Laptop in Amsterdam apartment working from home Breakfast while working from home with laptopUp until four years ago, I never worked from home. I always had a desk job and went into an office. Working from home was a huge shift for me when I started blogging. I’ve learned that I need a quiet, tidy space to be my most effective self.

I tend to turn to books for productivity ideas, and platforms like Pinterest to figure out work from home tips. It’s taken years of refinement, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Hopefully my practices can guide you to be more effective while spending more time at home with your computer. Read on for some of my best tips on working from home:

Create a morning routine for yourself

I start my mornings by turning off my alarm and leaving my phone in my bedroom. I prefer to begin my days in the kitchen, since it has the best natural light in our apartment. There, I drink a glass of water, make myself something light to eat, and sit with my coffee and write. I keep a journal where I write down my priorities each day and list out what I’m grateful for. No set number (I found this to be too restrictive), but I tend to list 3-5 main priorities and gratitudes. This entire morning routine takes me 15-20 minutes.

Lately, I’ve also been expanding on my priorities by writing out the steps to completing each one. For instance, if one of my priorities is to finish a blog post, those steps include: exporting photos, uploading to WordPress, and making edits to my blog copy. I also keep an ongoing task list on my computer using Airtable. However, I’ve found that writing out each days tasks keeps me more focused on immediate priorities. I like to physically cross them off as the day goes on.

Wait until after your routine to check your phone

You might be uncomfortable at the very idea, but I swear by this. I’ve noticed I experience a lot more anxiety and unnecessary stress when I check my phone first thing in the morning. Instead, I set it on a nighttime mode and only look at it once to turn my morning alarm off. (If you want to be even more committed than I am, consider getting an alarm clock). By not looking at my phone I’m able to focus on my main priorities for the day without getting distracted by extraneous emails or messages. I check my phone for the first time only after I’ve finished my morning routine.

Designate a space you can work from

Having a dedicated area to work is important. It doesn’t need to be a desk, but it should ideally have a surface where you can sit and spread out a bit. Starting my day here is essential. Every so often I’ll switch it up in the afternoon and move to a different spot at home. I typically never work from a bed or couch, but I find that every so often if I need a change of scenery I’ll sit in my kitchen instead of my office desk, or I’ll give myself a 30 minute window to review emails from my phone in another room. It’s a simple way to make things a bit less stale.

Decide in advance when you’ll break for lunch

I find that when I have a time in mind, I can work in a more uninterrupted way. Forcing yourself to take a break can be difficult if it’s not scheduled, and leads to a less structured work schedule. Personally, if I work past a normal lunch time, I end up hungry and can’t focus the rest of the day! Figure out what works for you (whether that’s setting a calendar reminder or noting a time) and stick to it.

Block out your time effectively

It can be difficult to weigh being responsive to emails and messages or continuing with a current task. Especially with social media, since it’s so easy to get lost in notifications or scrolling. When I need to focus on one task, I move my phone out of reach and block out uninterrupted time to work. I personally use a time cube to do this. It allows me to easily set 30 or 60 minutes and when the alarm goes off, I also take a 10 minute break to walk around. I have tried using an app on my phone, but I’ve found I can get distracted even when silencing an alarm.

Choose a place where you can jot down reminders throughout the day

This can be as simple as the ‘notes’ app on your computer, or a physical notepad. Working from home means your mind is constantly in two places at once; home and at work. Sometimes I remember to do laundry while in the midst of editing photos, or I suddenly remember an email I want to respond to when I’m in the middle of a task. Writing down a note to myself right away will relieve that mental reminder and let me continue with the task at hand. Then, I can review and take care of anything non-urgent at the end of the day. Keep a notebook nearby that you love, and this will quickly become a habit. These lightweight floral notebooks are my favorite.

Everyone is different, but this is what works best for me after years of refining. Don’t be hesitant to try something new or expand on these ideas to make them work for you.

Photos: Amsterdam, Netherlands. Edited with the Winter Collection for mobile.