Working from Home and Staying Productive

I started working from home in 2010, so this marks my tenth year in business from my home office, and I love it! I made sure to set it up in a way that works for me – definitely not a traditional setup but I am comfortable. I painted it pink and hung pictures of Marilyn Monroe, and I have space on the wall next to my desk for my vision boards. It’s definitely a space for me.

My biggest challenge has always been keeping my desk clear. I do work so much better when I have a clean desktop, so this is something I need to get control over. I have sticky notes and printouts and a notebook that I use to take notes in – for everything. That’s the only thing that really needs to stay. For the others, I’m working on using Evernote and Asana more to organize these ideas or reminders that I constantly put down on sticky notes.

I’d love to hear some of your tips on keeping a clear desktop. Does it help you focus better when your desk is clean or does it not make a difference to you?

[click_to_tweet tweet=”If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? – Albert Einstein” quote=”If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? – Albert Einstein”]

A new challenge that has popped up for me this year is interruptions. Before COVID-19 hit I had from about 7am – 3pm where I was the only one in the house and could get work done peacefully. I would make sure I did not schedule any time-blocks (more on that below) or meetings/phone calls after 3pm so I could check in with the kids when they got home. Then my daughter came home from college and had virtual classes in her room across the hall from my office. Did I mention I get distracted VERY EASILY!? I play classical study music to help me keep my focus, but having Anna on Zoom in the next room, and “just popping in to ask a quick question” really threw my productivity off big time!

Goodbye Distractions
My solution? First, close the doors to both our rooms, which is not ideal because my office gets a bit hot with the door closed, but I do have a ceiling fan, so that goes on high. Problem one solved. Next, I had to tell my daughter that under no circumstances was she to just come in and start talking to me. So now she knows she can poke her head in and if I hold up my hand or shake my head she closes the door and leaves. This has helped tremendously because, as I learned from Darren Hardy, every distraction loses you 23 minutes! I can definitely see how that is true.

What do you do to limit distractions? I know many who have now found themselves working from home don’t have it as easy as I do. They’re working from home with young children from the kitchen table with nowhere to hide from distractions and the needs of others. My son has his computer set up in the basement and I don’t hear a peep from him until it’s time for food (which amazingly I need to yell down to remind him to come up and eat!)

Tips for us all
Can you share some tips that you’ve found helpful over the last few months? For many, this change of work-at-home and school-at-home doesn’t look to be coming to an end anytime soon. While we are still waiting to hear how my son’s senior year of high school will be, we’ve decided no matter what he is not going back in the Fall. My daughter’s college has already decided that all classes will be virtual. Are your kids going back to school full/part-time or completely virtual this Fall? Have you made a plan to help ensure everyone, including you, is successful? Do you need help brainstorming? Tell us in the comments and see if someone can help.

Some Tips that May Help Productivity
1. PLAN – Planning your day the night before, or at least in the morning before you do anything else (ok, maybe coffee first) is the best thing I can do for myself in order to have a productive (accomplishing something instead of just being busy) day.

Here’s a helpful guide and weekly sheet to fill out to help keep your actions in line with your goals. 

2. COLLABORATE – Have a conversation with everyone involved in your daily life. This may be a spouse, children, boss, coworkers, or anyone else who either lives with you or requires your assistance/interaction. Make sure everyone has their input on what their needs are and how everything can be managed so that everyone gets what they need. Set up times where everyone is working quietly on their own. Set up a backup plan for kids in case they get stuck, so instead of asking you for help, they put it to the side and work on something else until “alone time” is over.

3. LET THEM HELP – Remember that not everything has to fall on your plate and not everything has to be perfect. You can have sandwiches for dinner and children can take on more responsibilities – it’s actually good for their self-esteem. Let them make dinner or lunch, set the table, and clear. Let the kids plan a meal each week that they prepare – and clean up from.

4. TIME BLOCKS – The Best Thing Ever! I set time blocks for 60-90 minutes. No longer than 90 minutes. No distractions AT ALL. No phone. No email. No kids. I work on ONE THING during that time and ONE THING only. If I distract myself with a thought I write in down in my notebook so I can get back to it later and it doesn’t keep nagging at me. This has been the best productivity hack I’ve ever found. It’s amazing how much you can get done in 90 minutes! Try it – you’ll be shocked. It does take getting used to, so don’t get dismayed when you “fail” at first. Just keep trying.

Many of my helpful habits have been learned from Darren Hardy, success mentor and former publisher of Success Magazine. One of his books, which I’ve read and listened to many times, is a book I recommend to anyone and everyone, called The Compound Effect.

HARD/SOFT COVER: The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success

AUDIOBOOK: The Compound Effect: Multiply Your Success One Simple Step at a Time

5. EXERCISE/STRETCHING – I know I need to stretch during the day. But I don’t. Then I’m achy. Until my accountability partner encourage me to set a timer (I use my Alexa device) to remind me to get up and stretch. It not only helps my body but also helps to clear my mind. I’ve gotten the kids to help keep me accountable for exercising daily and my son actually likes going on walks with me. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. Fresh air, exercise, and time with my favorite boy!

6. COOK ONCE – I intentionally cook extra so that we can have another meal that week and/or lunch(es). Of course, I do have to make sure my son doesn’t see the “extra” food or it’s history! Seriously, how does that boy stay so thin!? 🙂 It doesn’t take any more time (or at least not much to talk about) to cook a double – or triple batch as it does to make a single batch of food. I love salad for lunch, but cutting all the veges every day is a time suck – so I chop on Sunday, have nice salads for the entire week. (Some of that grilled chicken from Saturday night goes great on top, too.) What are some of your favorite meals to cook ahead or double-batch?

7. USE TECHNOLOGY – Let it work FOR you! See what you can automate instead of manually doing over and over. Are you answering a lot of the same questions frequently? Set up a FAQ’s page on your website as well as a swipe file of responses you can use on social media and in emails to send people to the page. Or even a swipe file of responses with the answers will do – anything to not have to think of what to type each time. Just copy/paste. (See next week’s blog post for more on how technology can help you save your time – and sanity!)

Whatever your plans are for the coming months, just remember this: It’s temporary. Breathe. Smile.

And find the joy in every moment. Because even when it seems like everything sucks, there’s a bright light in there somewhere. 🙂


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