Ways to stay productive while you are working at home this Fall

It is evident now most PA faculty will be teaching all or part of their courses online this Fall. This reality means we will continue to work from home, so here are some suggestions for ways to stay productive and sane!

1. Semester-monthly and weekly goals

Planning and setting goals or target tasks is so critical in helping stay focused on what we need to accomplish so we can get it accomplished. We all know how challenging it is to actually get work done when we were in our offices on campus with all the disruptions. Working at home, as I am sure you know, is no different. Well, it might be a little harder. So identifying what you want to accomplish by planning and setting goals can help - even if you just do it weekly, starting every Sunday and identify those things you need to work on each day.

2. Friday Finisher List 

This idea of from Brendon Bouchard. The goal is to create a list of items you must accomplish by the end of the workweek. It doesn’t mean you need to finish or complete the item or task you can simply determine how much work you will complete on the task. For example, write 15 questions for the exam or work for 1 hour on your video lecture. The key here to develop this list each Sunday or first thing Monday and keep it somewhere where you can see it, so it helps you stay focused.

3. Use block time to schedule your working times.

I am a big fan and user of block time since I started working mostly remotely in PA programs and now as a consultant and online educator. At the start of each day, sit down and determine what you want and need to accomplish (including personal time for exercise, family, etc.), determine when in the day and how much time you need, and then block it off on your calendar. The goal of block time is to commit and stay focused on the task for the time defined – no distractions or interruptions.

It is important to reiterate that the goal isn’t to finish the task – if that happens great – but we all know things take longer than we plan, so the point is to work on the task, be fully focused and all in for the amount of time you blocked. This way,  you don’t set yourself up to feel disappointed because you didn’t finish it. Acknowledge what you did accomplish – no matter how small. It is critical that when the block time is up – stop. What happens, and I am certainly guilty of this, I am so close to finishing it, or I got good momentum going that I don’t stop.  This is dangerous territory because what usually happens is it takes another 1-2 hours, and while you may finish it, you probably didn’t get up or take a break, and now you ran into time you had blocked for something else. This dynamic becomes a slippery slope.

4. Take breaks: Move – Food - Water

It is essential to take breaks during and in between those block times if they are more than an hour. I use an echo dot, set it for 50 minutes and then I take a 10-minute break to get up and stretch, get some water before returning to the second hour of work. I take longer breaks between tasks.

We all know sitting is the new smoking. It is so important to get up and move your body. So get up out of that chair! Stretch – walk outside, take 10 deep breaths, grab some healthy snacks, drink water, jump up and down, do something to get your blood pumping and your energy up.

You should consider scheduling at least one significant break, like an hour or more, to spend time exercising, taking a long walk, hanging with family-loved ones.

5. Eliminate distractions/interruptions

Oh – this is a BIG one. To be as productive as you can be during your working time, you must eliminate those distractions! Turn off all the audible or buzzing notifications or put the devices in another room so you don’t get tempted. Distractions are killers of productivity. You will be amazed at how much you can get done in an hour when you are not distracted or interrupted. And speaking of interruptions - when we work at home these commonly come in the form of loved ones – big and small! So, one idea is to communicate your schedule with those you live with – let them know when you are going in for an hour block of work, shut the door, put a sign up, and ask them to respect your work time. I know this isn’t always easy, but if there is a way to carve out uninterrupted work time by negotiating and communicating it, you might just be surprised.

E-mail is another major distraction culprit. I suggest you schedule a time you will check e-mail (turn off the screen pop-ups and audible sounds). For example, you can schedule a15 minutes block of time to check your e-mail in between your other working blocks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

6. Try to minimize Zoom meetings

The research is out – Zoom fatigue; it is real. We are spending too much time on camera and in meetings. Although some meetings can be productive and are required, the reality is they take us away from our work. I can’t help but wonder if we are having more meetings because Zoom allows us to “see” our students or colleagues after being abruptly isolated in our homes. Still, take a moment to stop and think whether the meeting is essential and try to minimize the number of them in a day. I have spoken with so many of you who have shared you are Zooming all day! If you missed my article on Zoom fatigue, you find it here: 


As we head into an uncertain Fall, it is vital to take care of ourselves and be productive too.


Bouchard, B. (2017). High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Inc.

Bouchard, B (2020). 10 Work From Home Productivity Tips. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/WXEQKdoz7k8

Francis, S. (n.d.).  Time management for teachers. Gr8people. Retrieved from http://www.timemanagementforteachers.com.au/Time_Management_For_Teachers_files/TimeManagementforTeachersPREVIEWPages.pdf


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