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How to Work from Home (and Get Things Done)

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    Whether you work from home occasionally or run a business from your basement, there's a lot to love about breaking free of the office. You get to wear sweats all day. There's no commute. You don't have to listen to that gum-cracker. Working from home does come with its own set of challenges. Check out some of the biggest and how to handle them.

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    Distractions

    Because many a home office is a desk and a laptop in a room that pulls double duty, it's easy to get distracted by the "house" stuff to do. The lure to do a little organizing can soon turn into a half-day project--and not the one that you're being paid for.

    What to do: Use bookcases, curtains, and screens to physically define your work area. That way, when you're in this space, it will be easier to stay focused.

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    Isolation

    Lots of people thrive on the dynamics of an office, and you won't know how much you do until you're out of it. Telecommuting comes with another downside: You may be left out of unplanned brainstorming or crisis-management meetings, which can lower your profile at work.

    What to do: Develop solid relationships with others who work from home. Schedule lunch with your locals and keep the lines of communication open with your colleagues. Check in often to stay up on the daily buzz.

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    Interruptions

    Just like at the office, you'll still have to deal with people popping by. Unfortunately, "Mommy's working" won't prevent your kids from asking if you know where their socks are or your partner from texting you to please pick up the dry cleaning.

    What to do: Train your family to understand that being physically home doesn't mean that you're available. Set guidelines such as don't interrupt unless it's urgent, don't touch any office equipment, don't answer Mommy's cell phone, and keep noise levels down during work hours.

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    Procrastination

    With no boss looking over your shoulder, you can work at your own pace, strike when genius hits, and let your creative juices percolate. But it can also be far too easy to procrastinate.

    What to do: Create a personal work schedule and develop your self-discipline muscles. You may need more structure when you're at the office. Take your calendar and assign specific tasks to specific blocks. Reward yourself when you stay on top of it.

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    Gadget addiction

    You may find yourself constantly checking your gadgets to stay in the loop. The problem is, that urge can spill into family time, leaving you less connected with the ones who matter most.

    What to do: Take e-mail breaks. Let colleagues know that you won't be checking your inbox while you work on a project and that they can call you if something comes up.

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