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Having a job where you work from home is an incredible challenge.  For people used to being in an office, it can be difficult to make the switch easily. Combine that with the knowledge that your loved ones (significant others, kids, pets, room-mates) are sitting feet away from you, and it’s a wonder that anyone gets any work done at all!

But, the number of people who work from home full time is growing – 2.6% of the U.S. workforce, to be exact (and that’s up 80% in the last 10 or so years!).  If we don’t develop good workflows and habits now, we may end up “slacking ourselves into oblivion”.  Here are a few ways that I personally make sure I’m at my best, even when I’m working in my pajamas (and this happens more often than not!)

1) Have a Dedicated Workspace

It’s fine if you want to crash on the couch every so often to work (or, dare I say, the bed!), but it’s necessary to have a dedicated spot in your house that’s just for work-related tasks.  Having a “home base” will allow you to have a sanctuary to run to if distractions get to be too much.  When I started my new position, my wife and I struggled with this – we have a small house, and with 3 kids, the space is somewhat limiting.  We settled on rearranging the bedroom and “walling off” my office with a bookshelf.  It allowed me to focus on the work in front of me, and still allow people to mingle around without too much disturbance.

2) (Good) Headphones are Your Friend

Having a great pair of headphones makes the difference between hearing every noise around you and being able to dive into work.  I personally have two sets I alternate between: a pair of Skullcandy UpRock headphones, and a pair of Skullcandy Earbuds.  Both offer enough noise-canceling to let me zero in on work, but not so much that I don’t get a bit of the environment (something that I personally enjoy).  When I really need to focus, I’ll crank up some upbeat music.

3) Allow Yourself Breaks

Sometimes, I get into a project and hit my groove.  And sometimes, I get so engrossed that I lose track of time.  My eyes, neck, and back hate when this happens.  The solution: preprogrammed breaks that let you stretch, step away for a moment, and then hit the ground running again.  I use a modified Pomodoro Technique to schedule breaks for myself. I have my day broken out into hour-and-a-half blocks – two 40 minute sessions with a five minute break per block.  Four blocks per day equal out to six hours of work (leaving the other two hours for code cleanup, sprint meetings, and lunch).  That five minute break allows me to step away and mentally clear my cobwebs.

These few suggestions account for most of my daily productivity. While they may seem counter-productive (taking breaks GOOD for productivity), it’s important to note that it’s not just about the work getting done – it’s about the state of your mind as you are working (and when you finish).  Chances are you work from home to allow yourself freedom to explore hobbies, to travel, or to spend time with loved ones. If you’ve fried your brain out from overwork, then what’s the point of getting things done from home?

Do you have any “working from home” secrets or tips you use?  Leave them in the comments below!

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