The days of confining jobs to bricks-and-mortar offices are over. Working from home has become common nowadays, in fact, that’s how most of us at The Next Web work. Having the ability to work from the comfort of your own home introduces many advantages. Unfortunately, it also brings about many disadvantages that can cause problems when it comes to productivity.

The benefit of reducing commuting time and expenses to virtually zero and having a flexible working schedule comes with a price. People who work from home often face distractions from family members, errands, and, believe it or not, comforts all around the house.

There are, however, some ways to prevent inefficiencies from working out of your home. As part of our productivity week special, we will share with you 7 effective tips to be more productive when working from home.

1. If you don’t have goals, you won’t get anything done.

As professionals, we can’t always bank on lightbulb moments and sparks of inspiration to get work done. The first and most important thing to do before getting things done is knowing what your end results should be. Make SMART goals — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Believe me, it works.

Then again, what good are goals if you don’t stick to them, right? That’s why making schedules and committing to it is equally important. Treat your days like “regular” work days. Many people have found that a 9-5 or 10-6 schedule really helps keep them on track and productive.

2. Take some time to socialize with your co-workers.

Just like in a real work environment, establishing good relationships with colleagues is just as important when working from home. Why? Because it can be motivating to get feedback from people you work with. Working from home could get a little lonely so it’s good to have healthy distractions as well.

Share interesting stories with your coworkers. Collaborate and help each other out when needed. Whenever someone does a good job, acknowledge it, or better yet, celebrate successes together. Not only will it help you do your job better, it can also make “going to work” every day enjoyable.

3. Avoid things that distract you but take breaks when needed.

It is important for people who work from home to be aware of the things that distract them, and to have the discipline to avoid these things. The television, the fridge, or if you work on your computer, Facebook and Twitter — these things can prevent you from getting work done so the best advice we could give is to stay away from them.

We’re not saying you should torture yourself and glue your eyes on the computer screen all day. Taking short breaks are important as well. There’s time for everything and if you find yourself spending more time doing unnecessary things than getting things done, you may want to consider shifting priorities. And that window of World of Warcraft that you switch to from time to time? Yeah, that has got to go.

4. Being busy doesn’t equate to being effective.

Just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean you’re getting work done. Learn to weigh the important things and prioritize them. Just because you’re busy reading emails or taking calls doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting your work done. If you find yourself spending a bit too much time doing menial things, make a schedule.

Set aside time for doing different tasks, don’t overestimate the things you can get done and learn to say no. Chances are many of your friends and family will picture you bumming at home, eating potato chips and watching TV when they learn that you’re working from home. When people call you simply to chat, be mindful that you’re still “on duty” and politely remind them that you’re still working.

5. Your time is just as valuable. Take advantage of technology.

Unlike working in an office environment where systems are usually set, working from home gives you the flexibility of doing things your way. Along with this comes the responsibility of finding the most efficient tools to get your job done. You just need to be aware that you have a lot of tools at your disposal and that you’re in full control.

One advice I could give you is to check out TNW Apps or TNW Lifehacks to see if there are easier solutions to solve the little things you do. Just because you feel like you have all the time in the world when you’re at home doesn’t make your time any less valuable.

6. Know when to stop and if you deserve it, reward yourself.

When working from home, it can be difficult separating your personal life with your work life. Given the added responsibility of having to manage your own time, whether you are a freelancer or an employee of a company, you also have to set a defined time when to stop. Take overtime if needed but don’t let work take over your life.

Schedule your work time and make sure your friends and family know that you are unavailable during work hours but remember to get back to them once you’re done. At the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself with a cookie… or whatever that makes you happy.

7. Start the day properly.

Don’t just jump on your work desk unshaved and in pyjamas, start the day properly and treat yourself as a professional. Have breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed. It would definitely help too if you could invest on a good working space and an ergonomic chair. These little things make all the difference to your state of mind.

Final note

It takes a lot of discipline and responsibility to be productive when working from home. One of the hardest things you might encounter is not having someone to police you when you’re slacking off or getting distracted. Hence, the last tip I have for you is to not cheat yourself and stick by the 7 rules. You can create a lot of excuses, and having freedom and flexibility creates a tendency  for us to be lenient on ourselves.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to your output and it will definitely show depending on how you were able to manage your time.

So there you have it. It won’t even cost you money to be more productive. You just have to be aware, disciplined, and responsible to make the most out of your time.

What are your secrets? We’d love to hear them in the comments section.