7 Productivity Tips for Working from Home


I’ve been working full-time from home since I arrived in Connecticut twenty years ago, and I think I’ve got it down. I keep to a rather strict schedule, which isn’t for everybody. But for those who need a routine, here are my tips.

1. Eat the Frog!

I get anything difficult out of the way first thing in the morning, which is often 5:30am. Writing is ALWAYS hard, but I have to do it every single day, so that’s my morning task. I often wake up with an idea, so I rush to make coffee and sit right down at the computer and spill it out before I forget it. I write a very rough draft to go back and polish up later.

After I empty my brain onto the page (I LOVE Evernote for ideas and Pages for writing, then I sift everything through Grammarly), I write my to-do list for the day. My planner is Moleskine with a day per page. (Yes, I have an analog side). It’s great for long lists. All my appointments go into iCal, so I can access them from my phone or laptop.

2. Email and Clear the Clutter!

I look at email, delete anything that I know I won’t read and answer anything that requires immediate attention. I try to keep my desk or wherever I’m working (these days, my dining room table) relatively clutter-free, so I’m not distracted. I also need to have my surrounding area neat, or I’m going to feel the need to jump up and wash the dishes. I rarely do household tasks while I’m working. Too easy to get distracted!

3. Exercise!

I generally take a break around 10 for a yogurt and exercise. I know how essential a daily workout is for my mood, and even more so now, during this pandemic. I have a Bowflex Max Trainer (sort of a hybrid Elliptical/Stairmaster) that I climb on at least 5 days a week. My goal is 300 calories, but I don’t always make it. It doesn’t change my physique much but always elevates my mood. Lately, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ve been adding in one of Joint Effort’s free Strength & Cardio classes on YouTube. They’re fun and fast, and improving my upper body strength. Shower and back to work.

4. Set The Alarm!

With most of the writing done, I concentrate on other tasks that may take serious brainpower and are best done in the morning. Sometimes I set an alarm for half-hour intervals to “sit on my pants”. It helps me to keep distractions like emails and texts at bay.

5. Light Lunch!

Lunchtime around 1pm. I grab a salad. During the lockdown, it’s been the bagged, chopped salads from Big Y. Pre-pandemic I was much more stringent about everything organic and blah blah blah, but these days I happily eat whatever they deliver. And maybe a piece of cheese or some smoked salmon for protein. If I have a heavy or carb-filled lunch I then need chocolate to get through the afternoon. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s a slippery slope. Yes, I eat at my desk and return emails.

6. The Love/Hate Relationship with the To Do List!

I spend most of the afternoon crunching away at my to-do list, which can be anything from working on ideas for future lists and filling in our editorial calendar, to trying to stay on top of social media (my worst nightmare), to editing photos for The E List. I’ll also tackle any articles I’ve written with fresh eyes. I can get a lot done between 1 and 4, but anything that takes full brain power must be done in the morning.

Since I sit a lot, I do some stretches at intervals for my tortured back that I learned in a yoga class at Canyon Ranch. Stretch side to side with arm overhead, twist side to side, cat/cow, shoulder crunch forward and back. Thirty seconds to a healthy back!

7. Tie It Up!

By 3:30 to 4 pm, I’m toast. Except for Mondays when we’re getting ready to publish the list and there are always last minute edits, I try not to work much after 4pm. I LOVE to scratch off my to-do list and add anything that I haven’t done to the next day. Naptime (or, more often, house-keeping and dinner prep!).

p.s. I found that E List rock in the photo next to my mailbox a few weeks ago! It was such a lovely (anonymous) surprise and cheers me up daily.