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How To Stay On Track While Working From Home

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Get dressed. You're going to work -- at home. For many people whose office is located somewhere between the kitchen and the living room, succumbing to the ease of working from home can throw a curve ball in the career path.

Here are five ideas to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls of working from home and strike a healthy balance:

Separate your work space from the rest of your home and spend time in it only when you are working.
Make it off limits to family members -- kids and spouses do not belong there. Create physical barriers, such as a door or a flight of stairs to isolate yourself from your home routine and focus your attention.

Sit at your desk at the same time every day and keep normal business hours.
Parcel out your work by task and the time you expect it to take to complete. This will help you instill urgency in your work and increase your productivity. "One of the major challenges is prioritizing your tasks because nobody is there to tell you what to do," says Holly Reslink, a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, "so it helps to create a daily goal sheet."

Dress in a way that will help you feel professional.
You do not have to wear stockings and high heels, but it helps to get out of your pj's and put on a crisp shirt.

Disregard house chores until the end of the business day.
You wouldn't wash the dishes, walk the dog or cook lunch for the kids if you were in a real office, so resist the temptation to do it at your home office. If you find that hard to achieve, give yourself short deadlines for specific tasks and do household work only in between.

If your work does not require constant access to email, turn off your email program and check messages only at scheduled times.
Being stuck in a home office all day can be frustrating, so instead of seeking distraction through communication, tackle boredom by allowing yourself short breaks outside. Take advantage of your situation by enjoying a few moments in your backyard or on the front porch.

Working at home is not for everyone, because it takes the right type of personality and motivation to be able to stay on track. "But for people who have a more flexible style of working," says Reslink, "it can offer an opportunity to work within their own comfort zone and not conform to what an office manager expects them to do."

By Marshall Loeb