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Fortune readers share their productivity tips for working from home

March 26, 2020, 12:35 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Rep. Rashida Tlaib faces a familiar primary challenger, 95% of Americans support coronavirus paid leave, and you share your best productivity tips for working from home. Have a super-focused Thursday.

– Focus on productivity. With many of us now doing our best to do our jobs from our home offices, spare bedrooms, or kitchen tables, mustering the  focus and productivity that was second nature just weeks ago is a now an all but impossible task.

So we at the Broadsheet did what we always do in tough times—ask all of you for advice!

You’ve been sending in your productivity tips all week, and they’re a treasure trove of smart advice. The No. 1 tip we heard from many of you was structure, structure, structure! Clearly, making and sticking to a regular schedule—including hard starts and stops to the work day and designated breaks for essentials like lunch and exercise—is a must-do. Once you’ve got that nailed down, give some of these suggestions a spin:

Be proactive about heading off the distractions of daily life. D.B. has been relying on her crockpot and shared recipes “so that I don’t think about dinner while I’m working.” She’s also sending her kids their own schedule every morning, spelling out what time they’ll eat and do various family activities together so they don’t need to interrupt her work to ask.

Don’t feel the need to stay chained to your desk. “If you are sitting inside longing to be out in your garden—go and work outside in the garden!,” says C.R. “If you need to lie down for a while, you can take a break without feeling that you’re being judged. By listening to my energy I actually end up doing more productive hours than continuous slogs with no opportunity to recover throughout the day.”

Find your motivation music. Like any of us, C.S. struggles to stay focused when listening to music with lyrics, but has found a workaround with artists who sing in languages other than English—”K-pop is great to get an energy boost after lunch,” she says. S.H.R., who listens to music with headphones any time she needs to read or write, recommends the Spotify playlist: “Superior Focus.”

Make to-do lists. This one’s a classic, but even more critical at home, where you’re facing so many competing priorities. M.F. has been using the To-Doist app—“It’s great!” J. has a slightly more elaborate system: “I keep a notebook where I document the work I have completed, ideas, phone numbers, work I want to complete the next day, etc. Completed items get check marks, key items I may want to refer back to or remember get an arrow.”

Lean on your team. “Our team does a morning touch-base email in which we each contribute what our day will look like, from listing our work to-dos to highlighting any personal achievements or commitments,” says T.D. “Our colleague Christine kicks it off each day with an inspirational quote or fun fact.”

Limit stress triggers. C.L.D. created a email folder where she immediately stashes “all emails containing ‘covid’ or ‘corona’… I check it a few times a day. It’s definitely improved my productivity and anxiety level.”

Go for a sprint. “One of my favorite productivity tips is to work in ‘sprints’ and use a timer. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in short time spans, like 15 – 20 minutes,” writes D.G. “The timer allows me to fully focus on the work at hand. It puts on just enough external pressure to keep me working briskly. Then I take time to refresh.”

Thank you again for your excellent suggestions! I know I’m already putting several of them into action—and I hope you will too.

Kristen Bellstrom
kristen.bellstrom@fortune.com
@kayelbee

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Swell of support. A full 95% of Americans support some form of paid sick and family leave for workers affected by coronavirus, according to a new survey by Lean In and SurveyMonkey. About three-quarters of respondents were in favor of paid sick leave for health care workers, emergency responders, grocery store employees, pharmacy employees, and childcare workers. Fortune

- Animal kingdom. Like the rest of us, Jane Goodall is self-isolating. She's in England, not her usual home base of Tanzania, and is using the rare time when she's not in the field to catch up on "four years of emails." But the famed primatologist also says being stuck in one place is making her think of the experiences of chimps in captivity. New York Times

- Michigan rematch. Rep. Rashida Tlaib will have a primary challenger—and it's a familiar face. Tlaib will face a rematch with Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, who lost to Tlaib in 2018. But Jones says she's running for "re-election" because she served in the seat for five weeks to fill out the remainder of the late Rep. John Conyers's term. Detroit Free Press

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Fort Ross Ventures hired Sharin Fisher as a partner focused on cybersecurity. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Home education. While working from home, couples are learning a lot about each other—like, what the other partner actually does all day. Some partners still don't understand the other's job—but are learning that they have "a lot of calls and [love] to walk around the apartment while taking them," as 30-year-old Pauline Tran said. New York Times

- Borrowed time. The Education Department will stop seizing wages, tax refunds, and Social Security checks from defaulted borrowers for at least 60 days during the coronavirus crisis, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced yesterday. NPR

- Unequal unemployment. Child care workers and housekeepers are, for the most part, out of work during the coronavirus crisis; many of them are undocumented and can't collect unemployment. One family even asked nanny and Spanish teacher Mayra Brito to video chat with their kids for free during the pandemic. New York Times

ON MY RADAR

They can move the Olympics. I’ll keep believing. And training Wall Street Journal

Michelle Obama and DJ D-Nice are teaming up for a virtual party Essence

What I learned when my husband got sick with coronavirus New York Times

PARTING WORDS

"Today my kids wanted me to wear my wedding dress at lunch and I couldn’t think of a reason not to."

-Author Curtis Sittenfeld, sharing a photo on Twitter