Some of you are new to working at home, and things might be a bit overwhelming. In my last post, I wrote about setting up your space for working from home, but this time I’ll tackle another topic: distraction. How do you keep up your productivity when you are at home with pets and projects you could be doing?

As a freelancer who has been working at home for a decade, let me offer you some advice on this all-important topic.

Get Dressed and Ready for Work

Often people ask me about the writing life and working from home, and they often have the mistaken impression, one some writers tend to promote, that we sit around all day in pajamas, start drinking by noon, and shower every few days or when we actually have to exit the house and talk to people.

However, that is far from reality. I work 40-60 hours a week as a freelancer and author, and I have a pretty strict routine. I may not get dressed as early as you do: I often stay in “pajamas” or sweats until around mid-morning, when I go walk my dog.

But I get dressed, shower, sit or stand at a desk, and work on a computer much like many of you do. I may not wear business attire all the time. I mean, every day is causal-whatever-day-of-the-week-it-is. You can do the same, but truth be told, you will do a better job and be more productive if you are dressed for work, whatever that looks like for you.

Have a Schedule

Even if your employer does not have one for you, set up a schedule. If you have trouble trying to structure your day, try time blocking. You can read more about that in many places, but I highly recommend The One Thing by Gary Keller. It’s a great book about focus and ending multi-tasking, which will make sure you can accomplish more in less time.

Include things in that schedule like exercise, breaks, meals, and other things. Don’t be tempted by major projects: schedule those on your evenings and weekends just like you would if you were working in the office. If someone asks you to do something during work hours, just tell them “no.” Explain that you are working, and they will get used to the fact that just because you are “home” does not mean you are not working.

Do be kind. Let them know when you will be available. Often you can associate your schedule with place: when you are in your workspace, you are not to be disturbed, just like when you are at work.

Pets and Opportunities

With a lot of kids out of school and your pets, who are not used to you being at home all the time, things can get a little overwhelming. However, you can also use this as an opportunity. Walk your dog on your breaks. Play a game with your kids, and then go back to work.

This does a couple of things for you. First, the distraction is a good way to get your mind really off of work and give yourself a real break. Second, you will be more focused when you do go back to work.

You may feel parent or even cat and dog parent guilt for ignoring your kids and your pets while you are working. Put that to rest the best you can. If you were in an office and not home, you would not be able to stop what you are doing to pay attention to them, so you can’t do it when you work at home either.

This adjustment will take time for them and you. Give yourself some grace for the first week or so at least.

Open and Close the Office

Even if your office does not have a door, a part of scheduling your time is to open and close the office. This means that to your clients and even your boss, you set hours when you are available, and outside of that time you “close your office.”

For some people like me who are more of the workaholic variety, one thing about working at home is not that you never leave home, but that work is always there for you, and you never really “leave work.” But you need to. For your sanity and that of your family.

While some businesses will be slow during this time, others will be exceptionally busy. Don’t get caught up in working so much that you neglect the rest of your life, including your family and friends.

Even in the current climate of social distancing, video calls, phone calls, chats and more can mean valuable time together. Leave the office even if that just means closing your laptop, shutting down your computer, or muting certain notifications on your phone.

Many employees find that they are actually more productive in the long run while working at home. You can be one of them. It just means developing new productivity habits, and figuring out what role pets and projects play in that world.