How to Work from Home so You Stay Productive, Sane, and Motivated

How to Work from Home Through Quarantine and Beyond

how to work from home optimize

Hello everyone! Greetings from Koh Phangan, Thailand. We’re getting cozy on this island as we quarantine here for the foreseeable future, laying low and social distancing. Although Thailand wasn’t originally part of our Year Disrupted plans, we are happy we’re here. One, because we believe we can quarantine next to the beach on a beautiful island. But two, due to the current situation, we an amazing opportunity to focus on our goals and make progress in our business Although we aren’t experts at working from home, we’ve certainly gone through a lot of research, trial, and error when it comes to optimizing our time from home. Today, we’re going to discuss our top tips on how to work from home.

Perfecting the Art of Working Home

Working from home has become an increasing trend even before the coronavirus made it compulsory. While many are struggling to adjust, you can improve your work from home situation whether you have a business, are self-employed, or doing a job for an employer. In fact, we believe that there’s not only enough time to do your job and to do it well, but also to work on the projects, ideas, or hobbies that you normally do not have time for.  

Many people are reaching out asking about tips to work from home to take advantage of this time during coronavirus lockdown. So we’re trying to help as best we can! Whether you want to streamline your 9-5 or even start working on your own freelance side hustle, check out these tips.

We’re Not Experts but We have Practice

In our situation, I (Gabrielle) have been working from home for almost a year now and Abhi just finished his third month. It has been a wild ride and we learned a lot about it. We do things strategically and this allows us to not only make money for our business development but also work on Year Disrupted and other goals.  

 There is definitely going to be some growing pain to get out of old habits and into a new one but having a strategy is really important to fit everything you want to do in a day. Even if you are a person with spontaneous lifestyle, make sure to keep a plan.

Here are four basic steps about how to optimize your time for your work from home routine:

Work from Home Step 1: Think about what you want

Even if you work a traditional 9-5 on lockdown, you likely have much more time as you do not have to commute, get ready, etc. A lot of people have some goals but usually their day job takes up so much of their time. When you take out the trips to the bathroom, hanging out in the break room, and useless interruptions, we actually don’t spend a ton of time out of those typical 8 hours working diligently. What if you could work smarter, rather than harder? How would you spend this time? What would you work on, learn, or build?   

In addition to that, follow Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands given the time you give yourself to complete it. Remember those times in college when you miraculously churned out an essay in three hours because you procrastinated? Don’t procrastinate but give your time smaller windows of time to complete tasks so you use your time wisely.

Learn how to frame and prioritize your day and week. Make a full list of things you wish to accomplish in a week. Think about it simply and minimally. If you only got these things done in your day/week, then you would be satisfied.

Also, be realistic. Because it takes longer to get something done than you expect, so start in a  simple way over estimated time and design your week accordingly.

Work from Home Step 2: Frame your week through Critical tasks:

Each day, you should have two or three critical tasks. Again, these are the tasks that you will complete first or mindfully. They should be the main focus of your day until they are completely. You can even have a checklist for every day and it might seem so satisfying checking the boxes in electronic notes.

So, it’s up to you, when you want to complete it. Try to leave most critical tasks for the time when you are super productive. Keep your energy levels in mind. If you’re tired after lunch, don’t leave your critical task for that time.  

One more thing is to make sure they are small enough so you can do them in a single sitting. Every task is made up of smaller tasks, your daily task should be small enough to be completed in a session.

You will be surprised of your own creativity and this is where autonomy can come in!

Work from Home Step 3: Determine Your Ideal Routine and Test

When it comes to the actual day, most people struggle with sticking to a routine. The freedom of routine can be a gift and a curse for most people.

You need to frame a routine focusing on the time when you feel the most energetic and creative. If you want to have lunch or take a 20 minute power nap, go for it. Because this is really where you can break free from traditional 9 to 5 concept and find a schedule that works for you.

Try to do the same thing every day to reiterate your routine and test if it’s right for you. When you have the freedom, you can make a lot of different choices. It can also hamstring you a bit. So, try to eliminate all those choices, because this decision fatigue would not let you do anything at all. Think about the work and non-work related things you’d like to do (such as exercise, cooking, relaxing, etc…). Schedule those strategically.

Work from Home Step 4: Think About What You Need, Mentally

Let’s say you are making progress with work. But it’s important to feel satisfied as a whole. For some people, this lifestyle can be lonely or boring. So, the next thing is to think about what else you need to do to stay sane. Think about other things that truly make you happy, keeping in mind your mental health goals beyond just being productive and you can schedule it.

Train your brain just like you can train your body because you can do anything when you show up your hundred percent potential to a task.

Our routine:

This 12 hour time difference from Central times on US, has taught us to think outside the box because we try to be up during those working hours for the United States. So, in our normal days our morning routine is little bit different from that of Medellin.

After a slow start in the morning, we begin with one critical task around 11:30. Between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. we focus on less intense tasks, lunch, and recreation. As, we are currently doing Hard 75, we go for a run and pick up our lunch on the way back. As we know it’s not the most productive time, we complete those tasks that are not so important.

Then we take a break for another workout, have dinner, and then we kind of put the pedals to the medals. We make coffee and we stop talking to each other from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. For me, I am not as productive at nighttime as Abhi. That’s why, I have two critical tasks and then third auxiliary task so I get one done before evening so that I don’t feel overwhelmed. It feels great when I know I have finished all my tasks so, I can relax or can work on my side projects.

Work from Home Reminders:

There are few reminders that we wished we would’ve known at the beginning:

1. This time is an opportunity:

Most people must work from home until the pandemic wanes. You can take advantage of this time if you want to. Think about the things on your “to do” or “to learn” list.

2. Be careful with ‘Treat Yourself’ Mindset:

Stay away from the ‘treat yourself ’ concept. It has become very popular now. One thing that you should remember, when you treat yourself less, you can treat yourself in a bigger way. If you treat yourself, just make it mindful. Don’t do it because you don’t have anything else to do or are putting something more important off.  

It doesn’t mean turning into a working robot, treat yourself when you feel like it.

3. Learn throughout the process:

Just learn throughout the process. Everything, every skill is learned by taking it and breaking it down into a series of small steps.

Work From Home Q & A

Q: What’s your ideal routine?

About the routine, hopefully we answered the question.

Q: What are the two biggest pet peeves you have about working from home?

Gabrielle: The biggest pet peeve is the social aspect like the office stuff. Additionally, having my cellphone around anytime I want to use it also gets annoying. In the office, you never want to be “that guy” who is always on the phone.

Abhi: Having the phone available every time. Also being stuck at home, specifically now during this coronavirus pandemic.

Q: Last book you read?

Abhi: 10% Happier by Dan Harris. It’s kind of a funny book about meditation which has definitely inspired us.

Gabrielle: The Obstacle is the Way , which is based on the idea of changing your perception. It’s basically about ACTING, NOT REACTING.

Q: What happens when unexpected tasks or things come up?


– For anyone who gets a call or email from a client or a boss, there can be a moment where you feel compelled to answer or respond right away. Just like, when I get a text or email from a client and I have to respond. You can train this reaction and reel it in. Because logically, they send it to me when something pops into their mind. So, I have to remain focused, unless it’s an emergency.

-Adjust your weekly schedule based on your previous week but again, when you have to suddenly change your plans then make sure to have your critical tasks for the week that you can get done with, accordingly.

-And if you see many empty boxes on your checklist, then you need to reevaluate and focus more.

Additional tips:

1.If you know you can get your work done within half of the time your boss expects you to take(8 hours) :

Schedule your emails that are not so important to send out at a certain time so your boss and colleagues think you’re still on your computer.

2.Track everything: you can use electronic notes or pencil and paper, whatever brings you more satisfaction.

In Conclusion

As we are in self-quarantine, Abhi and I decided to channel our focus to 75 Hard Challenge by Andy Frisella.

This challenge involves 75 days of sticking to a same routine and a same diet. No alcohol, drink a gallon of water every day, read ten pages of a nonfiction book and a workout. Also, pick a diet and stick to it.

 This is the manifestation of our time, we want to use this time in quarantine to work for our physical and mental health goals. Also, it feels great to know what are doing for the next 65 days.

Stay safe everyone, we know times are crazy, and we’re hoping things get better soon.

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