Working from Home? How to Stay Sane

Working from Home? How to Stay Sane

Though many people dream of working designing their own work schedule and getting projects done in their pajamas, working from home isn’t always a picnic. Yet, if you have taken the telecommuter option or have embarked upon a home-based business, here are a few tips to keep you sane, thriving, and productive on the home front.

Set Up Your Working Space

Though the basement level of your home may seem like the ideal place to set up your home office, if there’s no sunlight and it’s cold and musty, chances are you won’t be very productive there. The kitchen table isn’t a great option either—constant traffic and homework mixed in with your work files doesn’t contribute to your productivity.

Try This Instead: Set up shop in different rooms of your home and see where you feel most ready for working and where you get the most accomplished. Some love to place their desk facing a window so they can look out. For others, seeing the neighbors hanging their laundry is too much of a distraction. Before you start any home office construction projects, figure out what space suits you best.

Dress for Success

Some work-from-homers insist that they can’t take themselves or their work seriously if they aren’t showered and put together for the day. While many envision that working from home means never getting out of your yoga pants and sweatshirt, that doesn’t work for everyone. And then there are some who are just as productive in their skivvies as in their suit.

Try This Instead: Experiment with different outfits to find which works for you. If you’re a freelance writer, maybe you can pull off the pajamas and ponytail. If you meet frequently with clients, you may not be able to evade business attire.

Watch Your Intake

When the refrigerator is just a quick walk down the hall and no one is monitoring your time card, it’s easy to get into the habit of taking breaks by visiting the kitchen for a snack. This can first lead to under-productivity, as the short breaks sometimes turn into long breaks when you notice the dishwasher really ought to be emptied and the silverware rearranged.

Secondly, it can lead to weight gain.

Try This Instead: Don’t get into the habit of rewarding yourself with food when you finish a project or popping into the kitchen when you feel bored or isolated. Set a regular meal schedule and then if you need a break step outside, not into the kitchen.

Strategize Your Work Schedule

Studies show that you are really only to handle about 90 minutes of solid work. After that point your brain starts to overload and productivity decreases. Eight hours of solid work isn’t always as productive as it seems.

Try This Instead: Schedule and divide your day’s tasks into manageable chunks, and then intersperse other activities. If you work for several different clients, take each one and plan to work on your project for about 90 minutes, then transition to something else.

Part of the benefit of setting your own schedule is being able to do your errands when the rest of the world is at work. So be strategic. Work for an hour or two then take that grocery store break. Come back, put in another hour or two and then take a break to meet a client or return some phone calls.

You get more done in more areas of your life when you break up the tasks and alternate them, giving you brain and body the chance to refresh and reset.

Get a Group

Now that you don’t have the office crowd, you’ll need to be more intentional about establishing community. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need it. You will actually be more productive and saner while you’re working when you make the time for interaction.

Try This Instead: Consider joining a small business networking group or your local Toastmasters chapter. Meet other people doing work similar to yours. We all need encouragement and connections. And you never know when the connections may lead to more work. These groups have a mindset geared towards helping each other succeed.

Make time for your friends as well. Schedule lunch dates or, if you have other work-from-home friends, suggest meeting up at a coffee shop to spend the afternoon working there. This gives you the chance to have a little social time and a change of scenery, while still getting work done.

Work It Out

Being inside all day can drive anyone crazy. Working from home can be even more sedentary than an office job. The farthest you walk may be from your computer to the bathroom. This not only contributes to weight gain and poor physical health, it’s also is a recipe for depression and anxiety. Add exercise to your daily to-do list and give it the same priority as a work appointment.

Try This Instead: A daily walk or run, especially first thing in the morning, is a great way to clear your head, mentally organize your projects for the day, and stay in shape.

Though many think they’d love to work from home, it isn’t as effortless as it seems. Telecommuters and freelancers have to be intentional and strategic to make working this way happen.

How do you work from home efficiently? Got something to add to the list?

Photo by Anna Gay

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Jacki Christopher is a writer, translator and language instructor. When she's not working on an article, she's studying and writing about Mexican culture and current affairs, training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or baking. She travels as much as her budget allows, but Philadelphia is home.


  1. Al Pittampalli on the 17th June

    I think getting a group is the most important consideration for most people working from home. It’s hard to imagine not missing the human connection that most people experience in the office. Finding groups like Toastmasters, is a great tip to stay connected.

  2. Handres on the 17th June

    This articles is the answer to my questions on the past weeks. I have had like a work overload and started to feel “insane”. It´s a cliche but it´s true: “Life is about balance”, so maybe you have experiencing productive work cicles but in the same time you´re letting out your friends, family and hobbies.

    Thanks for this article!

  3. Andrew on the 17th June

    One of the things that i really enjoy about working from my own office is that I get to control the auditory environment (unless the dogs are barking.) There is plenty evidence that music can help people work through various tasks but when you’re in an office you generally have to wear headphones – which can be annoying and ultimately uncomfortable. It’s much more enjoyable to able to fill the room with your music and not have to worry about disturbing the person next to you.

  4. Curious on the 18th June

    These are some very basic yet important points. Discipline is key. There are a lot of advantages of working from home but the same positives can bog you down if not used effectively.

    Maybe work from your favorite coffee shop once a week to avoid missing the human connection or join the gym where you can get your workout and interact people at the same time.

    • Nin on the 17th December

      This is a brilliant article -with some very important points to keep an eye on.
      Have been working from home for a couple of years now and can see all the things that i used to do that didn’t help!! Better at it now but this article is great for putting it down in one place! -so from experience yes these pearls of wisdom really will be a helpful framework.

      Also try and see what does/doesn’t work for you; preferences change; and -as a previous reader said- discipline is important too….working at home is a great concept so taking measures to make the best out of it will add to the productivity and enjoyment!

  5. Chris Fluitt on the 18th June

    Great blog post!

    I’m a creative type and I’ve always done well with less structure… I use to pride myself on that fact. BUT this last year I became a new first time dad and I suddenly need structure to not only get work done but to properly care for the young one.

  6. Susan Larson on the 19th June

    Helpful advice. Thank you.

  7. Phil Chairez on the 19th June

    I’ve been working for myself for the last year and a half. I’ve probably literally worked out of my home 20% of the time. I live at coffee shops. For whatever reason I get more work done when there’s things happening around me. I know for some people, being focused in a quiet room is easier, but I feel caged for some reason when I work like that.

    At home I have a good office space to work out of, a beautiful Dell monitor that I never use, and a great selection of music I can turn up exactly how I like it. But still I find more comfort and productivity on my laptop at a corner table at a coffee shop with headphones.

    I really enjoyed this post. Great suggestions that I try to include in my own business and daily routine. Despite enjoying my coffee shops, I think I’d like to really try to dig in and work from home. I have this underlying feeling that I would get more done. I’ll be saving this post to help with the transition!

  8. Sarah on the 21st June

    Love this list – particularly trying things on for size – since no two people are alike.

    I depend heavily on doing things in chunks and using fitness breaks to keep me perky. In fact I’ve put it all into an ebook which you can get for free here:

  9. Lydia on the 21st June

    Perfect article at the perfect time! I’ve been working freelance since March after working a regular 9 to 5 for over 30 years. I had most of the recommendations in order. The odd part I’ve missed most is the constant buzz and email of an office situation even with its once a week telework day. I’ve been doing the client meetings and social lunches, but the sudden shift from leading and being part of a team and the casual chats that fill much of the day has really saddened me. More ideas on creating/transitioning that type of office environment would be great.

  10. Swamykant on the 24th June

    Find the group and that too right group is first thing. Otherwise it will be bit boring 🙁

  11. Vivek Dhande on the 26th June

    The rare but effective advice that can found on the web. Thanks !

  12. gd77 on the 2nd July

    hahaaaa the kitchen part is the most absolute truth about freelancing 😛

  13. ClockwiseVA on the 2nd August

    Jacki, you made some worthwhile points to consider. I especially appreciated your tip on working 90-minute blocks of time.

    I am one of those people who truly enjoys working from home. I’m more productive and like that I have control over my working environment, aside from the dogs occasionally barking!

    I find that social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) is a great way to connect with the outside world, keep up to date with industry news, and enjoy quick “water-cooler” breaks in between projects.

  14. Nikki on the 4th September

    I’ve been working from home for over 5 years now.Love every bit of it really.
    I set some rules so I can keep sane and not become overly dull.
    Always get off your computer after u finished work(ideally within office hour)
    Absolutely no work on Sundays no matter how much work has piled up.
    I’d make a real decent lunch when I need a little treat to keep me going from dreadful kinda work.
    It’s very important to have some exercise to keep in shape.
    I don’t miss having interaction with co-workers at all. Just glad that no more BS when I work alone.

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  16. Cory on the 23rd March

    For the community aspect, people living in larger cities can check out coworking ( spaces. How these are arranged varies greatly, but they can be a great place for getting out of the house and still getting things done.

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