November 16 2009, 10:21 AM
The recession has more of us based at home, whether it's due to a layoff or a decrease in office hours. But being productive at home can offer challenges: You'll find yourself finally tending to the dishes and laundry or tempted by your Xbox. Personally, I'm a little embarrassed by my innate ability to quote The View at a moment's notice. As someone who has never thrived in offices---I struggle with water coolers and get antsy in cubicles ---I've been happily working at home for years. Here are a few things I've learned along the way: 1. Take a shower and get dressed. I have a rule: I never let 9 a.m. pass without looking like I have a job---albeit, a casual one. Remember, as a kid, how you idolized jobs that had distinct costumes, like astronauts and firefighters? Keep dressing the part of someone who is eminently employable. You don't need to pinch your toes into high heels, but clean clothes, washed hair, and brushed teeth can get you into a more productive mindset. 2. Create hourly goals. A full day sitting on the couch with your laptop can easily become an aimless venture; you'll suddenly find yourself jolting awake from a 3 p.m. nap with Facebook open on your computer. Don't just make a to-do list. Assign each task to a time slot. From 10 to 11 a.m., update your resume and send it to a friend to proofread. From 2 to 2:45 p.m., check in with all of your job contacts. Important: Give yourself half an hour here and there of empty time. We all need to de-stress with social networking and e-mail, or use the extra time to finish up a project that took a little longer than we budgeted for. 3. Leave your house once a day. Even with shiny hair and well-budgeted goals, you're going to get burned out sleeping and working in the same space. And the goal is to keep yourself inspired and moving forward in life, not eyeing the couch like it's the root of your impending boredom and dwindling self-worth. So get that laptop of yours, and head to the nearest coffeeshop. A cup of joe and a change of scenery can buy you two hours of refreshed work---well worth the cost of a small latte. For those looking for an advanced option, try to alternate a few networking meetings into your daily outings. All of my work in the past year has come from networking, not searching the online job ads.