Five tips for being more productive when working from home

Even if you're well-suited to work from home, maintaining your productivity can be a challenge. Here are some suggestions for making sure you're as effective and efficient as possible.

Not everyone is cut out for working from home. The pantry, the television, and YouTube are incredibly persuasive distractions if you have no boss or co-workers nearby. Personally, I've found that I thrive at home -- I can be quite productive for 10 hours at a stretch, and in fact knowing when and how to "shut down" and relax after business hours is actually my bigger problem.

When I saw jkOnTheRun's How to be a Productive Home Worker, I found myself nodding my head a lot in agreement. This is a great overview of how to be an effective worker at home, whether you're doing it to escape the cubicle part time or as a self-employed entrepreneur. Here's a summary with my take on the list.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in BNET's Business Hacks blog.

1: Set up a comfortable home office

This is essential. You can't work effectively if your home office is the kitchen table or a desk in the corner of the bedroom. Approach work-from-home professionally, with a quiet workspace, ergonomic seating and computer equipment, and decent lighting. Remember: I recently told you how to optimize your office lighting.

2: Think about music

At home, you have control over the sound in your "office" in ways that would be impossible at work. Music can make you more productive or can be a distraction. Personally, I like to play White Stripes, Decemberists, and Kristin Hersh while I work, but my wife finds music with vocals distracting. When she works at home, she plays instrumental music. The bottom line: Figure out what works for you. It might not be the same music you choose to listen to when relaxing.

3: Keep to a schedule

When I work from home, I don't take the opportunity to sleep in late. I get up at the same time as when I go into the office. I exercise, same as I would when commuting into the office. And I take the same lunch, snack, and dinner breaks. I think this is incredibly important -- discipline keeps me on track, productive, and mentally sharp.

4: Get out of the house

On the other hand, spending the whole day, from rise-and-shine to Conan-and-bedtime would drive me insane. When I work from home, I go out for lunch, and sometimes even dinner. It's important to get out, see some sights, and possibly talk to other human beings.

5: Choose the right wardrobe

The jkOnTheRun article recommends dressing up to work from home because it conveys a sense of seriousness about working from home. I vehemently disagree with that advice. I barely get out of my PJs all day when I work from home -- I put on sweats and I look like a hobo. I do that because getting to wear comfortable clothing is one of the benefits of working from home. If I dressed up, I might as well go into the office. Personally, I don't find that what I wear affects my productivity. What about you?