If 2008 has been any indication, expect quite a few of us to start working from home in 2009. From an increase in telecommuting jobs to taking on blogging gigs and freelance work to make ends meet, more and more of us will be earning our keep from the comfort of our own homes. It’s a great setup if you can get it, but it holds the danger of being a little lonely; for some, the prospect of spending their lives working in pajamas with dust bunnies their sole source of company threatens their sanity. After the jump, 18 tips to keep sane and help you maintain a healthy work/life balance when clocking in from home.1. Shower every day.
Preferably before noon.
2. Start the day with coffee, tea, or another “waking-up” ritual.
Whether it includes caffeine or not, having a morning ritual will alert your mind and body it’s time to wake up and get busy.
3. Make a to-do list each day.
Write down tasks you have to complete, as well as the ones you want to get a jump-start on.
4. Define your work space
Don’t work where you sleep, play, relax, or have sex. If you can’t have a separate office, at least designate a space in your home for work and work only. This will help keep your work-life and your life-life separate, even when they happen under the same roof.
5. Set a regular work schedule.
Just because the conventional work hours are 9 to 5, that doesn’t mean yours have to be. One of the benefits of working from home is having the luxury of setting a schedule that coordinates with your energetic peaks. If you peak at 3 p.m., schedule your more challenging tasks in the afternoon.
6. Take breaks.
You’ll be more productive and sane if you take frequent breaks. Experiment with what works for you. I happen to like 15 minute breaks every hour, with a longer break at noon for lunch.
7. Get fresh air.
Kill two birds with one stone by going out for a brisk walk. You’ll get the exercise and the fresh air. During the colder months, make use of that gym membership or do an exercise DVD at home. I’ve been doing the 30 Day Shred, a quick, 20-minute routine I can easily squeeze into my day, and I swear it works!
9. Meet a friend for lunch.
Even your friends who work traditional schedules get lunch breaks, so if there’s one who works near you, make a weekly date to grab a bite. Doing so will get you out of the house and keep you socially connected, without juggling anyone’s schedule or sacrificing too much time.
10. Keep your desk and work area tidy.
A well-organized work space keeps your psychic space organized, which makes you a more efficient and productive worker.
11. Always have a notebook on hand.
Jot down ideas for articles, blog posts, and projects as they come to you. Even jotting down non-work related thoughts will allow you to get back to them later when you’ve “signed off” for the day and keep you from getting distracted from the work you’re currently focused on.
12. Turn off the distractions.
Some of us prefer a little background noise when we work, but if you’re finding the TV or radio are distracting you from focusing on your work, turn them off. Likewise, if you’re fielding constant SOS instant messages from your friends stuck in cubicle land, sign out of chat or let them know you know you’re busy and you’ll respond on your next break.
13. Interact with humans.
Face-to-face interaction is the best, so even if you’re just running down to the coffee shop for a re-fill or mailing something at the post office, make it a point to say smile and say “hello,” reminding yourself that you’re part of a world beyond the walls of your apartment. Virtual communication is great, too, from emails to Twittering and brief phone calls during your breaks throughout the day.
14. Find a coffee shop.
Why not take the whole face-to-face idea one step further and expand your workspace to include your local coffee shop? A change of scenery may spark creativity
15. Get a pet.
16. Have a comfortable workspace.
From a supportive chair to an appropriately-sized desk, a comfortable and ergonomic workspace is essential for productivity and physical well-being.
17. Know when to stop.
Don’t work late into the night. Set defined times when you’re going to work and stop when you’re supposed to. You can have a bit of leeway here, but make sure you don’t end up letting work run your life.
18. Careful with the booze.
Just because you can have a beer with lunch and still be productive doesn’t mean you should keep drinking throughout the day. Make those boozy lunches a rarity and start Happy Hour only after you’ve completed your work for the day.