Staying focused


llinois agent Richard Turen remembers when he left an office to work at home, as was the case with a number of his co-workers.

On the first day at home, an equally unprepared colleague called and said, "I'm thinking of opening a can of chicken noodle soup. What do you think?"

Switching from a business office to a home office is not just a matter of moving the computer and paper files. I know that, too, having moved to a new role at Travel Weekly as editor at large. I am "at large" at home.

In time, given the way the industry is evolving, mastering the ways of an at-home worklife may be important to growing numbers of you. In my case, I worried about getting sleepy after lunch, so I asked a few experts for pointers, and they follow:

• Take a morning shower and dress for work. Terri Maldonado, who operates in West Linn, Ore., was emphatic. She said our subconscious won't be in work mode if we are in bathrobe and slippers.

• Keep to routines. Keep regular business hours. Stay focused.

Several people offered variations on that advice. Among them was Anita Balamane, who operates Ticket to Travel in San Jose, Calif., with her husband. She is the author of "How I Made a Small Fortune as a Home-Based Travel Agent."

Anita also said we must avoid between-meals food, TV and naps. As for drowsiness -- "and that happens" -- she said she takes walks to get reinvigorated.

• Go out to lunches and other events. Stay connected.

Joanie Ogg, president of the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents, said the Web is "one of the best tools ever" for human contact, but we must go to meetings and events for face-to-face encounters, too.

• Build clear parameters around the office.

Terri Maldonado said: Leave the office for lunch and for breaks. Don't have the home phone in the office, either.

Advise others that, though we are at home, we are working. We won't watch houses, meet deliverymen or babysit.

Tell family that when the office door is closed, "they can only disturb you if someone is bleeding." Before she got an office, Terri said, she wore a pink baseball hat to signal when she was not available.

• Know when to quit.

Gary Fee, president of the Outside Sales Support Network, said shutting down is the hardest part. He travels just to "get outta here" and see peers.

Some final thoughts:

If you happen to take a call while still in your bathrobe, it is not true that the person on the other end of the line knows.

And, Anita Balamane recommends Hansen Energy Drink. V-8 juice can't compare.

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