deal with office politics, political correctness, et al. The pay is very good — I feel lucky. I am based overseas so my taxes are next to nil. We can save (and have) a fortune.

  13. 13
    Jared Says:

    I work from home, but I have structured hours working for a virtual call center. I’ve been in my role for about a year now. I’m getting quite batty and need to get out of the house more or do anything I can to keep sane. I like my job, but it is stressful dealing with 30+ calls-per-day. I have a great work ethic and want to continue working for this company… but it seems like the boredom of being at home all of the time is really getting to me. The good thing is that I have fixed hours, so no bleeding over into home time. What do you all do to stay sane?

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