I've worked from home both as an employee of a larger company and as someone who is self-employed. In both situations, it took some time to figure out a structure that helped me maximize productivity. I had gotten advice from other people who worked remotely on how they stay on task, everything from keeping a set schedule to having a dedicated workspace. While those definitely kept me working, there was one more thing that took me some time to realize is the key to staying on task all day: going for a walk.
A few years ago, I relocated from New York back to my parents' house in Ohio to help out while my dad was sick, and during that time, I was working my normal job as a writer remotely from their house. No one else was in the house except my dog and two cats, so it was very solitary. I did the usual with keeping a schedule and having a workspace in the kitchen, but I found that my mind kept wandering because my environment was so static. One day I couldn't take it anymore, so I laced up my sneakers and went for a walk around the neighborhood.
I said hello to a few people out mowing their lawns and just absorbed the sunshine and the fresh air. The walk was probably no more than 20 minutes, but by the time I got back inside the house, it had made all the difference in the world. By reminding myself that I was still a functioning member of society, my brain was able to reset from the funk and get back on task.
Now that I'm self-employed and fully working remotely, I keep the same sort of structure. By working from home while part of a company, I was able to gauge how structured a workday should be from home. I still set my alarm for 7:30 a.m. every day and start working by 9, even though I'm my own boss and I have no office I need to go to. I still have deadlines, though, so a schedule is important!
I have a dedicated workspace in my apartment, and I keep the TV off while I'm working (unless I'm writing something about a show, in which case, I have a part of the day set aside for that). I try to even avoid my pets while I'm working from home, even when their little faces are demanding attention.
And while all of this structure has kept me on task, the guiding force in my day is my midday walk. It's great when I can pair it with an errand, so I'm killing two birds with one stone, but no matter what, I put shoes on and go walk around the neighborhood. I have found that I can get down very easily when I'm inside my apartment by myself for long periods of time, and if I'm down, I'm not productive. But just that little bit of fresh air and movement and seeing other people is enough to completely recharge my energy and help me finish the day strong.