10 Tips to Help You Work from Home (and Stay Productive) While Quarantined

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If you're one of the many employees or business owners forced to work from home to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19), this may be new territory for you. There are pros and cons to working from home. On the one hand, you'll have the freedom to set up your own workspace in a comfortable environment that makes you feel warm and cozy. On the other hand, remote work can get lonely, and it'll be hard to stay on task. Distractions abound, but there are several tips to help you work from home and stay productive until the COVID-19 quarantine has been lifted.

Tip 1: Declutter the Area Around Your Workspace

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A messy environment can play games with your psyche. If you see a mound of dirty dishes or a pile of smelly laundry, it will cause you stress. Next thing you know, you're cleaning the entire house. As a result, your level of productivity will go down the tube. That's why it's best to separate your workspace from your living space. If your home is too small, try to keep the area neat and tidy (and shove those dirty dishes and clothes in a closet or something).

Tip 2: Choose Your Background Sounds Wisely

There are many things you can do to your workspace to make it warm and cozy while stimulating you to accomplish more. Many people find that white noise makes them more creative. Others feel more positive and productive when listening to nature sounds. Some swear by classical music, but, if your work requires complex cognitive talks, then silence leads to the most productivity.

Tip 3: Start a Morning Ritual (and Keep It)

Don't be tempted to lounge around in your pajamas with the computer in your lap. Instead, pretend that you're getting ready to go to the office. Get dressed to impress,  put on a pot of coffee, fix a quick breakfast, make your to-do list and conquer the workday. Reap the benefits of successful people who are early risers. Get up instead of sleeping in, and watch how you become more proactive, anticipate problems, make better plans, have an optimistic attitude and get a good night's rest.

Tip 4: Establish a Daily Schedule

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Yogi Berra once said, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else." That holds true to working from home. If you don't plan out what you want to accomplish for the day, chances are you'll get nothing done. Set a realistic schedule for knocking everything off of your to-do list.

Tip 5: Tap Into the Power of the Rule of Three

In his book Getting Results the Agile Way, J.D. Meier recommends adopting the "Rule of 3" so that you won't feel overwhelmed, and you get actual results. All you need to do is make three to-do lists: 1) write three things you absolutely must complete (high priority), 2) write three things you want to complete but aren't very important (medium priority) and 3) write three things you hope to achieve but can be put on the backburner (low priority).

Tip 6: Use Household Responsibilities to Your Advantage

Just as employees are starting to work from home, parents are finding that their children can't go to school either. This can make getting things done more of a challenge. Whether your kids are infants or teenagers, set up a daily routine for your kids that works well around your to-do list. Then focus on your most important tasks while they're preoccupied with electronics, taking a nap or other activities.

Tip 7: Take Frequent Breaks

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Hopefully, you outfitted your desk with a comfortable office chair that supports your back or an ergonomic kneeling chair. No matter how soft and cushy, sitting too long can lead to a range of medical conditions from eye strain and back pain to obesity and cardiovascular disease. Get up every 30 minutes to walk outside or try placing a treadmill under a standing desk to keep moving. If you're feeling lonely, use breaks to connect with colleagues via phone or videoconferencing while standing up.

Tip 8: Plan Meals in Advance

When you're consumed with work, it's easy to run to the fridge or cabinet and grab a quick bit. In most cases, you'll first reach for junk food or unhealthy snacks. Buy healthy snacks like fruit and nuts and prepare your meals like breakfast and lunch ahead of time. Then, set up a scheduled time to eat and avoid running to the kitchen every time you have a craving or hunger pang.

Tip 9: Block Facebook and Other Social Media Accounts

Smartphones and social media have become a way of life for most people. Employers usually block social media sites on work computers or only permit browsing during breaks, so employees don't waste company time. If you can't resist, limit the times you can check social media. You have the option of installing blocker software on your computer or locking social media apps on your phone to stay focused and productive.

Tip 10: Shut Down Your Computer (and Your Mind)

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just as at the office, set specific starting and stopping times. Avoid the temptation to work around the clock. Only work on tasks and projects during that period. At the end of the day, quit working and shut down the computer. Relax and be sure to shut off those wheels turning in your head too.