Since COVID-19 became a global pandemic, many people have been working from home. For some, this is nothing new: most freelancers already worked from home anyway, and some companies had already switched to a distributed model before the world got turned upside down. For others, working from home is completely new, and the learning curve has been steep, especially when it comes to distractions. But staying focused at home is often an issue whether you’re new to remote work or not. Here are some productivity tips to help you stay on top of things and keep meeting those deadlines.

Set a schedule and stick to it

Whether you’re a freelancer or a remote employee, keeping a regular schedule can help you stay focused. It doesn’t matter when your schedule happens, so long as it does and it’s fairly consistent. Put your working hours on the calendar. If you live with other people, make sure those hours are known and get everyone to buy in to those work hours. You can choose whether or not to have an open door policy, but there should be at least a few times in your days that are designated as “do not disturb.” Use a simple piece of paper on your door if you’re lucky enough to have a door, or verbally let everyone know that you’re not to be disturbed for the next however many minutes. “Show up” for work each day at your designated time and ensure you have a list of things you can check off. This helps you both keep track of what you’re getting done as well as helps you focus on those things as well. You can do it the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, or you can use a to-do list on a fun app like Habitica—just don’t get sucked in to the social parts of the site while you’re working. Speaking of getting sucked in to things… avoid the stuff you know is a problem for you in terms of distraction.

Avoid your known distractions

If you know you often get pulled into YouTube rabbit holes, don’t visit YouTube during work hours. If you know Facebook’s pull is too great, don’t log in to it while you’re working (unless it’s required for your job, of course). Whatever your distraction vice is, get rid of it if you can. You can go cold turkey and just delete your Facebook account, but if that’s not feasible, there’s other things you can do.

For example, you can install the newsfeed eradicator, and try to ignore notifications on the screen (because you’ve turned off email & push notifications, right?). You can also make use of distraction-free sites like Freedom. Just log in to it and it’ll firewall your commonly distracting sites—great for things like YouTube and other high-distraction places online. All of these sites help you avoid distractions on your computer, but that’s not the only thing diverting your attention. Another big problem for most people are their smartphones.

Do you really need your personal phone on while you’re working? Does it frequently distract you with work-irrelevant tasks? Install Forest App. You’ll get to play a game while not even touching your phone, and you’ll plant real forests, too. What’s not to like? But avoiding distractions all day long isn’t always feasible either, so plan for them: set aside time when you’re allowed to fully immerse yourself in those distractions (for a short period of time).

Productivity Tips: How to stay focused while working from home. Time Panther. Photo description: hands typing on a laptop. Duplo blocks and curtains in the background. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Take regular breaks

Here’s a productivity tip that might surprise you: take regular breaks to keep delivering. Working for hours with no end in sight can easily drive us to distraction, and with good reason: the human brain needs variety to stay in tip-top shape. Provide your brain with this variety by injecting regular breaks into your day. A great way to do this is to use the Pomodoro Technique. It might sound complicated, but it’s really not. All you do is work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After 4 cycles of this, you take a longer break (20 to 30 minutes). The technique is named for the kitchen timer the creator used to stay focused on his studies. You can use a regular kitchen timer, the timer on your phone, or you can use this website to keep track of your 25-minute focused periods (and your breaks, too). And speaking of tracking your time…

Use time tracking to your advantage

Time tracking is essential to anyone wanting to increase their productivity. You can’t improve what you don’t track, as they say. Tracking your time allows you to really see where you can improve when it comes to productivity and time management. While you could certainly just keep a giant notebook full of start and stop times for each task you undertake in a day, there’s a much easier way: use software that does the hard work for you.

TimePanther makes time tracking easy. This free-to-use software allows you to create folders, projects, and tasks and time each one. You can also add billing details if you wish, to see how much you’re actually getting paid for all the time you spend on your work. Sign up for a free account today and get tracking!

Author: Mariana Abeid-McDougall is a multi-niche writer and editor. Her writing appears across the web, where she muses about life, parenting, freelancing, and more. Writing and travel are her passions, and she’ll tell you all about them at