Mila Frerichs - Developer, Consultant

Mila Frerichs

Developer, Civic Hacker
Geo- & Data-Geek


Ten things I do to stay productive while working from home for myself

Working from home is a curse and a blessing. Working for yourself is a curse and a blessing as well. Both together can be a toxic mix and the best thing that can happen to you. If it’s easy to interrupt you, you should consider neither. If you can focus yourself without someone breathing down your neck, this could be something for you. If you love to work on your schedule and decide when and what to work this is something you should consider.

I love the freedom to work when and where I want and can focus better. I love working in the quiet of my office. No interruptions, no noises unless I want and need some. The non-existing commute is a huge factor. Especially in a large city like Berlin. Most people I know have a commute of at least 30 minutes. It’s the time I can spend with my dog or at the breakfast table, drinking coffee and reading.

There are downsides as well. Fewer interruptions from noises or colleagues get equalized with home interruptions. But these are interruptions everybody working for themselves know. Checking social media, hanging out on the sofa. Etc.

Different working spots

I have different working places: my desk, my standing desk, my bean bag, my balcony, dinner table and the couch. I try to switch ever so often, but I’m not very good at it. It is scientifically proven that changing your position while woking does improve your brain activity and health.

Pomodoro Technique

I try to use the Pomodoro technique when I work on a longer lasting task. The Pomodoro Technique is the concept of breaking down your work into smaller chunks of time. Most often 20 minutes of working and a five-minute break. I get into the zone fast and stay there for a while when I’m not interrupted. The Pomodoro technique helps me to interrupt my flow intentionally and take a small break. Stay up, get something to drink, let the mind flow. And if possible change work position (from sitting to standing, or sitting somewhere else).

Take Breaks

The Pomodoro technique reminds me to take breaks. To clear the mind, get a fresh view of things. Take a walk if possible.

Clutter free desk

A clutter free desk helps you focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by the stuff you need to take care off.

Remove distractions as notifications

I removed almost all notifications. I shut off Mail, Messenger, Slack and any other app that does any notification. I switch on „Do not disturb mode“ on both my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It is such a relief. In any of the breaks, I quickly check my phone and read messages. Every longer break I open Mail and Slack.

Start early

I try to start as soon as possible. Depending on the schedule of my wife I will start my day at 8:30. Sometimes I even start at 7. But only on special occasions. But I do get the most distracting stuff out of the way early. During breakfast, I check Twitter and add stuff to my reading list. I watch Baseball Recaps and the news. I usually have a two-hour breakfast every morning.

Plan the week on Monday

I plan my week on Monday. The first 30 minutes of the working day are for planning and a short review of the weekend. I try to schedule every day of the week, and I use GitHub Issues and Waffle for it. I assign the Kanban Score on every task. I try to even out every day and do less on Friday. I plan for an 7 for every day, but it does vary depending on my client’s schedule.

Plan your day

I try to review every day what I do have planned and try to schedule out as much as possible. I used to schedule blocks of the day out for the tasks of the day.

Weekly review

Every Friday I do a weekly review. I clean up my desk, my Inboxes (Mail and Evernote), Basecamp and ToDos. I have a sheet with tasks to do during my review, but I’m still refining it. It helps me clear my head, and I can focus better on the weekend and my family.

Walk my dog

I walk my dog when I need and want a break. It’s refreshing, and she loves it :)

A few of those are getting difficult in the last months since getting my dog Ruby.

But this post is a good reminder to keep working on those things to get me more productive.