November 18th, 2015

How to Set Up a Productive and Comfortable Home Office

How to Set Up a Productive and Comfortable Home Office

One of the things I look forward to most in my new home is setting up my own home office. I haven’t had a space other than my bedroom to work where I can close the door if necessary before. The new house has a lovely room for an office with lots of cabinets and space. It will take some time before it’s fully functional as a home office – I don’t want to spend a ton of money so soon after buying a house. Still, it’s fun to plan ways to make my home office productive and comfortable.


Your office equipment is the most important part of a good home office. Consider what you need for the work you do.

For me, the big thing is a good computer. I have a nice laptop, although with a home office I may eventually look into a good desktop system with dual monitors. There are times when it would be nice to have a second screen to work on.

Take the time to set up your equipment neatly. One of the most frustrating parts of my recent move was untangling all of the cords behind the entertainment center and at the computers. A few zip ties or velcro straps can get these under control. It also looks nicer.

A decent desk and chair are also important. These are things I would need to look for – the way things have been rearranged at the new house, there isn’t a spare desk for me, or an office chair. Kitchen chairs can be moved around, but they really aren’t comfortable for a work day and I do not want that as a long term solution. Short term, sure, I can handle that. Long term, ergonomics are important. The sooner your desk and chair are ergonomic, the better.

Consider ergonomics with your keyboard and mouse as well. The wrong setup will cut into your productivity and may cause physical pain.

You should also consider if you need a dedicated office phone line, video or audio recording equipment, a printer, and so forth. A carpet protection floor mat is important if your office chair is on carpet – it also makes rolling your office chair around more comfortable.

Lighting is important. Windows are great for natural light and maybe even a nice view, but you may need more, depending on the time of day. My office has a ceiling fan, so I’ll have gentle cooling and light in one, which is nice. It’s pretty, too. You may need task lighting for particular activities.


Sufficient storage matters in your home office. If you work almost entirely online, your storage needs may be minimal. On the other hand, you may have significant storage needs.

My office has storage that far outstrips my needs. There’s an entire wall of cabinets and shelves. These will be used for other things, not just my business needs. Pretty much the only thing it lacks is a file cabinet… good thing I already have one of those. Doesn’t match the cabinets, but I have one.

Think about the supplies you need daily, weekly, and so forth. Are they accessible? Will it interrupt your work to get supplies when you need them? Are they in the way when you aren’t using them? The organization and storage of your work supplies depends on your needs, and your setup should reflect that.

How Dedicated?

Not everyone can have a home office that is 100% a home office. Many use the space for multiple purposes – often a guest room. So long as you can use it exclusively most of the time, it can help you be more productive. Be aware of IRS rules for the home office deduction if you take it.

My new office will probably also be part library and part guest room. That mean bookshelves and a futon or sofa bed. We’ll see what we find. The big thing is that I will be able to work without being interrupted when I want.


Solid rules for when your family can come into your office are very important if you want to be productive in there. You don’t want to be interrupted for every little thing, yet you may want to be readily available to your family for the right reasons.

Talk about your expectations with your family. How much are you hoping to work each day? What hours? When can you be interrupted? What are your expectations of the other adults in the home?

These rules may vary by the ages of your children. An infant may well be in the office with you, a toddler may come and go fairly freely if you’re the only ones home, but as children get older they should be able to manage quite a bit without your help, and come in only for emergencies.

Don’t forget about friends and neighbors who might drop by during the day or call on the phone. Will you accept personal calls or drop in visits? The more you treat your home office as a professional working space, the more professional others will view you. That means you should expect your working hours to be respected just as they would if you worked outside the home.

Common Home Office Setup Mistakes

Setting up your home office wrong can limit your productivity. Try not to make these basic mistakes.

Having too many distractions in your home office is a big mistake. Don’t put a TV in there if you can help it. It’s much too easy to watch TV when you should be working.

Don’t let your kids’ stuff clutter your office. I’ve done this one, allowing my kids to put papers from school on my work desk. Big mistake – it’s better to have a place where children can put things that need your attention but won’t distract you while you’re working. Our new house has a small built-in desk that I’m using for mail and papers from the kids. I need to organize it better yet, but it’s an improvement over putting it all on my work desk.

Do personalize your space and make it pleasant to be in. Office plants, photos and basic decor can make your home office a much more pleasant place to work.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

November 4th, 2015

Working at Home and Moving – a Difficult Combination

Working at Home and Moving - a Difficult Combination

These past couple months have been difficult, although in a very good way. We bought a house at last! It was quite the process and really took away from my working time, but we’re finally settled enough that I can really start trying to get into a routine again.

Buying a home when you run a home business has its own challenges. We had to do so much more paperwork on my income compared to my husband’s, as he has a nice, stable job with predictable income. Fortunately, my income has been better than his for the past couple years, and I could prove it. Still, it’s extremely distracting to keep getting calls asking for new information or updated records.

Then there’s packing. Tedious and time consuming packing. Being at home, I did quite a bit of it, despite my husband’s protests that I shouldn’t take so much time off my work hours. If I hadn’t, we would not have moved on schedule, and I knew it.

We’ve been in the new house about two weeks now, and we finally only rarely have to go digging for the box that has something important. There’s still a lot to do, but the important things are mostly where they belong. Unpacking is mostly more fun than packing – it’s so nice to find your stuff again. So far, the only thing missing is the power cord to the television, but fortunately, it takes a standard computer power cord, and we had a spare from an old computer.

We’re enjoying the layout of the new house. The kids think it’s pretty interesting getting to park in the back of the house – that’s where the garages are. I’m happy about my new office space – there’s one room kind of tucked oddly away downstairs that will do great. I haven’t had a dedicated office where I could close the door before. I still need to find a desk for it, but that will come.

I’ll still be organizing this new house for some time to come – most say it takes them months to really get settled, but I’m so glad to be where I can work a reasonable amount again at last. I really haven’t enjoyed only being able to do a minimum of work to keep things functioning.


Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

September 9th, 2015

9 Mostly Useless Things You Can Do For Your Home Business

9 Mostly Useless Things You Can Do For Your Home Business

There are a lot of things you need to do to grow your home business. Unfortunately, there are many things that sound as though they will help your business grow, but are in fact pretty much useless, sometimes even damaging.

1. Excessive Use of Social Media/Social Bookmarking Sites

Social media use is a must for online businesses these days. It’s one of the best ways to bring attention to your website and what you have to offer. But there are limits to how much you should do with them.

The first reason for this is that a good social media website can be a huge time suck. The more social ones such as Facebook may tempt you into interacting with family and friends when you should be working, while sites such as Pinterest may catch your attention with ideas you may never use. They’re each useful in their own way, but you have to think about how you’re using your time on them.

Just plain social bookmarking can take a tremendous amount of time. There are literally hundreds of social bookmarking sites out there. Most of them won’t provide any significant traffic or search engine relevance and are a total waste of time.

If you want to make the most of social media and social bookmarking, know which sites are best for generating traffic for your business and focus your efforts on them. The best sites will generate traffic for you, and if your shares are interesting, others will share them with their audience as well. It takes time to build an interested, involved audience, but it’s worth the effort.

Use the right tools to simplify your social media use. Tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer can make it much easier to plan out your social media use effectively. When you’re done, close them so they aren’t a temptation.

2. Spending Too Much Time on Email

Email is another one of those things that can be vitally important to your business yet be a huge time waster. You need to be ready to respond to questions when clients have them, but you shouldn’t be spending large parts of your day reading your email.

You can consider handing off many emails to a virtual assistant or have response templates for the most common questions you receive. Either can save you a lot of time with your email, so you don’t have to take much time with routine questions and can focus on the ones that need a more carefully considered answer.

Another important thing to do with your email is to unsubscribe from all the junk. If you have tons of emails that just sit unread in your inbox, think about why. Is it a newsletter that doesn’t really interest you?

I keep some control over my inbox by using filters to sort out emails by type. This limits what falls into my main inbox. It also allows me to see which emails I’m tending to ignore and that I should therefore unsubscribe from. I sort out email from shopping sites, political emails, newsletters and so forth. Business emails are sorted by which site of mine they’re relevant to.

3. Working Too Hard

It’s easy to overwork when you work at home. You’re setting your own rules, and you may need to earn a lot to make it all worthwhile. You may have set some highly challenging goals for yourself. You tell yourself that the more you work, the more you’ll earn. But that’s not necessarily true.

Take a break and improve your focus and productivity. Working too long makes you less productive, not more. Many people find a break helpful to get past a mental block or to come up with new ideas.

4. Doing It All Yourself

When you’re running a home business, it’s easy to feel that you have to do it all. It saves money, or so it seems. It saves the trouble of training someone to help you.

Hiring someone to help you with certain parts of your home business, however, can be worthwhile. It’s not always convenient and it’s not always cheap, but it can improve your profits. Why spend so much time on the things that don’t really earn money for you if you can pay someone else to do it? This allows you to focus more on things that will make money.

This is one of those things I don’t do enough of, and I know it. It’s difficult to change. It’s giving up a bit of control. It’s worrying that someone else won’t do the work right. Sometimes I’ve hired something out and it has gone well. Other times it has been a bit of a mess.

Take a look at hiring a virtual assistant for routine emails and other matters that don’t need your personal attention. Finding the right one and training him or her in what you need done takes time, but it should be worth it in the long run.

5. Excessive Research

There’s so much to learn when you run a business from your home. It’s easy to spend too much time trying to learn how to run your business better, and too little time actually running it.

It’s much more important to take action than to keep learning things you aren’t ready to use. Don’t spend a lot of time reading up on things for your business that you aren’t ready to act upon.

Another trap is browsing unrelated sites when you’re looking for information. It’s easy to follow links to things you don’t need to read during your work hours. Save the random reading for your spare time, not when you need to work.

6. Working For Free

Sometimes you will have people or companies try to get you to work for them for free. They’ll call it good exposure or something like that. Truth be told, it’s often not worth the effort to work for free.

There can be times that working for free is okay, but only on your own terms. You might volunteer for a cause you believe in. You might write a guest post for a website that will get you exposure to an audience you need to get in front of.

Where this goes wrong is working for free on someone else’s terms. They contact you and suggest you do something for them for free. For example, some companies will get bloggers to host giveaways for little to no pay, even though this can be a lot of work. Companies might ask you to promote the giveaway, maintain contact with the winner and ship the prize to the winner. You have to track entries, deal with problems relating to entries, and make sure the winner qualifies for the prize. You can request pay for running a giveaway – it’s a great advertising opportunity for the sponsor too. Make up a media kit for your blog so that it is easier for advertisers to see your policies.

7. Striving For Perfection

This is a mistake so many people make when starting a home business. They want everything to be utterly perfect before they even get started, and continue on that path as they go.

I know someone who wants to start a resource website on a particular topic, for example. He has been talking about it for years, but nothing has ever happened with it. Why?

He wants to have a ton of pages ready first. His topic is huge and he wants his site to be fairly comprehensive right from the start. This is a mistake. He’s put work in on it, but gotten nothing for it because he hasn’t published any of the site yet, so far as I know.

It’s better to start small and grow. This gives people time to discover you. It gives you time to make beginner’s mistakes while your business is small and few people will notice. If you monetize from the start, it gives you the possibility of some income coming in as you build. This also limits the frustration of feeling as though you aren’t getting anywhere – traffic takes time to build, but you’ll always have something to work on, something to work on to make your home business reach the goals you have set for it.

You can also get caught by this in little ways every day. I’ve caught myself many times spending way too much time picking out just the right image for a post, then just the right font for the text on the image… the time all this takes adds up. Relax a little about these details. You want everything to look good, but when the differences are small, who else will know what options you considered, or judge you for it?

8. Working in the Kitchen

Lots of people who work at home don’t have a home office space. It’s a bit of a luxury to give over that bit of space dedicated to your work, and it may be difficult to make that commitment. But if it’s at all possible, it’s a very, very good idea.

Working at the kitchen table or in the living room, or even in your bedroom means you are surrounded by more distractions, and this impacts your productivity. I speak from experience here, having worked in all those spaces. The bedroom has the advantage of being a space where you can close the door, but it’s probably not that functional as a work space unless you have a desk in there.

Having a dedicated home office space also means you can consider taking the home office deduction in your taxes. This is something you would want to consult on with your tax professional – don’t ask me if your situation is right for that because I don’t know. The money off can be pretty nice if your situation merits it.

9. Being Disorganized

Being disorganized is a huge failing of mine. I’m working on it. The process of deciding to buy a house and going into escrow has certainly pushed matters – I had to search for certain financial paperwork that wasn’t properly filed. I also need to get rid of clutter to get ready to move.

An online acquaintance of mine, Lynn Terry, did a big home office reorganization recently and posted about it on her blog. She shared a variety of tips on how to get your home office organized so that you can be more productive and why you should get it done.

Getting organized takes time and commitment. It’s not just getting organized, it’s staying organized. The good part is that once you have a good system down, it’s easier to remain organized. You’ll save time in the long run by taking time now to figure out what works for you.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

August 27th, 2015

What Kind of Schedule Should You Expect When You Work at Home?

What Kind of Schedule Should You Expect When You Work at Home?

One of the major reasons people want to work at home is to have a flexible schedule. The problem is that not all home based jobs are as flexible as you might hope. Some are downright strict about their scheduling in fact. When you work from home for someone else, your schedule is often subject to their needs. Some have more flexible needs, while others need more of a routine from you.

Full Time, Regular Business Hours Work

Some employers will expect you not only work full time, but to stick to regular business hours, starting about 8 or so in the morning, finishing around 5. Things such as picking the kids up from school that many people want to do when they work at home, may not be possible at these jobs. Childcare of some sort is probably a necessity, so that you won’t have too many distractions. Then again, that’s a good idea for most work at home positions.

Full Time, Off Hours Work

Some jobs are full time, but the hours are nontraditional, maybe late night or early morning, but still a fairly regular schedule. These jobs can be great if they match with your preferred work hours or make it possible for you to work when the kids are asleep rather than pay for childcare.

Full Time, Flexible Hours

Other employers want a full time schedule out of you, but when you work may be more up to you. If you need to change things up, they don’t mind so long as your work gets done. There may still be scheduled meetings that you have to attend online. Communication and collaboration are important, after all.

Part Time, Regular Hours

Many part time work at home jobs still require that you work a regular schedule. You have your days and times to work, and that’s when you work. If you need to change your schedule, you have to plan in advance with your boss, just like with an outside the home job.

Part Time, Changing Schedule

Some part time work at home jobs expect you to follow a schedule, but you choose the schedule on a weekly or other basis. Once you’ve signed up for hours, you’re expected to work them, and if you need to make a change, make sure you clear it with management.

Part Time, Flexible Hours

Other part time home based jobs are more flexible. You may not have to report your schedule, just so long as you get the work done.

100% Flexible Hours

Full time, part time, what’s that? Who cares about schedules?

Some jobs aren’t much concerned with when or how much you work, just that the work gets done. The challenge may be getting work when you’re ready, as some jobs like this have a bunch of employees, and if there’s no work available when you want to work, that’s just your tough luck.

On Call

Not all jobs really have a schedule as such. Sometimes you’re on call. There should be some sort of schedule for the days and times that you’re on call, but they may be pretty broad, depending on how much work comes of being called on. You have to be ready to work when your employer needs you.

Know What’s Right For You

When you accept a work at home job, be sure that you can handle the schedule expected. Few things lose you a job like being unable to handle the expected workload.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

July 20th, 2015

7 Essential Elements to Overcome Information Overload in Your Home Business

7 Essential Elements to Overcome Information Overload in Your Home Business

One of the most overwhelming parts of running a home business is how much information is out there to help you. Forums, blog posts, ebooks, real books… no matter what kind of business you’re running, there’s information available, and usually too much of it. How do you beat information overload and take action?

1. Hold off on buying products.

It’s hugely tempting to buy ebooks and software that claim they will solve a particular problem for you. If you aren’t ready for that information, it’s not the time to buy it, however, no matter how good or limited the deal may appear.

What too many people do is buy an information product, read it, then notice the next shiny, new product that promises even better results. They buy that, maybe take a little action but not enough to really see results, then the next shiny, then the next.

Buying products too soon makes it harder to succeed because you spend too much time researching and too little time doing. Taking action is the best way to grow your home business. As you grow, if you find there’s a particular something you need, whether it’s software or information, that’s the time to buy it. Buying in advance makes it much less likely that you’ll ever use that particular solution, or give it a fair try if you do.

2. Cut down on reading.

Even free information can be too much. Limit how much time you spend reading blogs, social media and forums. When you find useful information, you might spend some extra time reading it, but this shouldn’t take up extra time every day.

A feed reader can make it easy to scan headlines from your favorite blogs and decide what’s worth reading. I sort my reader by the type of blog. This allows me to quickly find blog posts that might be relevant to what I’m looking for. Casual online reading is separate, so I can enjoy it at other times.

Similarly, sort your emails. Most email programs make it easy to sort incoming emails by sender or other criteria. This way your personal email is easy to notice, apart from your professional emails and subscriptions.

As for forums and social media, the timer solution is often best. Know how long you are willing to spend on those for professional purposes. Keep your time on these reasonable, even when you’re using them for marketing purposes. It’s all too easy to stay on these sites far longer than the benefits justify.

3. Know your priorities.

Knowing your priorities makes it easier to know what information you should pay attention to, and what you should ignore for later or completely.

Sometimes your priorities will cause you to seek out particular information. Other times your priorities will make you avoid reading new information because you have enough to work with already. More information is often a distraction, not a help.

4. Set limits.

As mentioned above, setting time limits can help you keep your social media use under control. You can also limit how much information you read versus how much productive work you get done.

5. Focus.

Get rid of distractions when you work. Close extra tabs on your browser and any programs you don’t need open. Put your cell phone to the side and don’t answer any calls unless you need to. If you have an office door and the kids are old enough, close that door. Get the cat off the keyboard and your lap.

In general, get rid of the distractions that make it harder to be productive. Not all of these cause information overload, but they’re certainly a problem when you need to work.

If background music helps you focus, music may be okay. A totally quiet space may make it more difficult to work.

6. Take more action.

Don’t spend so much time reading or studying the things you need to do. Do them. Write a to do list, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. The more you know what you need to accomplish, the more likely you are to get it done.

Make sure you know which things are most important to get done each day. Some things are very easy to get done, but aren’t really all that productive or beneficial to your business.

7. Take breaks.

Taking regular breaks gives you time to think about and do other things. You don’t get paid breaks when you work for yourself or if you’re paid on production, but that doesn’t mean breaks aren’t important.

A break can be as simple as getting up and stretching, focusing your eyes on something other than your computer monitor. You could also take a walk around the block, play with your kids or pick them up from school. Plan your work day around the breaks you have to take as well as the ones you ought to take. A break right after reading something might help you absorb the information better.

Don’t forget a good lunch break and appropriate snacks. Hunger can make it harder to focus on the information in front of you.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.