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François Wouts

The developer happiness engineer

I write about software engineering, developer productivity and my journey from working at Google to becoming an indie dev.

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Productivity tips for procrastinators who work from home

May 2017

I recently switched from working full-time from one of Google’s offices to doing my own thing at home.

Many people recommended working from a co-working space, because it’s impossible to focus at home and you’ll be less isolated.

I disagree on both counts:

  • I’m a lot more productive at home. In a co-working space, I get distracted by every movement and sound around me.
  • I feel a lot less lonely at home. I’m alone on purpose at home. Co-working spaces are comprised of many isolated teams/individuals. It’s hard to socialise outside of networking events.

However, maintaining focus at home is not a given. If you are a natural procrastinator like me, you may need to trick yourself into being productive.

I believe the best way to be productive isn’t to force yourself to focus — it’s to remove the distractions that require you to focus in the first place.

Here is a list of tips that I use to reduce my procrastination to a minimum.

Cancel Netflix

I’m a Netflix addict. If I start watching one episode of TV show, I’ll often end up watching five of them. I’ve decided I’m better off missing out on a few good TV shows than wasting 10% of my time.

Limit time-wasting websites on laptop

I use the Chrome extension StayFocusd to limit myself to 15 minutes per day on distracting websites like Facebook and Google News. This is the best Chrome extension I have ever used.

Uninstall the Facebook mobile app

While StayFocusd helped me reduce the time I spent mindlessly browsing through my Facebook feed on my laptop, I found myself doing the exact same thing on my phone. So I uninstalled the Facebook app entirely. I kept the Facebook Messenger app, because it’s not (yet) designed to maximise the amount of time you spend in the app.

Block time-wasting websites on phone

I use an Android phone. Unfortunately, Chrome extensions aren’t supported so using StayFocusd was not an option. Therefore I blocked the Facebook and Google News websites using Drony, a local proxy app. I can’t access Facebook at all from my phone unless I have a very good reason to do so (in which case I can temporarily disable Drony).

Update: I wrote some instructions to set up Drony on Android.

Set up a separate work session

Even with StayFocusd, I found myself constantly switching from productive work to personal/unrelated tasks. I set up a separate work session, in which I only sign in with my dedicated work email. Switching back to my personal session requires enough effort to discourage me from switching.

Subdivide your projects into small tasks

When starting a new project, it’s hard to know where to start. I force myself to kickstart the process by making a list of everything I can think of, in random order, then reordering it and splitting it up. At the top of the list, tasks should be small enough to do in less than one or two hours. This helps make the project a lot less intimidating and makes progress easier to track.

Use a different Facebook account to manage Facebook Pages

In order to manage a Facebook Page for your business, you need to sign in with your Facebook account, which means you’ll have to combat the temptation of quickly checking your Facebook feed. This can be counterproductive when you’ve gone through the effort of setting up a separate work session. There is a better way: set up a dedicated Facebook account to manage the page.

I used my work email address to set it up, restricted privacy settings so none of my friends mistakenly add the wrong account, then added the new account as admin to my Page. Even when I mechanically type “” in my browser, I end up on a Facebook feed that is too boring to stay.

Clean up your desk

Evolution has selected for us to be constantly scanning our surroundings for dangers. That’s why our ancestors survived and made babies, when the other ones got devoured by various beasts.

This may sound silly, but I found that cleaning up my desk helps me focus better. The more clutter I have, the more my eyes keep wandering around.

My desk on a good day

Stop eating (“intermittent fasting”)

This is a counter-intuitive one. I no longer eat breakfast or lunch during weekdays, unless there is a social reason for it (e.g. lunch with a friend). I save time, feel more energetic and can enjoy an amazing dinner at night without any regrets. I’m still experimenting with this—do your research and talk to a doctor before changing your diet. I have no medical qualifications :)

I hope this list was helpful. Feel free to reach out to share your own procrastination/productivity tips!

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