Brace yourselves, entrepreneurs and wannabe freelancers: Working from home isn’t easier than the corporate office. Definitely, it’s more convenient.  Absolutely, you can avoid that dreaded commute, you can live where you want, and it’s often more conducive to creativity, but easier? No way. In fact, in many ways working from home is a greater challenge: a challenge to your discipline, to your life balance and to your motivation.

Quick Test: Have any of the following happened to you?

Anyone who has ever worked from home has probably gone through a “blah” phase – a time when it was hard to get motivated or stay motivated; a time when things just didn’t seem to flow. The good news: in most cases, the problem isn’t you; it’s your home office or your home-working habits. Take this quick test to see what I mean:

Do you ever…

  1. Work on the sofa, hunched over and/or looking down at your laptop screen.
  2. Sleep in sometimes and get up early other times. You work from home, so you don’t see any need for a routine. (Right?)
  3. Tab back and forth throughout the day, hopping between your actual work and Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or other sort-of-kind-of-but-you-know-they’re-not-really-related-to-work websites.
  4. Work with the TV or radio on.
  5. Wear your rattiest pj’s. (Bonus points if you spiff up your face and put on a work shirt for a video conference, while still wearing last night’s pajama bottoms.)
  6. Work within hearing distance of kids or pets or family or friends or workers or anyone (or even anything) that makes copious noise, asks you questions, or otherwise interrupts your workflow on a regular basis.

Thought so! Here are some ways to up your home-working game:

Solution 1: Carve Out a Dedicated Home Office That You Want to Spend Time In

Your entire home does not count as a home office; you need a dedicated office space where you can work without distraction. Think about the components of an efficient workspace – what do you need?

  • Computer space, where your screen sits at eye level (not above or below!)
  • A comfortable, preferably ergonomic chair
  • A closing door or, at the very least, earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones
  • Good lighting, preferably including some natural sunlight
  • Sufficient, grounded outlets
  • Space & storage for necessary work accouterments (e.g. printer, stapler, filing cabinet, etc.)
  • Personal touches

The goal is to create a private office space that is conducive to actual work – a place where you feel inspired and comfortable. And if you don’t have a lot of free space in your home, don’t worry: you can carve home office space from a closet, a garage, various nooks & crannies, or other under-utilized small spaces.

Solution 2: Act the Part

The second greatest impediment to motivation and productivity is treating your home office like a casual, unprofessional workplace. Granted, it’s definitely tempting to stay in bed a little longer, run errands during the day, and Facebook-fritter your time away, but if you wouldn’t do it in an office surrounded by your employees, don’t do it at home.

Start with your work attire. You don’t have to don a suit to walk into your home office, but you should ditch the comfortable pajamas for “power clothes.” What are power clothes? They’re anything that makes you feel like you’re in work mode. They could be khakis and a collared shirt, or they could be as simple as jeans or a pair of pajama pants you only wear to work. (What a life.) But do be sure to change out of your everyday pj’s before you go to work – even when work is just a few steps from your bed.

Turn off the television or radio. If you need background noise, purchase a sound machine or subscribe to a service that provides ambient tunes. Don’t try to work with distractions (that means the game!) in the background. It also includes your kids or your spouse or your housekeeper. Make it clear that your office space is sacred, and that interruptions should be few and far between.

Solution 3: Set a Schedule

An organized schedule is one of the single greatest tools for work-at-home productivity. Block off the same times everyday to fulfill repeat tasks. Schedule in your lunch break. Treat your home office schedule the way you would a work schedule in a traditional office. And stick to it. The reason? If you don’t create firm boundaries, the lines between your work and your personal time begin to blur. Over the long term, it’s both a productivity and motivation killer.

Solution 4: Don’t Multitask. Procrastination is the Enemy.

The home office’s casual work environment has a way of lulling us into a state of reduced motivation. (How many times have you said, “I work from home. I can do this anytime!”)

The bottom line is, multitasking and procrastination don’t work. Stop trying to do everything and be everything. Your time is valuable, even when you work from home. Do not waste your time on tasks or jobs that you can delegate: hire a virtual assistant to manage your social media, fire off email marketing & newsletters, and even be your first line of email defense. Dedicate your time to tasks only you can complete.

What are your top tips for staying motivated and productive from your home office?