Skip to content

How to be most productive (and happy!) working from home

My Tips for Working from Home

On me: Everlane dress (old, but they came out with a solid version this year!) love it equally and took my normal size! Steve Madden Sandals (Also love Sam Edelman’s version!)

Decor: Wayfair picture shelves, Similar picture framesSimilar cowskin rug, West Elm table–it’s expandable! Also comes in a smaller size!) Wayfair Black Bistro Chairs, Vintage Rattan Chairs from Beehive Chicago

WOW WOW WOW friends.

What a week we have had, yeah!?

I woke up to several DM’s asking “Can you re-share your productivity tips post? I’m going to have such a hard time working from home!” so I decided I would refresh this post and take it up a notch to create an ultimate WFH guide for you guys!

But first, I want to talk about what’s going on. Coronavirus. All these closings. All these cancellations. Is it actually a big deal? Is it all just a media frenzy? Should you be scared? 

Of course, as with anything, I believe it is up to you to research the facts and draw your own conclusion of what works best for YOU.

However, I’ve been getting some questions after I announced that we canceled our trip to Florida this weekend and I wanted to address those! Questions like, “Why did you cancel your Florida trip! It’s not that bad!!” and “You’re scaring me––is it really necessary to cancel travel plans?”

I thought these questions deserved a well though-out answer. 

Why this is different than the flu. 

I want to say that yesterday morning at this time, I was one of those people who said, “This is getting ridiculous. It’s just the flu. Who cares!?” and “I’ll be careful on the plane! I’ll wipe down every surface, I won’t use the bathroom!” I was coming up with every excuse in the book to keep our travel plans. I literally texted everyone I knew. DESPERATE for someone to tell me it was fine and that I should still go. (Nobody did.) 

I talked to the friends who work in politics in D.C., who live in New York where things are escalating quickly, followers who are medical professionals, followers who were sending me their Italian friends’ personal Facebook posts.

They sent me Italian blogger Chiara Ferragni’s desperate Instagram post asking her foreign followers to listen to her so their country doesn’t become the next Italy. Reporter Jessica Yellin’s super helpful video breaking down the facts as to why we need to start acting now. They sent me credible articles to research, they presented me with the facts on the  “flatten the curve” methodology and as much as I didn’t want to, even I, someone who is typically a big risk-taker, started to listen. 

And while yes, I will always be an advocate for living your life and not feeding into panic or media frenzy. I think given the information we now have, exercising more caution than normal and making responsible choices is the best decision for everyone.

Don’t be scared! But consider taking precautions. Precaution, not panic! 

So, are we shutting down our lives as we know them? No! Are we panicking like it’s doomsday? Of course not! Does this mean we can’t still have fun? Definitely not! 

Life goes on, but for the next couple of weeks, we will be following the CDC’s guidelines for “social distancing” by staying home instead of going out to crowded restaurants and bars, avoiding groups, events, parties and opting for small get-togethers with one or two friends at home.

Of course, the term “social distancing” can be confusing, and it’s kind of a grey area that we’re going to take a day at a time, but I think this article from The Atlantic is really helpful! 

Like I said, it’s up to you to make your own decision on how you’d like to approach this. But I do think it’s important to research all the facts first and that we all have a responsibility as Americans to keep one another safe. And yes, for the record, I am still INCREDIBLY salty that I should’ve been on a plane that took off for Florida 45 minutes ago. ????But I think it was the right decision to make. 

Back to regular-ish programming:

That being said, we’re all in for some lifestyle changes. So while this is the last I plan to post on this subject on the blog and will be resuming my regular programing of style, beauty, lifestyle tips, and more––I will try to weave in helpful things for you to make “staying in” more fun and joyful! 

As always, I want my content to be a source of joy and escape for you. But I also have your best interest at heart and I want to keep you safe. So it didn’t feel right to me to just NOT address the massive elephant in the room. 

Now, without further adieu, let’s talk about working from home tips, yes!? First of all, I know that a sudden WFH change can be very stressful if it’s something you aren’t used to. Let me reassure you that once you get into a groove, I think you’ll love working from home! (I do! I could never go back to an office. ????) So don’t worry–I think these tips are going to help A LOT. 

Below, you’ll find my tips for planning out your week, day, tackling to-do lists, and everything from what to wear, to playlists to play, and most importantly, ways to manage your stress as we navigate this crazy journey together! 

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”My Tips for Working from Home”]

The 15 Minute Planner Method

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”First, plan your week”]

First, let’s start with planning out your week.

This is a method I can take zero credit for because I learned it all from my friend Steph who runs an awesome podcast called the Courage & Clarity podcast, which is geared toward entrepreneurs–so it probably won’t be that fitting for everyone but if you run your own business or are thinking of doing so one day, it’s definitely worth a listen!

Regardless of what you do for a living though, you will love what I’m about to share.

She has become well known for something called her 15 Minute Planner guide and I would highly encourage you to sign up for it, but this is essentially the gist of is:

This method is built on Steven Covey’s concept of “rocks, pebbles, and sand” (or perhaps you’ve seen this viral video)– the rocks being the important major things and commitments, the sand being the little minutiae that tend to eat up our time yet don’t move us forward in our careers or in life (i.e. emails) and the pebbles being the in-between actions that really move the needle in terms of our productivity and growth.

The concept:

Only way to fit rocks, pebbles AND sand into one jar is to start with the big stuff. Then, the smaller things can fill in the cracks and squeeze in around those boulders. Finally, the sand can fit in between all those teeny tiny crevices. If we do things in this order, it can all fit in the jar.

We all know this–yet, most of us still prioritize the sand, and therefore, there’s no room for the rocks and pebbles to fit.

An example of this is spending all of our time in our inbox and looking up at the clock and realizing it’s 3pm and most of our day has been wasted with nothing crossed off the to-do list.

Therefore, this method requires you to sit down once a week (Sunday night or Monday morning is best) and in 15 minutes, you sort all of your to-do’s for the week into rocks, pebbles, sand, and schedule them accordingly. Here’s an example of what mine look like–but remember, yours will be much different! It’s totally what you make it.

the golden girl blog

What the heck are Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand?

My Examples of Rocks: 

Client phone calls/meetings, appointments, working out (yes–self care is a rock!) Big commitments that require a specific block of time in your schedule.

More examples of Rocks: 

If you work in an office, your rocks might be weekly status meetings with your client, staff meetings, etc

A note on meetings: I know its hard to avoid all those meetings with a corporate job, and I have a few tips on that:

REALLY decide if something requires a meeting or if picking up the phone just to run a few questions by someone would suffice, THEN follow up with what was discussed in an email. You’ll save so much time by avoiding email back and forth, but following up ensures you’ll have what was discussed in writing to refer back to later. Just start being pickier about agreeing to meetings and you’ll get a lot more done.

Also, what my team used to do when I worked in advertising is purposely block our calendars off for a few hours each day to get things done so it looked like we were already busy when others tried to request booking us in meetings. Sneaky, but effective.

My Examples of Pebbles: 

Important things that have deadlines and also move my business forward–conceptualizing, writing, editing, strategizing.

More examples of Pebbles:

Working on a deck for that pitch next week, writing a proposal, conducting research, etc. This will be the meat of your to-do list that you really need to get done in order to keep moving you forward in your career. These are proactive, not reactive.

My Examples of Sand:

Emails, answering DMs, bookkeeping, etc. 

More examples of sand:

Emails, any administrative tasks. These are smaller things that are necessary to tend to but don’t move the needle massively in terms of growth. These are typically reactive things or things that require maintenance.

You’ll figure out how to make the 15 minute planner method work for you when you download her PDF guide here–it explains everything and how to categorize your tasks and it REALLY truly helps you get more done!

My Tips for Working from Home, The Pomodoro Technique

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”Then, Plan Your Day”]

Okay, so once I have my week planned out according to Steph’s methods, I open up my google calendar for the day and I schedule out the whole day using the Pomodoro technique, pulling from my list of Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand. I have a separate page in my notebook for the day that lists out which tasks qualify as each of them, so when the “pebbles” time rolls around, I have the next task on my list that I need to address, and so on. Make sense? (Again, download Steph’s planner, it will all make sense.)

If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique, it’s essentially the idea of blocking your time alternating between “on” and “off” The traditional technique calls for four 25 minute sessions of work with 5 minute breaks in between, followed by one longer 30 minute break.  For me, it takes a while for me to really get into a groove (plus, there are few tasks I can complete in a 25 minute session) so I prefer 1.5-2 hours on, 30 minutes to an hour off, and I feel like this is good for me. (Some breaks are longer than others–I.E. lunch or workout is longer than a break to fold laundry, etc.) 

You can totally figure out what works best for you based on your schedule. But the concept is just that you need to take frequent “non-work” breaks to A. Give yourself a close deadline to accomplish the single task at hand (and avoid multi-tasking) and B. Give your brain frequent breaks so you can sit down with fresh eyes and get back at it.

There is an ENORMOUS difference in my productivity when I schedule out my day vs when I do not.

This is just an example of what that might look like on a given day. Obviously some days are packed with rocks, others are not. I try my best not to schedule too many rocks in one day but sometimes you can’t help it!

The Pomodoro Technique

(The above is is just an example! Yes, this says 7am-7pm, but during the week if I have nothing else to do at night, it’s often more like 6:30am-10pm. Then there are days when I take off because I can. Or I leave early to hang out with friends or do whatever! It’s all about balance!) 

Here is an example of how I might block my calendar for the day!

You can see I use my “breaks” to handle other random tasks that don’t require sitting at my computer–ideally ones that I can get up and move around. This is the time I use to clean the house, start a load of laundry, take care of returns, things like thank you notes, an at-home workout, etc.

You might be saying, “Jess, I work in a corporate job. I can’t use my breaks to do my dishes or just up and leave the office to do my own tasks”–but what you could use those breaks for are things like organizing your desk, running to another department to chat with your coworker about a project. Run work-related errands, or go on a coffee run.

I realize everyone’s work environment is different. But the whole point of the “breaks” is to get out of your “desk brain” for a second. Give yourself a little refresher. Even if you have to schedule a meeting during your break time, it still gives you a little time away from staring at your computer and a chance to come back to your work with fresh eyes.

Find yourself getting off task and distracted by your phone? Use the Forest app. It allows you to set a timer and yells at you if you close out of the app! ????

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”Get Dressed”]

Now, sometimes I need to practice what I preach. I’ll admit that it’s SO easy to slip into the “I’m going to be in my pajamas until 4pm” type of thing. (I do that often. Bad Jess!) And honestly, that’s part of the beauty of working from home. Sometimes that’s what you need, but it’s not always the most productive. 

If you’re new at working from home, I think getting dressed every day will help you maintain some sense of normalcy. For whatever reason, getting dressed almost always makes me get into “work mode” a little easier. It doesn’t have to be what you’d normally wear to work. But something comfortable and put together will help a lot. Here are some ideas! 

A t-shirt dress: Like the one I’m wearing in this post! (Taken years ago, so it’s old!) but I LIVE in t-shirt dresses when I’m working from home. Everlane has so many great ones in both longer and shorter lengths! 

A comfy jumpsuit: Like this Zella one or this Everlane one (which I just ordered, I’ll report back!) is a way to be “dressed but still feel like you have your PJ’s on!” 

Sweater and your favorite jeans: A classic “work from home” combo––I love a fun colorful sweater (this colorful striped one is on sale for $40!) to make things cheery. Pair it with my favorite comfy jeans––either Everlane’s Cheeky Straight jeans (reviewed in this post!) orLevi’s wedgie jeans

Put on your workout clothes: Many will say this is a no-no. But if I put my workout clothes on in the morning, there is a much greater chance I’ll actually work out that day!! 

Get yourself some house slippers: My work from home outfits always include slippers because my feet are always cold! ????If you want to reward yourself with a bright spot in the midst of this Coronavirus madness, I would recommend  Birdies slippers––they’re stylish flats that are secretly slippers! 

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”Put on Makeup”]

You don’t have to do a full face of makeup. But I do find that doing my makeup does make me feel more like a human. I typically go with foundation, blush, brow gel, and a swipe of mascara! You can see what products I love for everyday makeup in this post! If you’re really in a funk, never underestimate the power of red lipstick. I swear it gives me more confidence to take the day back if I’m feeling uninspired. 

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”Put on a good playlist”]

There are many types of music you’ll want to play throughout the day! Something to put some pep in your step while you’re making your morning coffee and getting ready for the day, music to play when you need to concentrate (I find that music without lyrics OR lyrics in another language are key when I need to concentrate!) and music you play when you’re doing those menial boring tasks like catching up on emails, organizing your inbox, etc. Check out our “Real Women Approved: Best Spotify Playlists” post for an amazing roundup of music reccos! 

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”Stay social”]

One of the hardest parts about working from home for many people is that it can feel isolating. If you’re one of those people, use one of your “Pomodoro” breaks to catch up with a friend! Take advantage of google hangouts or face time to have virtual meetings with coworkers instead of phone calls. Or invite a friend over to “co-work” with you! (Normally I would say “go to a coffee shop”. Save that tip in your back pocket for when “social distancing” is no longer necessary!!) 

[ggheading style=”light” size=”2″ text=”Create a Self-care Menu”]

I know we’re not living in normal times. It’s easy to get stressed with everything happening in the outside world right now (not to mention, with work!!) The best idea I’ve ever heard when it comes to self-care is to create a “menu” of sorts, so you have some great ideas to fall back on to help create more calm in your life. Click here for tons of self-care ideas and instructions on how to create your own “self-care menu.” 

I can tell you that the single greatest thing that has been helping me through this is taking Equilibria every day! (Click here for my post on that!) That, and trying to take long walks, making time to read, and always creating opportunities that I can look forward to––like opening a nice new bottle of wine, a new recipe I’ve been wanting to make, etc. 

I hope this helps make the most of working from home! I LOVE YOU ALL. Let’s all spread extra love, compassion and care right now!! Be safe and have a wonderful weekend!