I have worked from home for the last 10 years as a web designer. I have done a little bit of other things like freelance maths proofreading for a company called Leckie and Leckie (now taken over by Harper Collins.) I did a PhD in Maths a while ago.
Working from home can be difficult with distractions and also limited stimulation. You have to be motivated and focused. These are things that have helped me. Bear in mind that I am living on my own so some issues may be different. If you have your family in the home with you then you may want less stimulation, not more! So a room with a quiet side may be more appropriate.
1. Use an hours tracker or Project Management App.When you are working on a particular project be focused. It can be tempting to immediately respond to each email, message etc that comes in. But if you do this you will quickly feel all over the place. A lot of work requires focused concentration and moving in several different directions will result in poorer quality work. I use HoursTracker but there are many others as well. Then I add all the different jobs I have to do then ‘Clock in’ and ‘Clock Out’ as appropriate. This keeps me focused on the job in hand and is useful for keeping track of your work, also for invoicing clients (if you are on an hourly arrangement). If you are working on a fixed price project, knowing exactly how long you took on a project is useful for quoting in the future.
2. Have a commute to work. This is not easy at the moment with the Coronavirus Lockdown but you can at least walk up and down a path or room. It is important to have had at least a bit of exercise, to have stretched a bit. Otherwise you can feel a bit agitated later on.
3. Have a Fitbit watch or something else to keep track of your steps. If you do not have a normal walk to work routine you need to keep track of where you are at so you can proactively make up for it by walking up and down the stairs or in the garden. Hard to do in a lockdown but exercise will make you feel better and help you sleep.
4. Work near a window where people are walking by. If you are on your own, you need a bit of stimulation. Even if it is people walking by with a dog, or birds at a bird table. It helps to have some form of stimulation. Even though one of my rooms backs onto a local cricket pitch (nothing happening on it at moment), I prefer to work in a corner of my living room which is near the road so there is a bit of activity that I am at least loosely connected to.
5. Vary your location. Sometimes it helps to work in different locations to add a bit of variety. When there was no lock down I would often go to the library to work, or a coffee shop. Different types of work sometimes work best in different environments. If at home, you may or may not be able to find alternative places to work.
6. Listen to Music. You will need to vary the music depending on what sort of work you are doing. For repetitive work that needs little intense concentration you can listen to anything. For more focused work light classical music is best for me. I can’t deal with music with words when I am working on something difficult unless it is classical music with a foreign language I can’t understand.
7. Vary your work. When I started my PhD, someone encouraged us to have 3 or so different things to be working on, and to vary it. This obviously depends on what you have to deal with. But even if it’s a single project there may be different issues you need to work on. For example for a website I might want to work on – how it looks on a mobile, issues to do with page speed, contact forms. And then can work for half an hour or an hour on one issue then switch to another etc.
8. Take opportunities for sunshine and exercise. If you have a lull in work and there is some good weather take the opportunity to have some good exercise. Or do some work in the garden. Be safe though. Sometimes it can feel more productive to be stuck in front of a computer being busy. But if you are not doing something important it would be better to be off enjoying yourself. Then return later happier and fresher to work.
9. Build your skills. If you have a lull and don’t want to go out then consider building up your skills. See what experts in your field are saying about how your work will be developing in the future and what skills will be important. I sometimes use Udemy to brush up on bits and pieces.
10. Love what you do! Look into something related to your work that you really enjoy. Loving what you do is very important in your ability to excel in it. I would say the main ingredients to excelling in an area are (1) natural talent, (2) a lot of hard work and (3) loving what you do.