Working from home isn’t always the picture-perfect vision many of us had in mind when we decided to start our own business.

If getting into ‘work mode’ everyday wasn’t difficult enough, there seems to be a never-ending supply of distractions to contend with too. And when your family don’t really ‘get’ what you do, it can be a nightmare trying to balance your business activities with your role as a mother/father/partner.

Don’t worry.

There are ways of resolving the issues and getting a step closer to the dream you had when you decided to work from home. To help you get there, here are my handy tips for successfully working from home (even with distractions!)

Continue your daily commute to your home-based business

Yes, you did read that right.

It’s during that commute to work that your mind can switch from family to work ‘mode’ and get ready for the day ahead. Without that physical change in environment, your mind can get stuck somewhere between the two where you need to be working, but you’re aware of all the housework and family tasks you have to do too.

Leaving your home and taking a brisk 15-20 minute walk around the block (or you could jog or cycle if you prefer) and heading straight to your office or workspace when you return, is a great way of mimicking that daily commute. The exercise can also help clear your mind, get those creative juices flowing and boost those endorphins for a more productive day ahead.

Create a dedicated workspace for when you’re working from home

It isn’t always possible to have a home office if you don’t have a spare room to work from but having an official work area can help focus your mind on the tasks ahead.

Having a ‘work zone’ in a room can be a good way of creating an invisible barrier that denotes ‘this is where I’m working’ from home life. A small corner desk with well-positioned tall bookcases can create a screened off area that works well.

Many business owners invest in a shed to work from (I kid you not!) as the physical barrier of family members having to trek down the garden and knock on the door can put off most distractions! It can be a relatively cost-effective way of having your own office (just check the regulations on planning permission before you start!)

Investing in noise cancelling headphones can reduce distractions

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to work away from your family, or the noise seems to permeate every corner of your house. I find wireless noise-cancelling headphones can be a fantastic way of minimising background sound that prevents you from focusing on your work tasks.

Another tactic that can be successful is using a traffic light system to let others know you need some quiet time.

Print out some notices (I like to colour the words) that say – Green, Amber and Red. Tell your family that when you have the red sign on the door (or wall), it means ‘DO NOT ENTER’ unless there is an emergency. Amber means – intrude at your peril and green means ‘safe to enter’.

Keep your family in the loop when you’re working from home

Your children and partner are unlikely to understand what you do, and why you need quiet, straight away. Call a family meeting and go through what you’ll be doing and why it’s critical that you have the quiet you need to work.

Creating some rules and boundaries (and sticking to them) is important. Sometimes getting the children involved with the business can help – delegating small tasks to keep them occupied over the holidays or having a chores rota that ensures the housework gets done without your input can make all the difference.

A fellow VA has put this together and I think it is a great way of letting the children know not to disturb you!

Make sure you have ‘office hours’ and stick to them

Ignore household jobs until you’re off the clock.

Yes, you might have to fight the argument of “it only takes five minutes and you were here anyway”, but if you wouldn’t be able to do it when working for someone else, you can’t do it now. Paid work takes precedence over household chores every time.

That also means taking breaks from work and eating away from your desk.

Just like your previous employer had to ensure you had regular breaks, you’re the boss now, so you need to be doing the same. Eating away from your office or workspace is essential for clearing your mind and preparing it for the tasks that lie ahead.

Take your days off seriously

It can be tempting when you work from home to allow it to encroach into evenings and weekends. “I’ll just do this one task” can easily turn into an entire day spent away from your family.

The flexibility of working from home means you can set your own working hours but make sure you do have them firmly established, so your family know when they can spend time with you, and make the most of your days off!

There will always be some distractions when you work from home but following these tips will help you manage your time and work environment better, enabling you to be more productive and ultimately, have more time to spend with your family doing what you enjoy.