7 Tips to Stay Productive and Happy While Working From Home

Working from home sounds like the dream life, right? 

You never have to wear real pants, your dog is your only co-worker, and hey, who will know if you put on the Real Housewives of New York while you clear out your inbox?

I've worked from home my entire career. From touring the state of Maine blogging and vlogging for a financial institution to touring the country with One Direction, I've always worked full time from my home office or remote workspace.

The closest thing I've ever experienced to working in an office setting was as the co-host of The Q Morning Show, which had me in a studio doing a live morning radio show from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. When I got off the air, I finished up some work in a cubicle, produced a few spots in a studio, and took off to blog and produce videos from my home office. Or couch, really.

I've got six years of experience getting sh*t done while working from home. I've managed to stay mostly sane and happy in the process, too. You'd think anyone with a work from home gig would be happy by default, but trust me, you're at risk from going bananas if you don't do it right.

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Stick to a Morning Exercise Routine

Exercising before work gives you more energy and shakes off the cobwebs for another day of crushing it. But when you work from home, exercising in the morning puts some space between you, your bed, and the workday. Separating the work day at home from leisure time at home is the first step in ensuring a productive work day. When I try to jump right into projects fresh from the sheets, I burn out by early afternoon and feel groggy all day. To me, exercising is like brushing my teeth. I wouldn't show up to work with dragon breath. I don't show up to work without exercising. 

Start Your Day On Time

If you're working from home but for another company, start your day with the rest of the staff. Sleeping in and starting whenever you wake up will put you behind from the start. If you get more done working from home because you're not distracted by co-workers and office activity, then starting your day on time will allow you to duck out early. That'll make you happier than opening your laptop at 10 a.m. and finding all those first of the day e-mail unanswered.

Working from the Couch Sounds Great

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But have a real workspace, too. I work from the couch when my big projects are done and I'm just cruising through e-mails or paperwork. Anything serious that requires creativity, focus, or precision is always done at a proper desk or table. I'm not really giving my best effort if I'm curled up on the couch with my laptop balancing on one leg and a dog snuggling in the crook of my arm. Working on the couch is my reward to myself for finishing the most important item on my to do list for that day. 

You Really Shouldn't Watch TV, But If You Want To...

If you like the background noise of the television, limit yourself to regular cable television (news, talk shows, etc.) over a new series you're working on. If you're your own boss, give yourself some rules! I'm banned from the Apple TV before 4 p.m. Morning news and talk shows like Today and Live with Kelly & Ryan keep me relatively informed of the current events and spark new ideas for content, which is super important for my radio show, so I allow myself those programs before turning off the tube for the day.

Instrumental Soundtracks are Damn Inspiring

Try the Reading Music (Instrumentals) playlist by Trevor Reeves, the Movie Soundtracks (Classical/Instrumental) playlist by Norwegian25, or anything by Vitamin String Quartet for great instrumental work tunes. The movie tunes can get a little intense, but I crank out my best work when John Williams is providing the soundtrack. 

If you prefer music with lyrics, Spotify's Your Favorite Coffeehouse playlist is mellow, soothing background music. 

Speak to Other Humans

When my fianc√© walks through the door I unload on him every thought that has passed through my mind that day because I'm starved for human interaction. Poor guy! Some days I can go the entire 8 hours without speaking to another human or hearing my own voice, and it drives me bananas. Take your lunch break out of the house with another human or go grab a coffee and exchange a few words with the barista. Call your grandmother. Keep the part of your brain that processes language and vocabulary fresh and active. 

If It's 3 p.m. and You Haven't Finished Anything, Try This

You look at the clock on your DVR and you're shocked that it's somehow 3 p.m. and you haven't done a single productive thing all day long. You snuck in a few episode of RHONY, skipped the gym, and ignored your proper desk in favor of the couch and a blanket. Time to press the reset button so your day isn't a total loss. 

Press the Work From Home Reset Button

  1. Drink a tall glass of water
  2. Change out of your comfy clothes and put on a bra and jeans (How did I know you're not wearing a bra? Six years of experience, remember that.)
  3. Brush your teeth! Minty freshness and it feels like morning again. 
  4. Setup your workspace at your desk. 
  5. Draft a to do list for tomorrow's work day
  6. Pick one task from tomorrow's list that you can reasonably complete in 1 hour or less
  7. Cross it off the list, and if you're so inspired, attempt another

Do you work from home? What is this list of work from home productivity tips missing? Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Thanks, pals!