As someone who commuted four hours (!) every single day into her job, I can tell you first-hand that’s a ton of wasted time. No matter how productive I tried to be on the MetroNorth train, (and believe me, I tried), it couldn’t make up for the fact that I was losing 1/6 of my day, each and every day, with nothing really to show for it.

So when I started to work at home, I was shocked at how much extra time I had! I was able to do so many things that my previous schedule didn’t allow me to do.  I became hyper organized, and my life, which had once been so utterly chaotic, now had a natural flow to it.

When you find your own work-at-home job (and some serious work-life balance), here are five things you can do with your time when you don’t have to commute.

Organize your workday.

Although it’s better if you can plan your schedule for the next day at the end of your workday, sometimes that’s just not possible. If you don’t have to commute in to work in the mornings, you can take ten minutes out of your schedule and, well, plan your schedule. Depending on your own personal organizational style, you might opt to plan out your month or your week, but simply planning out the day will do. You can also take the time to review the upcoming events you have for the day (that 1:00 PM conference call, getting your kid to the dentist at 3:40 PM) without feeling stressed.

Empty your email.

When you telecommute, there’s a good chance that you will be working in employees who are far-flung across the country—and maybe even the globe. So try as you might to clean out your email inbox before the end of your workday, there’s an excellent chance that it will be filled once again in the morning by employees who are working while you’re sleeping. Instead of frantically scanning emails as you burn the pancakes you’re making for your kids, you can wait to start answering emails until you’re in the sanctity of your home office—and the kids are off to school.

Enjoy your mornings more.

Maybe you’re a morning person. Maybe you’re not. In either case, it’s rare that your mornings will be smooth when you have to get yourself put together in a semi-decent fashion, bring everything that you’ll need for work (your folders, your laptop, your lunch), and get to work on time to boot. Now, try adding a few cranky kids who move like molasses into the mix, and you’re just asking for a morning mess—every day. Telecommuting takes the focus off of getting yourself presentable and puts together for work, and allows you to focus on your family instead. You won’t forget to feed the dog, and you may even be able to enjoy your breakfast before the school bus comes!

Get your house in order—literally.

There’s nothing worse than dragging yourself through the door after a long day at work to find that your kitchen is a mess of dirty dishes that are from breakfast—and quite possibly, dinner the night before. The image itself can make you feel defeated, and you haven’t even started cooking dinner yet. Being a remote worker means that you’ll be dialing for take-out a whole lot less. You’ll find that you have more time to get your house together before starting work. You may have time for a quick cleanup during the time you would have been commuting home, too. Having your house in order can help restore a sense of calm to your life, and will definitely help keep you and your family organized and sane.

Care for your family.

Let’s face it: when your kid wants to have a chat with you in the morning, you basically “yes” and “uh huh” him until he stops talking, because you’re doing 45 other things to get you and your family out the door. Now that you telecommute, you can have (gasp!) a conversation with your kid in which both your mind and body are both fully present! You’re able to drop your kid off at school (and possibly sneak in an early morning PTO meeting), neither of which you were ever able to do before. Working from home basically means that your kids can have a calmer and happier parent.

When you go from an office job to a home office job, you’ll feel immediately how much more time you have on your hands. Thing is, don’t waste it. Take advantage of however much time you’ve saved by not commuting, and put it to practical use. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done—and how much better your work-life balance is as a result of it!

photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com