Many jobs today, including HOA managers, often work from a home office. When your office is in a commercial or office building, you generally have less distraction and the office is set up … like, well and office. Desk, office chair, guest chair, maybe bookcase, pictures on the wall. Sometimes the luxury of a mini-fridge or coffee pot.

But the home office may look very different. A particle board desk from the local office supply store placed in the corner of a room used for a number of other things…spare bedroom? Your bedroom? Dining room? Although you may not have co-workers chatting with you at home, you do have the to-do list, fix-it items, the laundry, the animals, the dishes and even the fridge talking to you.

A Place for You – An efficient home office is crucial to productivity. At a minimum, find a permanent place for your office space as private as possible. If there is no way to designate a room, at least take a specific section of a room with the least amount of distractions as possible. Best option is the quietest corner of your house. While some people actually need background noise to work, others find any noise at all incredibly disturbing. Find what works for you. In addition, here are a few things to think about:

1. Your Technology
Whether you are working with a desktop computer, a laptop or a tablet, make sure you have ample space and all the accessories you need: solid WiFi, all-in-one printer, good keyboard and mouse. And a great backup system.

2. The Cloud and Apps
Cloud computing resources are becoming more and more available and perfected. They are very helpful for a home office and business. Whatever work you are doing, there are great apps out there for you. Tools such as Evernote for keeping track of information, Dropbox for storing documents and project files, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Voice, Nudgemail (to keep track of follow-up items), and Mailchimp (for email updates and news blasts. Make life simpler by checking out available options.

3. Comfortable Furniture
Don’t buy that particle board desk from Ikea or that office supply store. Purchase good, solid office furniture made for real work. Check Craigslist. Also, invest in an office chair meant for sitting eight or more hours.

4. Clear Out Clutter
How clean is your desk and office space? An organized workspace keeps you focused. Back to a designated work space – don’t have the laundry that needs folded in sight of your desk. It’ll be talking to you when you should be focused on work.

The more clutter-free your workspace , the more productive you’ll be. Professional organizer Sally Allen, Founder of A Place for Everything says:
1. Keep the things you work on daily on top of your desk,
2. The things you work on weekly in your desk, and
3. The things you work on monthly around your desk.
4. Everything else? Toss it.

You don’t want your desk to be empty, but giving yourself space to work allows you to have space to think as well.

5. My house is talking to me
Depending on your personality, just a clutter-free desk may not do the trick. Working from home can be a constant battle between the work you need to accomplish and your to-do list at home. That sink full of dishes, the laundry needing to be put away or the pile of mail on the dining room table may be the siren’s song all day calling you to distraction. Spend a couple minutes each night or first thing in the morning tidying up, so that your focus sticks to business.

6. Visual Noise
When you look up from the computer screen, what do you see? Decorate your office space to be relaxing, rejuvenating or inspirational. Bring in a plant or two, or a framed print with bright, vibrant colors. Whatever you do, add visual variety for when you need a break from the screen. If it’s not a distraction, arrange your desk so that you can see outside.

7. Aromatherapy when you need to breathe
When stress gets the best of you and you need to take a long, slow deep breath, how about a soothing scent for a natural boost. Essential Oils (which are all the rage), a scented candle or fresh flowers may be great to get you back on track and quickly de-stress those anxiety moments.

8. Time Management in 10 minutes
Take 10 minutes to organize your day. Create your checklist for the day, but before you dive in, spend another 5 minutes creating a short-list of the items you know you’ll get done in the next couple of hours. This helps breaks your day down into small, actionable tasks – and builds in some quick successes. Checking tasks off your list creates visible accomplishments which spur on your productivity.

9. Take Breaks
State Law requires a 15-minute break every 4 hours works. Ha, seriously that includes you. Take a walk, water the plants, pet the dog – but walk away from your desk for a few minutes. Shake off the day and get re-motivated to keep working. Refresh your brain!

10. Guard your Home life
Keeping your business life separate from home life is monumental to your success. It’s called balance. When the home office is staring you down, it is too easy to creep into midnight email writing, weekend blitzes and 24/7 responses. Schedule your downtime and be “down.” A couple hours of being electronics-free per day is both sanity and family saving.

Set work hours and stick to them. During your work hours – work. Then when the time is up, walk away from the computer. Breathe, relax and enjoy your flexibility.

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