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Six Tips for Curbing Work at Home Interruptions

Rob Einaudi writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.

Whether or not you live alone, working from home can be a challenge when friends and family think your easy-access work location gives them a license to interrupt your projects. Since you're not going into the office, they may imagine that you're taking it easy when in actuality you're working just as hard as ever. It's difficult enough to resist the distractions around the house without also fielding calls from mom or from friends who are bored at the office. What can you do to keep these intrusions to a minimum without bruising anyone's feelings? Here are a few hints.

1. Establish Routine Office Hours

Establish a set schedule when you are most likely to be working, and ask people know not to call or visit you during these times. Whether it's 9 to 5, evenings, or just mornings until noon, make yourself off-limits to personal calls and drop-in visits. Although it may not eliminate everyone, most people will respect your need to concentrate on work, and it should cut down on most of the interference.

2. Screen Your Calls

You may want to establish a phone number that is business-only, and leave the calls on your personal line to voice mail or an answering machine while you are working. Or, check out your local phone company's options for caller identification, so you'll know who's phoning you and which calls you want to take. There's nothing like a long, chatty conversation with a friend to break your concentration on a work project.

3. Filter Your E-Mail

If your home business requires you to receive masses of e-mail, you should probably employ filters to help sort through it all. Just about all e-mail applications have a mail filter feature, and you can use it to sort incoming e-mail into folders for easy access. Also, consider opening a free, secondary e-mail account and directing personal e-mail into it instead of into your primary account. This will help you get to the essential messages right away and keep the frivolous, distracting e-mails to a minimum during your workday.

4. Make Your Office Space Off Limits

It's important to designate an office space in your home, especially if you're not alone in the house when you need to get work done. If you have a room with a door that closes, take advantage of that privacy. If your workspace is just a corner of the living room, put up screens around your desk to wall off your domain from the rest of the world. If visitors show up, gently but firmly remind them that you are working and cannot be interrupted. Politely suggest a more appropriate time for a visit.

5. Get a Babysitter

Are your kids at home during your workday? Be realistic: are you really able to focus on your work while your kids are present? You'll need to balance the benefits of being there for them "24/7" with the need to get work done. Instead of taking the kids to the day care center, consider getting someone to take care of them in your home for the hours that you'll be working. That way, you can have lunch together and visit them on breaks, as long as everyone understands that you need to go back to your office when the break is over.

6. If All Else Fails, Get an Office

If your home office situation proves to be unworkable due to intrusions, you may find you'll need to rent an office. Look into sharing space with someone who will be as focused on work as you plan to be, or find an affordable solo space which supports your need for absolute quiet and privacy.

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