8 ways to focus when working from home

(MoneyWatch) Working at a home office is a blessing and a curse. Your commute is nil, but distractions are everywhere. Television, household chores, dogs, children, roommates and spouses can all knock you off your game. I asked dozens of those in the trenches to share their best work-from-home tips. Here are eight of the most helpful:

Work in the still of the night
"I started working from home in October last year after the birth of my second baby prompted me to start my own business. With two small children at home with me most days, it can get tricky. Many people will say to work when children are sleeping, but I [say] to work when everyone is sleeping. I have on many occasions fired up the laptop at 2 a.m. after waking up in the night." -- Cassy Small, founder of Big Fish Planning

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Silence your space (however works for you)
"As silly as this sounds, one thing that works for me is using the bathroom fan. I will go upstairs in my bedroom to do work and put on the bathroom fan. This louder, consistent humming noise is continually running in the background. When it is on, I cannot hear the phone, the door or outside distractions like cars or people talking." -- Len Saunders, author of "Keeping Kids Fit"

Dress the part of an office worker
"Regardless of whether you are working from home or not, dress as if you are going to meet with clients. This will provide you with a better professional presence [even] over the phone. And do you really want to do dishes in that nice shirt/blouse?" -- Mark Frietch, president, TAC Services

Respect your internal clock
"I'm more productive if I actually allow myself to work on my natural sleep cycle. I'm naturally a night owl, but for a long time I tried to keep regular business hours. It's an admirable thing to try to do, but I was groggy and unproductive in the morning. I finally decided to let myself work in the afternoons, evenings and sometimes well into the early morning hours. I'm able to hone in, focus and get things done. Not only am I more productive, I'm a lot happier, too!" -- Laura Williams, freelance writer and CEO of GirlsGoneSporty

Keep track of time
"I am a slave to my to do list. I make a commitment to myself, based on the amount of time that I have available before a meeting or a break, of how many items I will cross off my to do list. I then stay at my desk until that many items are crossed off. For big tasks, I set a timer for 20 minutes at a time and work like crazy for that 20 minutes before taking a short break." -- Laura Barta, founder of Whole Wide World Toys

Keep your personal life out
"For a long time, I had friends and family that assumed since I worked from home that I could simply do whatever I wanted when I wanted. Eventually I got so irritated at my boyfriend stopping by that I had to lay down a rule: if the door was shut and it was quiet inside, it meant I was basically at any kind of office and couldn't be bothered. Part of focus has so much to do with letting others know what the boundaries are." -- Desireee Baughman, blogger with Consumer Media Network and writer for InsuranceQuotes.org

Take breaks
"Don't feel guilty about leaving the house. I try to leave the house for at least two hours each day. Some days that means going to the gym. Other days it means taking my computer to Starbucks, going for a walk, or just going to the grocery store. Make weekend plans. When I went to the office everyday, my favorite way to spend my weekends was relaxing at home. Now that I work at home, I find that it's helpful to spend more time out of the house. When Monday comes around, I feel much more refreshed, focused and ready to take on the week." -- Kevin Spence, founder of Career Thoughts

Unplug yourself
"There's a reason large companies limit Internet access and websites -- because they're major time wasters. One of the best things you can do is block out a specific amount of time and unplug everything that doesn't have to do with what your task is at that very moment. Turning off your cellphone and shutting off your wireless router will eliminate the overwhelming draw that you feel to do anything but work. After you check your morning email and various other things, unplug at 9:30 a.m. and commit to not plugging back in until 12 p.m. See how much you'll get done in 2 1/2 hours of a web-less world, or, as some people call it, every day of work in the history of mankind until about 15 years ago." -- Jon Finkel, author of "The Three Dollar Scholar"

What are your best work-from-home tips?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia user Carlosar.

  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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