Productive Things to Do When Stuck at Home (Besides Work)

These productive things to do at home were featured in Vol. 6, Stay Sane in Crazy Times of The Unconventional Monthly, a newsletter that gives you fresh ways to live a little more extraordinarily on a new topic every month.

Do Your Time Right


I’m not sure what’s harder when you feel like a prisoner in your own home: Finding productive things to do at home other than work or actually doing them.

Kim and I are facing this firsthand. We’ve just begun a 21-day lockdown here in South Africa we’re surrounded by unproductive temptation. We’ve found it helpful to ask ourselves, “What’s the best way to do your time?”

  1. Act like the world’s most spoiled prisoner. Count down the hours/days as you stream movies and shows, play video games, get drunk and high, and fight other prisoners online. Emerge from your lockdown the opposite of hardened.
  2. Make the most of the situation. Find ways to stay productive at home, even when not working. Emerge better than ever and ready to take on the world.

Obviously, our future selves preferred choice is B. So to make it easier for our present selves to do, we’ve come up with productive things to do at home that we actually look forward to doing and help time fly by until we get out. Or at least that we are less likely to procrastinate on. Here are our favorites.

Productive Things to Do When Stuck At Home

Oura ring while sleeping
Me being productive at home again. Such a go-getter.

✓ Sleep better

Sleeping better improves your memory, creativity, food cravings, immune system, longevity, stress levels, and appearance. It’s probably the most productive thing you can do when stuck at home.

Your mom has probably already told you sleep’s important. But she’s been understating the benefits and the risks of not getting enough. For the eye-opening science of sleep, I strongly recommend Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker.

✓ Talk about something interesting

Being stuck in the same old place is great incentive to discuss something new with your inmate(s). You’ll strengthen your relationships with them and the right topics will give your mind a well-needed stretch.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • 36 Questions to Fall in Love. They do the trick just as well in a platonic relationship.
    • Example: If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  • 70+ Friend Questions
    • Example: If you could instantly become an expert in something, what would it be?
  • Table Topics. (It would seem like a waste of money to pay for physical cards when you can find endless conversation topics online, but we find that having physical cards makes us more likely to use them.)
    • Example: If you could give everyone in the world one personality trait, what would it be?

✓ Do an Iron Chef challenge

For those of you who didn’t watch it on weekends in high school like me, Japanese Iron Chef was a reality TV cooking battle where top chefs competed to make the best dishes with unexpected ingredients. Watch this to get an idea of what you missed:

The show’s irons went cold in 2002, but you can keep it alive by doing your own Iron Chef challenge.

Dig into the deepest darkest corners of your pantry, extract the crap that’s been sitting there for years, and put your cooking skills (or lack thereof) to the test by making the best you can from what you’ve got.

Better yet, compete against a friend and share your delicious innovative creations with them.

✓ Practice some hokey but helpful gratitude

Gratitude is hokey, I know. So was Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And if you’ve seen any of the recent movies that celebrate Fred Rogers, you’ll know hokey works.

Daily gratitude rescued Kim and my relationship, and it’ll work wonders on you, too. It’s not hard, either. If Kim can manage to come up with 1,000 things about me to be grateful for, you should have no problem finding millions of things to be grateful for in your life, even when you’re stuck at home.

So start and/or end your day writing down one or two of them. You don’t need an app or anything. Any notepad will do.

Strength training at home cover image of Chris doing suitcase lift
Do try this at home. For more, see our home strength training exercises.

✓ Get pumped

Just because you can’t go to the gym doesn’t mean you can’t stay fit. Take it from Kim and me, who ditched the gym long ago. It just takes some creativity:

See our home strength training guide for equipment-free ideas to get you sweating. And beginner gym-ditchers may find our comprehensive natural workout guide useful.

✓ Write letters

Writing letters is a prisoner’s favorite pastime for a reason. And lucky for you no one will be screening them, so you can write whatever you want.

Write to family, old friends, and to people you admire.

And write letters to yourself.

Seriously. Don’t you think your future self would appreciate getting a letter from you? Also, whatever goals, ideas, and promises you write in that letter will stick in the back of your mind and keep you motivated and productive while stuck at home.

Me researching a past Unconventional Monthly. And yes, a fasting diet book is ridiculous.

✓ Do a research project

Reading books and articles and listening to podcasts willy-nilly while stuck at home is ok, but you’re not likely to get much out of it. If you really want to learn, be a student. Pick a topic to focus on, find relevant books, blogs, and podcasts, take notes, and write something about it.

Since doing exactly this for our Unconventional Monthly newsletter, I’ve learned tons about giving gifts, career paths, relationships, fasting, and opening my mind.

What will you learn about?

Wherever you stay, enjoying a cold beverage tops the list of things to do in Bahia Solano
So much better than being stuck at home.

✓ Plan your escape

Give yourself something extra to look forward to once you’re released by planning a trip.

Pick a destination then read books (fiction and non-fiction), watch documentaries, reach out to friends who’ve been before, and revel in the anticipation.

Now, as I write this during the 2020 pandemic, is a great time. Cash-desperate travel companies are offering unbeatable deals with flexible cancelation policies.

✓ Don’t get buried by the news

Let someone else filter through all the crap for you while you do more productive things. Find one or two trusted curators—a newsletter, a newspaper, an expert on Twitter—and limit yourself to checking what they have to report once a day. Twice, if you can’t control yourself.

✓ Donate some of your time

Rather than waste your time when you run out of productive things to do while stuck at home, donate it. Volunteer or become a mentor.

Here are 25 ways to volunteer from home. I couldn’t find any surefire online mentoring programs to recommend. If you know of any, please share in the comments.

✓ Laugh

Laughter’s the best medicine, right? So make a point of doing it every day to treat your cabin fever.

Find a funny podcast, TV show or movie, or stand-up special to lighten things up. Or just watch this video. It never fails to deliver:

✓ Do your taxes

Might as well get them out of the way when you have nothing better to do.

More Productive Things to Do When Stuck at Home

Not enough for you? Here are more productive things to do when stuck at home:

  • Meditate.
  • Have sex. (Side question: Has any couple ever split up from having too much sex together?)
  • Take online classes on a new language or skill.
  • Clean up your home and get rid of excess crap.
  • Do the home repairs you’ve been neglecting.
  • Practice drawing, painting, coloring, poetry or something else artsy.
  • Exchange massages with your partner. (Some “handy” beginner tips Kim and I learned from an expert.)
  • Freestyle rap battle your fellow inmates. (Inspiration from improv comics.)
  • Start a blog better than this one.
  • Share ideas of other productive things to do while at home in the comments of awesome blog posts on the topic

So much! You won’t ever want to leave!

(Ok, I’m losing it. Get me out of here.)

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Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we recommend. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to. Read our affiliate policy here.

Chris and Kim

Kim and Chris are on a mission to eradicate boringness by feeding their curiosity and fighting complacency. Discover the extraordinary and join thousands of others every month with The Unconventional Monthly.

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