8 WFH Productivity Hacks That Will Make Sure Work Doesn’t Take Over Your Life

written by JOSIE SANTI
Source: Alaina Kaz
Source: Alaina Kaz

Working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be—spending all day in pajamas and sleeping in are two things that I can tell you from personal experience are not reality. When I moved to California and left behind all my beloved friends on The Everygirl team in Chicago, our pretty office space, and a dope snack drawer to work from home full time, I learned this quickly.

Besides just personally missing my coworkers whom I also count as some of my best friends and greatest career idols, I had to learn a lot about holding myself accountable, staying productive in my remote workspace (AKA my small apartment in Los Angeles), and knowing when it was time to clock out. Because let’s be real: Working from home can be distracting, and knowing when to shut your laptop for the day can feel confusing when you’re the only one “in the office.”

Now that I’ve spent a few years living that WFH life, I can confidently say that I have gotten into a really good rhythm: I can successfully work from home, get to everything I need to get done (most of the time) with the help of a few productivity hacks, and shut off work at a normal hour so I can enjoy my home as a non-office space, too. Ahead, I am sharing the productivity hacks and tips that have worked for me so you, too, can crush your remote work to-dos, all while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

1. Get dressed before you start work

I am so not recommending you put on your work trousers and a blazer (unless you have an important Zoom meeting, in which case, a blazer might be wise), and I personally hard pass on jeans while staying at home. However, don’t stay in your pajamas all day. I promise that changing into something else before you start your workday will help you feel more prepared to tackle whatever the day brings you. Perfect your work-from-home uniform, or change into leggings and a sports bra if you’re planning on working out at some point during the day. When you clock out, you can change into your comfies just like you would if you were getting home from the office, signaling to your brain that the work day is over and it’s time to wind down.

2. Dedicate time to your morning routine

A tempting factor about working from home might be to set your alarm for two minutes before starting and roll over in bed to open your laptop. Tempting, yes, but productive? Not so much. Instead, think about the factors of your morning routine that you enjoy the most or make you feel the best throughout the day and make them a priority daily.

Do you love listening to motivating podcasts while you get ready? Wake up early enough to listen to an episode as you take a walk around the block or fold clean laundry before your workday starts. Do you look forward to catching up on the news while you eat breakfast before starting work? Make sure you’re giving yourself time to make and enjoy breakfast before clocking in. Do morning workouts give you energy? Fit in movement before you sit down at your laptop, even if that looks like doing cozy cardio in your PJs. Finally, try to fit in morning skincare, chug a big glass of water, and do whatever else is crucial for you to feel your best during the day before your workday starts.

This way, you’ll spend less time thinking about all the things you wish you could be doing (like fitting in a workout or doing the laundry) instead of doing your work. Plus, by the end of your work day, you’ll feel less drained because you spent time filling your own cup before getting started with work.

3. Stay out of the bedroom

We can’t all be lucky enough to have an at-home office at our disposal, but a designated space that operates as your “office,” no matter how much room you have, is crucial (FYI, I live in a tiny apartment, and if I can do it, you can do it!). Set up your laptop at the kitchen table, or clear the clutter off of the coffee table and give yourself room to make an office space by your couch if you prefer to be more comfortable. No matter what, do not work on your bed. The bed is for sleep (and sex!) only. Working in bed will make you tired and can even train your brain to associate bed with stress rather than relaxation—neither of which bode well for steady productivity levels or a healthy work-life balance.

4. Schedule “coffee chats” every week

It’s common to feel disconnected or even feel less overall motivation while you’re at home rather than surrounded by your coworkers, but there is an easy (and fun!) solution to these common woes: virtual coffee chats. If you can, schedule virtual coffee chats with coworkers regularly to exchange ideas, catch up on projects, reignite motivation, or just catch up on life like you would if you were standing at the office water cooler. You can (and should!) reach out to your boss, too, to see if they have time to connect for you to ask questions so you can feel more in control of your responsibilities. Just 10-15 minutes of chatting can help you feel more connected to your work environment and less like you are alone on your remote island with no one to talk to and no help to be found. Work stress? We don’t know her.

Source: Alaina Kaz

5. Prioritize accountability

When I started working from home, I spent a lot of my work hours scrolling social media, folding my laundry, wiping down my kitchen counters, and petting my dog. While I still do that last one regularly and do not plan on stopping anytime soon, I had to take a hard look at what I was actually doing with my time during the day. It turns out, I was doing a lot of life to-dos and not a lot of work ones. Holding myself accountable to my workload when I wasn’t surrounded by coworkers who could catch me slacking off was a big hurdle I had to overcome.

Finding ways to hold yourself accountable without the structure that an office environment holds can look like setting deadlines and micro-deadlines throughout your day for bigger projects, using the time-blocking method to focus on one task at a time, determining what your “big three” to-dos of the day are and prioritizing them first, and not letting your five-minute break become an hour break. This requires getting honest with yourself about how you really spend your time (which can be humbling), but it will help you actually get your work done—not just your laundry.

6. Know when you’re most productive

If your work-from-home hours are flexible, this means that you get to work during the hours that you work best. Not everyone is most productive during the 9-5 window, so consider which hours of the day you have the most energy and concentration. Maybe you’re most productive in the early mornings, so you work from 7 am-3 pm, or your best creativity comes in the evenings, so you work from 12 pm-8 pm.

However, this also means that your work time is just for that: work. Take breaks when you need them, but don’t let personal to-dos eat into your work time. Stick to a schedule (don’t get distracted or lazy by the flexibility), and communicate with your team about what times they’ll be able to reach you. With boundaries like these, you’re better able to focus on work when you’re “at work” and you won’t have coworkers bothering you after hours, either.

7. Time batch your emails

Time-batching my emails is one of my favorite productivity hacks. Here’s how to do it: Get your mind ready for the day by emptying your inbox first thing. Getting your inbox down to zero (or as close as possible!) is like decluttering for your mind. After your batched time to answer emails, resist the urge to check your inbox again throughout the day to help you focus more on each task at hand (rather than feeling scatterbrained from multitasking). If you do need to check email multiple times throughout the day, try scheduling about 30 minutes of emails first thing in the day, and 30 minutes of emailing at the end. You’ll be much more productive than if you checked sporadically throughout your work time, and you’ll be less likely to check them in bed after a long day.

8. Practice workday self-care

Sometimes working from home can feel stressful and can even cause burnout, anxiety, feelings of unmanageable workload, or lack of connection with the rest of your team. To combat this, don’t forget to mix in some workday self-care practices alongside your favorite productivity hacks. For example, listen to background music that makes you focused and energized (I’m biased, but I love our Office Playlist on Spotify or the Ratatouille soundtrack, TBH), diffuse essential oils or light a candle, and take breaks when you need them. While these may seem like small additions to your day, they can help ensure you’re able to show up as your best self at work and outside of it.