How to limit interruptions when working at home

As a work-at-home mom for the past 20 years, one of my big challenges has been keeping family, friends, and neighbors from interrupting me all day long. My farmer parents used to have the same problem with friends who didn't understand that working at home doesn't mean that we are free to drop everything to visit, shop, or take a three-hour lunch.

Limiting friendly interruptions while working is doable with a little bit of effort. Here's how I made it work for me.

Selecting a kid-friendly location for an office. Our instinct is to put our home offices in a quiet, out of the way location, and while this works for us, it doesn't work for younger children who want the security of being able to "see Mom." Working in a visible location is important for your child's sense of security, which is why setting up an office near your living or family room usually means less family interruptions. If noise is an issue, install french doors to your work area, allowing you to see out while muffling the noise.

Set regular hours. The beauty of working at home is the ability to set your schedule. The downside of leaving a schedule too open means that your friends, family, church, and school will assume that it's not a problem for you to drop everything and tend to their needs. Setting regular office hours limits interruptions and conditions your friends and family to accept that you are not available during certain times of the day.

Dress nice. Just because we work at home doesn't mean we should spend the day in PJs or sweats. This confuses kids, who will wonder if you are really "at work" or just taking the day off. I've discovered that dressing up to go to work, even if work is only 20 feet away, sends the message that you take your job seriously and your family should, too.

Don't be unavailable all day long. Many of us work at home because we want to be available to our kids when they need us. When my work isn't pressing, I'll leave the doors to my office open, in case the kids or my husband want to visit, talk, or ask a question. If I'm up against a deadline or my work requires concentration, the doors are shut, and I'm to be left alone. While obviously this won't work with tiny tots, tweens and teens will understand that a closed door means "no interruptions, please."

More by this contributor:

Top 10 business ideas for work at home moms.

Where to find office space in your home.

How to keep a time sheet for the self employed.