How To Work From Home Effectively

How To Work From Home And Still Get Things Done

Real talk – I don’t think I could ever work in a traditional office ever again.

I’ve been working remotely for the past 9 years. And have been out of college for 10 years.

You do the math.

It’s taken me the better part of this near-decade to figure out what works best for me.

Unsurprisingly, it’s structure. But a structure that works for how I work, my energy levels through the week, and can accommodate my time with my son.

I’m extraordinarily lucky that I’ve been able to create this kind of schedule for myself. It’s a luxury that most people, let alone women or mothers, do not have. And I don’t take it for granted.

And while I’m about to share my top 5 tips on how to work remotely, it all boils down to one ultimate, break-this-and-your-day-is-screwed rule:

You can only be one person at a time. So be that best version of yourself.

When I’m with Rho, I’m a mother. Any work e-mails or calls can wait.
When I’m at my desk, I’m at work. Even if I hear Rho laugh in the background or see a joke from my father pop up in my alerts, I (try to) stay focused on the task at hand.
And when my husband and I sit down to dinner at the end of the day, I purposefully leave my phone and smartwatch in the other room so I can give him my undivided attention.

That said, I do have a few more tips that help maximize my productivity while I work remotely – at home, at a coffeeshop, or on an airplane.

Play Dress Up

I’m not saying you need to don a full suit or traditional office attire. But a shower, an outfit you feel good in, and a brush through your hair will do wonders for your productivity.

After Rho is down for his nap, I try to get ready within the time of a single TED Talk. I’ll throw on some boyfriend jeans and a super-soft t-shirt, throw my hair in a topknot, and quickly apply some makeup. The sooner I can be at my computer (whether it’s at my desk at home or at a café around the corner), the better (for me).

Block It Out

In an ideal world, I would dedicate one day for writing, one day for meetings, one day for visual content creation…

And I’ve tried. Ooooh, have I tried. And it just didn’t work when I’m juggling my responsibilities at Bridge2Act, here, and the book.

The next best thing – 2-3 hour time block, to minimize context switching as much as possible.

#nerdalert – context switching (also known as multitasking) is when you switch from one task to another. While it appears to be free, it’s costly in time. And when switching from one complex task to another, the more time you waste in reprogramming your brain to the new task.

That multitasking is more harmful than good myth? It’s real. And it can be expensive, and exhausting.

I allocate the biggest time block to the most complicated task so I can give my brain ample time to adjust. The shortest time block is always e-mail.

The windows open on my screen are strictly for the task at hand, whether it’s a PowerPoint file for a new deck or WordPress and related browser windows for a blog post.

Just like you can only be one person at a time, you can only do one thing at a time at the best of your abilities.

Create A #GSD Ritual

There are four things I need to do to ease myself into work mode:

  1. Prepare a cup of tea (green or peppermint)
  2. Play music (I rotate between 3 instrumental playlists)
  3. Write out the 2-3 tasks for the day, in my Productivity Planner, with this pen
  4. Tap my fingers together like a cartoon villain while taking three deep breaths.

I must do it in this order. I must have this exact planner and pen. And if the tea or music isn’t right, my day can get entirely thrown off.

There’s a lot more to this ritual, which I’m happy to address in its own post. But having this familiar practice has done wonders for getting me in the right mindset quickly.

Plan And Reflect

The Productivity Planner has been instrumental in this step – plan what you’re going to do, and reflect on what you actually got done. (Bonus – you can give this method for free trial via this PDF)

Yes, I really love this planner.

Planning and reflecting is like peanut butter and chocolate. Chips and salsa. Thor and Loki.

Each is fine individually, but so much better together. When you reflect on what you got done and the day itself, you know exactly what to do to improve.

Go Off The Clock

I’m still a devotee of the Pomodoro method (25 minutes focused on a single task, 5 minute break). But I’ve departed from my previous phone and smartwatch apps and have been using PomodoroTimer for the past few months.

I don’t practice the method fully (analyzing each pomodoro during every break, ignore an urgent call or text). I have a very hard time following any method fully, and so I adapt what works and ignore what doesn’t.

Having a timer tick down as I crank through work? Yes.
Cancelling a Pomodoro and starting over when I get distracted? No.

It’s taken me almost 9 years to figure out how to master working remotely. I hope these tips help you work from home effectively, and faster than it took me.

Hack your way to these good habits faster – how to keep up the news, turn around a bad day, stay focused, and meditate.

  • I couldn’t agree more with this article! This kind of routine works for me too. Another important thing in my opinion would be knowing when to take a break. But not just any break. Stretching a bit or even spending fifteen minutes not looking at a screen of any kind (pc, laptop or even smartphone screen) can do wonders. Also stretching a bit and drinking plenty of water!

    • hithaonthego

      You’re totally right. I’ve been thinking about keeping a yoga mat or a foam roller in my home office to get in a quick stretch. When I’m desperate (and exhausted), I’ll sometimes kick up in a handstand against the wall to get my blood flowing!

  • Betsy

    These are great! I’ve worked from home/owned my own business during two different life chapters and some of these were critical for me. Having a ritual and blocking my time were key.

    Sadly, I’ll never effectively work from home. I’m too extroverted and do my best work with a team. Thankfully, my current job requires office time and I am great with that because it’s super-flexible.

    • hithaonthego

      I do make it a point to schedule 1-2 days a week that are for lunches, meetings, and catch ups with friends. Like you, I need some social time and to collaborate with others!

  • Hanna

    I love this note. ‘I have a very hard time following any method fully, and so I adapt what works and ignore what doesn’t.’ – I have the same, maybe it’s an working-at-home-people issue, we love our own ways, not the ways somebody tells us to go ;) The only method that worked for me is this colorful, a little non-standard board. And nothing more, except for the rituals and routine I follow them without any from-above-given method, just by myself. Playing dress up is another great point, it really changes your attitude when you sit next to the computer with or without your lashes done ;)

    • hithaonthego

      I’m going to have to try this when I feel myself wavering away from my current system. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  • Cbrown

    Particularly during term time when I get loads of student emails, I try for an admin power hour – knocking out all my emails and admin stuff in one go. I do it at a time when writing feels tough (after lunch or end of day, sometimes after dinner). As an inbox-zeroer it is a bit nervewracking to see that inbox fill up but it does let me focus on busier things.

    • hithaonthego

      I love the idea of an admin power hour. Going to have to figure how to incorporate it in my schedule!

  • marie claire

    Your productivity articles are my favorite !! Super helpful for a soon to be PhD student !

    • hithaonthego

      Thank you so much! They’re a favorite of mine to write, and I’ll be sure to keep them coming :)

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  • Love the advice! I’m a retired school teacher at 32 (lol) and now run our bed and breakfast in Charleston, South Carolina along with updating the website, Instagram and Facebook page. These are great tips to keep in mind while I’m starting off working for myself! Love this blog!

  • Kaolee Hoyle

    I love this Productivity Planner! What a genius idea.

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