By Zoe Brown, Bright Ideas Trust

You’ve experienced the euphoria of getting your first piece of work or contract and delivered it to perfection from your kitchen table. But now you have to do this week in week out and avoid the distractions and pitfalls of working from home.

So how do you discipline and motivate yourself to be super-effective, earn an income and not go mad?!

1) Get the important things done first by setting a timetable for your working week

It doesn’t have to be the same routine every week, but try and plan the following week’s schedule so that personal and client commitments are separated and you allow sufficient, uninterrupted working hours each day. This ensures that when meetings are arranged, professionally or socially, you won’t let anyone down. More importantly, it means that you can relax a little, knowing that you have an effective schedule, can take proper breaks and end the working day at a reasonable time having put in the necessary hours. If you live with a partner or family this scheduling is particularly important to maintain a balance between your personal and work life.

2) Stay organised with a separate work space and storage area

Working from home often means you have to consider others who share the space. That schedule won’t last long if you have kids coming in after school demanding attention, or housemates bringing home friends and walking in and out of the kitchen all day.

If possible, your workspace should be in a quiet part of the house away from this commotion. A sign on the door letting people know if you can be interrupted is also useful for when you are on important phone calls, in meetings or need quality thinking time.

If you have no choice but to work in a communal and busy area, at the very least have somewhere to shut away your work things at the end of the day. The process of “packing up” is an excellent way of signaling that the working day is over, to you and the people around you.

3) Have at least 3 external meetings a week

Building external meetings into your working week means you actually get out and speak to people. It also means that you are engaged in building your professional network and promoting your business.

One great way to do this is to use a co-working space once a week or more. These are open-plan, shared work spaces where you can hire a desk by the day or half day. They are used by people just like you and often have very social cafeterias and business events that you can attend to learn new things and make new connections.

4) Make sure you love what you do

This might sound obvious but you have to really love something about your business to be able to get through the rough and crazy days. Whether it’s being your own boss, loving what you make or the service you deliver, or simply the process of engaging with people to promote and sell your product or service.

The more you like something the better you tend to be at it. And it makes the bits of the business you don’t like much easier to tolerate.

5) Avoid having your all your app notifications activated on every mobile device and tablet in the home

It’s tempting to have every work-related email and social network app notification pinging with a tuneful alert on your phone in case you miss something REALLY important. But whether you’re in working hours or not, this can be incredibly distracting, taking your attention away from your well-planned day or those critical objectives.

If your business does not need you to be available throughout the day and into the evening, turn off the automatic notifications on the devices you have around you out of working hours.

6) Get yourself a mentor

A good mentor is a business confidante who wants to help you succeed. They are usually someone who has been in business, having started from exactly your position; someone who has overcome similar challenges and has horror stories as well as tales of success to share with you. They may have specialist knowledge or networks you can tap into and will bring inquisitiveness to your business, asking lots of questions. It’s good to be challenged; it checks and balances your approach and business direction.

A good mentor will help you see things from an external, impartial perspective, which can be incredibly valuable when you’re working from home, mostly by yourself. Equally important, a good business mentor brings compassion and empathy and cares about your long term success.