Staying on track in a home-based job can be challenging. These tips and tools will minimize distractions and maximize productivity.

In college, working from home meant sleeping, watching reruns and lounging. But young professionals know that working from home is about cranking out work.

Many tools exist to make sure you’re working when you’re at home working, not pinning recipes to Pinterest or updating your fantasy football team. Here are four helpful tips to staying on track when you’re an at-home employee:

1. Invest in fast Internet

To work from home, you need a way to get to your work done online. Look for the traditional cable Internet providers, fiber optic providers like Google Fiber or Verizon FiOs in select areas of the country or satellite internet if you’re more rural.

If you want to venture out and work from a nearby park, for example, you can take the Internet with you. You no longer need your home Wi-Fi or even your neighborhood Starbucks Wi-Fi to get online.

Mobile hotspot devices like Karma allow you to connect virtually anywhere — and get rewarded with more data when your fellow park-workers try to hop on your open Wi-Fi account. Another alternative is FreedomPop. The initial investment is steep ($99 for a mobile hot spot), but after that, users get up to 500 megabytes of data a month.

2. Organize your life online

Gone are the days of whiteboards and Post-It notes. When you’re managing your own projects, you need a solid management system. Ditch the notebook and turn to these online tools:

Trello is an online to-do list on a “board” you can alter, shape and mold to fit whatever project you have. Follow your progress, make checklists, color code to make it pretty and, most importantly, set deadlines for yourself.

When you work from home, you want everything you’re working on to be accessible. Dropbox is there to house everything from photos to videos to documents. When you use Dropbox, you can access all your content on both your computer and smartphone.

Evernote itself has a lot of faces, but one to focus on is the Evernote Web Clipper feature. If you see something online — a photo, an article, a link — “clip” it with Evernote and store it. It’s helpful for research and easy to use.

3. Play music

Music is a staple in corporate cubes and home offices. It helps keep you focused when the distractions of home could otherwise derail you.

Spotify is free to download and has cool features like a radio application, a discover function that suggests music you may like and premium (paid) membership for offline access to music.

If Spotify isn’t your jam, try Pandora, Grooveshark, or SiriusXM Internet radio.

4. Establish a schedule

You know it’s a bold choice to go the self-employment route. One of the best things you can do for yourself is make a schedule.

Many successful people who work from home report they use the same schedule they did when working in an office: getting up early, getting dressed and sitting down at a desk at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. By keeping the routine, you’ll have an easier time switching into “work mode.”

And just because you’re at home, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t partake in office meetings. Ask to call in, or if you need to set up your own meetings, try Doodle. You can poll participants to find out which dates and times work best for everyone, and you’ve got a meeting without a trail of back-and-forth emails.

When working from home, keep in mind you’re the only one responsible for your productivity, and your productivity will keep you hungry for more. Happy homeworking!

Elizabeth Phillips is a freelance technology writer with a focus on how the Internet improves our lives. She can be found (productively) working from home in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached via email.


  1. John Cameron

    I’ve been working form home since 2001. Here’s a couple more ideas: if there are other people in the house set ground rules and have your own space where you can close the door.

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