Leonardo Da Vinci famously said, “While you are alone you are entirely your own master.”

We’re all spending more time alone and “mastering” ourselves, or trying our best to work and live in a healthy way, which can be really difficult.

Fear not!

There is an opportunity to be had...

Consider the factors that contribute to the success of a chemical reaction–catalysts, for instance, speed up reaction rates while inhibitors slow them down.

Recognizing what catalyzes and inhibits your progress while working from home is fundamental to success.

Through purposeful planning and implementing useful habits, you can significantly improve your productivity and morale. We recommend committing to a few of the following routines over the course of your time at home.

Remove distractions during work hours

The opportunity for distraction is constantly presenting itself. While “Rick and Morty’s” adventures through the multiverse are inspiring, save it for breaks or after-work hours.

Distractions disrupt workflow and force your brain to reset too often. Silence notifications and social media apps, remove the urge to check your phone by placing it out of sight, and avoid those internet rabbit holes.

Separate work space from relaxing space

Don’t take “working in the comfort of your own home” too literal.

Set boundaries between work zones and comfort zones to limit distractions and spatially wire your brain into performance mode.

Productivity Tips for Scientists Working from Home

By eliminating the number of choices your brain has to make, you can devote mental energy to your research, and perhaps, the next great scientific breakthrough.

Replace commute time with downtime for self-improvement

Fill your time that you otherwise spent commuting with activities that nourish your well-being. Meditate, go for a walk or jog, read, listen to podcasts, learn a new hobby or skill.

Challenge yourself-- discover other areas of research you’ve lacked time for in the past and welcome the opportunity to learn something new.

Personal growth is just as important as professional growth.

Start your day with top-priority work

Take advantage of morning productivity levels by beginning your day with your highest priority work. Write down your goals for the day, or a simple to-do list.

As you build on your small wins, you’ll see your overall success grow.

Make use of a time management method

Avoid getting trapped in an at-home time warp by deliberately planning your day. Scheduling your day provides structure and ensures you accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Experiment with a few different techniques to find what suits you.

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a popular one where you work on a single task for 25 minutes without interruption, followed by a short break. After 4 intervals, a longer break of 15-30 minutes is taken.

This technique is particularly effective for focusing on one single task, or breaking up a larger project into smaller increments.

work from home productivity for scientists - The Pomodoro Technique

On the contrary, the Pomodoro Technique is not suitable for those who find short intervals of work disruptive. If you are a writer or creative thinker, you may not want to disengage when inspiration strikes. If that is the case for you, I recommend taking a different approach, as I explain below.

DeskTime App

My personal favorite is a technique from a study performed by a time-tracking productivity app, DeskTime, that found their top 10% most productive workers spend 52 minutes working without distraction, followed by 17 minutes of break.

This technique is more suitable for those who prefer to work in longer intervals with longer resting periods to promote more intensive, purposeful work sessions.

Although effectiveness varies by individual preference, time management ultimately enhances focus, productivity, and creativity allowing you to work smarter.

Schedule time to stay connected

Feelings of disconnect and isolation can emerge when working from home, which is why it’s important to stay connected.

Plan chats with coworkers, family members, and friends via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc. Be present-- take the time to pause your work and fully engage in your conversations.

Pick a work buddy and have virtual coffees. Hold each other accountable and be there to support one another.

Go outside, every day.

When home and work are one and the same, it’s easy for a whole day to go by without stepping foot outside.

Welcome a change of scenery. Clear your head. Enjoy the fresh air and sunlight. Be grateful.

We all have had setbacks, lately. How we handle those setbacks propels us forward. Reassess the big picture. Learn to discipline yourself, and also reward yourself.

Take pride in what you’ve accomplished so far and the contributions you’ve made to the universal goal of the science community: discovery!


Amabile, T., & Kramer, S. J. (2016, June 8). The Power of Small Wins. Retrieved April 2, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins

Cirillo, F. (2018). The Pomodoro Technique: the acclaimed time-management system that has transformed how we work. New York, NY: Currency.

Duhigg, C. (2014). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, NY: Random House.

Gifford, J. (2020, March 12). Secret of the Most Productive People - Breaking. Retrieved April 7, 2020, from https://desktime.com/blog/17-52-ratio-most-productive-people/

Randler, C. (2014, August 1). Defend Your Research: The Early Bird Really Does Get the Worm. Retrieved April 2, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2010/07/defend-your-research-the-early-bird-really-does-get-the-worm