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If you are one of the lucky folks who is working at home, chances are others may think you’re a freelancer who sits in their pajamas all day eating ice cream and scrolling through Facebook. That overview is not accurate, but let’s be honest, you’ve probably been caught out a few times in your jammies.

I’ve created a pretty straightforward, not-too-rigid routine that helps me on stay on track.

Timing Is Everything

I used to sit at my desk all day without a break, except to use the bathroom and look in the fridge. Recently I started using Flat Tomato, a time management tool app for your smartphone.

I set my Flat Tomato for 30 minutes, and when its delightfully colorful and soothing alarm sounds, I get up and walk around my apartment and stretch. I often go outside for a 20-minute walk at lunchtime or take a long walk after work. Exercise during the day, especially in a very sedentary job, is essential.

Portion control

Folks who sit in front of a computer with an endless amount of work need to apportion their tasks. Making a To-Do List is essential. Plenty of alleged how-to experts say the to-do list is a waste of time, but others say list makers are far more intelligent than the average worker.

I use old-fashioned paper and a pencil. But, for those who prefer to make lists on their devices, there is a range of apps for list making.

Prioritizing

Being able to prioritize what tasks you need to get accomplished, what you need to set in motion to future outcomes and what can wait until tomorrow – or next week – is essential.

The most obvious, and effective, way to prioritize is to keep a calendar. Whether it’s the Google calendar attached to your Gmail account, your iCalendar attached to your iOS devices, or any of these calendar apps, you need to keep track of and be alerted to calls, meetings, deadlines, and other work. Then there is the old-fashioned paper calendar/planner, which I find to be particularly useful in tracking my daily progress.

Getting Dressed

Lounging around in your underwear or pajamas is comfortable, but not always conducive to getting work done. This isn’t to say you cannot be productive in undies and PJs, but taking a shower and getting dressed often goes a long way toward being more productive.

I have a very basic NYC wardrobe: A drawer full of black T-shirts, a couple of pairs of dark blue Levi jeans, two comfortable dark sneaker-type pairs of shoes along with a pair each of rain boots and snow boots, and some very cool red cowgirl boots just for fun. That’s it. Really.

I’m a freelancer, and I wear what I want ­– if a potential client can’t handle it, then I don’t want to work with them. I know there are endless articles and blog posts online about “dressing the part,” but I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I freelance for many reasons, and one of the most important is that I don’t have to dress up. Ever.

How to Stop Working

When your office is in your home, it’s hard to stop talking business on the weekend or resist peeking at your business emails in the middle of the night. Staying disciplined and having some fun after work while also sticking to a routine of sleeping through the night without looking at your devices is necessary for your mental health.

Here are some actions you can take to make these things happen.

  • Separate your business email from your email. Use Outlook for business and another email provider is for personal emails. And, don’t set up an email client that sends both to the same place.
  • Tell your clients you have a 24 or 48-hour (or even 72-hour) response time for non-emergency issues. And, stick to that timeframe. You can also put an out-of-office autoresponder on your email letting folks know of your 48-hour response rule.
  • Don’t sleep with your smartphone in bed or even nearby, keep it in another room. Nighttime is a good time to charge your phone – plug it in and put it on your desk. This will ensure you don’t look at it during the night.

So, if you are working at home and stumbled across this article while you were surfing the net, now is a great time to try any or all of these practical tips to stay disciplined.

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