Unsplash / Manny Pantoja

Working from home can be an incredibly enjoyable experience, and many people want to reap the benefits of working from home. Some people have a hard time seeing past the benefits to the work that comes along with it. While it does offer a lot of freedom, that freedom can also hurt your health, your self-worth, and your wallet if you are not careful. Below are five tips for staying on track if you work from home.

Motivate yourself

You no longer have a boss forcing you to work. It is now up to you, so you have to learn to motivate yourself. There a couple of ways to do this. First, activate the reward center in your brain. By giving yourself rewards for completing tasks and jobs, you are connecting good feelings to your work.

Second, it can be quite enjoyable to work in your PJs, but it is not always conducive for productivity. Sometimes you have to get dressed, not necessarily in full-fledged office attire, just something that you do not sleep in. This can help set your mind to work mode instead of rest mode.

Take care of your health

It can be way too easy to stay behind a desk or in one spot all day at home. You must get up and get out. Go for a walk around the neighborhood, jog around your local park, join a yoga or spin class, or any other activity that will get you moving. Not only will this improve your physical health but also your mental health and your cognitive abilities.

Keep some healthy snacks easily accessible to you throughout the day, and keep a water bottle on hand. Also, be sure that you are participating in other things, like meeting friends for coffee or joining a book club. Choose an activity you enjoy that gets you out of the house and has nothing to do with your work.

Draw a line between business and personal

It can be incredibly easy to blur the lines between personal and business when you live where you work. That is even truer when you and your spouse are running your business together because you talk about work more than almost anything else. There has to be a clear line between the two. By setting clear “on duty” and “off duty” hours, you are setting a boundary. If you do work with your spouse, either schedule business meetings with one another or set a time limit for how long you can talk about work each day.

With those of us with small children at home, setting boundaries can be more difficult but possible. Hang a sign on your office door letting your children know that you are working. Have specific toys or games that they can only play with during your work hours so they have something to look forward to. It also helps to have a dedicated office space that is at least partially secluded. When your work hours are done, you can physically walk away.

Be smart with your schedule

An amazing benefit of working from home is making your own schedule, so it is surprising to see how many bring “real office” hours home with them. Instead, work around your biology. If you are not a morning person, do not schedule work and meetings in the morning. If you have to speak directly to clients yet you are a night owl, schedule those conversations for after lunch, then do the rest of your work at night. Remember, you are no longer tied to one long eight-hour work shift. Those who work with their natural energy cycles are much more productive than those that do not.

Also, as easy as it can be to slack off when no one is watching, there is an equally unhealthy habit of many freelancers to get so caught up in their work that they ignore everything else. This can be detrimental to your health and your relationships. To prevent this, schedule yourself breaks and set alarms to tell you when it is time. Check in with loved ones during those breaks.

Lastly, you want to be productive when you are working so you feel better about turning off when it is time. Schedule your tasks in time blocks, such as returning all client phone calls on Mondays between 1-3 pm, doing all administrative tasks on Tuesdays, and all of your creative work on Thursdays.

Be sure that you schedule these blocks around other commitments. For instance, if your son practices baseball every Thursday afternoon from 3 pm to 5 pm, try not scheduling anything on those days after 1 pm. That way you have plenty of time to change your focus and be there for your child.

Do not just “wing it”

Winging it sounds fun until you realize you have no idea what moves to make or tasks to complete. To be successful working from home, you have to set goals so that you have a direction. Then, you have to make a clear plan on how to get there. It is okay if goals and plans change, but you have to start somewhere.

There is a fine line between succeeding at working from home and failing at it. You must treat yourself as a business, take care of yourself, and learn how to manage your business wisely. Otherwise, you might find yourself heading back out to work for someone else.