If you’ve decided or been forced to work from home, consider the differences between the home and traditional office settings, and how you can maximize your productivity accordingly. While many will prefer a home-office to the traditional cubicle or corporate environment, there are some parameters that should be set in order to ensure you are keeping yourself as productive as possible. There are countless nuggets of advice and tidbits from experts on how to work from home while maintaining structure and keeping yourself on track, which will only mean more money in your pocket and free-time to pursue non-professional passions.

  1. Define Your Workspace, and Do Your Best to Make it Appealing to Your Chi

One of the easiest traps to fall into as a telecommuter or independent contractor who works from home is blurring the line between working and slacking. In an office environment, it’s more difficult to avoid your daily tasks, as peers, managers, and a general sense of structure serve as constant reminders to stay on track, even if those same factors can be distracting at times. When you work from home, the bonus to stay focused and away from distractions such as the dog or the television is solely on you. As simple as the concept of single-mindedness seems, it can be difficult to maintain on a consistent basis.

The first step in becoming a productive employee in a home setting is to carve out an area of your home or apartment, designating it for work time. The physical work spaces we inhabit – from the art on the wall to the layout of the desk’s contents and beyond – affects the quality and quantity of work that we do. This is the case for traditional office employees and can hold even more true for those working from their abode.

If you work from home, envision your workspace as it currently exists, if you have one at all. Be honest; does the space evoke the emotions and motivations that get your creative and productive juices flowing?

If not, put some time and effort into creating the space that is going to bring out your inner CEO. De-clutter scraps of paper. Purchase a small plant that provides comfort, but doesn’t distract like a view out of the window might. Establish a nook away from the area of the home that is meant for lounging, and create a stark aesthetic dichotomy between the two that establishes work time from play time.

  1. Don’t Let Home Tasks and Work Tasks Intertwine Themselves 

Making a home into an office requires more than the physical process of re-arranging and separating the living room from the study. The proximity of your home life and work life is inseparable, so you have to be prepared to create a mental barrier in addition to the physical ones.

This means doing your personal tasks on your personal time, and your work tasks on your work time. That dishwasher that needs emptying will have to wait until your lunch break or until the work is finished if you are going to remain productive. The temptation to send personal emails and check your social media – the boss isn’t there to frown disapprovingly, after all – is an insidious crack in your concentration that can ruin a work day, which can throw off an entire week, etc.

Creating the believable illusion that you really are at work, where the responsibilities of the home life, even though they exist, have to wait until you clock out for the day or get some time to address them mid-day, is critical in maintaining a routine of productivity in the home-office. Contrarily, know your limitations and when it is time to leave the office, i.e. the study. Being productive without overworking is essential to achieving professional and personal happiness.

  1. Get Out of the Office, It’s the Only Way to Stay Creative

For anybody who works remotely, especially those who don’t have any colleagues within their daily work sphere, it’s easy to feel isolated. If you do your work remotely, make the effort to stay in contact through forms of communication aside from e-mail.

A stimulated mind is often a productive mind, and many of our brains run low on creative energy when we become too stuck in the same routine, especially if that routine is one centered on physical separation from coworkers and clients. As often as possible, offer to do a tele-conference or Skype call with a client, as it can help you articulate each other’s ideas more clearly while affording the added benefit of that brain-rejuvenating interaction.

It’s tempting to bury ourselves in the monotonous routine of our work, churning out project after project without stopping to ensure that we are delivering the freshest, highest-quality product to benefit our clients and our own professional future. Remaining conscious of and avoiding the creative and professional rut that emerges from a lack of professional communication and collaboration is one way to stave off professional stagnation and a decline in the quality of your work.

  1. Don’t Take the Easy Way Out

Perhaps the greatest pitfall to working at home is that occasional impulse to completely take the day off. Whether you had one-too-many adult beverages the night before, or you’re beginning to catch a cold, avoiding the temptation to sleep in or take a day off because you don’t technically have a set amount of sick days is what separates the success stories from the slackers.

On that note, give yourself a static number of sick days per year that is on-par with the typical work environment, and stick to that allotment. Figuring out when you are really sick and just not feeling like a worker bee is a matter of trial and error. Get your butt out of bed, get some coffee in your system, have your breakfast, and give it a go. If you’re still hacking all over the keyboard and sniffling through attempts to speak with clients, perhaps one of those sick days is worth spending. That said, don’t just roll onto the other side of the bed and waste a day of productivity on a whim. Your bank account will suffer, as will your professional reputation and prospects, so keep this in mind before calling the home-office to let them know you can’t make it in.

  1. Find the Healthy Balance

The concept of working from home is rife with peril when it comes to your health. For one, the implication is that you probably aren’t a landscaper or personal fitness instructor working out of your living room, so chances are your job requires you to remain sedentary. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit.

Countless studies and science-backed reports will confirm that sitting for long periods is nearly as dangerous as smoking, and puts you at an increased risk for a number of health consequences. Further, it has been suggested that standing may actually give your brain a boost. So, while sitting down for long periods may seem inevitable at first, re-think your workspace to accommodate at least a few periods of prolonged standing per day.

Is there a table or countertop that you can use to stand and type, for example? Even if this means stacking a few books or spending some of that hard-earned home-office money on a computer stand or new table, the long-term health benefits – both mentally and physically – are well worth the investment.

Also, be conscious of the snacks you keep around the house. Being near your pantry and refrigerator mean remaining in constant danger of munching, so keeping some healthy snacks on hand, whether you like nuts or sushi or some other health-conscious finger food. A healthy mind and healthy body often mean a productive individual, so foster habits which limit the potential downside that is inherent to working out of a home-office.