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Making Your Home Office Work

 I love my morning commute. Fill up my coffee cup in the kitchen and walk 20 feet to my office. No stop signs, no red lights, and no traffic. I'm ready to start my day stress-free.
I've been working from home ever since I left the corporate world in 2008. At first my days working at home were quite un-structured. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted.
Soon, my attention started wandering, my interest was flagging, and my productivity dropped off. At first I thought this was because I needed others around me daily. Not wanting to go back to commuting, I tried developing work habits for home that could restore my focus, enthusiasm, and productivity.
Through trial and error, supplemented by research and discussions with others facing similar challenges, I discovered what I needed to do to work effectively and efficiently from my home office. 
For me, the key concept is separation, both temporally and spatially. I needed to set aside times and places for specific tasks, and develop the self-discipline to stick to this allocation, subject to life's interruptions.
I started by cleansing my office of most personal and hobby distractions. The books I keep in there now are those that support my work. Novels, newspapers, etc. are kept and read elsewhere. Client calls are always taken in my office, even if I happen to be outside when the phone rings. When my office door is closed it signals to me and others that I'm in work mode, not to be interrupted casually. I never do any work outside of my office, unless I am away from home.
Outside my office, there are no trappings of my business in the home. This is relatively easy for me because I don't sell any products or have equipment beyond phones and computers. When I am at home outside of my office, I am in personal mode and personal space. I find this physical separation helps to switch gears mentally when entering and leaving my office. 
I also worked on time management, both between work and personal time, and within my work days. My normal work days are now Tuesday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Saturdays through Mondays are generally personal time. Evenings are up for grabs up to 9:00 pm, depending on personal opportunities and needs, as well as business demands.
I rarely work past 9:00 pm, unless there is a genuinely urgent client need. There are exceptions to this time allocation every week, but the simple step of declaring work and personal time helps maintain a general separation. 
Within my work week, I try to maintain mornings for creative work. This when I am best able to write, think, and plan. I scan emails in the morning, but only deal with urgent ones immediately. Afternoons are best for reading, dealing with most emails, and returning phone calls. Client meetings are interspersed throughout the day, according to client needs. 
Most of my clients and contacts have developed the habit of not calling me directly. Instead, they text or email looking for a time to call, or use the booking link in my email signature block to book a time directly. I do this when practical as well, recognizing phone calls are invariably interruptions.
When the matter at hand doesn't need immediate attention it's better to schedule a conversation rather than interrupt. I am committed to dealing with client requests via text and email within 24 hours, so I make a point of checking my email at least daily during personal time. However, I resist dealing with any but urgent issues at that time.
My work habits continue to evolve. I've developed routines that work for me, achieving separation between work and life while maintaining responsiveness to both.
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