How to work like a pro at home

We've probably all had the same dream at some point in our working lives: breaking free from the regimented 9-5 office, the suit and the dreaded commute. But those of us who already work at home know that it doesn't always live up to the ideal: kids, Facebook and social isolation can all have a serious impact on your productivity. Purge distractions and organise your time with our five quick tips towards a healthy work-life balance.

1. Don’t just build a routine that works for you – stick to it

If you've recently made the switch from the office to your home, you're probably looking forward to a long lie-in and an even longer lunch break. But you’ll find that working from home doesn’t mean you drop routine. It just means you cut out the time-wasting bits like the commute and the gossip, and get more done. Wake up at the same time every day (even if it's 10am) and start as you mean to go on: have a shower, eat breakfast and get straight to work.

Of course, an established routine for the working day makes it easier for clients and suppliers to get in touch with you. But it also helps to separate your work life from your home life, and encourages family to give you the space you need.

2. Break things down

Allocate one- or two-hour periods for each of your major tasks throughout the day. As well as making sure that you'll be able to accomplish everything you need to, the psychological effect of dividing your workload into manageable chunks of time can help to make a day's work seem to pass more quickly. And, where possible, start with the most important, demanding or disliked task first. Your focus is bound to drop as the day goes on, so you can save the admin tasks for later.

3. Close the door

One of the most essential parts of  working from home  effectively is having a dedicated workspace – and keeping it dedicated to work. If you have kids, pets or flatmates running around, you just won't be able to work at your full capacity. Close the door, and make sure that everyone at home knows that a closed door means it's time for work.

4. Get out of the house

When you work where you live, it can be all too easy to become a recluse, moving from desk to TV to bed. If you have time during an allocated break, go to a park and mentally detach from your work in natural surroundings. Or bring your laptop to a coffee shop and sort out your e-mails in a busy environment. A change of scenery can often do wonders for coming up with new approaches or inspiring ideas.

And, perhaps most importantly, seek human contact. You might not notice it straight away, but eventually you'll probably start to miss the office banter and having lunch with your colleagues. Meet a friend for a drink, visit a relative, or even just get on Skype; you need time to laugh, talk and relax just as much as you need peace and quiet while you work.

5. Know when to stop

Without the automated site manager turning off the lights at the end of the day, you might not realise just how much midnight oil you're burning. And burning out isn't a good way to ensure long-term productivity. Unless the situation calls for urgent overtime, stick to your routine and call it a night; you'll find yourself more refreshed and engaged at the start of the next working day.

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