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12 Habits of Successful People Working Out of Their Home If you're working from home, don't just wing it. Set yourself up for success with these best practices.

By John Rampton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What do Apple, Disney, Microsoft, Harley-Davidson, and Yankee Candle Company have in common? Besides all being successful and profitable companies you might not see any other similarities. But, they all started out in garages.

But, working out of your home is no longer reserved for aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers. Approximately 6 in 10 U.S. workers said their jobs could be done from home. Furthermore, 61 percent of respondents who have a workplace outside the home report not going there.

With that said, there are a lot of us working from home. And, regardless if you pride yourself on being the next Steve Jobs or having a full-time gig that lets you work remotely, here are the 12 habits of successful people working out of their homes.

Related: 10 Realistic and Unconventional WFH Tips

1. Separate work zones from relaxing zones.

Ideally, when working out of your home, you need a designated workspace. This could be a home office, garage, or kitchen table. It should have a door, a desk, and a comfy chair so that you can focus and keep distractions at bay. What if you don't have a lot of space? If possible, create a place in your home where you can set up your equipment and leave it there when you're done with it.

But, there's another benefit to establishing different zones throughout your home. When your brain has a dedicated workspace, it functions more efficiently and productively.

When you work in the same place each day, your brain becomes accustomed to that spot as a place to work, explains Laura Mae Martin, Google's in-house productivity advisor. As Martin clarifies, if you work in a different place every day, your brain has to retrain itself to be able to work there.

"On the opposite side, try to find some places in your house where you never work, because that creates that mental safety and distance," Martin said. "As much as you can, still try to create those boundaries for your brain — that will both help you relax and it'll help focus when you are in that space."

Considering that, instilling the necessary work-life balance is the most important habit to cultivate when working remotely in an Office Depot survey, this is key.

2. Routine rules all.

Whether you had to adjust to working remotely due to COVID-19 or running a startup out of your house, routines can not be overstated. After all, besides providing structure, routines and schedules can be beneficial to your mental and physical health.

  • Having a plan allows you to feel more in control. In turn, this reduces stress.
  • If you have a consistent sleep schedule, you'll get a better's night rest. Not only does this make you more energetic, but you'll also get a psychological boost.
  • You'll be healthier as routines encourage you to eat healthily and engage in physical activity.
  • A schedule allows you to schedule time for play. Yes, adults also need time to play to help decompress and increase happiness.

Here's the best part. Unless you have to work at specific hours, you can design a routine that works best for you. So, if you're a morning bird, maybe jump into work bright and early before everyone else is awake. It's a surefire way to prevent getting distracted.

If you're not a morning person, that's not a problem either. If you're most productive between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., then build your routine around those hours.

The takeaway? You need to establish a routine. And, more importantly, stick to it.

Related: 22 Power Routines That Will Boost Your Productivity

3. Add whitespace.

According to the Office Depot survey, more than half of respondents also viewed taking breaks as crucial to their daily schedules. And, there's definitely science backing up this sentiment.

We benefit from breaks in terms of our mood, overall well-being, and performance capacity, according to Charlotte Fritz, Ph.D., an associate professor of industrial/organizational psychology at Portland State University. The question is, though, how often you should take breaks from work, how long they should last, and what you should do while on breaks.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to breaks. For instance, the Energy Project recommends taking a break every 90 minutes, whereas the Pomodoro Technique suggests taking a break every 21 minutes. During these breaks, you might stretch, go for a walk, daydream, or text a friend.

That's all well and good. But, there is a problem here. "Timed breaks don't always fit well with your work," says Juliet Funt, CEO of Whitespace at Work. "A more intuitive model suggests paying attention to your individual internal cues."

Consider taking a break whenever you feel overwhelmed by calls, your body craves sugar, caffeine, email, or any other compensatory technique that keeps you awake. Funt refers to this as "inserting a wedge of whitespace," or taking a strategic pause.

4. Be aware of displaced productivity.

It is very common for people who work from home to experience displaced productivity. What exactly is that? Well, it's quite simple.

The concept of displaced productivity refers to re-directing your efforts to something that still seems productive, but most likely isn't a priority. So, that would be washing dishes or doing the laundry instead of tackling your to-do list.

Would doing the dishes or laundry be productive? In theory, yes. But, because they aren't priorities, they're actually distractions.

Understanding when you are using "productive" tasks to procrastinate is the key. This will be obvious because you'll find every possible excuse not to focus on work. One way around this is to not give yourself these excuses in the first place. For instance, washing the dishes after every meal or having a scheduled laundry day means that they aren't there to distract you.

5. Have established do not disturb rules.

Working out of the house makes it easy for your housemates to assume that they can come talk to you whenever they like. To be fair, that's a natural instinct. If you're home, why can't they come to you and ask what you want to do for dinner later?

At the same time, you need a period of time to get into the zone whether you are at work, at home, or in the office. "In the zone," means you have reached the best creative and productive state. Your work is getting done and the ideas are flowing like the Mississippi. Sometimes, it might be less exciting endeavors like participating in a conference call.

It's almost near impossible to get, let alone say, "in the zone" when you're constantly getting distracted. As such, you need to lay down some do not disturb rules.

Explain to your family or roommates that a closed door indicates no interruptions. I've even heard of people literally placing a do not disturb sign on their doors to using stoplight lamps or LED signal towers.

What if they really need to speak to you? Ask them to knock quietly so as not to disturb you just in case you're on a conference call.

Also, this is another reason why routines are so important. If you have set working hours, share your calendar with others. It's a simple and effective way for them to see when you're available and when you're not.

6. Connect consistently.

Two of the biggest obstacles you'll have to overcome when working from home are communication, collaboration, and loneliness. Now, if you're a solopreneur or introvert, you don't have to worry about these as much. But, at some point, you will have to interact with people like clients or colleagues.

Thankfully, there is a multitude of ways to solve all of these issues. Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Suite are all proven tools for effective communication and collaboration. I would also schedule frequent check-ins or meetings with others. The frequency is up to you. But, this could be a weekly 15-minute chat with a business partner or your bestie to a more formal monthly virtual team meeting.

7. Keep emails in check.

Another habit of successful remote workers? Clearing their inboxes. But, how can you realistically manage your inbox? Well, here are a couple of pointers if this is an area where you're struggling.

  • Set aside time to read and respond to emails. Stop checking your email constantly. Your workflow can be disturbed by incoming messages. Instead, schedule specific times to read and respond to emails. I do this before work, after lunch, and at the end of the workday.
  • Take action immediately. Browse your inbox for spam or promotional emails that you can delete immediately when you check your messages. Delete or archive messages you don't need to respond to. With your inbox reduced, you'll be able to identify the most important messages and reply to them promptly.
  • Organize an inbox with labels, folders, and categories. Maintain an organized inbox by prioritizing, grouping, sorting, and filing messages. When you need specific emails, a good file system will make it easier to find them.
  • Unsubscribe. If you no longer wish to receive messages from specific senders or lack the time to read them, unsubscribe. Search for the word "unsubscribe" in your inbox to make the unsubscribe process quick and easy. Better yet? Use a tool like Unroll me to do this.

8. Block out your calendar for personal events.

When you are remote working, you are assumed to be accessible throughout the day, regardless of your location. While having do not disturb rules is a start, that may not work with a friend who calls, texts, or stops by during your working areas. As such, schedule important personal events in your calendar.

What is considered important, though? Well, your mileage is going to vary. But, if you're a parent, then that would be family dinner or weekly soccer games. If you have a dog, then this could be going for your daily afternoon walk. And, it could also be taking care of yourself by scheduling annual check-ups to dentist appointments every six months.

After defining what's more important to you, getting ahead is what matters most. For example, if a client wants to meet during your kid's soccer game, then you need to schedule that at a later date and time.

Get birthdays and other critical family events on the calendar ahead of time.

9. Don't fall into the DIY trap.

One of the most common WFH traps people fall into is taking a complete DIY approach to everything.

"When you work from home, you do have to be good at working independently and being self-motivated," explains Choncé Maddox in a previous Due article.

"However, this doesn't mean that you have to do everything by yourself," she adds. "If you're struggling with a task or have questions about what you're doing, ask someone for help."

You can ask other team members for help during meetings or during the workday if you work on a remote team. "When you're confused about a client project, get clarity so you don't waste your time going through a ton of trial and error," Choncé advises.

10. Set boundaries with social media.

Love it or hate it, social media is an integral part of our daily lives -- especially if you're launching a side hustle or startup. But, for some, social media can be a time-consuming distraction.

When OfficeNeedle asked more than 600 remote employees what their biggest distraction was, 56% replied their smartphones. The easiest solution? Turn off your notifications or put your phone in a different room.

What if that's not an option? Anna Dearmon Kornick, a time management coach and head of community at Clockwise, suggests you experiment with a "no-phone timer." The aim is to give yourself distraction-free breaks to work on tougher tasks.

"Set a timer for 20-30 minutes and only check your phone when the timer goes off," she says. "These distractions won't disappear anytime soon, but we can learn to set boundaries and do our best to concentrate on work."

11. Stay active.

If you are working from home, it is common to remain sedentary throughout your workday. In fact, studies have shown that people who are able to work at home all the time sit for approximately 9.2 hours daily, compared to 7.3 hours for those who are unable to do so.

Getting out and moving at least once a day can't be overstated. Exercise of any sort makes a huge difference, whether you go to the gym or just walk around the neighborhood. And, it doesn't take a major time commitment either. Just 11-minutes a day has been found to increase life span.

As a result of a great workout, your body releases endorphins that keep you feeling energized all day long. If you can, try working out first thing in the morning. You'll get started with motivation and vigor, so you'll be able to focus and finish the job.

12. Implement after-work transition rituals.

"A transition ritual is a simple practice of taking a moment, a break, between appointments, tasks, or any other shifts in the day to more easily and more mindfully move from one to the next," explains Anne Claire Woods, MA, CCLS, LPC. "It could be breathing, listening to a song, taking a coffee or water break, meditating on a word, anything that allows your brain and body to rest for a moment, more calmly transitioning to the next."

As an example, you may recite affirmations or listen to a playlist before working. Whenever you finish a task you may go for a stroll. You also take a well-earned lunch break to refuel yourself during the middle of the day.

But what about at the end of the workday?

Well, to seamlessly move between work and home you could have a wrap-up routine like cleaning your workspace or replying to important emails. You could also listen to a podcast, go for a walk, make dinner, or change your clothes.

Related: Working From Home? Here's Why You Need a Fake Commute.
John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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