Staying Productive While Working From Home

I was preparing to become a father when Covid-19 took over the world, forcing many into situations they weren’t prepared for. When the pandemic started, I was living in a small apartment together with my wife, a newborn baby, my mother-in-law, and my wife’s niece.

Crowded, loud, and tiring were probably the best words to describe the new situation I had to deal with. For many, however, including myself, this situation impacted my daily routine significantly.

Studying within the confines of the small, crowded apartment quickly turned into a bore and even left me with less energy at the end of the day. However, it didn’t seem like the world was going back to normal—although it’s safe to say normal has a new definition now—so it was up to me to make the best of the situation.

Going with the flow of the day didn’t work for me. Over time, I realized that I needed a better plan to stay productive at home. I started to plan out my day, created a space that I could work in, and allowed myself to have short breaks.

Plan Out Your Day

I used to go through each day without really planning what I actually should prioritize. It might work for some, but most of the time I find myself working on projects and assignments at the very last minute, or I realized I should’ve done another project or assignment first. My overwhelming fifth semester made me realize I couldn’t just wing it if I wanted to perform well during my internship.

The solution is just to plan out each day. Without planning I created a paradox of feeling guilty: if I wanted to spend time with my family or wanted to do other things, I felt guilty because I knew there was work that I actually had to do. The same feeling of guilt happened when I worked too much on projects since it was very easy to be glued to your computer screen for many long hours and days when working on a programming project. For my internship, I spent typically 6 to 8 hours a day working on my tasks. In the end, I ended up spending less time with my family.

Image: Pixabay/Free-Photos

Sometimes I’ll spend some extra hours to learn some things, and beforehand I plan this using an agenda. Now it’s become my habit to write each activity on my agenda. This allows me to visually see how I could make the most of my day since internship is not the only activity I have.

Create a Comfortable Workspace

One of my biggest challenges was creating an environment where I could completely focus on my work. Since I was renting a fully furnished apartment, I had limited space to began with to create a new workspace for my own. Thankfully my apartment came with a desk in the guest room, where my mother-in-law and my wife’s niece used to sleep. I then decided to make use of the desk during the day and some hours of the evening when needed. Though the room and desk were very small, they did their job pretty great.

Eventually, my mother-in-law and my wife’s niece went back to Ambon, so then me, my wife, and my daughter had the apartment to ourselves. The apartment really was too small for four adults and a baby so it was a nice adjustment. Especially since everyone was just at home every day.

In May 2021, I found a bigger and unfurnished two-bedroom apartment for almost the same price as my previous apartment. Although currently I still don’t own a room to work for myself, the main bedroom is big enough to also have a bigger desk without crowding the room too much. The main point is to have a dedicated space where you can work and minimize distractions. Communicate with family members or whomever you share a place with that you don’t want to be distracted during working hours.

Try Out the Pomodoro Technique

Sometimes it is hard to stay focused on the task at hand. We easily get distracted by notifications sounds on our computers and smartphones, feeling the need to immediately respond to those. It even gets more tempting to respond to those little distractions when our work feels like a rut. If you are easily distracted and tend to procrastinate, the Pomodoro Technique might improve your productivity, as this helps us to work smarter instead of working harder. The technique achieves this by introducing short breaks after each work session. It goes something like this:

1. Choose a task you need to get done.
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and start working on your task.
3. After 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break.
4. Repeat.
5. Take a long break after four sessions.

As someone who does software engineering, I found this technique to be amazing and something I wish I knew about earlier. Programmers know how frustrating certain projects can be and allowing your brains to unwind for a short time really helps your productivity. The short five-minute break allows me to do something entirely unrelated like checking my Instagram feed or something more useful and beneficial like a five-minute body stretch.

The Pomodoro Technique can be very helpful if you are in a situation where it’s hard to stay focused, or if you are someone who gets distracted easily. You might be surprised at how much work you can get done if you just completely focus on your work in the span of 25 minutes.

Everyone had to adjust to the changes that Covid-19 brought to the world. Everyone also lives in different situations but applying the previous methods I believe can greatly improve one’s productivity. Sometimes you might be limited in what you can do, like changing your work environment, but try to just make the best of the situation. I certainly had to make the best of the situation for a long period. I’m far from having a perfect routine but most of the time I get things done on time, although every now and then something disrupts the routine. But at least now I have a routine to fall back to.

Imanuel Febie (BI Computer Science, Int'l Student, Netherlands)

Imanuel Febie (BI Computer Science, Int'l Student, Netherlands)