I’ve been working from home for the past 6 years, and it hasn’t exactly been easy, but I’ve learned a lot! Here are my best tips for working from home that will increase your productivity while keeping your sanity!
Working from home can be isolating and exhausting. After 6 years, I’m still struggling to improve my productivity and my work-life balance. Do you know those IG accounts that show you how glamorous working from home can be?
Well… it’s not! In fact, sometimes I feel like I might go crazy! (Maybe I already have, wink, wink).
I never thought I would become that mom who’s always working on sweatpants, with her desk smeared with cold coffee and a bad hairdo. You know the one.
Well, as I type this article, I can feel the soft fabric of my comfiest pair of pants. And the cold, hardwood floor feels like heaven against my bare feet. My 4th cup of coffee is running cold on my desk. And I’m working as fast as I can because in a few hours I need to go pick up my son at school!
But, you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing of this seemingly messy life.
It takes a while to find what’s best for you. But here are 10 tips for working from home to get you started!
10 Tips for Working from Home That Will Boost Your Productivity
#1 Find a Quiet Time that Works For You
I hate getting up early, I’ve never been a morning person. I just have less productive days whenever I try to do those things fancy bloggers do and wake up at 5 a.m. to meditate and drink some morning coffee.
A lot of people will say that you need to wake up before everyone else does. That you need to find that perfect, quiet time just for you as you hear birds chirping and the sun rises on the horizon.
Well, guess what? Whenever I try to do that I get a massive headache, I’m sleepy and grumpy all day. And I simply can’t work. I become more and more exhausted, and less and less productive.
After I gave up getting earlier than everyone else I’ve seen a spike in productivity. My quiet time comes after my son has gone to sleep. I love working at night, it’s even relaxing after a full day of… doing things…
The thing is that I’m not a morning person, my most productive hours happen after 6 p.m. It took an extra effort for me to try to be awake at 6 and have everything done by early afternoon.
My husband, however, is an early bird. He loves waking up at 6 a.m. every day and having some morning work time before the rest of us are awake.
I’ve come to realize that when people say you should wake up with the rooster and watch the sunrise, what they really mean is that you need to find a quiet time. A moment where you’re only working and fully productive.
And that’s something I can totally agree with! It just doesn’t need to be at 6 a.m. or at 9 p.m.
Just do it whenever you feel it would be more productive.
Don’t pressure yourself into getting super early to get everything done. Unless that’s your best hour, and you can function as a human for the rest of the day!
I admire morning risers who can maintain energy and productivity. But I’d rather stay up until dawn than wake up early, so that’s exactly what I do.
Soon, you’ll find that not every day you’ll need that quiet time, but most of the days you will. Take a few weeks to study your most productive hours and your daily patterns. Wake up early some days, stay up until late some other days, and then stick to what works best for you!
#2 Get Out of Your PJs
Yes, I’m in my sweatpants. But not in my PJs.
It’s important to go through the process of getting rid of your PJs as early as you can. You’ll send your brain a signal. The time to rest is over, and you’re ready to get to work… like 5 meters away!
When my son was a baby, I used to stay in my PJs all day, most of the days. Even after I took a shower I would change into daytime PJs. It was easy and comfortable, for sure, but I felt more and more tired and isolated.
I was sending my brain a signal that it was time to sleep, and not time to work.
Sometimes, if you don’t feel productive at all, you can just take a shower and get changed. This simple thing can spike productivity on its own!
Out of the tips for working from home, this is the one that was most difficult for me to adjust. It was only when there was a need for social activity that I changed daily, and I regretted not doing it early.
This is, of course, another advantage of getting out of your PJs. You can leave the house fast if you suddenly get a few minutes of sunshine on a rainy day, or a dash of inspiration to work in a park.
#3 Establish Ground Rules With Family
Even if you live alone, this is one of the tips for working from home that you’ll want to pay attention to.
One of the most difficult things about working from home is that I’m always home. So separating home tasks from work-related tasks is almost impossible for me and for my family.
Need to deliver a package? No worries, I’ll be home all day. Waiting for someone to fix the hardwood floors? Tell him to come whenever. Deep cleaning the kitchen? I’ll do it while my son is at school.
Sound familiar? We naturally want to help our family and our household. But all these tiny things will interrupt a good old working routine. And you wouldn’t deal with them if you were working in an office.
It’ll be both hard for you and for those around you. When I first started working from home, I was expected to clean, cook, shop for groceries, and do all the home-related tasks. It was overwhelming, until my husband and I realized I needed to set some boundaries to protect my work-allocated time.
And, my sanity.
What we did was establish days for things like waiting for the repairman. And a schedule in which I was working “as if I was in an office”, of course, having some flexibility for emergencies.
Setting boundaries was game-changing for my productivity.
You can do this whichever way works best for your family. Either set blocks of time in which you can’t be disturbed unless there’s an emergency, have a fixed work schedule or separate some days of home duties.
The important thing is that you figure it out together with your family and you all stick to it.
#4 Schedule Time to Work Outside If You Can
Working from home has been one of the loneliest experiences of my life. Even when I’m working with other people remotely. There’s something isolating about toasting with a person in your computer whenever you hit a milestone.
Before the pandemic hit, it was way worse. There weren’t as many resources as we have today, and I was alone with my baby, working from home all day. There weren’t as many articles of tips for working from home as there are today, either! (;))
One thing that helped me back then was taking short walks around the park. Those walks soon became longer and longer. Until I found a good spot to work outside under the shade of a tree.
Yes, baby in the stroller and everything. It would need some preparation, but my mental health always appreciated it, and I avoided burnout, which now everyone seems to have (including myself!).
Nowadays, sometimes I work in coffee shops, and sometimes I work in the park. But at least once a week I force myself to work outside of our house.
Ok, most of the time that work happens in my Chromebook as I wait for my son to get out of his extracurricular activities. But hey, that counts!
It has helped a lot with my mental health, and I’ve become more productive.
#5 Take a Break FromTime to Time
Working from home can also blur the line between work-time and fun-time.
We’ve all heard stories of how people work overtime, more often than not, and since they are home it feels easier, or more productive to just keep working instead of logging off.
But it can also lead to burnout.
It’s important to take breaks. If you’re like me, your breaks will most likely be cleaning the kitchen, making lunch, or picking up the kids at school.
But they are breaks from work, anyway, so I’m counting them as breaks!
If you see yourself working without any time off, schedule some with the alarm clock, even if you’re just closing your eyes for 5 minutes, your productivity will increase.
And, if you need to do things in your break, that’s ok too, as long as you’re changing the activity often and bringing some dynamism into your day.
If you have time for that, you can try the 25-5 rule! This doesn’t necessarily fall in the “tips for working from home” category but is more of a broad productivity tip.
Basically, you work hyper-focused for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. I don’t do it all the time, but on days I’m feeling particularly tired I try this, and my day changes for the better!
#6 Make a Weekly and Daily Checklist
A friend taught me this, and it changed my life.
Make lists. Going shopping at the supermarket? Make a list. Organizing your tasks of the day? List. Need to organize your week? List.
A list is a great productivity boost. You’ll feel the rush of finishing tasks, and then that will fuel your energy to keep on crossing out items!
Short story time here. When I was about 8 or 9 I lived through a traumatic event and needed to go to therapy. The first thing the therapist did was ask me to make my bed and brush my teeth every morning and cross it out in a list she gave me.
I did as told without thinking too much of it, and within months I was automated in a morning routine that worked and helped me keep my focus and my energy for the rest of the day.
As an adult, now I see what she meant by it. And I take all my learnings with it as one of the tips for working from home. However, as with everything, you need to make it your own.
Doing a daily checklist only can feel rigid. Some days you won’t feel like doing a specific work task, others, you maybe won’t want to exercise as much.
That’s where the weekly checklist comes into play.
Write down everything you need to get done during the week, and then assign those tasks to each specific day every morning. You can also tackle easier tasks first so that you get that rush of energy when you complete them and crave for more.
#7 Establish a Space Specific to Work
Mental separation is important, but the physical separation of spaces is critical to a healthy lifestyle balance when working from home.
In other words, avoid making your bed in your office.
It’s ok if you don’t have a specific room in your house to accommodate an office, but even then try to find a corner in your bedroom or your living room where you can set up your workspace.
And respect it as much as possible.
I’m not trying to send out a message here saying that I do it perfectly, I do have an office that I share with my husband, but a lot of days I need to work in the living room, or the kitchen.
And during the summer, when Ollie is on vacation, my desk sees next to no action.
But I know that space exists and I go there as much as I can, or when I really need to focus.
It also helps not to see all my work things scattered around, and I can separate things more easily in my mind when I’m not working.
This is one of the tips for working from home that you don’t need to adhere to excessively, but just knowing that the space exists will do wonders for your health!
#8 Prep Your Meals as if You’re Going to an Office
Yeah, I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes here. Maybe this is one of the tips for working from home that doesn’t work for everyone but I’m a very inefficient cook.
My mom can whip up a gourmet lunch in like ten minutes. While it takes me a few hours to produce something barely edible.
When I started working from home, I barely took something out of the fridge in the morning. Then I would spend some time cooking and eating. Like 2 to 3 hours a day. That’s way too much if you’re clinging to those seconds while your son is at school!
But then I started to plan my lunch better. I spent less time cooking and more time resting, watching Netflix while eating, and mentally taking a break from working and doing chores. And, of course, working.
I don’t plan obsessively meals and prep them to the last ounce. However, I do try to cook for a few days in advance and plan out more or less what I’ll be eating every day so that it becomes less improvised.
As a big plus, after the pandemic hit, my husband started working from home as well. So now we spend that time catching up with each other.
By the way, if you’re looking for date plans at home with your partner, here’s a list of date night ideas we have tried and work for us!
#9 Decorate Your Work Space
Make your workspace your own, it’ll help you jump into the working mindset and separate spaces better.
Before I had an office I used to jam my desk into a corner of our bedroom. It was tiny but cozy, and I made sure the corner felt mine.
In fact, I miss it sometimes!
I have some Ikea organizers on the wall, and I change what’s there depending on the projects I’m working on. I have notepads all over, coloring my walls and desk. And I reorder them every day!
I have pictures of references for characters I’m writing about, complete drafts of chapters scattered around my desk. Paintings of my son pasted in the wall, and a map of my favorite video game (Zelda: Breath of the Wild in case you were wondering).
It’s a place I want to be in. A place that welcomes me every day and that looks a lot like me.
#10 Embrace Unproductive Days
Working from home isn’t perfect. And trust me, this is a productivity booster even if it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the tips for working from home.
I love working from home, although it’s true that it’s not for everybody.
For me it has meant freedom, managing my time whichever way I need to. And of course being able to be with my son, and to help him learn, grow, and navigate the world.
It’s the life I would have chosen for myself. But is far from that perfect and glamorous version people try to sell online.
Some days I’m not as productive as I would like to be. I’ve learned to be completely O.K. with that. Even if it’s because I’m mentally exhausted, or I need to juggle between work and my day-to-day life as a mom.
Unproductive days don’t stress me out anymore. I know that I’ll spring back to my usual work rhythm soon enough. So I try to enjoy them to a degree.
That’s a Wrap
As I always say, these tips for working from home are supposed to guide you in the process of finding what works best for you.
Don’t take them as rigid rules you need to follow. And don’t fall into the trap of believing that my or anyone’s life is perfect and fancy.
Remember that life isn’t perfect. Working from home can sell if it looks glamorous on Instagram, but it’s full of lonely days and uncertainty.
In the long run, though, it can be beneficial for you and your family. Or at least in my case, it is. And the pros outweigh the cons. I’ve been by my son’s side as much as I can, and I’ve been able to detect small issues and help him solve them before they become bigger problems.
For instance, right now as I write this post, my son’s in school, and we’re working towards improving his fine motor skills. Working from home has led to me picking him up at school every day and talking to his teacher about this, and his needs.
This is just a small example, but hey, don’t feel pressured to work from home if it isn’t for you. My mom and dad, for instance, both worked long hours and were often out of town for months. It wasn’t easy, but they made it work with my sister and me as we were growing up.
They made sure the time we spent together was high-quality time. And, as a parent today, I can see that it wasn’t easy, but it’s what worked best for them, and for us.
Of course, that was the 90s, so remote work was a fantasy for most people.
It’s a good thing that it’s not the 90s anymore!
Anyway, good luck, and as always thanks for reading!
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