As some of you may know I left my full time job last week to head out on my own and make my attempt at doing something great.. So far it’s been wonderful. I’ve had more “me” time and I’ve been able to get quite a bit of work done.

However, I’ve heard tell that it gets harder and harder to stay motivated and productive. And I am only 3 days in!

So, I figured I’d see if any of y’all had any productivity tips for the new “at home worker.” What can I do to keep my motivation going? Are there any resources out there for home-based entrepreneurs?

Anything you’ve got would be great!

25 Comments on Productivity Tips For Those Working at Home?

  1. If you manage to keep a bottle of wine near your desk, productivity doubles.

  2. Yzabel says:

    It gets harder, indeed. In a way, working home is great, due to the easiness in getting organized, not wasting time in commute, and so on. On the other hand, depending on the branch you’re working in (and the people you have to work with), it adds extra demands on communication, sending tons of e-mails or making frequent phone calls to stay afloat. In my own job, it’s not like my colleagues can walk near my desk and tell me “by the way, we’ve added this little feature, it’s a very minor detail but you may want to check it soon”, so I need to make up for all of this by constantly keeping on the look-out.

    One thing I’ve found necessary is to absolutely maintain a schedule. In fact, I maintain a 9-5 schedule at home, just like if I was in an office. If I don’t, I get sidetracked and less productive, which is evidently bad. It’s not easy everyday, for sure.

  3. Kris says:

    Just after dinner, make a little nap, something like 25min or so, not too much. You’ll feel boosted compared of how you’d feel without it.

    I’m not working at home, but I used to do that when I was studying some years ago and it worked great.
    Without my nap, I was falling on my desk after some hours.

  4. Mark says:

    Start the day with something easy that you know you can do. Then, you might find somethng else to do next. Then, go for your coffee.

    Take a nap during the afternoon. Figure out what time you like to work, and work then. You dont have to do 9-5. I dont make much sense till after 10am, and I stay up late. Do what works for you.

    Find a network of other people that work from home and keep in touch with them. Working from home is great but sometimes you get a bit isolated.

  5. I’ve have worked at home for 2 years now. It’s hard :) The biggest problem is that there is no physical boundary between “home” and “work” so you can end feeling like you are always in work.

    Therefore in my opinion most important thing is to create this boundary – at least in your mind. Of course you can help it by creating some boundaries between home an work – strict schedule as Yzabel suggested is very good thing, then seperated home office and if you can don’t use same computer for work and personal things. Some suggest to dress up like to work (no training suit, etc.) but this tip didn’t work for me. Good luck and I’m looking forward to to seeing some other tips at your blog in future :)

  6. Dean Kennedy says:

    Having decided to work from home back in July 2000, I can understand what you mean. I sometimes find it hard to do too many “heavy” work days in a row — after a really serious day, I need a few hours to start the next day with some light brainfood — visit blogs and news sites, play with my own blog, catch up on reading.

    I find the best motivation from two sources: firstly, I keep a whiteboard next to my desk with current work on it — a constant reminder in my office that there is money there to be had from doing those jobs. They’re not work anymore, they’re income. Revenue. Instead of thinking “oh, I have to get that job done” I try to keep my mind thinking “hey, there’s $500 there waiting for me to catch.” It’s funny, but I think the “ownership” of that work completely as your own is good motivation in itself.

    I also agree with Mark on getting a couple of little things out of the way” to build up some momentum.

    Also, I work when it suits. That doesn’t mean I slack off — I put in some very long hours depending on the work I’m doing (I do graphic design, advertising and marketing for a range of clients, primarily in retail travel marketing).

    Some days I start at 4am, other days, I don’t start until after midday. We (my wife now works here full time with me) turn off the phone and jump into whatever jobs are waiting to be done, without distractions.

    My wife was going horse riding today, except that we had hail and thunderstorms so it has been postponed — she would never have done that on a Thursday when in her old full-time 9-5 job. And when Star Wars Episode III launched in May, we took half a day and went off to the cinema on a Friday morning to see it and then have lunch!

    For me, that’s a balance of hard work and flexibility. Sometimes I work every day straight for 14 days, if need be.

    To help my productivity, I no longer use my cell phone (mobile phone here in Australia) for work. My clients didn’t complain one bit, and they were “trained” not to call the number in about a week. With a work number, cell number, email … it was too much and too distracting. Turning off the phone was easy to get used to.

    Having an billing system in MS Access, I see on my “control panel” the money we’ve earnt so far each financial year. That helps too. I can see it increase and my goals aren’t just on paper, they’re in the bank.

    Motivation for me thus covers — ownership of my work, hours that suit my workload and the flexibility to balance work and other things, seeing what’s coming up on the whiteboard, use my database to know my income is growing daily.

    *Needing* to earn money is excellent motivation too at times … if you don’t work, you don’t invoice clients, you don’t earn money, you can’t pay bills … it helps sometimes to get stuck in and finish those jobs and get those invoices out to clients and paid!

  7. Travis says:

    Well, I’ve been trying this for two months now and failing/recovering off and on. Working for myself and at home is a wonderful thing to be doing as far as my lifestyle goes, which makes me want to be able to hold on – so I think a lot about what gets me off track. I certainly haven’t figured out the optimal way to manage my time, but I feel better about it day after day.

    I completely agree with the concept of setting a strict schedule for yourself. Since I’m scrapping with freelancing right now, it’s hard not to work ALL DAY (and night) LONG, but I have found lately that if I get to bed sometime reasonable I feel much more productive. Keeping odd waking/sleeping hours tended to make me lose track of time (or days – they blurred). Also, I only take the same kind of breaks and lunches I would at a normal job. This keeps me ACTUALLY WORKING. If I feel the need to slack off pulling at me, then a quick thought about re-writing a resume usually sets me back on course. The nice thing is that I am allowed to deviate from this schedule whenever I need to. I don’t HAVE to work this way, I simply should whenever possible. It’s the “working when I feel like it” all the time that gets me behind.

    If you are putting in a lot of hours to make up for working by-yourself, then I also strongly suggest taking an afternoon break around normal quittin’ time (5:00ish). I will usually take an hour off, then make/eat dinner and relax. Do actual regular home activities. Watch tv, read, call a friend, but just put your mind off work. After about 2 hours I actually feel ready to get at it again. If I wait until 7:00 to take that break though, I end up feeling like I don’t have any time at the end of the night. I also do this for the first hour in the morning (with coffee/paper, etc). That’s time I would probably be commuting anyway. Also, take at least one weeknight off.

    That kind of schedule lets me enjoy the benefits of working for myself and, if I stick to the “uptime” schedule well, I can also get everything done.

    Someone should definitely lay down some Internet surfing rules. (While I absolutely need it as a resource about 10 times-a-day, the distraction risk is deadly.) The only technique I have so far is: Blog reading is only for 15 min before and after “the day”. Any tabs I have open in Firefox after the cutoff go to SessionSaver and re-evaluated for usefulness later (longer weekend reading). I have tended to keep that kind of reading (as well as other materials) on a short “Am I Really Interested” leash.

    The only other thing I’ll mention is that I have found myself to be more productive when I set daily goals on my projects. I usually write them down the night before. When you have a normal job you tend to have deadlines daily. This way I kind-of have an assignment to get started on right away each morning. You can manage and estimate your work flow for a week by breaking it down into simple daily project milestones. Again, the freeing part is that it’s not something I HAVE to complete, but just trying keeps my projects on-track.

  8. Curtis says:


    I’ve been working at home for over 3 years now. I have a good weeks and bad weeks, and the one thing I do on the bad weeks to motivate myself is to take myself away from my workspace.

    That could mean an hour at a cafe reading or writing, an hour at the gym or just going for a walk.

    I normally feel refreshed and ready to work afterwards.

    Also, keeping to my GTD really helps and making sure I never cancel my friday end of week review.

  9. Shari says:

    This falls into “setting a routine”: get dressed every day. I don’t mean putting on “work wear” and sitting at your desk in your business-casual best (unless, of course, you want to)…but actually getting out of your pajamas.

    I’ve been working from home for about five years now, and I have found the simple act of taking my shower and getting dressed for the day puts me in my work mindset. Granted, my work wardrobe is mostly shorts and t-shirts, but it’s not my pajamas, and I’m dressed when the UPS or FedEx driver inevitably knocks on the door. And I’m not tempted to crawl back into bed the minute I hit a lull.

    I’ve worked virtually with other home-office workers who swear by working in their jammies…but for me, getting dressed is an important part of my routine.

  10. When I first started freelancing, I bought Paul and Sarah Edwards’ book “Working from Home”, which is a wonderful resource for all home-based entrepreneurs.

    Here are just a few of their time management and productivity tips:

    * Establish your schedule around the demands of your work.
    * Establish your schedule around the times of the day when you work best.
    * Structure your workday around other priorities in your life.
    * Organize your work schedule around particular job tasks.
    * Just do it. Set up an arbitrary schedule, then fine-tune it as soon as you notice the times you have difficulty concentrating.
    * Use rituals to get started.
    * Begin your workday with the most interesting thing you have to do.
    * Set goals for what you hope to accomplish by the end of each day.
    * Set deadlines or tell someone else you will have completed a project by a certain time.
    * Bribe yourself.
    * Make a game out of your work and create rewards for winning.

  11. Ritz says:

    Weekends are a big problem for me. Even though I still work a lot of the weekend, I force myself to do it somewhere else – like a coffee shop. That way when I wake up on Saturday it doesn’t feel like just another work day and I have a good break. It’s working great so far.

  12. Keith says:

    Wow, thanks everyone, those are some great tips! I think you’ve all just helped me more than you probably know. ;)

  13. Rob says:

    You have to keep a schedule. Doesn’t have to be 9-5 unless your particular job demands it, but you do need to regiment your time. I’ve been working from home full time for over 3 years now and you don’t get anywhere unless you’re organized and have a clear break in your home/work life. btw, great website. I just found it a few weeks ago. keep up the great work!

  14. Duane says:

    Distractions just kill me when I stay home. It could be checking maybe sure that there’s something on tv (I always tell myself that I work better with “background noise” even though I know this to be untrue), periodic trips to the kitchen (defense: “I do that at work, too – it’s good for the eyes to take a break from the screen”) or helping my wife with the kids (If I hear them being annoying to her I’ll usually stick my head out the office door to offer assistance and then 30 minutes later I’m folding laundry or something because I’ve been drafted).

    No distractions is in itself a distraction. At the office, right now, I can see people going by, I can hear conversations in adjoining cubes. Those are ok. They may even be valuable for the creation of new ideas, or breaking writers’ block, etc.. Dead silence would cost me my attention span every time the wind blew.

    I think an MP3 player (with big enough playlist, appropriate to the circumstances) and a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones will be my best compromise. A steady stream of music that I know well enough to drift into the background, but enough of it that it’s not annoyingly repeating itself. Headphones that prevent me from semi-hearing other things around me (be it coworkers, or kids being too loud) and my consciousness wondering “What’s that thing I keep half hearing?”

  15. Annie says:

    I’m an artist and am big into deceiving myself that I am going to a regular day at work
    >Totally agree with the 9-5 mentality (or 10-6, whatev)
    >Get up and get dressed for work–I do nothing personally when I am in my PJs
    >Have lots of coffee
    >Do a pile of work and make calls until lunch time
    >For lunch I’ll make a sandwich/salad and watch a one hour tv show to zone out (important to get away from the desk even at home I think)
    >Do your more creative brainstorming stuff in the later part of the day
    >Get a folder together with To-Do stuff in it for the next day at work so you can jump all over it after your long upstairs commute the next morning
    Voila you are perfect and wonderful, give yourself a raise.

  16. Harmony says:

    I find the following works well :)

    * Get out of bed, and go to sleep, at the same time every day.
    * Stick to regular working hours, whatever hours work best for you.
    * Use a rewards system if you have to, ie – “I will spend 1 hour on this document, and then I get to answer two personal emails or check one RSS feed.” Works wonders if you find you’re flagging and bored.
    * Give yourself at least half hour for lunch away from your computer, and at least one coffee break. One of the best things about working from home is being able to go sit on your balcony/back deck/frontyard, whatever, and enjoy the sun. Make the most of this unique advantage, it’s a big plus over working in an office.
    * If you’re the kind of person who likes to use their PC for fun after work, try and buy another PC just for work if you can possibly afford it. Put it at another desk, in another room if you have one, and make that your work area. Sitting at one PC all day for work, and then spending the rest of the night on the same PC in the same spot for play, is tiring and demoralising (in my experience anyway).
    * If you’re having trouble switching off at the end of your work day, try this trick. Put your jacket on, grab your keys and bag, go outside and lock the door. Take a little walk down your street, or drive round the block if you have a car. Walk back to your house, unlock the door, go in, put your bag down, take your jacket off, dump your keys. Psychologically the house will look different and it will feel more like home than work. It’s weird, but I’ve had good success with doing this.

    If this concept doesn’t work for you, just have something you can do at the end of each work day to tell yourself “that’s it, I’m done, time to play now”. Go for a walk, have a coffee and read a book for half hour, exercise, watch something in particular on tv, just make sure you do the same thing every day at the same time after work and tell yourself that your work day is over. Otherwise you’ll usually spend the rest of the day swanning round the house in ‘work mode’ even if you’re not actually working.

    – Finally, get out and see friends as much as you can, or just go to places where there are other people. Working alone can be very isolating, especially over the long term.

    Good luck :)!!

  17. I Guess it’s an opportunity to write a new entry summarizing all of these generous tips!

    What does Keith say?

  18. Amy Andrews says:

    My best tip? Outsource! Find a virtual assistant to do the tasks you don’t like to do (like the administrative tasks in your biz or the pesky to-dos in your personal life) so you can concentrate on doing what you love.

  19. Keith says:

    Adam — I’ll be doing that today!

  20. ..ak says:

    What everyone else said… and my tip:

    Find a networking group, social group or someplace where you can meet familiar faces. You lose the collective knowledge of the group and someone to celebrate with when you accomplish something worth celebrating. Meet up with friends to do things outside of work. You don’t want to respond to “so what have you been up to lately” with “work work work”.

    Best of luck,

  21. LifeHut says:

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so I apologize in advance if I am overlapping my comment with someone else’s.

    I don’t work from home, but I have heard that you must treat every day like it is a work day. Wake up at 7:30am, take a shower, get dressed in a reasonable formal fashion (not butt naked with a pair of boxers on only), and then begin your work.

    Apparently, this helps your productivity. I personally don’t have experience with this as I have a full time job I travel to, but it might be worth a shot.

  22. Dave Marks says:

    Motivation is a big problem for me… I’m still young, I live by the sea, and my housemate who is also self employed comes home at lunch time every day…

    I do find that enforcing a luch break helps. Take that full 30mins or an hour and have it as yours…

    Don’t answer the phone etc, sit in the lounge or where ever is not connected with work and switch off.

    After reading the comment about personal and biz computers, I’m seriously thinking about moving my News Reader and prehaps some other stuff onto another machine.

  23. Keith,

    Colleen suggested that I should visit you, because I left the corporate world in 2001 and have been writing about my post-corporate adventures since 2003.

    I have written many posts about creating a micro-business and doing what you love. I have also published an unconventional guide to surviving corporate employment and starting your own business.

    My book, Danger Quicksand – Have A Nice Day, is available as a free download and as a paperback. Check it out at

    Good luck!

  24. Justin King says:


    I read all the comments and I must say they’re a very big help to me. I’m going to start putting so of these tips into action and see how they work for me.


  25. Mike S. says:

    I’m probably a little late but forgot that you posted asking about this. I just finished a little entry on my blog and there may be one or two little tidbits of info you may not have read yet.

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