As millions of people in Africa and around the world are forced to work from home indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, we talk to professionals and entrepreneurs in various industries to learn how they are adapting to this new reality.
This week on How I Work, Tobi Owoade, a Program Manager at a non-profit organization shares his routines and tips for staying productive while working from home.
Current role: Program Manager at an NGO
Current computer: Lenovo Thinkpad, Microsoft Surface, MacBook.
Current mobile device: Samsung
Describe what working in this pandemic is like, in one word: Zoom
Tell us briefly about what you do and what your job entails
I support the governments with developing and implementing labs focused on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreements, providing high-level strategic support to ministries of health and driving timely planning, approval and execution PPPs. Specifically, I help design suitable models for government partnerships with the private sector with the ultimate goal of drastically improving the access to and quality of diagnostic services in low and middle-income countries.
Additionally, I also provide technical assistance to the Nigerian government to strengthen financial and supply chain systems for routine immunisation in the country. With this additional work, I support with forecasting, quantification, financial analysis, and high-level advocacy to the government to foster the timely allocation and release of funds.
Is this your first time fully working from home?
I get up as early as 4 a.m. and get to work right away for three hours. This is the most efficient time of the day for me so I try to maximise it. I focus on what I call “Only the Important” things. And I prioritise them based on urgency.
At 7 a.m. I exercise, brush my teeth, have a bath, and arrange my room and workstation…in that order. I call this the “Day Prep Activities”.
I am usually done with the Day Prep Activities between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. When I finish before 8:30 a.m., I use the remaining time to reply messages and any other thing requiring my attention on my phone (Of course, I do these when distracted during the day too but sporadically as I have a way of stopping myself and refocusing). This is important because if I don’t, I will leave tens of people hanging for days.
Between 8:30 and 9 a.m. I have a quick breakfast (Of course, I still continue to indulge my phone during this period).
The rest of my workday starts at 9 a.m. and this time, I focus on “The Urgent” and I prioritise them based on importance. I then get into several meetings in-between until 8/9 p.m. when I then plan the next day and dive into something on Netflix, read a book, or play FIFA.
What apps, gadgets, or tools have you been relying on to work from home, and how do you use them?
Zoom – Virtual meetings
WhatsApp – Messaging/quick calls
Outlook – emails
Zoho – emails
Team – Virtual meetings
Skype – Sporadically for messaging and quick calls.
I don’t, which is not good. I would, however, advise people to do the following for effective work form home:
Build a permanent workspace and get comfortable office furniture for this workspace.
Set real work hours and avoid work creep.
Discover and understand your high productivity periods.
Make to-do Lists and use a planner and calendar.
Don’t start your workday in your PJs and don’t fall into the trap of not having to freshen up in the morning because you are working from home.
Set a morning routine and stick to it.
Listen to music. Weirdly enough, it helps me concentrate. So invest in a good pair of headphones if music works for you too.
Use the video chat option where possible.
Do you live/work alone? If not, what’s your living condition like and how do you avoid/cope with distractions?
I don’t live alone. I avoid distractions by putting away my phone as much as possible and remaining in a quiet place like my room until I am done with work.
What’s your biggest challenge with working from home and how are you trying to solve it?
The possibility of sleeping when working in bed. I solved it by procuring an entire workstation for my room.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? What do you recommend?
Reading the last 10 Buffet shareholder letters, The Titan and Zero to One.
Watching Contagion, Blind Side, Gandhi, Outbreak, King’s Speech, and Money Heist.
What advice would you give someone trying to adapt to working from home?
You can be more effective or less effective; it depends on you. To a large extent, you alone control the output, results, and narrative when you work from home.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Aliko Dangote, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet.
I write about media, technology and internet culture. Reach me on Twitter @okikesam