How I Work from Home and Stay Productive

We all have the same amount of hours in a day. That’s why productivity tips are sought after and blog posts on the topic are often shared; with a limit on time, we all want to utilize and maximize the 24 hours we’ve been given.

Especially in business.

For the past year I’ve been working from home full-time, and although my schedule could always be improved and I will never have time management down to a T, I’ve learned a few tricks that have been helpful for me along the way. I also love getting a glimpse at the schedules of other creative entrepreneurs. 

So today I’m sharing a sneak peek into my workday routine. Odds are that my workday schedule won’t be perfect for you, but I hope you might be able to glean a thing or two (and leave a comment with your best advice for making most of a workday). 

It’s also important to note that this is an ideal workday. In a creative field, each day is different and things inevitably come up that throw off my daily routine. Some days you just have to roll with it and try to get back on track! 

How I Work from Home and Stay Productive - Elle & Company

6:00am  |  Rise and shine

I would love to tell you that I pop out of bed on the first alarm but I would be lying; it usually takes 3-4 times and a nudge (or 5) from Jake before I get up and moving. He starts the coffee while I get out the cereal bowls, and we have some quiet time together before the day begins. 

7:00am  |  Get ready for the day

I’ve learned that I’m always more productive when I get ready for the day, even if I’m working from home without any client meetings or errands. 

I’ve found that it’s been far too easy to let Elle & Company take over my schedule and my personal life, especially since I work from home. Getting ready helps me treat it like a normal 9:00am to 5:00pm job. 

And I might be a little paranoid, but there seems to be a stereotype that young women entrepreneurs sit around all day in their yoga pants. In order for people to take me seriously, I have to take myself and my job seriously by treating it like any other job. And any other job would require me to get dressed before work. 

7:45am  |  Schedule social media

Before I do anything else for the workday, I schedule all of my social media posts. When things get busy and I get on a roll with design projects, meetings, and the like, the last thing on my mind is posting a helpful article on Twitter. So instead, I set aside 30 minutes at the beginning of my day to plan my posts. 

I focus on sharing the latest Elle & Company posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ through Buffer, as well as quotes and other helpful blog posts from other entrepreneurs that are centered on blogging, business, or design. I also pin the latest blog post graphic to Pinterest.

8:15am  |  Tackle emails

Months ago I read that it’s most efficient to set aside blocks of time to conquer emails, but that hasn’t been super helpful for me. 

I love to keep my inbox cleared out; if I only check my email once in the morning and once in the afternoon, the messages build up quickly, I get stressed, I dread sorting through the mass of emails, and I get behind on answering them. It’s a downward spiral.

Instead, I find it helpful to address my inbox first thing in the morning and respond to them on the spot. Then I’ll check my email throughout the day and try to stay on top of it for peace of mind.

I’ve failed in this department lately due to vacation two weeks ago and multiple guests staying with us over the past week and a half. So for the past few weeks, I’ve had to work from behind on emails and try to play catch-up after work hours. I use Boomerang to schedule emails during my office hours in order to set boundaries (I don’t want others to expect responses at 10:00pm on a Thursday night!).

9:00am  |  Client work

With administrative tasks like social media and emails out of the way, I allow myself to have some fun with client work. I feel most creative and design my best work when I don’t feel hurried or rushed; it’s best when I give myself time to explore, experiment, and make mistakes. 

With each day in my 2-week process planned out and scheduled, I usually know which tasks need to be checked off the list each day, which helps me stay focused and on schedule.

When I’ve finished my draft, made revisions, or uploaded files to their project page, I send my client an update before taking a break for lunch.

12:30pm  |  Lunch break

To be honest, I’m not very good about setting boundaries and breaking away from the screen to each lunch; I feel guilty using downtime to rest instead of using it to cross off more on my to-do list, so I usually snack at my desk while I get stuff done. However, I’ve noticed that burn out quickly and feel less creative and productive when I fail to take breaks throughout the day. 

When I do take lunch breaks, I like to watch an episode of Chopped while I eat, catch up on my favorite blogs, or read a book. 

1:30pm   |   Blog post writing

When I published posts to the blog every weekday, I got into a bad habit of writing blog posts late at night. Not only did it cause both Jake and I to get far less than 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but it left us with no downtime in the evenings to do something with friends or just spend quality time together. 

I’ve made more of an effort to set aside time in my normal schedule to work on blog posts. Each post usually takes me 3+ hours to write and prepare, so scheduling an hour and a half/two hours to work on a post every weekday is a reasonable amount of time to help me get it all done.

3:30pm  |  Afternoon break

It’s around this time of day that I start to go stir crazy in our apartment. Whether it’s going for a walk or making a quick trip to Starbucks, it’s helpful to have a change of scenery for a few minutes before pushing through the last few hours of the workday. 

4:00pm  |  Meetings, design work, and miscellaneous

No two days are ever the same around here, so I’ve learned to plan for the miscellaneous. Whether it’s a meeting, an errand that needs to be run, an appointment, or an event, I’ve found it extremely beneficial to schedule some open time in my workday. 

This extra time keeps me from scrambling when something pops up unexpectedly and it’s also helpful if (and when) one of my other daily tasks runs over. It’s a buffer, of sorts.

6:00pm  |  Call it quits

In this season, I can get away with adding an extra hour or two to my daily schedule. Because we don’t have kids yet and Jake has two years left in grad school, I’ve been working longer days and pouring more time and energy into Elle & Company now in order to build it up to a point where I can afford to cut back later. 

For the remainder of the night, you can probably find Jake and I making dinner, spending time with friends, or watching a couple re-runs of The Office. 

I also use this time to throw in laundry, clean our apartment, and do the dishes. While working from home gives me the freedom to get these chores done during the day, they often prove to be distracting. I include these tasks in my personal time and steer clear of them during working hours.

10:00pm  |  Bedtime

I function better on 7-8 hours of sleep, and I always feel more productive when I wake up early in the morning. Because we wake up around 6 each weekday, we try to get in bed no later than 10:00pm before another workday starts up again. 

Does this schedule go as planned each and every workday? Of course not. But I’ve found that by setting an ideal schedule (along with some buffer time in the day), I’m able to stay on task and conquer more items on my to-do list. 

If you’re struggling to stay on top of things, I encourage you to:

Write out your ideal workday and generously estimate how much time needs to be dedicated to each task. While you may not follow it exactly, it’s something to refer back to and strive for throughout your busy week.

Find consistency in your week by spreading out tasks. If something in your schedule takes up a large chunk of time, spread it out and accomplish a little bit each day (like I do with blogging). It will feel a little less daunting/overwhelming and seem much more manageable.

Prepare for the unexpected and random tasks by setting aside time for miscellaneous items. Lessen the risk of an unexpected event throwing off your entire schedule by planning for it. 

Account for breaks. If you’re like me, you’ll never take the time to rest and peel away from the screen if you don’t schedule in some downtime.

How do you stay productive during your workday? Do you build buffer time into your schedule?