How to Stay Productive and Sane While Working from Home

How to Stay Productive and Sane While Working from Home

Carolyn Ortman, MBA

With so many people now being forced to work from their living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, or wherever they can set up a workstation, it’s become clear this new reality of working from home could last awhile. We are all in a marathon, not a sprint!

For the last 14 years, I’ve been either working at home or traveling abroad and domestically conducting live trainings. But now, along with so many, I’ve been grounded.

For those brand new to “teleworking,”  “telecommuting” or “virtual office work,” I know you have challenges. Working from home: It’s not old, but it’s now new. What’s also new is the way it’s happened… abruptly! No time to plan, set up test runs or systems, or communicate with employees about their needs and fears — there’s been no time to get used to this new normal. This causes uncertainty and stress.

In these rocky times, here are 3 tips to help you dial down the stress levels, increase productivity, and retain your sanity to tap into your “joy factor” while working from home.

#1 – Create Routines! This is the most important first step to take, and the one most of us miss. I know, sounds boring – but by following a routine you are creating structure to your day. And structure creates positive habits. This in turn saves time and reduces stress because we don’t have to think about what to do next – we just do it automatically. Consistent daily practices can bring positive results – which creates our desire to continue the habit.  It’s a positive cycle!

One of my routines happens every morning: journaling, drinking water, making my bed, reading inspiration, stretching, and meditating.  When I don’t do it, I miss it. Another routine?  Awake and go to bed at the same time every day!  When our circadian rhythms (our body’s internal clock) is disrupted, our sleep and other important functions such as digestion are impacted. Neglect in these areas over the long term can cause serious health complications, including disease.

#2 – Manage Distractions! Many of my colleagues and friends would claim some form of ADD. Our need to “keep up” and serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) have been driven by social media, online interactions, and the mass of information we can access—which changes hourly. But focus is critical to task completion and achievement of our goals.  What are your biggest distractions while working from home?  Refrigerator? Pets? Neighbors? Kids? Internet? Cable news? Checking your 401K plan?

Oversimplified advice says, “All you need to do is focus.” But like the proverbial “Just Do It” Nike slogan, it’s not so easy when it’s you trying to focus. Everyone wants to be more productive.  But how? Suggestion: Try an external stimulus like a timer. This coupled with a reward can create much-needed momentum! What can you implement as a reward for focusing for a short time and accomplishing your goals? Maybe it’s a walk with the dog, watching a few movie trailers online, or just some “me” time away from the household chores.

#3 – Tap into nutrition! You’ll just feel better! Now is your opportunity to try those healthy meals you’ve been wanting to try. But they take time to prepare, don’t they?  Might I suggest meal prep. Alas, it’s another positive routine! Pick a day such as Saturday or Sunday and cook and prepare meals for the entire week, especially lunch and dinner. Make it a fun family activity with the household. Healthy is home cooked because you know what’s going in. I’m all for supporting the local eateries, but limiting the number of visits will help our overall health, especially our waistlines.

We are living in uncertain times. Our challenge – and our goal—should be to create practices that bring about stability and calm. Try one of the tips mentioned and you’ll stay healthier, inside and out. Remember, continue to connect to what’s important as you work from home. Feel free to reach out to me for help or support!

Carolyn Ortman is a forward-focused business trainer and coach, marketing expert, and university instructor. She delivers her expertise in marketing, communications, leadership, and customer service both virtually and in-person. She leads organizations, teams and individuals in their pursuit of more productivity, passion, and profits. She can be reached at  or