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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
Dear readers,
I have been reading this forum for quite some time now and decided to make a post. While my problems pale in comparisson to what other people have, I have still decided to ask for advice about an issue that I found.

My issue is that I have become unproductive at my job. I am a computer worker at my job. Previously when I used to work in the office, I had no problems because I was using my work computer and anyone could come up to my cube and ask me what I am doing.

However the office has since been closed now, and I am now working remotely from my home computer, since we don't get to take the company computers home with us. It is a very relaxed and flexible environment, nobody is bothering me, and I can work when it is most convenient for me.

You would think that having the perfect work schedule, I would use it to my most benefit. But unfortunatley I am slipping and going in the reverse direction instead. I have become easily distracted by various news websites and social medias and I have become much less productive than I was when I worked in the office.

With nobody to keep myself accountable, I have slipped into below optimal levels of unproductivity. I need to reverse this downward spiral while I still can, break this nonsence, and get back on track.

Nobody has noticed this yet. My wife can't tell if I am doing my job related tasks, or if I am just browsing various stupid websites just by looking at my computer. As long as I am sitting and reading text on the screen, she thinks I am working hard. But I feel guilty. She isn't complaining about the long hours, but I know I can do better.

My boss also has no way of knowing what I'm doing. As long as the reports get turned in, and I don't bother him, he is happy. I just barley manage to do my reports. I consider myself to be underperforming becuase I waste a lot of time on various websites during the day and then work very quickly during the evening and into the night.

My boss thinks that I'm doing fine, and that I'm producing as much work as I need to, however deep down inside I know that I am doing poorly, since although I get my tasks done, I complete them in an inefficient manner.

I know that if I was focused, I could get my job done in a third of the time it takes, and then have time to spend with my wife, instead of being distracted by news articles, and then compensating by plowing through like a bull in the evenings. She hardly gets any attention from me.

If I weren't distracted, I would be much more productive, complete my reports quickly, and then have extra time, to maybe take a trip with my wife to the forest, to the nature, away from the big city.

Unfortunatley I don't have a lot of personal discipline and have been defeated time and time again by the bad habit of browsing these news websites, which only suck up my time and provide nothing in return. I want to stop this process.

I don't want to sit at my computer all day. I want to be internally accountable, so that I get my tasks done quickly and have more free time for useful activities.
 

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It is very easy to lose become unstructured and underproductive working from home. What you happening with you is very common.

Some tips....

  1. Set up an area in your home that is only for working on your job.
    • If you have a separate office room, close the door to your home office every night when you are done with work. Some people even install a door handle with a key-lock. In the morning mark going to work by opening (or unlocking) the door.
    • If you do not have a sperate room do something that indicates that the office is closed. Hang a 'drape' over your work station and chair, or some other cleaver thing to indicate that the office is closed.
  2. If you have two computers, use one for the job and one elsewhere in the house for personal stuff.
  3. Make sure you are logged out of all social media accounts during the work day. If you have a separate computer to use for personal use, remove all social media links, bookmarks, sign in data, etc. from your work computer.
  4. If you work with a team, set a brief video chat with them daily via Zoom or some other platform. That way you can all cover things that you would normally talk about if you were at the office. My son works on in a university research lab. He's doing a lot of computer modeling. His research team has been holding daily video chats daily since the university shut down in March. It seems to keep the entire team on task and focused on working together while apart.
  5. Set a work schedule, say morning 8am - 12noon then afternoon 1pm - 6pm and stick to it.
  6. At the end of the work day, make a to-do list, or schedule for the next day, listing what you will do that day.
  7. Set the time that you will end your work day and stick to it. Do something like set up a time that you will join your wife for dinner; or for a walk, or some other activity that marks the start of your evening with your wife.
 

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In addition to the above...

If you were working at an office you would have a daily commute. That is your time to prepare for the day, and unwind after. You should still use that "commute" time each work day.

Let's say you work 9-5.

Don't roll out of bed at 8:59 and head to your computer, in your underwear, with your bowl of cornflakes. Get up early enough that you can shower, have breakfast (not at your desk!), get dressed, then have your "commute time". For that commute time pick what you will do to act as a "start the day" work trigger. Exercise, read the news, etc. Then at 9:00am go to your computer and start working.

At lunch time, get up and walk away from your desk until the break is over.

At 5:00 when you're done for the day, put the work away. Then use your "commute time" to do something you enjoy. Read a book, read the news, play a video game, etc.

Then go have dinner with your wife.

For the commute time, I have seen recommendations anywhere between 15-60 minutes. Personally I used to do 20 minutes.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you for your response and advice.

About having a separate work area, our apartment is not that big, so my "home office" is located in the living/kitchen room. There's really no way to separate my computer desk from the rest of the room.
I am using my personal computer to work from home, since we're not allowed to take the office computers home with us.
I work as the IT guy in the corporation, and my non-technical manager doesn't really communicate with me, just a couple emails per week. I'm mostly left for myself, how I want to manage my time. Everything moves slowly at the corporation, and they don't really look after me now.
We both wake up at around 8:30 AM, and by the time I'm done with my morning duties, I start working only around 10:00 AM. The nature of my job is such that I could get all my daily work tasks done in like 5 hours if I really wanted to, and then have the rest of the time for myself, but unfortunately my procrastination habit has been kicking me. So I spend the entire day sitting at my computer.
My job is basically just glorified data entry and system admin, but I work at a wealthy corporation so they can afford to pay me a comfortable salary, living in a big US city. The only reason I got that job straight out of high school was because I was the computer nerd at my school and I basically ran their entire computer lab. I managed to get a good reference from the principal so they hired me.
I am feeling so very lucky to have an "easy" job that pays good, straight out of school, when the US economy is cracking at the seams and lots of people are losing their jobs. I'm lucky compared to the jocks at my school who are now ripping their muscles on the construction sites making pennies while I have the luxury of working from home.
Before the epidemic I didn't care about the news or social medias at all, but I gave up to them when that happened. It was a gradual slide... Removing all social media accounts and new websites from my browser is a good idea. Now the news articles just appear whenever I open up a new tab, and that is what triggers this awful state. I just get sucked into it and hard to get out. And I feel bad for letting myself get defeated so easily.
If I were more organized, I could get my work done in advance and then free up maybe two days during the week when I could take my wife out of this concrete jungle into the nature.
Previously in my life I had always been motivated by external accountability. Now when the external supervision dried up, without an eye watching over me, I figured that I need to get my act together now and supervise myself to make sure I am doing the work, and living the life that I aspire to live, without lower forms of thought patterns taking over me.
I was somewhat "spoiled" as a teenager, so it has taken me some time to adjust to life when I am now in charge of my own family. So I need to improve my personal discipline.
The to-do list, and setting fixed starting and ending times for when I need to finish my work, instead of it spreading to take up the entire day, are good ideas. That will also force me to actually do the work when I sit down at my desk instead of browsing those websites, freeing up my time later in the day.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Don't roll out of bed at 8:59 and head to your computer, in your underwear, with your bowl of cornflakes.
Although I do get dressed, but eating cornflakes and chips at my computer is basically what I have been doing so far. How did you know? Although we have started cooking together since we moved to the big city for my job, I have just been eating mainly ready to eat snacks and such. I know it is not healthy. I am sorry.
I should probably use my free time for exercising instead of reading the news, which was my problem, because I don't really exercise and yeah I should start doing that. The problem is that one does not simply read one news article.
 

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@Mark Anthony,

I’m a software engineer. My company allowed a lot of us to work remotely from home most of the time. We only had to go into the facility for meeting and to see clients. I am retired now from the company but still do software development with my own company. So I’m working from home still.

What you are experiencing is very normal. Most of us who work remotely go through a period of time at first where we just don’t management it well. Like you said, we’re used to being in an environment that puts external pressure on us to follow better work habits.

Since your work area is not a separate room, think of something that indicates that “the office is closed.” It might even be a sign you lean against your computer screen.

Is there any reason that your company cannot buy you a computer to use at home? When I worked for the large corporation, we were not allowed to use our personal computers for any work we did for the company. They issued very high-end laptops for home use, with docking stations, monitors, keyboards, etc. My workday started and ended by turning that laptop on in the morning and off after the end of the workday. My personal computer was also on my desk. I have an L shaped desk.

If you are going to work from home much longer, it would make sense for them to get you an ‘official’ computer for use only for their work.

I work as the IT guy in the corporation, and my non-technical manager doesn't really communicate with me, just a couple emails per week. I'm mostly left for myself, how I want to manage my time. Everything moves slowly at the corporation, and they don't really look after me now.
One thing you might want to consider is that it’s important that you take charge of your visibility to your manager. You said that you hand in reports. You might want to consider sending him emails with a daily or ever-other day status as well.

It does sound like you got lucky with this job. You definitely want to make sure that your manager knows how valuable you are to the corporation.

Previously in my life I had always been motivated by external accountability. Now when the external supervision dried up, without an eye watching over me, I figured that I need to get my act together now and supervise myself to make sure I am doing the work, and living the life that I aspire to live, without lower forms of thought patterns taking over me.
What’s good is that you recognize that there is an issue and your looking to for ways to take responsibility for making yourself accountable. That’s a very good thing.
The to-do list, and setting fixed starting and ending times for when I need to finish my work, instead of it spreading to take up the entire day, are good ideas. That will also force me to actually do the work when I sit down at my desk instead of browsing those websites, freeing up my time later in the day.
That sounds like a plan.
 

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You have received lots of good advice about working from home, and it is an adjustment.

You will get bored of all those other sites, but you need to break the habit.
This suggestion might be a bit counter to what you really need to do, but addresses your feelings of not spending time with your wife.

As your current pattern is to waste your mornings and catch up later. Why not waste your mornings with your wife instead. Maybe go on a morning walk together.
That way you have quality time together, and you now have no choice but to leave those sites alone when you get back, as you only have time for work now.
You will also benefit mentally from starting your day outdoors.
 

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Most of us who work remotely go through a period of time at first where we just don’t management it well.
Yep. Don't beat yourself up about it. I don't have any advice to add, all of what you got is good. What I want to say is that the rewards to be gained by good self-habits are WORTH IT.
You will make more money.
 
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