STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

04.29.19

One question I get asked a lot when I tell people that I work from home is, ‘How do you get anything done?’, which is of course, a totally fair question. The truth is, at first, I didn’t work so effectively at home. I had to learn the hard way that if I wanted to enjoy the freedom that working from home offers, I would need to stay focused and get sh*t done! Otherwise the deadlines stack up and the weekends disappear. I’ve also learned that productivity, like any habit, requires consistency and follow-through to be sustainable.

I’m very fortunate to have the option to work from home at this time in my career and while it’s not an ideal environment for everyone, most folks will find themselves working from home occasionally. Over the years I’ve figured out what works for me and I thought it would be helpful to share some of the simple ways I stay focused and productive while I’m working chez moi. Let’s take a look!


STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

1| GET OUTSIDE


This might sound a bit counter intuitive since you’ll be leaving the very space you’re meant to be productive in but I find it really helpful. Whether it’s taking the dog out, going for a run, dropping kids off at school, heading to a morning yoga class, grabbing a coffee or a walking meditation, it really helps to get out of the house at the start of the day.

I think of this step as the ‘going to work’ part of my routine. In a way I’m arriving at the office. When you don’t have the buffer zone of a commute that lets your mind to get into work mode this helps achieve that. It also forces you to get out of your pyjamas and get dressed! Speaking of which…


2 | GET DRESSED


This is one you’ll hear from a lot of professionals that work from home. If you’re not going to leave the house before getting to work then this is the next best thing. It doesn’t mean doing your hair and makeup (although I say go for it!) but it does mean pulling on a clean shirt and a pair of jeans for the day ahead.

Getting dressed signals that you’re prepared for the day in a way that staying in a house coat just doesn’t achieve. Are there days when 4pm hits and I’m still in my jammers, sure, but those are few and far between at this point. Plus, this way, if someone pops by or you need to run out for supplies or an errand you’re all set to go.


STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

3 | SET BOUNDARIES ON DISTRACTION ZONES


I feel like I could write a whole post about the importance of limiting distractions. The most obvious one being our cell phones. This has been the most ruthless productivity killer for me. Literal HOURS used to evaporate as I aimlessly scrolled on Instagram and it’s just not a good use of time! Not to mention the headspace I’d find myself in afterwards. Yikes!

Even if social media is part of your job, it’s important to set very clear boundaries for phone use and get a grip on just how much you really need to use those platforms day-to-day. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Use the screen time settings to limit your use.
  • Put your phone in another room.
  • Turning it off or delete the apps you feel are causing the most distraction.
  • Plan and strategize off screen so when you do go to open an app you have a plan for the content you want to share. I always sketch out my stories, gather my links and even jot down copy before I reach for my phone.

STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

4 | MAKE LISTS THE DAY BEFORE


This is a great habit to get into if you’re prone to anxiety the way I am. To combat this, at the end of the work day I will simply jot down my tasks for the following day. I make the list specific and include an approximate amount of time for each task.

For instance, instead of just ‘edit photos’ I will write:

  • ‘select images (15 min)’
  • ‘adjust in photoshop (1 hr)’

I also break down my blog post prep and follow-through into small jobs like:

  • ‘upload all photos (5 min)’
  • ‘assign links (1hr)’
  • ‘prep newsletter (15 min)’
  • ‘pin images to pinterest (10 min)’

For me, breaking large jobs into smaller tasks helps me stay motivated and feel satisfied that I’m making progress as I tick things off the list. When I put blanket tasks on my list like ‘Prep post for Wednesday’ I end up feeling overwhelmed and tend to procrastinate more.

PS. I love my Yearly Task Planner from Appointed. This is my second year using one and it’s the best!


5 | SET A TIMER


A lot of folks swear by the Pomodoro technique for productivity and I use something fairly similar. I like to just set the timer app on my phone (I use Siri to set the time so I’m not lured into checking other apps) and set the amount of time I’d like to get a task completed in.

For instance, email replies can really eat into my day (and energy) so I set 10 min timers to respond to important ones. I get my draft email poured out as quick as I can then edit as needed. Once the timer goes off I’m usually ready to hit send.

The same theory applies to setting an end time for the day. Working from home it’s so easy to let your work hours bleed into the evening and then all of a sudden it’s 9:00pm and you haven’t eaten dinner. When I stop earlier (I aim for 7:00pm) and sign out of my work day officially, I find I can sleep better and hit the ground running instead of feeling run-down the next morning.


STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

6 | GET COMFY

When I’m staring down a long day or night at my desk I like to make sure I’m going to be comfortable. I usually have a pillow or two on my chair, a sheepskin at my feet to keep cozy and a candle ready to burn nearby. Oh and a hot cup of tea never hurts either. These little luxuries at my desk help ease the stress of deadlines and create a space that feels comforting while I churn through photo edits, bookkeeping or other tasks that simply need to get done.


7 | CHANGE OF SCENE


Cabin fever is real. Trust me, after years of working from home and living through Ontario winters going stir crazy is not uncommon. A change of scene doesn’t always mean a big relocation though. Sometimes I’ll grab my laptop and work on the dining room table instead of in my office. Weather permitting I’ll work outside in the yard on a blanket or bench. Some days I just need a couch work session and that’s ok too (I just try to keep that to Fridays and weekends). If I really need a fresh environment I’ll take my laptop to a local café or I might go for a long walk with Dobby to clear my head.

I also like to break my day up a bit so I’m not sitting at my computer for 8 hours straight. I’ll give myself 15 minutes here and there to clean up the kitchen or change over laundry. Small jobs that get me up and down stairs and out of a chair are so important.


STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

8 | HAVE SNACKS HANDY


This might seem obvious but I find one of the worst productivity hurdles for me is hunger. If I let myself get hungry without realizing it I find my focus wavers and I end up making mistakes or having to do things over. Having some healthy, quick to prepare snacks on hand makes it much easier to maintain my train of thought and stay on task, particularly on shoot days. I keep almonds at the ready, hummus and peppers in the fridge and I love this recipe for power balls.


9 | CLEAR SOME SPACE


I’m the type that needs to start the day with a clear workspace. Knowing this, I try to end my day with a quick tidy of my desk or wherever I’ve been working and clean-up around the house. Of course, I don’t always follow-through so sometimes I start my day with a clean-up instead. Either way it’s an important way to honour the space I’m going to be working in and I find I get some good thinking done while I’m organizing too.


STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

10 | ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS


This might look a little different for everyone but for me creativity, productivity and motivation all come and go in waves. During times of heightened motivation I can feel as though I’ll always be productive and during down times it can feel as though every task is a massive chore.

I think that for women who working from home especially, it’s important to keep an eye on your mood and cycle and consider how your hormones might be impacting your energy and workflow. I used to ignore a lot of the signals my body would give me and get frustrated about not being consistent in my productivity.

Now I will pencil in the times during my cycle when my energy dips the most and try no to expect myself to be as motivated or productive during those couple of days. This might mean pushing a little harder the week prior or it could be something as simple as planning dinner out on the nights my body has other priorities.


STYLE BEE - HOW I STAY PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME

I hope some of these tips might be helpful for anyone working from home!


Now it’s your turn! What are some of the ways you stay productive at work?


SHOP MY OFFICE


WHITE NOTEBOOKS | YEARLY TASK PLANNER | BRASS RULER | CONCRETE DESK SET | KEYBOARD BRUSH | ANGLEPOISE ORIGINAL 227 DESK LAMP | HERMAN MILLER MOLDED DESK CHAIR (For less here) | ARTWORK by The Poster Club & Stu Oxley | PILLOW vintage | PAPER CLIPS | LEATHER MOUSE PAD | WOOD FILE HOLDERS | FILE FOLIO | SMALL NOTEBOOK | BLACK SCISSORS | SHEEPSKIN RUG



This post is not sponsored but contains affiliate links. When you shop via the links above I may make commission on a sale at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Style Bee! All opinions are always my own.

21 comments
04.29.19
Home

Leave me a comment here!

  1. Vee says:

    Huh, I hadn’t considered that getting out in the morning could replace the work commute. I used to walk 30 mins twice a day to work and when my job turned WFH full time, not having that commute really did a number on my well-being. I’ve recently been starting my mornings with yoga but I think a brisk walk is really what I need! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  2. Nicole Blunt says:

    Hi,

    I like your blog, I want to work from home but I can’t find legit work sites. Do you know of any company’s that want to hire people to work from home if so can you suggest some.

    Thanking you in advance for any suggestions!

    Thank You
    Nicole Blunt

    • Hey Nicole, I’ve been thinking about this and you might look into job postings through more tech focused companies like Shopify or Squarespace etc. I know a few folks who work from home for companies like that and really enjoy it. You get the freedom of working remote with the stability/benefits of a full-time gig. I hope that might help and thanks for reading!

  3. kirra says:

    This is all great advice, on the blog and in the comments. Thanks everyone! I am a teacher so often do work at home as well, which can get all consuming pretty quickly. I think no.10 is something that I can definitely work on and keep in mind, such a good point to consider. Thanks for all your great posts Lee, I read most of them but don’t usually comment.

    • Thanks for reading Kirra! So glad you found these suggestions helpful. I’ve also been taking notes from these insightful comments 🙂 xo

  4. Hi Lee,

    I just discovered your blog a month or so ago and love your in-depth reviews! I have a pear-shaped figure and am forever trying on pants that work for my shape.

    I also really enjoyed this behind the scenes peek. I started blogging 18 months ago and have finally figured out some productivity techniques (I use Pomodoro, drink lots of tea, and planned outings too). I don’t think I have been specific enough about my to-do list so I love your suggestion about breaking them down and assigning time limits/ suggestions. I would love to know how you set aside time for photography. It’s my biggest challenge as I’m new to it and prefer to work outside (and the weather here in Upstate NY is much like yours).

    Thanks so much for sharing your workflow!
    Nipa @fashionipa

    • Hi Nipa, So glad you found your way to Style Bee! Thanks for sharing what helps your productivity. I’m so glad you asked about photography because I’ve been planning to share some behind the scenes on that too. I typically shoot photos in batches so I’ll set aside a full day to shoot either weekly or every two weeks depending on my editorial schedule. This approach has been a game changer for my workflow and helps reduce the stress of creating content. I shoot indoors so it’s not as weather dependent but I use natural light only so I have to check the weather often. For outdoor shoots I would suggest checking the forecast and picking a day to shoot a bunch of things at once. Hope that helps a bit and thanks for reading!

  5. Alejandra says:

    Hi Lee!
    I’m a translator working from home since 2012, so I definitely feel portrayed in this post! What definitely works for me:
    – Get dressed, maybe even with a touch of makeup, as if you were working in a office. If I feel pretty, I feel comfortable in my skin and ready to tackle the daily tasks.
    – Create a routine and a non-working life you can cherish. This is major to me. At first I struggled because I was “bringing work home”, meaning I would still think about work after I had left the desk. Now when I come back on Monday, I have even lost track of mind and have to spend a couple of minutes reviewing my agenda for the day because I totally disconnected during the weekend!
    *
    On another note, I am having trouble finding your new posts. I have reached this one because you mentioned on IG but it does not appear on your home. I don’t want to miss your posts and I check regularly, but I don’t know why they don’t appear in your Home… (subscribing is not an option for me because I am opting to keep my mail just for professional stuff, Marie Kondo style).
    *
    Anyway, thanks for the great read, Lee!

    • Thanks so much for sharing these tips Alejandra! So great that you’ve been able to prioritize life outside of work, I think that’s really key to a productive work life.

      I’m sorry you’re having trouble seeing the latest posts. I think it might have to do with your browsers cache. Maybe try clearing it and then it should load fresh. If you’re like me and tend to keep your browser open all the time it might help to restart it as well. Sorry for the inconvenience!

    • Alejandra says:

      Hey Lee!
      I just wanted to let you know that your advice on my technical issues worked! Thank you girl! Now I have a lot to read next weekend 😉

    • YAY! Thanks for letting me know. xo

  6. Lex says:

    Hi Lee,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years but this is my first comment. I’m a teacher and often work from home while writing reports. I find the pomodoro technique absolutely fantastic to help me stay focused, work productively and get difficult work done while still feeling like I have little breaks. I do a 25 minute pomodoro and then a 10 minute break. If I’m working on the computer, I ban myself from having a “break” on the computer – I have to get up from the desk. I like all of your tips for working from home and really enjoyed this post 🙂

    • Thanks for your readership Lex! My SIL is also a teacher and I know how report comments can be super time consuming. I can definitely see how the Pomodoro technique would be helpful for that type of task.

      Totally agree that a true break when you’ve been working on the computer needs to be away from a screen! xo

  7. Annie says:

    So helpful to read this post today! I’m trying to finish my doctoral dissertation this year and have found working from home very isolating. I keep a Google Doc going with a few friends where we record our progress and goals for the day. Love your tips about making lists the day before to break down tasks!

    • Annie I love this! Such a smart way to stay connected with your friends and cheer each other on! I know what you mean about feeling isolated for sure. Glad you’ve got something in place to help. Good luck with your doctoral dissertation!

  8. Amanda says:

    I love it! I do find that a clean desk and lots of light are huge helps for me, as well as some background music that matches my mood for the day (low key for emails, excel etc and higher energy for times I need to psych myself up to do something I don’t want to do). Taking the dog out gives a much needed break and giving myself permission to do things like laundry help not make it feel so stressful.

    I am working on getting dressed daily but I find it puts me in a much clearer work mindset so I’m trying to get into that habit vs sweats and leggings.

    Also, scheduling a workout session after work gives me a stop time and breaks the day so when I get back to the apartment it’s officially evening.

    • Thanks for sharing your tips Amanda! Love your idea of scheduling a workout at the end of the day to officially ‘leave’ the office and then return for after hours. I’m going to try that one!

  9. kelli says:

    Getting outside is the best tip! When I work from home, I always take at least an hour to walk or work out. I come back to work more clear-headed and more productive. I’ve also started meditating using Headspace this year and I have found a slow but profound change in my ability to stay focused while working, keep emotions calm, and even sleep better. Thanks for a lovely post, Lee.

    • Yes! 100% agree about meditation being a positive influence on productivity and focus. I use the Waking Up app and it’s been awesome. I notice a difference in my attention span when I start letting my practice slip. Thanks for reading Kellie!

  10. Clare says:

    I love this post! One thing I’ve found helpful is to block off my most productive times (for me, that’s morning, definitely not late afternoon) for the tasks that are the most important to my business. This could be creating a new email campaign or doing work planning with my assistant…the things that make the biggest impact to the bottom line and that need me to be operating at my fullest capacity. Then, I leave my less productive times for easier tasks like editing photos or tidying my inbox.

    • Clare, these insights are so helpful thank you! I could certainly work on planning my day around my more productive times. I’m the same as you, morning is great but late afternoon, not so much! Thanks for sharing your wisdom 🙂