Working From Home: How to Stay Focused in Your Apartment

Remember: Not all workspaces are created equal. Your home-office space shouldn't be the couch in front of the TV, and it definitely shouldn't be in bed. Ideally, it shouldn't even be in your bedroom.
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Home office in living room with potted plant
Home office in living room with potted plant

You never realize how distracting your apartment is until you try to work from home. As soon as you log in from your couch, every chore you've been ignoring and TV show you've been meaning to catch will call to you like a siren, beckoning you to abandon your to-do list in favor of "just one quick thing."

Before you know it, the day is over: You're three-seasons deep into "Friends," and all you've managed to do was reply to a few emails and stare half-heartedly at a spreadsheet.

There are ways you can reduce the distractions, however. By making your apartment (and yourself) work-from-home friendly, you can ensure your telecommuting days are productive.

Create a Working Environment

One way you can keep yourself in a productive frame of mind is to have a dedicated workspace in your apartment. Always logging in at the same place will help you associate that area with focusing. It will also mean that, when you're done, you can leave all of your work-related items there and easily pick up whatever you were doing when you left off.

Remember: Not all workspaces are created equal. Your home-office space shouldn't be the couch in front of the TV, and it definitely shouldn't be in bed. Ideally, it shouldn't even be in your bedroom: Not only will you have a lot more trouble focusing when you're there, but it will also make sleeping terrible.

Working propped up by your pillows will train your brain to associate the two, which means that you'll be running through checklists when you're trying to doze off.

Follow a Routine

Being able to decide how you spend your time is one of the great things about working from home, but it does require that you actually set -- and stick to -- a schedule. Starting and ending work at roughly the same time (ideally your usual office hours) will help you stay on task during the day. It will also prevent you from overworking and burning yourself out.

Dedicate this time to work. Make it clear to anyone who lives with you that you're not available when you're working, and don't take non-work phone calls or check your personal email. It's OK to schedule short breaks while you're working, but set a time limit and stick to it.

Look Like a Professional

You're about to get some terrible news: You can't wear your pajamas to work. "But working from home doesn't count!" you cry. Consider this the official statement: It definitely counts. Just like bringing your laptop into bed, working in sweatpants and a giant T-shirt will put you in a relaxed, non-work state of mind.

Now, you don't necessarily have to dress like you would if you were heading into the office, but at least make yourself coffee-shop presentable. Brushing your hair and putting on a blouse will be totally worth the effect it has on your psyche.

Not only will it make you way more focused, but getting dressed also saves you from an embarrassing moment if you're suddenly called onto a video conference. Your cat-patterned footie pajamas won't seem like such a good idea when you've got 30 seconds to appear on a Skype call.

Prevent Cabin Fever

If you're regularly working from home, you quickly realize that you rarely (or never) leave your apartment. If you find yourself in need of a change of scenery, head to a nearby coffee shop for a while. You can also take a walk outside during your breaks, or schedule in-person meetings whenever they make sense.

Getting out of the apartment once in a while will stop you from getting stir-crazy and help you stay focused when you're on the clock.