By Jane Burnett

It’s a problem as old as the concept of working from home itself: How do you stay productive when other people are around, tempting you with distractions of every shape and color?

Here are some tricks to keep in mind when you’re working from home, and roommates or family members are making it difficult to get your assignments done.

1. Try putting “the two-day rule” to good use

Give yourself time to plan ahead.

Patrick Allan, an author, screenwriter and staff writer at Lifehacker, writes about “the two-day rule.” He says that although he lived “with someone who also works from home and understands,” he’s had roommates that weren’t on the same page in the past.

Referencing the “rule,” he writes: “Basically, you say you’re willing to help out with bigger things or participate in more time-consuming activities as long as you’re given some lead time. Two days, or 48 hours, gives you enough time to plan things out, get extra work done ahead of time, and let your office know you’ll be unavailable during a certain time window. One day is not enough.”

2. Make sure you have a space of your own

Daniel Schwarz, founder of Airwalk Studios and editor of design at SitePoint, writes that “having your own space” is crucial when you’re working from home and roommates are around. He writes that he’s worked from home for many years.

“Whether your household has a child/dog/cat/lizard or not, your own office or room is always a useful thing to have,” the post says. “If you live in a particularly noisy household (or at least one that’s not dead silent), remember that it’s their space too, and a private room for yourself means your housemates can feel free (to an extent of course) in their own home — it benefits everyone.”

3. Don’t ice people out — communicate instead

This could be a big help. Maxine Roper writes in The Guardian that when you live with other people and work from home, you should “talk to your housemates about your work.”

“Telling them about your daily routines and what you’re working on is likely to make them more understanding. Similarly, when work is slow, be very clear that quiet time means worry, not leisure time,” she says. “Talking about your work regularly also enforces the idea that you are working from home and not free to sort out everyone else’s admin or do their share of chores.”

4. Block off the time you need to work

Make sure that nothing pops up on your calendar for a good two to four hours so that you can really focus on the work you’re doing. Although you might want to run out to an event or take a last-minute invitation, you’re better off laying low for a bit so that you don’t fall behind.

It’s possible to get work done at home — even when there are roommates or family members sharing the space — with a little planning.

Originally published at

Sign up to receive daily news, inspiration, and advice on how to master work and life from Ladders.