Article by Megan Davies – How To Stay Motivated When You Work From Home
Whether self-employed or in a role that allows remote work, more and more people are working from home. Seen by many as the ideal working environment, the biggest challenge can be staying motivated. When your home environment becomes your work space too, how do you ensure that you remain productive working at home?
I’ve been self-employed for six months and work from home. With no boss breathing over my shoulder to keep me on track, I’ve realised one of the hardest things about working from home has to be organising my time. In this article, I’ll share what I’ve learned about keeping motivated to make sure you hit your business goals.
1. Create A Strong Morning Routine
Start your day as you mean to go on by creating your ideal morning routine. This is not to say that you should jump out of bed and be checking your emails straight away. I know that when the alarm goes off the temptation is strong to dive back under the covers. Instead, try to use the opportunity to indulge in a little me-time. Whether that takes the form of a cup of coffee as you read or yoga, try to take a few moments to yourself. If you have a family, this may mean you wake 10 minutes before they do so you can preserve that much needed quiet-time.
2. Make Your Bed
Making your bed is a simple yet effective action that sets you up for the day ahead. A messy, cluttered bedroom will only suck you into its chaos. This can be especially damaging if your desk is located in the bedroom. The act of making your bed signifies to your brain that the day has now begun, plus, let’s not forget how inviting a well-made bed looks at the end of a hard day.
3. Get Dressed
One of the all-time perks of working from home has to be that you get to leave the corporate workwear hanging up in the cupboard. However, although the temptation is strong to stay in your pyjamas and dressing gown all day, it does not exactly set the right tone.
I’m not suggesting that you pull on the pencil skirt to sit in your home office, but certainly change out of your nightwear and into clothes that are comfortable and get you into a working mindset.
4. Walk To Work
Fitting in time to exercise can be a common problem for many of us who work at home. Before you know it, several days can go by without leaving the house, which can leave you feeling lethargic and suffering from cabin fever.
One way around this problem is by leaving the house each morning to replicate a commute. Before you wrinkle up your nose and say that ditching the commute was one of the main reasons why you chose to work from home, this proactive choice feels a lot different to the mercy you surrender to the traffic Gods.
Incorporating a walk into your morning routine enables you to slip in some much needed exercise and gets you ready to work when you unlock your front door.
5. Plan Out Your Day The Night Before
Ever sat down at your desk at 9am and felt like you don’t even know where to begin? Or have you got to the end of your day and been sure that you’ve made absolutely no progress?
It’s hard to feel motivated when you are not sure what it is you’re working on and how to measure your success. I always prepare for my working day at the end of the one before. I review my work calendar so I know what appointments and client work I have coming up, then I make sure that I’ve got my daily list of actions written down to keep me on track. There’s nothing more motivating than to tick off items at the end of the day as it helps you to see what progress you’ve made.
When you are unable to tick off anything from this list, or it simply keeps growing, then it’s time to review your priorities and make sure you are only working on the things that are really important. Or, break down those bigger tasks into smaller, more achievable tasks so you can cross them off that list more quickly.
6. Get In The Work ‘Zone’
This may be more difficult for some people than for others, but if you can, try to separate out a designated work area at home. This will help get you into the working mindset as you define work-time from that of leisure and family.
The worst place you could think to work is from your bed. Allowing no distinction between work and personal space does not allow for your most productive time at work. Not to mention, curled up in bed in your pyjamas with unbrushed teeth isn’t exactly conducive to high levels of motivation.
Once you’ve found a place that you can work from, remember to keep this clutter-free. A tidy desk sends a powerful message to the brain that you are here to work, plus, keeps you on track instead of wasting time sifting through piles of paper or dirty coffee cups for that important document.
7. Be Clear On Your Work Time
Depending on when you work and who else shares your home, it may be difficult to find a quiet space in the house. Friends and family who know you work at home may also be tempted to pop round or call during the day, because they know you’re there.
It can therefore be a challenge to obtain the focus that you need to do your work. If this is sounding all to familiar to you then it’s necessary to be clear to everyone – including yourself – of your work hours. Tell people you cannot be disturbed because you are working and do not allow yourself to get involved with whatever else is going on around you.
Close the door to your room if necessary, or use noise cancelling headphones if you have them to block out any distracting noise and activity.
8. Short Bursts Of Activity
I don’t know about you, but I get extremely fidgety if I sit at my desk for several hours without a break. Long spells of concentration are not conducive to your best work. There are several ways you can avoid a stagnant slog at your computer and work more effectively.
One takes the form of batching your work where you group together similar tasks so that you remain focused. For example, on a Friday afternoon you plan, create and schedule your social media posts for the following week.
The second uses a technique called the Pomodoro. This involves breaking down your tasks into 25 minute segments – apparently the optimum amount of time we can concentrate for – followed by a 5 minute break. You decide how long it takes to carry out each task – i.e. editing a report takes 2 Pomodoros – and you schedule this activity into you diary. At the end of 4 Pomodoros you can take a longer rest; a small reward for time spent on concentrated working.
9. Give Yourself A Lunch Break
Yes, breaks are allowed! In fact, I would actively encourage you to take at least 30 minutes during your day to completely get away from your desk. Use this time to eat your lunch, get a breath of fresh air and/or do any quick household jobs that are niggling at you.
You are far more likely to drift off aimlessly throughout the day if you don’t have a lunch break because your focus will disappear as soon as your energy levels drop. You’ll also be more likely to succumb to loading the dishwasher at 10am when you should be writing that proposal because there is no time set aside during the day to do so.
10. Track Your Time
We’re all guilty of falling into an internet black hole when we should be working, and we would be amazed to know how long we spend idly scrolling on our screens each day. There are many tools available that can help you to stay on task by tracking the time spent online or even in your email inbox.
Browser extensions such as Be Limitless for Google Chrome can record the time you spend on every website and reminds you of your daily goal or to-do list. With some tools like StayFocusd you can block your access to sites such as Facebook when you reach your daily limit.
Reserving time spent on social media to your lunch break and designating time in your calendar each day to spend on emails can help you keep avoid these time-sucking distractions.
How To Stay Motivated Working From Home
Whilst working from home may seem like the Holy Grail, just like any working environment it can bring its own set of challenges. There certainly are a lot of perks – I never have to search for a clean teaspoon when I make a cup of tea! – but the downside of spending most of your time alone may mean that motivation suffers.
Ultimately, I’ve learned that the best way to keep myself going is to break goals down into small tasks and tick things off as I go. Instead of highlighting the things that I haven’t achieved and feeling guilty for it, I remind myself that I have the flexibility to adjust my schedule if I stray off track. Plus, I never forget to celebrate reaching the end of another successful week.
I’d love to hear how you create a productive working environment in your home. How do you stay motivated when you work for yourself?
Megan writes creative content for female entrepreneurs and small businesses. She loves travel, cups of tea and crushing people’s to-do lists one tick at a time. Catch her over at: www.smashyourtodolist.com.