Being productive is one of working at home’s greatest challenges. There are so many distractions, especially when the kids are younger. Productivity isn’t so much a given as it is a habit you need to build.

All the things that can get in the way of being productive at home are a lot of why so many people fail when they try to work from home. They just don’t have the focus or the drive to make themselves productive. All the fun stuff at home as well as all the work around the house that could be done are allowed to pull them away from the work they know they should be doing in order to succeed.

The best thing to do is to come up with some sort of schedule you can keep to. How specific this is will depend on several factors, such as the age of your kids, when you focus best and your other obligations. But I can give you some basic tips to get started.

The very first things you need to look at are the things you absolutely have to do at certain times. This can be things such as picking the kids up from school, taking them to activities, any classes you may be taking, any meetings you may have. These are the times you know you can’t work on anything else and you shouldn’t try to plan around them.

Another consideration may be the non-work things you need to do around the house. This may include things like cleaning and preparing meals. Hopefully these will be more flexible, aside from the fact that dinner must be served sometime before the children declare that they are starving to death. But you may be able to get some help with that, depending on how your family is run. Do be sure that everyone is pulling their weight in keeping the home and family running.

Now it’s time to think about when you are most likely to be productive. For me it’s late evenings into the night. I’m just not an early riser. But others will prefer early mornings and some will do best in the middle of the day.

Next consider any times that your home business will need you to be working. If you’re calling people on the telephone, the middle of the night or extremely early in the morning won’t do for that aspect of your work. You’re going to need some work hours at times that meet the needs of your customers or clients.

And of course consider how many hours a week you plan on working. Not everyone pulls a 40 hour week from home. Some only want part time while others will go at it as many hours as possible, and have to be reminded to stop.

Combine these various factors into something of a work schedule. As much as possible have your best working hours be when you plan on working. Write it out if that helps you, or use an organizer. Many people do well with a daily to-do list.

Babies and toddlers will generally make sticking to your schedule quite challenging, of course. You do have to be more flexible when your children are of an age that they need you more. And at any age kids are prone to emergencies that may require your attention. Just be glad that working at home often makes responding easier.

Do not force yourself to stick to a schedule that just is not working for you. If it’s making you miserable, see if you can identify the problem and move things around.

You may also want to consider scheduling the kind of work you do by day. My own work routine varies by day of the week as well as of the month. It allows me to focus on particular activities regularly. Many things are easier to do if you can work on them without interruption or feeling like you should be working on something else. Other times you want that break.

Just taking the time to work out even a partial schedule can really help you to be more productive. It takes one of the excuses for being unproductive out of the way, and sometimes that’s all you really need.