So working from home ISN’T all Real Housewives marathons, 2 p.m. happy hours, and chilling with your laptop on the couch? Say whaaat?! Okay but let’s be real, I’ve definitely had a couple of early happy hours over these last couple weeks and actually do work from my couch mostly (or my closet, but that’s another story). Even so, being productive while working from home is something I’ve had to master, and it seems like a topic that’s being talked about more than ever now that most of the country is experiencing #WFHlife.
Tell me: How’s it going for you? Is it all you dreamed of? I’ve got to admit, before I ever worked from home, I sort of romanticized it. I built it up to be this mellow, chill, easy, glamorous set-up that included cute sweatpants sets and perfect time management as I streamed Netflix all the while. But that JUST AIN’T SO, as you’re probably experiencing as well. I’m lucky if I get to run a brush through my hair before diving into work most days. And that cute sweats vision I had is actually just the same smoothie-stained sweatshirt for the fourth day in a row.
But in my years of working from home, and especially this last year after becoming a mom and really having my time stretched thin, I’ve found a few tricks that truly work when it comes to being effective and productive at home. If you’re finding yourself on the WFH struggle bus, keep on reading to pick up my easy and applicable tips to make working from home smoother than buttah.
7 tips for staying productive while working from home
Here’s how I create systems and make working from home feel like less of an uphill battle and more of a joyful endeavor!
01. Designate your “work” space.
Like I said, I work from my couch often because it’s where I feel comfortable and can get into the zone. Many people don’t have home offices and might feel like not having the “perfect” work environment will hinder what they can do. But if you can make one space your designated work space — whether it’s one end of your dining room table, the kitchen counter, a table in a spare room, or heck yes, even your couch — and show up to that one space each day ready to work, your brain will begin associating that spot with productivity.
Another little trick: bring what you need with you to your work space to eliminate unnecessary trips to get water, coffee, a pen/notebook, headphones, snacks, and so on. If you find yourself needing the same things again and again, just start keeping them near your work space to keep yourself from getting out of the flow … and then getting distracted by the laundry, news, kids, etc. Plant your hiney and only get up for the necessities (to stretch, get a meal, use the restroom, and so on).
02. Pick your BIG 3.
This is my favorite way to prioritize my day for productivity, and to make sure I get important stuff done. Actually, most of my team structures their day this way too. You basically just write down the TOP 3 tasks that will move the needle most for your projects, profits, and productivity. Aka, answering emails or checking in with your boss or clients probably aren’t your big 3.
It should be the essential tasks that progress your workload substantially, not the little, nitty-gritty stuff. Start every day by writing down your big 3 and then begin by tackling these items FIRST. Yes, first! They’re probably more time-consuming than the small stuff, but that’s why we want to start with them. Most people have more energy and creativity first thing in the day, so channeling that into your big 3 will allow you to do them more efficiently. Then you can get to the rest of your to-do list as soon as your big 3 are checked off!
03. Save answering emails for later.
Like I mentioned above, answering emails is NOT a big 3 action item. In fact, I believe emails are the biggest faker of productivity out there. You “feeeel” like you’re getting stuff done as you clean out your inbox, but really? You’re just responding to other people’s urgencies and questions. It’s a reactive task, not proactive — or productive.
Of course, yes, getting back to people is important in its own right, especially when you work from home and that’s a main way to communicate with others. But I’m just saying it shouldn’t ever be your top priority or the first thing you turn to for the day. I’ve outsourced my inbox to one of my team members, but before that, I’d save emails for the afternoon when my energy was lower and I just needed a low-key task to work on after finishing my big 3.
04. Chuck that phone literally ANYWHERE else.
OKAY GUYS. Here’s the truth bomb. Your phone is the biggest sucker of productivity in your life. Hmmm, find yourself scrolling on IG when you should be drafting a report? Tapping through Tik Toks when you should really start that blog post? I feel ya, I hear ya, and I get it. We all hope we have more self-control than we do, and then hour 3 of procrastination hits and we wonder where our morning went as we double-tap another influencer’s photo.
It’s a vicious cycle, so do yourself a solid and just remove yourself from the cycle. When you are dedicating your time to sit down and work, intentionally set your phone in another room, put it on silent, and then … let it be. Say buh-bye, see you later, love you mean it, and then get to work. It sounds so simple, but I PROMISE you will have the most productive work sesh of your life with your phone out of reach and that notification buzz far away from your earholes.
05. Create to-do lists for your kids (or trade kiddo time with your partner).
With kids out of school and parents working from home, there’s a delicate balance between parenting and work productivity. And you might feel like you’ve fallen off the tightrope a few too many times. Caitlyn, my course manager, has two kids and she literally creates a checklist for each of them in the mornings so that they can have goals to be working on as she works through her to-do list. Kids love checking off tasks as much as we do, so she’ll fill the list with things like: read for 30 minutes, walk the dogs, practice art, and so on.
If your kids are too little to do something like this, then have a little pow-wow with your partner each morning to go through each of your priorities for the day. See who can handle kid duty and when, so that you can both check off the important things you need to get done, without feeling overwhelmed by the parenting side of things. It’s a little extra communicating and planning, and the schedule might look different everyday, but that’s okay because you’ll feel much more in control of how the days play out.
06. Schedule your tasks and breaks.
This is another simple yet powerful trick. When I find myself losing the focus battle, it often helps to create some more structure for myself. You likely know how long certain tasks in your work should take, so schedule them! Whether you use a planner or digital calendar, literally put all your main tasks into your daily schedule and assign start and end times to keep you on task.
On that same note, scheduling your breaks, workouts, and meals is also super helpful. It ensures that you take the time to take care of yourself. Movement and mental breaks are such great ways to get a little boost of energy to your brain without a whole lot of effort.
07. Give yourself grace.
Yes. Grace. This may be the most important tip of all. Working from home isn’t like any other work environment. You don’t have someone looking over your shoulder making sure you’re on top of your stuff. There’s no mandatory structure to follow. You don’t NEED to follow specific rules. And so, there will be times when you mess up. When you don’t get it right or get off the productivity train for way longer than you’d like.
And friend, that’s OKAY. It’s okay. Promise. Your productivity doesn’t define your worth. While it’s likely important to make progress in your work, things won’t fall apart if you have one off afternoon or a slower week than normal. And the thing that will make it so much easier to jump back in with both feet is NOT beating yourself up when things don’t go totally right.
With a lot of grace, a little structure, and some intentional planning, I have no doubt you’ll nail this whole work from home thing. Just keep getting up and figuring out the systems and schedule that works best for YOU. Hey, if mornings aren’t your creative time and you flourish from 2 to 5 pm, then lean into that! Only you can know what will be sustainable for your progress long-term. Let these ideas guide you and then make them your own. You can do this!
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