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These tips will put on a shine on your pandemic work-from-home experience

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Working from home was once, for some, an unattainable dream.

Now that many of us are struggling with those colliding worlds, the severed line between work and home during the coronavirus makes it a challenge to stay focused and then tune out the office when the day ends. 

Experienced solo entrepreneurs and bloggers know how to keep things organized and distinct. Here's how you, too, can redraw the lines so these realms stay separate.

Time lords 

Daniella Flores, 30, a personal finance blogger in St. Louis, says a schedule is critical for keeping work and leisure time separate. If you don't learn to manage your time, you can easily derail your work-from-home efforts, she says.

Athena Valentine, 34, a personal finance blogger in Phoenix, says she's "a creature of habit, and not having a routine was weighing on me."

Wake up at the same time each day, advises Patrina Dixon, 49, a personal finance blogger in Windsor, Connecticut. "Take breaks and lunch away from the work area, and if you can, step outside on the porch or deck," she said.

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Schedule projects in blocks. "Instead of multitasking, allow yourself to only check messages, email, social media a few times a day," said Nate O'Brien, 21, a  personal finance blogger and YouTuber in Philadelphia.

Grouping tasks, also known as batching, lets you be more efficient.

"I do my recordings all at the same time and switch shirts for variety of visuals," said Heather Heuman, 45, a social media strategist in Columbia, South Carolina.

Kara Perez, 32, a personal finance blogger in Austin, Texas, batches her work by days of the week: She devotes whole days to writing, or research or social media.

Another scheduling tip from O'Brien: Each night, he makes a detailed list of what he needs to accomplish the next day.

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Break it up

Everyone slices their day differently. Jarek Grochal, 35, a personal finance blogger in Farmington, Connecticut, likes frequent breaks, which he uses for a quick walk with his dog.

Several bloggers mentioned the Pomodoro Technique, which advises working in 25-minute sets, followed by 15-minute breaks.

Heuman tailors Pomodoro to suit her work, with 45-minute segments punctuated by 15-minute breaks. "This allows me to be laser-focused on the very specific task at hand and get so much more done," she said.

Watch out for interruptions

10'000 Hours

A smartphone helps R.J. Weiss, 35, a certified financial planner in Geneva, Illinois, contain breaks to the original five or 10 minutes — instead of stretching into an hour. Whenever he steps away from his desk, he sets an alarm.

O'Brien conquered his phone addiction — he was spending roughly six hours a day on it — by turning off notifications and setting it to grayscale. His productivity really skyrocketed when he placed his phone in a locking container with a timer. Now he just turns it off and leaves it in a different room.

Jonathan Verhaeghe, 39, a blogger in Luxembourg, schedules meetings after lunch. That way, he says, you can get work done upfront uninterrupted.  

Healthy habits for the quarantine

Work as far as possible from the fridge, says Logan Allec, 31, a personal finance blogger in Los Angeles, "especially because we can't go to the gym anymore."  

You may have to rearrange some parts of your day but keep what's important to you. Flores used to go for a run first thing in the morning but now works out after the workday. "It's a great break to get my mind off work and a perfect separator to start winding down," she said.

Flores makes sure to get up early enough to give herself time for coffee before the day starts.

Heuman keeps water or sweet tea on hand. "It keeps me happier and more productive while  at work," she said.

Desk set 

Have a clear space for work, Grochal says. "It's much easier to concentrate," he said, "and break out the work and home life when you spend your work time at your work space."

Peter Koch, 39, a Columbus, Indiana-based blogger, recommends an actual office chair. "Standard home chairs cause back pain," Koch said. If you're on a budget, Ikea has lots of options starting as low as $14.99.  

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