20+ Work From Home tips for Mac and iPhone users

For decades people have been working in offices as it has its advantages like teamwork, meeting old and new colleagues in person, the easy building of work relationships, maintaining work-life balance, effortless collaboration, and more. That’s why companies like Apple are asking employees to physically be in their offices.

That being said, some jobs are designed to be done from home, and several companies, like Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, Atlassian, etc., have allowed permanent Work From Home (WFH) for their employees. If you’re someone who works from home, here are Mac and iPhone tips followed by some general tips to ensure you do your job well while keeping yourself healthy and your employer pleased.

MacBook and iPhone kept on table at home
Image: Bram Naus for Unsplash

1. Make to-do lists your best friend

People, including myself, used to brush off the importance of a to-do list. We tend to think that we can keep all tasks in our brains and do them without forgetting. For some, this may be true. But since working from home for the past 17 months, I have realized how helpful a simple to-do list is!

Putting your daily or weekly chores on a piece of paper or your iPhone/Mac’s notes app or to-do app will document them. The little checkbox will nudge you to complete the task, and tap the box to mark it as finished. When you do that, you get a sense of accomplishment and feel boosted to jump to the next item on the to-do list.

So, every Monday, or before starting your daily work, open a to-do app or the built-in Apple Notes app and create a list of tasks. Check them off as you finish them.

To-do list in iPhone Notes app

2. Eat the ugliest, biggest frog first

Every day you have multiple tasks to complete. Some of them may be harder than others, and you might procrastinate those challenging tasks for a later part of the day or postpone them for the next day. Don’t do that! In the morning, when you start work, you’re fresh and not burned out. Try to finish the toughest job first and then move to the less challenging ones.

There is a very famous book called Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. Here’s an excerpt from Amazon:

There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. Using “eat that frog” as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day—the one you are most likely to procrastinate on, but also probably the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life.

3. Change display settings to make it comfortable

You will quickly get tired, and develop eye strain with a headache if your Mac or iPhone’s screen isn’t set to perfection.

First, make sure the bulb or sunlight isn’t falling directly on your Mac’s screen, making it a pain to look at for hours on end.

Secondly, your Mac and iPhone display should have the brightness levels set to a comfortable level. Plus, you can experiment with extra features like True Tone, Dark Mode, Night Shift, and Color Filters to see what works for you. Here’s how:

On iPhone: Go to Settings > Display & Brightness. For additional display settings, go to Accessibility > Display & Text Size.

Accessibility Display and Text Size settings on iPhone

On Mac: Go to System Preferences > General to set appearance, accent colors, and highlight colors. For other settings, you can explore the Desktop & Screen Saver and Dock & Menu Bar options. Finally, go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display to further tweak your display.

Accessibility display options on Mac

4. Maintain an office timer in Mac’s menu bar

I work for 8 hours every day. So, every morning I put an 8 hour 15 minutes timer using the Horo app. The ticker sits in my Mac’s menu bar, and if some non-office work comes up that I can’t avoid, I simply pause (and resume) the timer in just two clicks.

This small thing ensures I work fairly for the amount of time my company pays me. Plus, it helps me keep track of the remaining time and plan my tasks accordingly. For example, if just an hour is left, I won’t start a new task that may require 2 hours.

Horo app to set timer in Mac menu bar

5. Use multiple desktop spaces

Using a single space can get crowded with several apps and windows. Therefore to make things easy, I use 4 to 5 desktop spaces. I have set Notes to always stay on the 1st desktop, Chrome on the 2nd, Slack on the 3rd desktop, and so on. I quickly switch among these apps by swiping left or right using four fingers on the trackpad. Sometimes, especially while dragging and dropping files, I also use Command + tab to cycle among my open apps.

Multiple desktops Mac Mission Control

Besides that, I utilize Hot Corners to make the most of my Mac. You can learn how to use spaces and Hot Corners in this post: 33 things to do after setting up a Mac.

And to set an app to open on particular desktop space, right-click/control-click on its name in the Dock and choose Options > This Desktop.

Assign To Desktop option in Mac Dock

6. Don’t keep unnecessary browser tabs open

Fewer tabs mean less distraction and a cleaner look!

When writing articles, I have to do research online, which often results in 15-20 browser tabs. I go through them, make points or summaries in my writing software (Grammarly, Google Docs, Notes, or Simplenote) and then close all those tabs. When I start writing, it’s just one Grammarly or Google Docs tab and a second tab with iDownloadBlog.com.

7. Remove bookmarks, recent history, or anything that quickly lets you open social media

While working from home, do you often open a new tab or window and use the bookmarks or recent history autofill to quickly open YouTube (just by entering Y) or Twitter (just by pressing the T key)?

If yes, consider removing these bookmarks or clearing the history to make it harder for you to access these time-consuming, non-work-related sites quickly. You may even log out from these apps and force yourself not to visit these websites while working.

Social media during work hours isn’t only time-consuming, but you may see something you don’t like and get affected by it. Or, you may engage in futile debates and spend several minutes on this unproductive task.

8. Create a separate work account on Mac

This feature is a boon for me. You can create more than one user account on your Mac to keep things separated and focused.

My passwords are saved in Apple’s iCloud Keychain. At one point, I logged out from all social media, etc., to focus on my iDB work. But quickly, my temptations found that it’s effortless to log in again using the saved iCloud Keychain passcodes.

Then I decided to take things to a more complex level and created a separate user account with another Apple ID. I have no apps installed in this user account and no saved passwords. I have manually logged in to Slack, iDB’s WordPress, and Simplenote there. Nothing else. Limited resources in this user account help me focus on writing and do the job on time.

To add a new user account to your Mac and use them, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups.

Users and Groups in Mac System Preferences

9. Use work Focus on your iPhone

Focus mode in iOS 15 and later can help you improve productivity by silencing notifications and customizing your apps and iPhone screens. To use this, go to Settings > Focus and tap Work. Here, tap People and Apps to allow notifications only from certain contacts (like family or colleagues) and applications (Mail, Slack, etc.)

Besides setting your notifications preferences, you can also customize your Lock Screen and Home Screen while working from home to limit distractions. For example, you can choose just one Home Screen page to show during Work Focus.

Work Focus on iPhone

To toggle on or off Work Focus, go to Control Center and tap Focus > Work.

10. Use productivity apps and extensions

Since I don’t know your field of work, I can’t list apps and extensions that may be helpful for you. But in general, you should explore the App Store, Chrome store, or research on the web and install apps and extensions that can assist you in increasing your productivity and cutting down the distractions. These can be anything from a simple note-taking app that sits in your Mac’s menu bar (like Tyke) to a clipboard manager that saves all your recent clipboards (like CopyClip).

11. Set daily limits in Screen Time

Screen Time on Mac and iPhone can set daily time limits for specific apps or app categories to help you minimize their usage. Here are the related tutorials to do this:

12. Block unproductive websites you seem addicted to

In offices, managers and colleagues may pass by your desk, or a CCTV camera in the vicinity may capture what’s on your computer screen. Plus, offices often block certain websites. But there are no such restrictions at home, and you’re free to do whatever you please.

If you often find yourself addicted to some unproductive sites, block them on your Mac and iPhone:

13. Schedule email, texts, and Slack messages

If due to differences in time zones or some other necessary, unavoidable reasons, you must send an email or message that falls outside your regular work hours, simply schedule them. Here’s how:

14. Don’t make excuses to ignore group calls and join meetings

Once you ignore a call or meeting, you will get confident and be tempted to do the same the next time.

Eventually, it could become a habit not to participate in office calls. This will decrease your productivity and make you a less involved worker in the eyes of your boss, leader, manager, HR, etc.

So, when you’re working from home, make sure to get involved and actively be a part of the team, even though you’re present through a screen.

Ensure you restart your Mac and iPhone regularly and set your video calling and office apps to update automatically. These two simple steps will ensure fewer app crashes and make things work smoothly.

15. Make use of hourly “Time to Stand” on your Apple Watch

It’s vital to stand and walk around for a minute or two if you have been continuously sitting while working at your home or office. In case you have an Apple Watch, make sure its hourly Time to Stand reminder is switched on. You can do that from Apple Watch Settings > Activity and enable Stand Reminders.

Enable Stand Reminders on Apple Watch

After this, if you sit continuously for an hour, your watch will nudge you to stand for a minute and walk.

Time to stand Apple Watch notification

If you don’t have an Apple Watch, use the iPhone or Mac’s Reminders app to set a repeating hourly reminder to stand up and move around: How to set up repeating reminders on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

16. Don’t always wear your AirPods

While working from home, you have to take calls and attend video meetings. AirPods or Bluetooth headsets are perfect for this.

However, don’t get into the habit of constantly wearing your AirPods without use. When you’re done with the call, take off your AirPods and let your ears breathe and relax.

Wearing AirPods for hours every day may cause pain, headaches, and even allergies! Read: Symptoms of AirPods allergy and 8 tips to prevent it

17. Make a music schedule

Let’s face it, many of us like to listen to music while working. But you should set some rules. Here’s what I think:

  • No podcasts as they need your attention to listen to, and thus you can’t focus meaningfully on work.
  • Don’t start playing music in the morning when you start your daily work. This is because your mind is fresh in the morning, and I think it’s better utilized working peacefully on your office assignment.
  • Music is a good idea after lunch or at the end of the day.
  • Don’t use too much time finding the right songs to play while working. Instead, take out some time and make an office playlist with your favorite songs.

18. Stop using Picture-In-Picture

There can be two groups of people: those who think Picture-in-Picture (PiP) helps them watch videos and work; and others who believe this adds an unnecessary comfort that eventually hinders work.

I used the excellent Enhancer for YouTube extension for a long time to have fantastic PiP support in my Mac’s Firefox browser. But recently, I realized that watching something while working is disturbing. So, I removed this extension from my browser and stopped using the built-in PiP feature. You can do the same on your iPhone to disable automatic Picture-in-Picture.

19. Set Sleep Schedule

Your iPhone can help you wind down before sleep time, send you a sleep reminder, dim your Lock Screen, silence notifications, and wake you up at the right time the next day. This is possible by setting a sleep schedule, and you can learn how to do that here: How to set up a schedule, customize, and use Sleep Mode on iPhone

20. Other tips

Besides the above technical tips, here are some that will help you glide comfortably through your day while working from home.

Keep your smartphone away

Stick to your computer and keep your iPhone away if you have a habit of checking Instagram, WhatsApp, iMessage, etc., very frequently.

Hydrate yourself

Take small water breaks to keep yourself hydrated and healthy.

Exercise your eyes to reduce strain and headache

WebMD and Kraff Eye Institute have helpful posts related to eye exercises. Here are three of them:

  • While working on Mac or iPhone, we don’t blink and keep our eyes focused on the screen. This dries the eyes and leads to problems. Therefore, blink often to moisten them.
  • Move your eyes vertically and horizontally for about 30 seconds after working for a while. This eye exercise can help ease eye pain.
  • 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes of staring at your computer, take a 20-second break and focus on something that’s 20 feet (6 meters) away.

Tell your family WFH ≠ holiday or weekend

While working from home, you stay in the house, and your parents and spouse might be tempted to assign you small tasks. While not very time-consuming, these small distractions can add up and mess up your workflow and focus. Thus, establish a house rule that working from home doesn’t mean you’re constantly available for menial chores.

Get a fast Internet connection

No one likes connection drops, blurry video call quality, and slow file downloads. Your home Wi-Fi may not match the fast office Wi-Fi speeds. But make sure it’s something that ensures you have frustration-free time while working from your home desk.

Related: What is considered good internet speed and how to check your download and upload speeds on Mac

Invest in a Wi-Fi router power bank or UPS

If you live in a housing society with no power backup or a country where power outage is common, invest in a UPS battery backup for your router. Usually, these are inexpensive and can easily keep your Wi-Fi running for 2-4 hours, even when there is no electricity.

Tip: While buying a UPS battery backup, make sure you see the input numbers on your Wi-Fi router’s power adapter and what the power bank supports.

Don’t clutter your desk

From my experience, having a clean, clutter-free desk is essential to work from home pleasurably. Remove unnecessary stuff lying on your desk and make it a clean workplace so you can focus better.

One thing I also do is charge my MacBook and iPhone overnight to eliminate wire clutters during work. You can try the same. But if your devices don’t have the battery backup to go through the entire work hours, spend some time on cable management to make things cleaner.

Invest in a comfortable chair and desk

Finally, it’s of prime importance to invest in a chair and table that makes sitting for long hours easy. A comfortable setup will not make it daunting to start your work every day.

Try to keep your MacBook or external monitor’s screen on the same level as your head so you don’t have to bend your neck to look down or look up.

Working from home made easier!

These were some tech and general tips to ensure you have a pleasant and productive work-from-home experience.

Initially, sitting in shorts and a t-shirt while working from home may feel enjoyable. But after a few months, you may become monotonous and unproductive. So, make sure you do things that don’t burn you out and keep you healthy while working from home.

To break the everyday routine, you may also try working from a nearby library or co-working space once or twice weekly. This will ensure human interaction and a different environment than your typical everyday setup.

Co-working space with multiple people sitting and working
Image: Shridhar Gupta for Unsplash

At last, I would sign off by saying not to do everything you read on social media or online (including this post). Go through what other people say but experiment and implement only those that work for you. Everyone has different jobs, setups, and resources, so work-from-home tips can’t be generalized as a template.