It may not seem like it at first, but working from home is a completely different beast than working in an office.
Just a few reason off the top of my head:
Having a “work place” separate from a “home place” compartmentalizes our energy and focuses us in to “work mode” vs “relax mode”.
Having coworkers simply present keeps us on task (because we’ll feel guilty if they see us scrolling Reddit and if everyone around us looks busy we will feel obligated to stay busy too).
Having an external schedule that forces us to do things at certain times (when we come in, when we go to lunch, when we stop) further stabilizes our energy levels and even our moods.
When working from home however, everything can bleed in to each other and the only people there to hold us accountable is ourselves (yikes).
Without conscious structuring, working from home can both reduce our productivity and at the same time increase our stress and unhappiness (especially given our current restrictions on social gatherings).
When done right though, working from home can increase our autonomy, freedom, flexibility, focus, and even overall job satisfaction all while making us significantly more effective (and often with less hours).
Keep in mind that your employer is unlikely happy about sending you all home. They fully expect the worst (lower productivity, more slacking, etc).
Now is your chance to show them that you can not only maintain you productivity but get far more done over this quarantine (and then you’ll have a butt load of leverage to negotiate continuing working from home at least part time after this all blows over).
If you like freedom, autonomy, life satisfaction, and money, here’s 5 tips that will help you get the most of the next few weeks.
1. Keep Your Morning Routine And Schedule
Get up at the same time as before. Or if you're a night owl and want to push it back at little, at least get up at the same time every day.
Change out of your PJ's in to real clothes, do you hair, brush your teeth, eat your breakfast, whatever you normally do.
Anything you can do to tell your brain that when you sit down at your otherwise “playtime” computer that it's now worktime will help you stay focused and productive.
2. Get Outside Several Times
Sun will raise your vitamin D levels which reduce depression/increase energy, as well as boost immune system.
It will also help reset your brain between tasks so that it takes a break and recuperates for more work after.
Get outside in the morning and during lunch at minimum. In ordinary circumstances you should go somewhere else for lunch. For now, try to at least eat lunch outside or at the bench in your apartment complex, etc.
3. Periodic Light Exercise
Exercise has been shown to be almost as effective as stimulants for creating focus in people with ADHD.
While you may not be so distractable as to be diagnosed with ADHD, we are all on the spectrum somewhere.
1-5 minutes of moderate exercise will boost both your mood and your focus.
When you're feeling tired and unfocused, go on a brisk walk, do jumping jacks, push ups, pull ups, whatever you prefer as long as it gets your blood pumping.
4. Set 3-5 Priorities For The Day In The Morning
Without a group to keep you accountable and clients/coworkers to give you tasks, it can be hard to do the right things during the day.
In the morning, set your 3 to 5 most important to do's. Write them on a whiteboard, notebook, or virtual notebook (OneNote, Evernote, etc).
Your goal today is to get all of these done.
If they are hard, take breaks in between by doing lower-in-importance but higher-in-enjoyment tasks (so you can get a “win” of accomplishing something and use that momentum to do the next hard task).
If you don't complete them all, that's okay, move them to tomorrow. You’ll get better at this over time.
5. Time Your Work
Without the social pressure to "look like we are working" it can be easy to wander off to Reddit or Instagram in the middle of a difficult or tedious task.
Timing your work on your priorities is a great strategy to help counteract this.
My personal favorite is The Pomodoro Method—25 minutes “on” 5 minutes “off”, with every 3rd “off” being 15 minutes.
Basically you set a 25 minute timer to focus on ONE objective.
If you get distracted and start checking your email after 15 minutes, you just reorient yourself back toward your task: "just 10 more minutes then I can do what I want".
If you find that 25 is too long, change it to something that works for you with a custom time; or start with a broader objective (eg instead of “Finish X Client Proposal” set it just to “work” while your 5 minutes is “break”).
About 2 years ago I upgraded from Marinara Timer to Toggl, a free time tracker, which has a pomodoro function as well as can track projects (great for when you need to submit time sheets or T&M to clients).
The website is dead.
Here it's the site in the web archive.