Last Updated on March 31, 2021 by Creative Parenting
If you’ve been teleworking during the pandemic then you know that figuring out how to be productive at home is a challenge!
Working from home means you get to enjoy all the perks of not leaving your house: a tiny commute, wearing comfortable clothes, and cooking delicious meals.
But it’s not perfect. While teleworking has MANY upsides, it’s got plenty of downsides too.
For the last year, we’ve been working from home. Along the way, we’ve learned a few tips.
You’ll find ’em below. It’s a long list, so save this post for reference later!
Let’s dive in.
30 Tips On How To Be Productive At Home (While Teleworking)
1. Make It A Team Effort
From spending more time with your family, reducing your commuting costs, and enjoying a greater work-life balance, teleworking improves your life in MANY ways.
But family members can be skeptical of your new career choice!
So it’s important to talk to them about the benefits and challenges. They’ll need to know how it impacts their lives too.
You can invite your family to be a part of your brainstorming the challenges of teleworking. That way, they’ll feel invested too.
2. Create A Dedicated Work Space
When the pandemic started, a lot of folks had to telework who hadn’t before…
Nobody knew how long it would last, so a lot of folks set up temporary work from home setups. One friend, for example, used a folding table for a desk.
Since it’s been almost a year now, if you’re still teleworking with a temporary setup, it’s time for an upgrade. This is one of those teleworking tips that seems so inconsequential, but your workspace affects how you feel.
The first step is getting upgrading your desk.
The second is to decorate said space.
The third is making it a place that you’re excited to go to every day.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to do this though.
If you want ways for how to be productive at home, creating a dedicated workspace is essential. Whatever setup you used to do at work, do that at home. This might be as simple as putting up pictures of your family and a calendar.
You want your workspace to feel like a real workspace, not a temporary solution. That’ll help you feel more comfortable. And when you feel comfortable you’ll be able to focus better.
3. Set Up Your Desk Space
If you’re reading this at home, what kind of chair are you sitting in?
There’s a reason that people who work in offices sit in plush, comfy, ergonomic chairs. They help! They support your back and arms, which helps you stay focused.
So if you’re sitting in your home office in a folding chair or one you borrowed from the dinner table, it’s time for an upgrade. This is a simple upgrade that’ll help you as you figure out how to be productive at home.
You don’t have to spend a million bucks either. If your budget is tight, head over to Craigslist and get one at a discount.
Other essential items are a desk, a second monitor, and an excellent printer (think laserjet, not inkjet).
If you’re hesitant to make the investments, reframe your thinking as an investment in yourself rather than money wasted!
A few simple investments will go a long way in helping you with how to be productive at home.
4. Get Organized
This tip is super important if you’re teleworking from home, cause there’s endless opportunities to be distracted.
If being organized isn’t your thing, that’s ok! The good news is that you can learn to be more organized.
And if you’re looking for how to be productive at home, even a little bit of organization will carry you a LONG way.
The bad news it’s not going to come naturally to you.
One of our favorite systems for organizing (cause there’s a zillion out there) is Getting Things Done by David Allen (non-affiliate link). It’s a great book that came out years ago.
If your work organization is worse than anything Marie Kondo can salvage, the Getting Things Done system will help you get on top of everything.
One low-hanging area is your work e-mails.
This is one of our favorite work from home tips and tricks:
If you use Outlook, start by moving your e-mails to general subfolders to get your main inbox to zero. If you’ve got unanswered e-mails in that bunch you can start tackling those, and then use your inbox for any new ones.
Then, create more subfolders for projects or contacts. You can file e-mails away in those subfolders for future reference after you’re done with them.
With this new system, you’ll keep your inbox cleaner and reduce your mental stress in the process.
For more in the Getting Things Done system…
Check it out here (non-affiliate link).
5. Invest In A Quality Computer
Are you using an old, slow computer with a small screen?
Yuck. No thanks.
Using a crappy computer could mean you spend hours waiting for your computer to respond, rather than knocking out your work.
If you bought your computer before Barack Obama’s 2nd term, it’s time to invest in a new setup.
You could get a desktop computer, but then you won’t have the portability of a laptop.
If you want portability, but also a good setup for teleworking, get a couple of monitors and a docking station.
With double the screens, you might be able to get double the work done!
6. Build Redundancies To Prevent This
You’re at home teleworking. Your music is playing and you’re focused. You’re in the zone. Suddenly, your spouse yells:
“The bug guy is here!!!”
You realize: He’s here for the quarterly spraying, and you forgot!
You drop what you’re working on, hop up from your computer, grab your mask, and dash to the front door.
And when you return your work will be either…
Right where you left it.
Or lost forever.
The question to ask is this:
Would you be able to jump back into what you were working on before?
Because one thing is guaranteed when you’re teleworking. Whether it’s the bug guy, the furnace guy, taking out the trash, or whatever, you WILL have interruptions.
The best thing you can do to be able to go with the flow when these happen is to be organized.
This means being prepared for interruptions. One critical way to do this is to build redundancies and tracking systems for whatever you’re working on.
For example, make sure that auto-saved is turned ON in any writing tool you use.
The last thing you want to have is to have written something great and lose it all because of an interruption.
If you’re looking for tips on how to be productive at home, having redundancies in your work will help immensely. Why? Cause the opportunities for interruptions at home are endless.
7. Stay Thirsty And Hydrated
When you’re teleworking, guard against letting your days repeat so much that you dream of taking drastic measures like Phil in the movie Groundhog Day.
To avoid that, you’ve got to stay thirsty. And by thirsty, we mean keeping alive the thirst for new things, new knowledge, and new experiences.
Three ways to do this are 1. learning new, skills 2. mixing up your routine in small ways, and 3. fighting complacency.
Some other ideas for keeping your mind fresh include:
- Listening to podcasts
- Taking a course online
- Working on your cooking skills
Variety is the spice of life. Like Phil in Groundhog Day, if each day feels the same, you might start to despair.
And when despair grows, motivation wanes.
So don’t let that happen. Stay thirsty. And hydrate your thirst regularly by mixing things up.
8. Know What To Expect
Managing a relationship with your boss and coworkers while teleworking is kind of like having a long-distance relationship…
You can make it happen, but it ain’t gonna be the same.
In the office, you get the benefits of in-person interactions. But when you’re teleworking, it takes extra effort to maintain a personal connection.
At home, unfortunately, you’ll miss out on the millions of natural interpersonal actions that happen every day.
All those opportunities to learn from your coworker, get their insights, and address challenges are gone.
But there are steps you can take instead. You could set up a regularly recurring Skype or Zoom call with your supervisor, for example.
A regular check-in with your supervisor will help you develop a rapport with your supervisor, and discuss work issues before they fester up.
By doing so you’ll be able to have a better sense of your supervisor’s expectations for you while you’re teleworking.
9. Keep Your Work Space Clean
Let’s talk about your relationship with your most important coworker: Your workspace.
Is it a mess? Or does it need some TLC?
If it’s the latter, we feel you.
Amidst everything going on in the world, when you’re working from home as a parent the days are going to be BUSY.
And when things get hectic, it’s easy to let your desk and workspace descend into disarray.
When you’re working in an office, you benefit from the luxury of cleaning staff who clean corporate office buildings.
But unless you’re secretly rich, there’s no corporate cleaning staff at home. So you will have to find time to tidy things up.
The easiest way to do this is to schedule a reminder on your calendar once a week and spend that time tidying up. This is another one of our favorite work from home tips: we promise if you set up a simple reminder after a couple of weeks you’ll remember naturally.
You can also keep cleaning wipes handy to wipe up small spills and messes as they happen.
Spend a little time each week cleaning up your workspace and you’ll avoid large messes later.
10. Keep Yourself Healthy And Happy
When you telework, your lifestyle will be dramatically different from commuting to work.
You’ll be spending less time driving around in your car, but that also means you’ll be walking less too.
Plus, if you’ve been in the habit of hitting up the gym at work or going to your favorite gym after work, that’ll be harder too.
So consider this your reminder not to neglect your health. Luckily these days there’s more options than ever before to keep your health habits up from home.
One strategy that can help is to invest in a smartwatch or Fitbit that’ll track your activity levels. That way you’ll get a reminder to move when you’ve been sedentary too long.
And if you’re looking for a healthier grocery option that won’t kill your budget, check out Hungryroot (nonaffiliate link). They offer “healthy groceries for simple recipes.”
11. Use The Pomodoro Technique
When you’re teleworking from home there’s thousands of distractions. Keeping focus is a challenge.
As soon as you start working intently on a project you get interrupted.
One way to combat this is to split your work into small, manageable chunks.
The Pomodoro technique is a popular technique to do this. In short, you set a timer for 25 minutes and spend that time working on your task.
When the timer dings, you take a break. By splitting your work into smaller chunks you can stay focused in bursts.
Do a few of these each day and you’ll be surprised to see your productivity soar! Check out this Pomodoro web app timer you can use in your browser.
12. Take A Break With The Right Apps
Zoom. Microsoft Teams. WebEx. Ugh.
With teleworking there’s a million different technologies to use that can make your life stressful and unpleasant.
But technology doesn’t have to be your enemy! While some apps might stress you out, you can make others your friend – apps that’ll improve your life for the better.
Leverage it for your benefit.
There are two apps in particular that we super love.
One is the calm app. You might have seen their calm ad interludes on TV. It’s a meditation and sleep app that’s free, which is awesome.
Our other favorite is the waking up app. It’s a simple meditation app that leads you from being a complete beginner to an advanced level.
13. Ditch The Boring Office Brown Bag & Make Lunch Delicious
While you might miss at times going to the office, there’s one amazing benefit of working from home:
You can cook!
Take advantage of your proximity to your kitchen If you’ve not been the type to cook meals in the past, consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
You don’t have to spend a ton of time doing either. Focus on simple meals that you can whip up quickly that are flavorful and filling.
Start by stocking up on kitchen essentials like spices and looking at what you buy each week for groceries. Do a bit of planning for your lunchtime meals in advance and you’ll avoid eating Peanut Butter and Jelly every day.
There are a million food blogs out there so no need to repeat ideas here, but we’ll update with some awesome lunch ideas later- so bookmark this page so you can refer back to it.
Remember: You don’t have to spend a fortune to have an awesome lunch at home.
14. Build A Routine To Stay Active
If you’re normally a very active person, when you start teleworking from home you’ll quickly realize how much less you are moving.
That’s why it’ll be more important than ever before to MOVE.
Now, that’s easy to say but harder to do. If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to get more activity into your daily schedule, start with low-hanging fruit.
Track what kinds of activity you do around the house each day. Whether walking or climbing stairs, get a sense of your baseline activity. Then start simply by trying to increase the amount of that activity that you’re doing.
Then, take whatever baseline activities you are doing and see how you can amplify them. If you’re walking, take more steps. If you’re taking the stairs, go up and down a few extra times, and so on.
With this simple strategy, you’ll make up for the activity you’d otherwise have been doing commuting into work.
15. Keep Things Simple
Early on in President Obama’s term, he gave an interview where he talked about limiting his suit color options to only 3 or 4 colors.
By doing so, he simplified his morning decision-making process. This is a simple way for how to be productive at home. This freed up time and energy that he could use for other more important decisions during the day.
You could do the same. For working professionals, deciding what to wear every day can be a big-time suck. Anything you can do to simplify the process will save you time, energy, and money.
Take a look at your wardrobe and invest in some appropriate work from home attire that makes deciding what to wear a breeze.
Simplifying your decisions in one area will make your decision-making in another all the more delicious.
16. Don’t Be Shy
A lot of folks are drawn to telework because they like the idea of it. They’re introverts and love solitude. If you’re an extrovert then this tip probably doesn’t apply to you, so you can skip to the next one.
This is, however, a recipe for becoming lonely, so you’ve gotta be proactive to counter-balance this.
Reach out to coworkers and friends. Lean into zoom lunch dates, Microsoft Teams happy hours, and even virtual Meetups.
Do what you can to offset the isolation and loneliness that can come with teleworking, and you’ll maintain a healthier mental state.
17. Take Regular Breaks
If you get breaks at home you should get at home. But at home? There might be fewer opportunities to take a break doing something you enjoy, like going for a walk.
After all, when you’re at home all the time, if you take a break from work you’ll easily find all your home projects on your to-do list staring you right in the face – and reminding you have a million other things you have to do.
So keep your breaks at home simple. And make them purposeful.
Stand up at least once an hour. Take a solid lunch break away from your desk. Get outside and go for a walk.
Keep your breaks simple and focused and you’ll find they give you the mental pause you needed them to.
18. Get Your Steps In
Has the pandemic made you feel lethargic?
Yeah, us too. For a lot of folks, one of the biggest challenges of teleworking is simply you move a lot LESS.
You’re getting a lot fewer steps in if working from home. But even if you’ve got a small space, you can make a proactive effort to MOVE.
It might mean doing something that feels ridiculous and walking back and forth in your house, but steps are steps! It doesn’t matter if you’re walking on a hiking trail or back and forth in your living room.
Tip: If you are going to pace back and forth in your house, put on a podcast or audio-book so you have something to engage your mind.
19. Get Some Fresh Air Into Your Blood
Think about how you felt after the last time you went for a walk…
Refreshed? Less stressed? Greater clarity.
Besides helping you feel better, getting fresh air outside brings health benefits.
Plus, due to the pandemic, ventilation and fresh air seem more important than ever before.
So if you’re teleworking and begin to feel some brain fog (and you’ve had plenty of coffee for the day), get outside and get some fresh air.
Your brain will thank you.
20. Prepare for Distractions & Setbacks
Giving in to distractions and setbacks when teleworking is like texting and driving: If you don’t stay disciplined the consequences can be catastrophic.
But just like the temptation of the sound of the text ding pulls at you when you’re driving, countless distractions will woo your attention when you’re at home.
Developing systems for tracking your work and working in bursts of productive time will help you counterbalance both surprise distractions and persistent distractions.
You can use either digital or written methods, or both.
Years ago we read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. While we don’t use the entire system, it’s a great introduction to thinking about how to organize your work (whether teleworking or not, but particularly important when teleworking!)
21. Splurge For Wireless Earbuds
Once you switch to wireless earbuds, you’ll realize what a drag your old ones were.
Earbuds with wires slow you down. They catch on stuff. They get stuck. They get tangled up.
Wireless earbuds will set you free from all that. So if you’re still using the ones with wires, it’s time to consider wireless ones.
You don’t have to drop a fortune on them either. After Apple launched theirs, tons of other companies followed.
We use earbuds from JBL and Samsung.
22. Consider A Chromebook
You need a powerful computing device for teleworking, but that doesn’t mean you need a desktop or even a laptop. Here’s why:
First, your computer could die (like ours did recently). If you’re not using a cloud-based computer, this’ll end up being a bigger headache than a sinus infection in the middle of a bad allergy season.
You could lose everything you’ve been working on that’s not saved to or backed up in the cloud and might have to pay someone to extract and salvage it. Yikes. No thank you.
Second, if you’re working from home you’re going to get sick of sitting at your desk. But at home, you have options and don’t have to chain yourself to a desk all day.
Recently our computer died.
Pre pandemic, we’d invested in a Chromebook for smaller writing tasks.
It’s a portable godsend.
We love our Samsung Chromebook. You can check it out here (non-affiliate link).
23. Take Phone Calls Outside
One of the best things about working from home is that by virtue of NOT being in an open office you won’t have a small army of coworkers listening in on (and judging) every call you make.
But there’s a way to make this new telephone freedom to another level entirely…
If you were working in an office before the pandemic. you had all sorts of folks listening to your phone calls.
One of the easiest ways to make your day magical as you figure out how to be productive at home is to step outside for phone calls.
Want to sound peppier on your work calls?
Go sit in the sunshine and breathe in the fresh air.
Get some fresh Oxygen into your blood and see how you feel.
Sit in the sunshine.
Breathe fresh air.
Get Oxygen into your blood.
Think about it: How often were you able to go for a walk and get some fresh air when you worked at the office?
Probably not much, if at all.
Take advantage of this simple tweak to your daily routine while teleworking. It’s a simple change, but it’ll boost your morale and help you be more productive.
24. Mind Your Music
Do you love listening to music when you work from home?
Remember to be mindful of what music you’re listening to!
When most people are working from home, they put on the regular music they love. Perhaps it’s the stuff you listen to when driving, or your favorite playlist when cleaning the house.
But figuring out how to be productive means you’ve gotta stimulate your productivity in any way that you can. One key way to juice your productivity is to choose music that lifts your energy levels AND gets your brain into a productive grove vs. music that’ll make you feel mellow or sleepy.
The type of music you listen to affects your mental state.
So be mindful of what you’re listening to. In one study that looked at the effect of low-frequency sound stimulation on patients with fibromyalgia, for example, the results said it may be beneficial for reducing the severity.
In other words? It sounds like (pun intended) it’s the case that music influences the brain.
You know this through intuition.
When you listen to your favorite upbeat music, you feel jazzed up. And vice versa when you listen to something slow and mellow.
So find happy music with a quick tempo and watch your productivity increase. One of our go-to favorites is anything bluegrass sung by Alison Krauss.
25. Find A Work Buddy
There’s a saying that your network is your net worth.
And while some folks might disagree with the basic idea underlying that concept, most people will agree that social connections matter, particularly at work.
When you understand the value of building relationships, you’ll start to see the time and effort it takes to do that as a long-term investment instead of a short-term loss of time.
But here’s the difficulty:
There’s no magical way to immediately create a big network.
To build a network, you’ve gotta build relationships.
And to build MANY relationships, you’ve gotta start with ONE first.
And that means connecting with, and finding, a work buddy.
To start, take a few minutes to think about someone you’ve noticed you have a connection with.
And if it’s been a while, reach out to them. It could be the start of a new friendship.
26. Leverage Social Media
Let me guess…
You’ve been alternating between doomscroling and meme scrolling on social media during the pandemic, right?
Yet you know that lotsa folks use social media for more than just consuming information. It’s a way to leverage your network and build new connections.
But it’s hard to know how to do that!
One of the simplest ways, if you’re teleworking, is to build out a robust and compelling LinkedIn profile.
If you’ve ever posted anything for fun on social media, whether on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, you have what it takes to leverage social media for other purposes too.
Be yourself, put yourself out there a bit more than you have in the past, and see what happens.
27. Adjust Your Schedule
Even BEFORE the pandemic, most people were living life with crazy schedules.
And heck, in many ways the pandemic has, in a lot of ways, made us take that to a whole new level.
Think about your other obligations. Your ideal. What does your ideal day look like?
Think about what you can do to adjust your schedule to bring yourself a bit closer to that goal.
In other words?
If you’re working from home, don’t chain yourself to the 9-5 schedule (if you don’t have to).
28. Do The Toughest Task In The Morning
Think of the busiest, craziest morning you’ve ever had at work. Does that type of morning happen to you a lot?
If it does, take a minute to think about how it affects your day, and how it makes you feel.
Does it leave you feeling…
Psyched up and ready to crush your to-do list?
Or totally wiped out and dreaming about another life.
If it’s former, you might need to find a new strategy for how you start your days.
One of the best strategies we’ve heard is to do the most difficult task in the morning. There’s a lot of reasons for doing so: You’ve had your morning coffee, you’re rested, you haven’t had a million distractions, etc.
So give it a try even if it means saying no to someone or something that’s pressing on you.
29. Go Easy On Yourself
You’re living through an unprecedented pandemic.
When was the last one? Over 100 years ago.
And yet, the technology we have to stay connected somehow makes things feel different…
It feels like we should be functioning normally.
After all, if you’re working from home, you’re still working, right?
But things aren’t the same.
The world has changed. In a long, long year, the pandemic has reshaped life as we know it and in ways that we are only beginning to understand.
So if you feel a disconnect between your expectations of yourself and what you’re able to produce:
You are not alone.
Give yourself a break. Cut yourself (a bit) of slack.
And remember these are NOT usual times we’re living through.
But one thing that can help you to feel normal again is to schedule a happy hour.
30. Schedule A Happy Hour
Connection is important!
This is one of the most effective teleworking tips if you want to boost your own morale and feel socially connected.
Teleworking is lonely. So make a point to schedule a social event like a happy
Virtual connection has gone mainstream, so where once before this would have been a strange practice, now it’s acceptable!
Schedule a lunch, happy hour, or attend a local meetup – all virtually.
Getting things done feels good. But it’s important to keep some semblance of balance, and your sanity.
In this post we’ve tried to do just that. If you’ve got more tips or found these helpful, drop us a comment below and let us know:
What are your favorite tips for how to be productive at home?