Productivity Tips

I’ve been self-employed and working from home for the past 4 years, so I’ve gotten pretty good at motivating myself. I still fail sometimes, like on dim rainy days when my dogs coax me over to the couch for a nap, when I feel like I’ve run out of ideas, or when I’m discouraged because things aren’t working out the way I planned. But, overall I think I’m pretty darn productive. Here are my tricks for productive self-employment, and I’d love to hear yours!

productivity tricks

Embrace Routine: Every morning after breakfast I make tea and go down to my studio to ship orders, restock, and do other necessary stuff like that. I reserve my afternoons for creative pursuits like sketching, photography, blogging, and such. Having a general idea of how my work days are going to be spent helps me stay on track.

Make Daily Lists: I get an incredible amount of satisfaction from crossing items off a list. I’ve found that weekly to do lists don’t work for me because I can easily put off the crappy tasks. It’s no fun when the weekend rolls around, and I have a whole list of awful chores left to do. I need short to do lists with 4–6 things I can reasonably accomplish in a day.

Self-Reward: All I really want to do is work in my sketchbook all day, but there are plenty of other things to do around here to keep Wit & Whistle running. I reward myself in small ways when I complete (or while I’m completing) an important, but not-so-fun task. I might binge watch a guilty pleasure TV series on Netflix while packaging a large wholesale order. Or, during busy seasons shipping orders can be quite a time consuming chore, so I’ll get a bag of Jelly Bellies and eat one delicious bean for every few orders I ship. When I finish my taxes each quarter I buy myself a little something I’ve been pining for on Etsy. Self-rewarding keeps the procrastinator inside me in check by making less desirable duties more enjoyable. (I said “duties”… haha!)

Track Time: Keeping track of what I spend my time doing (usually) prevents me from accidentally browsing Pinterest for an hour in the middle of a work day. I use Yast to track what I do all day. Knowing that I’m being held accountable for my time helps me stay on task (even if no one ever looks at my time sheets but me).

Be grateful: Whenever I stop to think about how blessed I am to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams, my productivity levels spike. I don’t want to look back later in life and wonder what might have happened if I had been more motivated. I want to know that I used my time well and reached my full potential!


  1. Chris Pridmore

    I haven’t taken that plunge just yet… but I’m struggling with proper time management and list writing… I used to be a huge list writer, and now I don’t… I should get back into that. And stop checking Facebook.

  2. John

    Thanks for the great tips. I will give Yast a try … and possibly consider Daniel’s suggestion, too. I have been testing a writer’s product called Scapple to try and organize my notes.

  3. anna

    Clap clap clap (applause for this awesome post!)!!! I might have a morning daily job but it is still hard to get motivated and disciplined with my creative stuff in the evenings. Thank you so much Amanda!! :)

  4. Mariuca

    I also work at home, most of the time. Very useful tips! It’s not always easy to have a good and “sane” routine when you are a freelancer or a self-employed!

  5. Diana

    What a great post! I’ve been slowly (between reading blogs and surfing pinterest, haha) realizing I need a better way to stay on-track during the day, and I will definitely try out Yast. Thanks for the tips! :)

  6. Emily

    Your post came at a perfect time. I do freelance work from home and my motivation level has been super low on the dreary, cold, rainy day. Better get back to work!…

  7. julia

    I like this! Its a little harder to have a routine with my little ones (one goes to morning k, the other goes to prek 2x a week) but I do my best to carve out time. great post!

  8. Victoria

    Hi Amanda, Thought I would pop in an comment about Yast :) I have just recently had my first paid commission and was writing my times on a piece of paper. I cannot wait for my next commission and to be able to use Yast – it looks amazing!

  9. Jenn @ The Modern Locket

    this is so helpful! this is the first i’ve heard of yast – i’ll be looking into it! one thing that has really helped me with time management is labeling my tasks with A, B, C or D – A being most important. it’s the very first thing i do in the morning. it’s beneficial because it keeps me looking through my entire to-do list and reorganizing it to stay on task rather than doing the most recent things added. for some reason i always default to those being the most important.

    1. Amanda (wit & whistle) Post author

      That’s a great idea, I’m going to try it. I usually do the most fun tasks first if I can. ;)

  10. Rachel

    This is such a great post! I just left my job to run my own business so I really appreciate this. What I still need to figure out is what to wear on a daily basis. I went from working in the fashion industry to working from home and only leaving the house to go to the post office every afternoon. I am sure my husband would love to come home to a wife wearing something other than Lululemon. Who knew this would be my biggest struggle!

  11. Jenna K

    First of all-great ideas. I TRY to apply similar strategies as a stay at home mama but it is definitely easy to fall into laziness and naps, especially on all these rainy gross days. Second of all, was just looking at buzzfeed and one of your products was on there-terrariums-I get very excited when I see your stuff elsewhere. Third of all, next time you do give in to an afternoon of sketching I have a request of you that I think you will like. Let me know if you are interested :-) . Love, your number one most adoring fan

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