woman working from home who doesn't know about behavioral economics woman working from home who doesn't know about behavioral economics Working from home can be the best thing ever or a series of boobie traps. (Photo: Ilia Kalinkin / Shutterstock)

A behavioral scientist's guide to working from home

Learn from behavioral economist Dan Ariely how to work more efficiently while making the rest of your life easier too.

Working from home is a behavioral minefield. Distractions abound, Facebook notifications take too much of your time and it's easy to procrastinate. Luckily, behavioral economists like Israeli professor Dan Ariely know just how to get your amazing but flawed human brain to stay on track.

"Home has lots of temptation. There's the refrigerator, there's TV, there's laundry," Ariely told From the Grapevine. "How do we decrease our own ability to fall for temptation when temptations are all around us?"

According to Ariely, the answer lies in carefully planning out where, when and how we get work done.

"Students at the university work very well when they go to the library," continued Ariely. The library isn't quieter; in fact, it's often more noisy than a dorm room. But when a student is in a dorm room, she's only accountable to herself. In libraries, students are aware that other students may glance at their screens, which makes them behave better.

"We need to create rules for ourselves about how we work at home," Ariely went on. "For example: I sit at my desk every day by 8:30 a.m. I don't get up for anything aside from bathroom, coffee and tea until 12:00 p.m."

Offices often impose rules like these on their employees. Obviously it depends on the rule, but good rules can be pretty important for productivity.

"The same rules that are very effective for work are even more important for home," said Ariely.

Not that people who work from home must pretend to be in offices. If they're smart about it, they can take advantage of being around so many other parts of their lives.

"Cooking is a wonderful activity, but cooking takes a long time," Ariely told us. So he advises taking cooking breaks. Instead of going on Facebook every 20 minutes, you can get up to cook something.

"Pick some recipes that take a long time," Ariely suggested. For instance, you can decide to make pasta sauce from scratch. On one break, you boil the tomatoes. You let them cool, and go back to work. On your next break, you peel them. Another hour later, you cut them up.

"Take recipes that can be broken into parts and usually take a long time," Ariely said. "Instead of taking breaks like Facebook that don't really replenish us or give us a sense of rest, do something like cooking that lets us rest, think about something else and also get better food."

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