Career

10 Ways to be Productive When You Work from Home

Working from home and running your own company sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? You can sleep in, do whatever you want, and don’t have to answer to anyone.

Lies.

I worked from home from 2007 until we got an office last September. Nine. Years. I now spend anywhere from 2-3 days a week working out of the office–depending on how much I have to do and where I’ll be most productive–and the rest at my kitchen table. I’ve gotten so many questions about how I get work done from home, but it’s actually where I do my best work.

There are tons of perks that come with working from home and it can be distracting or really efficient. Here’s how I stay productive when working from home.

1. Find a schedule/routine

I used to work until midnight-2am, crash at 3, wake up at 9, and not start my day until 10. I was always tired, had constant headaches, and my anxiety was through the roof. It was not good. 

Things changed a lot the past two years. I stopped staying at the computer all night and started waking up between 7:15-7:30. I make some coffee, and go right to the computer. The days I’m in the office, I still like to get a little work done before heading in.

We have set team office and meeting days, and having that routine makes it easier to know what to expect each week. Sure, there are days I’ll leave the office early to work on my own (that’s when I do my best work) and some days need to be spent working from home. On the days I stay home, I am typically at the computer all day but try to get a midday workout or schedule a lunch once a week to break things up. I know how I work best and that little break gives me a chance to recharge and feel a lot less stressed. Lunch is usually had at my desk but I’m trying to be better about stepping away for a little.

When I do that, it’s back to work until around 5-6 PM, unless I have additional work for EG, or a blog post to write. I do check my email nonstop but that’s just how I am. There are days and nights when everything’s thrown off, but my morning routine and rough idea of what I’m doing when really helps.

2. Create a (designated) work space

I’ve always had a desk and for the most part, enjoy using having a set workspace but living in a small one bedroom, I now work at our kitchen table. A comfortable chair, organized desk, good lighting, and a nicely put together office space make working from home a lot more enjoyable, so I’d recommend that. I also enjoy moody music that I won’t want to sing along to because then I can’t read/write/focus.

3. Stay organized

I use reminders to keep track of side projects or things I need to do for The Everygirl. I have enough going on that if I want to review something with the team, I have to set a reminder or I’ll probably forget.

Our team uses ASANA to stay organized. Tasks are assigned to individual (or multiple) members of the team so you can see what’s yours, what needs to be done, and check in with everyone along the way. It’s wonderful.

4. Get dressed

All of our past interns will tell you I only wore workout clothes when I worked from home. Since we started going into the office almost a year ago, I started getting dressed and now actually enjoy doing so. But if I’m working from home and know I’m working out after work, no real pants for me that day.

5. Co-work/leave the house

We joined Soho House last year since it was half the cost of all the local co-working spaces and 10x less than any office space we looked at. It’s been great for networking and I always have a place to work when I want to get out of the house. Cafes and co-working dates at home are great, too. I try to make it a point to co-work at least 1-2 days a week.

6. Set guidelines

You don’t need to respond to every email within 20 minutes and probably shouldn’t spend all day on g-chat talking to your friends, either. Figure out what needs to get done, get ahead when you can, and know what’s important to you (and your boss, if applicable). Having guidelines for what you’ll do when will help you stay productive and feel less crazed. And don’t forget to take occasional breaks, too. They’re good for your eyes, back, and sanity.

7. Step away from your email

I need to be better about this, but when I have a project or shoot I’m working on, I’ll close out my inbox and make sure people can’t message me, either. There have been way too many times when 4:00 has rolled around and all I’ve done is answer email.

8. Clean up

Make sure your home and workspace aren’t a mess. This means tidying up at night before bed so you wake up to a clean home/office.

9. Silence your phone

This is a personal preference that works for me, but I keep my phone on silent during the day. If you need to keep that ringer on for work calls, send the personal calls to voicemail.

10. Know when to call it quits

There are days where you’ll be in the office later than usual, but sometimes, you just need to walk away and be a regular human, even when there’s still work to do. Make dinner, read a book, or call back your friend whose call you missed because your phone was on silent.

Working from home is definitely not for everyone, but if it’s something you’re considering or that’s new to you, I hope these tips help!

Do you work from home? If so, I’d love to know what works for you!

  • Jessica Bradford

    Yes! Perfectly timed. I am currently interviewing for a position that would be remote and was worrying a bit about how I would transition into working from home. I’ve been looking into some coworking spaces around the city. How do you like Soho House compared to some of the other options such as We Work?

    • I actually didn’t like We Work for me, but can see why people do. It was more expensive than soho and the private offices were really tiny. I’d rather work from home and use soho to be social. Soho is great because it feels a bit more relaxed and is beautiful, And it’s great for co-working.

  • I work from home and adore it; I don’t Freelance, which is what all my friends equate with working from home and assume I can do whatever I want whenever I want. I work with clients who are at their desks from about 9-5 so I keep normal working hours.

    Things that work for me; so many of the same:
    – dedicated work space: I think I worked from the couch for 2 weeks and then got a desk and converted the den/dining room into a home office
    – change out of pjs: I don’t always wear real pants and never clothes as nice as I wore to my office job, but have a healthy collection of GapBody lounge wear
    – never eat lunch at my desk: even when I’m super busy I walk away from my desk for at least 30 mins
    – turn off my computer and put away my phone at 5: since most of my clients are traditional office workers, 97% of the time, I’m done at 5pm and since I need time to transition from work mode to home mode, I turn off my computer and watch 2 episodes of New Girl at 5pm. I get pretty strict about work-life balance and have realized I can get my work done in work hours and most of the time, there isn’t a need to do anything past 5. And the few times I need to work late (I do have some west coast clients) I don’t mind because most days I peace out on time.
    – perks: I always grocery shop on a weekday during the day. My sister lives 2500 miles away and I love the ability to go visit her and work at the same time and just take a day or two off to hike/explore the Rockies. The downside, of course, is that i can work from everywhere and in 5 years have only taken a handful of actual vacation days. BUT, I find the flexibility doesn’t make me need the time off as much. Our main offices also close for 2 weeks at the holidays and observe summer Fridays, so we get a bunch of off days.
    – work from a cafe once a week. My smallish town doesn’t have any co-work space or anywhere near as amazing as The Allis (my week in Chicago last year was the best) but I head to a cafe downtown or the Starbucks across the street to get out of the house.

    • I was always so bad about eating from my desk but have gotten a little better. I try to take a real lunch break to actually eat lunch, go for a walk, or get a quick workout in. Does wonders for me! Love that you watch new girl at 5! Those weekday grocery shopping trips are the best. They save hours over time (and are just so much more enjoyable). I should go work from coffee shops, even if it’s just for a few hours. It’s such a nice change of scenery!

      • Weekday grocery shopping is so enjoyable, not busy, and everything is well stocked!
        Our downtown area has 2 hours free parking; it’s just enough time to work on something, have a latte, and then pack up without idly wasting time.

  • I work from home as well, but I work in healthcare and have a super demanding job, most days. There are random days that are uncommonly slow and that’s when I find it harder to focus on work rather than search the internet for fun to recipes or whatever. But regardless of what kind of day it is, I always go on a long doggie walk and get dressed, full on different creative outfits even though most days my husband and a random neighbor are the only ones seeing it. I have a home office which is gorgeous and I’m so lucky to have it. I used to work in my living room, years ago and that was rough. It was hard not to think of my work while my laptop was sitting in my lounge space, but my job is stressful so I needed the separation. I also read an article a while back about not working through a lunch break and I stopped doing it right away. I’m not a big eater so I go for another doggie walk. It’s important to take a lunch break not in front of the computer for me. I can say that I wouldn’t change it for the world I have freedom and stability and a great job that also allows for me to write a blog and be creative on the side. I’m all for remote jobs.
    http://www.forthewonderer.com

    • I’m back to working in my kitchen or living room and am ok with it since I have an office and co-working space to go to, but miss have a dedicated workspace at home. Can’t wait to have that again!

      Taking a real lunch break (even if it’s not to get lunch) is SO good for you! Especially when it involves a midday walk or workout.

  • Loved reading through your tips, Danielle – especially setting guidelines. I’ve dreamed of working remotely for years, and I finally made it happen with a move to Atlanta this month. I now split my time working for the PR firm I worked for in Boston, and freelancing/starting my own business here in ATL. I know I’m good at working on my own time and setting my own schedule, and being able to just do it has been so….freeing.

    I work from wherever I want (as long as they have wifi, of course!) and can take breaks when I need to instead of being stuck in an office from 9-6. Leaving the house is really important for me. I try to work at least half of the day away from home, which has been extremely helpful for my productivity…and my love for lattes.

    • I’m so happy you’ve made it happen! Congrats! It’s SO FREEING!

      • Thank you! It has been so incredible. The office I was working in was in a basement with no natural light – it even affected my eyesight. Clearly it was time for a change. ☺️

  • Rach

    This is so helpful! I work from home all the time! Staying organized and getting dressed helps me a lot! I also schedule time to go for walks. That helps clear my mind and is a stress reliever on a busy day. Plus, it doesn’t make me feel so cabin fever!

    http://www.rdsobsessions.com

    • I’m so glad this helped! What do you do when it’s colder out? Would love some ideas for winter.

      • Rach

        I sign up for a fun workout class that is nearby. Either it’s yoga, barre, spin, or Zumba. Or it is also the perfect excuse to walk to get coffee!

  • Turning off my phone is key for me! If not I find myself pulled down and endless stream of Instagram and Facebook scrolling and next thing I know an hour has passed and I’ve accomplished nothing.

  • Jessika Garcia

    I do not work from home but I definitely could apply a lot of these tips (7, 9, and 10) to my work at the office!

    • I think we can apply most in one way or another. Hope those tips help!

  • Emilia

    I love this article! The only thing I have to add is that I read an article recently that the more decisions you make in a day, the more stressed you may feel. When I started freelancing I would start every day asking myself, “What hours should I work today?” “Where should I work today?”, etc. I found that when I set a schedule and a routine for myself I cut out a lot of stress.

    I will have to try the co-working tip to help mix things up from time to time!

  • MLE Klaussen

    Hi Danielle, I really enjoyed this piece, and your advice to have a consistent place to work really resonated with me.

    I have a quick question for you: now that you and Conor are living together (congratulations, by the way!) how has that affected working from home? My boyfriend and I live together, we’re both self-employed, and having him around can be very, very distracting for me. It doesn’t feel like it’s work time when he’s here. We have a small apartment, so there isn’t space for me to have a private home office. And I can’t really ask him to leave his home because I’m distracted. Any advice (from anyone) would be much appreciated! Thank you for writing these pieces, I love them!

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