Snow days bring delightful challenge of working from home

I’ve spent a fair amount of time working from home this past month, whether because of the subzero temperatures we experienced Wednesday, Jan. 30, or because my car got stuck in a snowbank again.

Working from home can be a great break from the office. I find there are fewer distractions, and the quiet helps me focus and write more quickly — for a limited amount of time. After a while, I begin to go stir crazy, and I’ve found myself Googling tips and tricks for working efficiently from home.

“The home office is the worst of both worlds,” productivity and organization expert Lisa Zaslow said to CNBC. “You’re not at home just watching TV, and you don’t have the really good office resources and environment of being in the office.”

I’d say the most difficult part of settling in to a home office is the monotony of the day. Eight hours feels like a lot when you’re staring down the clock. I always make the mistake of drinking too much coffee and crashing in the afternoon.

Working from home has the additional challenge of sticking to normal work hours. I make the mistake of trying to work through lunch, which is never as productive as it sounds.

Personal finance writer for Forbes, Kerry Hannon, said to work from home, a person must be well-organized, have time management skills and be a self-starter.

“Not everyone is hard-wired that way,” Hannon wrote. “Be honest with yourself before you take the leap.”

Here are some remedies that prove effective when I’m turning my kitchen table into a makeshift desk.

Get dressed and ready for the day. This will make the home office feel more like the real office.

“Even though you may be sitting on the sofa reading, browsing the web or talking on the phone, this reminds you that you are actually working, Catherine Waldron, education specialist with QTalk Publishing, said in an article on Inc.com.

In that same Inc.com article, it was advised to stay out of the kitchen — great advice, since I found myself making a triple berry pie on my lunch break on Wednesday.

“It’s like the freshman 15 all over again,” said Joy Martini, president of a New York City-based marketing firm, to Inc.com. “It’s just constantly snacking.”

To-do lists are my go-to when I work from home. I write down everything I want to accomplish, even setting a time of day deadline by some of the items to keep me on track.

My apartment isn’t big enough for a desk or a designated “office” area, so I either work from my kitchen table or, less ideally, my couch. While the couch is always calling my name, the kitchen table is the smarter option.

Other ways I keep myself on task while working from home is moving my desk to the kitchen counter, so I can stand up and stretch my legs while I work.

I also take a few mini dance breaks where I listen to one song, dance myself awake again, and get ready for the next task. This also helps break up the deafening silence of being home alone.

I get up and walk around once an hour on the hour. I even found myself jogging in place on Wednesday, doing some quick yoga moves, pushups, jumping jacks, anything to keep the blood and creativity flowing.

Ditching a cellphone, while good advice, isn’t an option for me. I turn the volume up high, so I don’t miss a call from a source. Turning off the Wi-Fi, however, proves very effective. Goodbye Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And email I limit myself to checking once an hour.

On that same note, making phone calls instead of shooting off emails or texts helps me stay focused on my tasks and connected to the rest of the world.

The best thing about working from home is that I can use the time to catch up and work ahead on assignments that are pushed off when something more pressing comes in to the office.

While I enjoy the occasional break of writing a story from home, I’m looking forward to returning to routine after we kick this cold and snowy weather: returning to the structure an office brings, chatting with co-workers when I need to bounce ideas off someone and returning home at the end of the day to relax in my one-bedroom apartment that doesn’t have to double as my workspace.

Kudos to everyone who works from home on a regular basis.