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Work Smarter #40: Can't Focus When You Work from Home? Here's How!
March 29, 2011

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Hi, Kell here!

Welcome to the Work Smarter Not Harder Newsletter #40.

You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that an increasing number of employers are giving employees privileges to work from home when the opportunity or situation presents itself. You may even be one of the lucky ones to find yourself working at home.

There's no doubt that working at home can increase your productivity, but it's also true that the home environment can be one of the biggest distractions since you may have other people at home or personal matters to tend to. While you won't have a boss looking over your shoulder to make sure you're working and not playing games or wasting time on the computer, you need self-discipline and organization to make it work.

Situating your workspace

While it's true that you can work from any room in the house, including the bedroom, you really need is a dedicated workspace. This means creating a separate space, preferably an entirely separate room or area that's closed off from the rest of the house.

In this workspace, you should have everything you need to work: a laptop or desktop computer, filing cabinets if necessary, and good lighting. Here are some tips for home office organization.

Another workspace element that contributes towards your satisfaction while working at home is a comfortable, ergonomic office chair. If your office chair isn't comfortable, you'll find yourself continually getting up to take a break, get something to drink or to simply take a step away from your desk. A quality office chair can make a world of difference to your whole mindset since it should be your primary "spot."

Organize your tasks when you work from home

When you sit down to work for the day, you need to first make sure that you're in a position to make the day productive. For example, you don't want to clutter your desk with unnecessary paperwork not related to your workday, such as personal mail. You need to place the things you'll need for the day on your work desk, including pens and pencils, paper and letterheads, and client files and folders.

See these organizing tips for more ideas on organizing your workspace.

Once you're office and surroundings are organized, you need to make a to-do list in your personal organizer to stay focused and on-task.

You can organize your tasks and priorities in any way you want, such as tasks that take the most amount of effort or work first near the top. We recommend that when organizing tasks that you use the pareto principle.

Writing down every bit of work that needs to get done helps you create structure as if it were a normal work day. You can even write down mini-breaks and a lunch hour in the schedule to make certain you take mental breaks.

Productivity tools for working from home

When you work from home, you should keep tools at your disposal to keep your productivity in check. For example, you should create an electronic spreadsheet of everything that needs to get done for the day, and erase entries or mark them as "completed" when you finish them. GTD software or task management software may be for good workflow management.

You can keep email like Windows Mail or Outlook Express open to receive email communications from clients, co-workers and managers. If your office team uses Skype or other instant messaging tools, you can sign into these accounts to make sure your office team is at an arm's length if you have questions or need updates about projects or clients.

But remember when using this technology to use this email etiquette to avoid being overwhelmed and distracted by information overload.


Working at home certainly has its benefits. You can be more productive by working alone without any office interruptions. You can also be much more relaxed and flexible while working at home, which can reflect positively in your productivity. To stay focused while dealing with all the distractions at home, however, you need an appropriate workspace, an organized mindset and tools that can help you stay in contact and become productive. Please let us know your comments, views or feedback so that we can improve our site for our most valuable resource


All the best,

Dr Kell and the team at Effective Time Management Strategies.

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