While some people are struggling to attain the same level of focus and efficiency they had before the pandemic, others are actually seeing their productivity increase. We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small productivity-boosting strategies that have been helping them during this time, so we can all learn from their winning strategies. Which of these will you try?

Set timers for, well, everything 

“Working from home during COVID-19 has allowed me to shift my focus and rethink my professional goals. One of my big professional goals is to write my fourth book. To break this huge goal into small chunks, I set a timer for 50 minutes, dedicated toward focused writing time. I also set timers to get up, move around, and walk to keep the creative juices flowing.”

—Sue Detweiler, bestselling author, speaker, and motivational coach, Dallas, TX

Stand up and stretch

“In order to keep productive throughout the pandemic when time seems a little warped, I stand up and stretch every time my computer freezes or takes a long time to load something. The movement is helpful when I’m generally moving less and it seems to keep technology frustrations at bay. The quick stretch helps me refocus my mind, and a few minutes away from my desk also helps.”

—Elyssa Desai, coach, London, U.K. 

Give yourself mini deadlines

“I used to love working on big projects for six to twelve months, but since the pandemic, I have had a hard time doing so, since it feels like the goalposts are always moving. Instead, I have started to chunk my projects into four week cycles, and even further down so I have weekly goals. It has been a great motivator and has kept my anxious mind from worrying about why things might not work out. It has worked so well that this is a habit I am going to keep going forward.”

—Allison Venditti, career coach, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Choose four main priorities each day

“On Sunday nights, I sit down with a glass of wine and plan out my week, setting attainable weekly goals that I want to complete by the following Friday. Each night, I look at those weekly goals and create four top priority tasks per day that will allow me to complete those goals by the end of the week.  By doing this, I am able to easily focus on what I need to do, even with the distractions of having children home. Even on my craziest days, I know I can complete four tasks.” 

—Belinda Ginter, certified emotional kinesiologist, Ontario, Canada 

Get dressed for work

“What’s worked for me is dressing up for work, even though I’m working from my own bedroom. For some reason, I find it easier to focus in front of the computer and do some actual work when I look put together. I’ve been doing this for the past three weeks and I see significant improvement in my productivity levels. It puts me in a happier mood! Although, I do make sure to choose really breathable clothing to stay comfortable. I never thought that dressing up can have such a positive effect on my productivity.”

—Angela Nacpil, copywriter and freelancing coach, Philippines

Turn off email and phone notifications

“When I sit down to work on a task, I deliberately do not check my email before I start, and I make sure I turn off all notifications on my laptop and cell phone.  I am very deliberate on what I want to achieve with my time. When I open my inbox, I risk taking my focus away from my priority to focus on what’s ‘urgent’ for others. I work for an hour on the task and then take a short break to recharge. Once I have completed what I needed to, I then allow myself to open my inbox and check my messages. This ensures that I do not become a self-interrupter, and I find that I can achieve incredible results in a short space of time without the constant notifications.”

—Lori Milner, author, speaker, trainer; Johannesburg, South Africa

Carve out a “power hour”

“Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Happiness’ podcast introduced me to the idea of giving yourself a ‘power hour.’ You carve out an hour during the week, and take that time to do all of the tasks that you didn’t get to otherwise. I actually do this power hour daily, early in my work day, to get all of my most important tasks and priorities accomplished before any distractions come my way.”

—Melissa Matthee, deputy CEO, Johannesburg, South Africa 

Try a full-body breathing exercise 

“With so many of us working from home, many find the house environment to be challenging to focus. Studies show that by bringing your attention to slowing down your exhale, your thoughts become more focused, your parasympathetic nervous system is switched on, and your emotions become more calm. To reset, sit in a comfortable position with your back straight, inhale through your nose for four counts, and while you exhale for eight counts, relax all of the muscles in your body. It helps to imagine a wave of relaxation flowing down your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. Repeat this exercise for five minutes whenever you feel unfocused.”

—Niraj Naik, founder of international school of breathwork Soma Breath, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Keep a “mindful calendar”

“I keep a mindful calendar, where I am not just filling the calendar with tasks, but giving myself time for self-care and recharging as well. This has been incredibly helpful in staying productive. It’s easy for me to be plugged into my laptop all day, so I make the conscious choice to shut down at the end of the workday, allowing myself to separate my work from my personal commitments. On weekends, I carve out ’no laptop’ time to read books and go for long walks.”

—Div Manickam, marketing influencer, Raleigh, NC

What small strategy helps you to stay focused and productive while at home? Share with us your tips in the comments.

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.