11 ways to stay motivated if working from home! #PersonalEffectiveness #Motivation
1. Wake Up Early
For many, this may be the hardest part of working from home. With no office to go to, and no boss to tap his watch and look irritated if you’re late, there can often be little motivation to get up at a reasonable hour and start work. I fell prey to this early on in my writing career, waking up at 10 or 11 AM and beginning the day from there. But it isn’t worth it.
Training yourself to get up on time like you do have a more traditional job will get you into a routine that encourages productivity. Studies have shown that getting up in the morning turns you into a more proactive person, and personally, I’ve found it makes me much more productive, much more quickly. Waking up at 7:30 AM every day allows me to start work by practically 7:45. It’s not obscenely early like someone with a lengthy morning commute to worry about, yet it’s not 11 AM either, like I’m a hungover college student who just remembered he has a term paper to finish.
By forcing myself into this schedule, I’ve found that over the years, my most productive time during the day has been from 8 AM to 11 AM. After breakfast, my mind is sharper. It’s early in the day so I’m motivated to work harder, faster and more efficiently in the hopes of finishing up the day early. In my business, this before noon time period is when many people are checking the internet for news as they themselves get into work, so for me, getting up early makes me more successful than my competition who is still sleeping. I get the worm, so to speak.
2. Put On Actual Clothes
It’s incredibly tempting when working from home to wear the most comfortable set of clothes you own whenever possible, especially since most of the time you’re rolling out of bed and starting work soon after. Again, with no coworkers, what’s the point of dressing up? Why can’t you wear sweatpants and/or a Snuggie all day until you’re forced to emerge from your cocoon to seek actual human contact?
From a Forbes article earlier this year, Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist had this to say about dressing up for work (also, I didn’t know there was such a job title as “fashion psychologist”):
“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear,’ so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
In other words, if you are content to wear lazy clothing all day when working from home, you are probably more likely to act lazy, and therefore get less done.
Now there’s a limit here. I’m certainly not suggesting you put on a suit and tie and sit at your desk by yourself all day with no one to appreciate your snappy sense of style. But I am suggesting putting on actual pants, if for no other reason than to combat certain stereotypes about your profession (you would be amazed how often I get asked if I wear pants to work). To me, jeans and a t-shirt is enough, and I find myself in a much better mindset than if I simply work in sleepwear for the better part of the day. I haven’t actually tried wearing a tie, so I won’t completely toss that idea out the window, but that’s probably a bridge too far for me.
3. Don’t Work Where You Sleep
This is another lesson I learned early on, though I really didn’t have much of a choice as I began my blogging career sitting on my bed in my Manhattan apartment that was literally almost just that, a bed. If wearing pajamas makes you lazier while working, working in bed triples that effect at the very least. Not only that, but it will stress you out to have the place where you do all your work also be the very spot where you try to relax and fall asleep at night.
This can also apply to even working right next to wear you sleep. Once I upgraded to a room with a few more square feet of floor space, I put a tiny desk literally one foot away from my bed. I’d roll off my mattress and literally start working (in my pajamas) thirty seconds later. Sometimes this may be necessary given living space arrangements, but if you can avoid it, try to do so.
Now that I’m all grown up and married, my wife and I are shopping for two bedroom apartments. It’s not about a failing relationship that requires separate sleeping quarters, it’s about having a dedicated office space to call my own. A work room, for work only. Now that I have my own office, I’ve found I feel more like a person with a more traditional job, as opposed to a guy flopping out of bed and flipping open a laptop to begin the day. And if you work from home full time, you can write off at least part of your rent as a business expense, as it’s technically office space. You can also literally rent office space somewhere outside your home if your budget allows it, and you don’t mind an actual commute longer than the twelve paces it takes you to reach your home office from your bedroom.
4. Make a Schedule
This seems relatively self-explanatory, but most people will not be able to function properly working from home if they don’t have at least some sort of regimented schedule guiding them. This can start with waking up as a set time each day, as I’ve talked about above, but also translates into whatever you need to get done in a certain day.
Obviously this will depend on your job. In my line of work, I write for three different websites. I know what time posts are supposed to go up when (or at least a general window) and base my writing around that. Again, I do most of my work early in the morning, and I’m able to write something in the AM that gets posted in the PM because of the magic of advance scheduling. But it’s always done, and I do not miss deadlines because of the mental schedule permanently etched in my brain which includes not only work, but meals, errands and gym time to boot, all of which can often be accomplished within a given workday, allowing more free time later on.
I don’t physically write down a schedule anymore, as it’s all locked in my head at this point. But when you’re first starting out, it may be helpful to do so. And naturally, there are countless apps for that.
5. Work Out
As I just mentioned, working from home allows you to schedule activitiesduring your workday that you wouldn’t normally be able to do in a traditional office. One of these is working out, and for me, it’s an absolute must when working from home, and plays into both motivation and self-discipline.
Most office jobs these days are relatively sedentary, but none more so than working from home. At that point, you’re not even doing minimal walking around your office building. I joked with my wife when she got her Jawbone Up pedometer band that while she was hitting 10,000 steps a day, I’d be lucky to break a hundred with my trips from my bedroom to my office and a few to the kitchen and bathroom. I might go up and down some stairs on a good day. Once.
But in reality, it’s no joke. Being that sedentary isn’t just harmful for your health, it’s terrible for your motivation and discipline. Working out gives you a boost of energy that’s incredibly helpful for productivity, as every study on planet earth has revealed. It will get you thinking more clearly, and simply make you feel like you did right by yourself for the entire day.
Planning a trip to the gym that’s more than a few miles away can be tough during the workday, and can sometimes take too big a chunk out of your day. This is why I highly suggest trying out home workout programs. They can seem goofy at first, and have a stigma of being aimed at bored housewives, but honestly, these kinds of programs have really turned my personal and professional life around. I’ve completed what I thought was the borderline impossible P90X, and am currently in the middle of a similar program called Les Mills Combat. They take sometimes as little as 20 minutes to do, or an hour at most, and if you stick with them, you’ll be in amazing shape and have a brain that’s firing on all cylinders every day. It helps to do your workouts earlier rather than later, as you can reap the physical and psychological rewards for the entire day.
6. Earn Rewards
Another common refrain I hear from people who think they could never work from home is “If I did that, I’d just sit around and watch TV all day.” I’m here to tell you that you can do this, to a certain extent.
One of the perks of working from home is that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, but the whole point of this article is to show how you have to balance it with actual productivity and discipline. Rather than simply sit down and binge watch six episodes of House of Cards, putting your actual work off until 8PM, use the show as a reward.
Do two hours of solid work and then watch an episode of something. Get that one important project finished and play some PS4 for a little while. Turn these distractions into rewards, and then have the willpower to use them in moderation. Don’t get carried away and convince yourself an hour of work entitles you to five hours of a Sons of Anarchy marathon. But micro-rewards will go a long way to both making you feel accomplished, and giving you a brief respite to boot.
7. Get Off Gchat
Speaking of distractions, there is no bigger motivation or productivity killer than Gchat. I have literally been invisible on the service for close to five years now, and I’ve probably completed hundreds of more hours of work than I would have had I been chatting with people all day. This applies to actual jobs as well, but many offices ban such services, and there’s a reason for that.
It’s not just the physical time it takes you to read and type messages to your friends that makes Gchat your mortal enemy. It’s the fact that that little “bong” message noise instantly jolts you out of thinking about whatever you’re supposed to be working on. The time lost isn’t just the chatting, it’s the constant mental interruption that will sap your motivation and distract you from doing a proper job on whatever it is you’re working on. For me, it’s almost impossible to write a coherent article with Gchat flashing or chiming in the background every few seconds.
I’m singling out Gchat here, but there are plenty of other “bongs” that can go off and distract you, from Facebook and Snapchat to old-fashioned texting. If you do have to have a conversation, limit it to one other person, and don’t have it continue on all day. That sounds harsh, but it will allow you to finish all your work faster and then have complete, unrestricted free time once you’re done for the day early. Then you can Gchat until your fingers bleed.
8. Go Outside
When working from home, your house or apartment can become your bunker. It’s a safe spot that has everything you need, so why should you ever bother leaving? This generally isn’t a problem for extroverts, as they’ll seek out adventure elsewhere as part of their personality. But extroverts also really can’t handle working from home very often for many of the reason I’m listing.
But us introverts? We can thrive in such an environment. Almost too well. There have been stretches of time where I’ve looked back and said “shoot, I haven’t left the house in three days, have I?” This is not good. In addition to your body needing actual sunlight to live, going outside to do anything, run errands, take a walk, etc. is required for your mental sanity. You don’t want to slowly morph into a recluse and find yourself with drawn blinds and fifty cats in a few year’s time.
Related to this, there’s the famous “can’t you work in a coffee shop?” question I get all the time. The answer is yes, you can, but it depends on your personality. Yes, you’ll be out and about, but it depends on if your job can rely on Starbucks’ crappy Wi-Fi, you don’t mind being constrained to your little table instead of your entire home, and you’re fine with permanently smelling like coffee for most of your adult life. As you may have deduced, despite being “out of the house,” the cons tend to outweigh the pros in my experience.
9. Talk to Other Human Beings
This one kind of goes hand in hand with the previous item. There have also been days where I haven’t seen another human being other than my roommate, or now my wife. And sometimes, I don’t even see them if they’re out of town. Even if it’s just going to the grocery store and making conversation with the clerk, it’s something, and will help your social skills not atrophy. If you live somewhere near a bunch of existing friends, that’s great, but if you’re like me and moved to the middle of nowhere for reasons beyond your control (a smart wife getting a great job), it can be a lot tougher.
Working from home is a far cry from working in an office where you have coworkers you talk to day in and day out. I have coworkers too, but most of the ones I’ve talked to for years online, I’ve never even met before. I worked for Forbes for three full years before I ever met another employee in person. This is the way the world works now in many fields, so you have to adapt and improvise, and make up for the lack of human contact where you can. By interacting with others on a daily basis, in whatever form, you’ll continue to develop social skills that email and Gchat simply won’t give you. Take a class, join a team, or really anything that forces you to have a conversation with another human.
10. Declare War on Distracting Sites
While even normal office drones have the problem of surfing the internet while at work, it’s amplified exponentially by working from home. You’re guaranteed not to have any sort of filter to restrict your browsing, and so you might find yourself swept away by videos of cats jumping into boxes and goats yelling like humans instead of doing your actual work. And you’ve probably just clicked on those links and I’ve lost you…
Most people will have one site that’s simply the bane of their existence. Mine was reddit.com, the self-proclaimed “front page of the internet.” It’s simply an endless collection of links, but most are vaguely interesting enough to warrant an endless string of clicks. The site got so addictive, by muscle memory alone my fingers would simply flick my mouse over to the bookmark if my mind was blank for more than a few seconds. My thought process eventually became “Well, that’s enough reddit (closes tab),” and then promptly “Gee, I wonder what’s on reddit? (opens tab)” within a span of seconds. It was a problem.
This is where the zen-like discipline of working from home must propel you to take drastic action to ensure your continued productivity. I deleted my reddit bookmark from my browser bar, and suddenly, my muscle memory no longer worked. Though I still visit parts of the site for news, my usage of the site was cut by a solid 80% by deleting that bookmark alone. Whether your internet crack is Facebook, Twitter or Instagram you can do the same thing, or actually install plugins that will physically restrict your access if you lack the willpower. But if it’s Forbes? Well, just keep clicking on that bookmark.
11. Have a Side-Project to Fill the Dead Space
When I was younger, I often felt like if there were no teachers and no other students, and I was simply given the assignments I was supposed to do and left alone, I could get a lot more done in a given school day and probably be able to leave by noon. Often times, that fantasy becomes a reality when working from home. Despite the human interaction they provide, bosses, coworkers and the meetings, seminars and other group activities they require often make a workday far longer than it has any right being. Not to mention you will be judged by your superiors for leaving early, even if you’ve finished your work eons ago. Working from home cuts through all that bull, and as such, a 9-5 job might turn into a 9-2 job simply by trimming the fat from your workday.
But what to do with the extra time you might find yourself having after following my first ten steps? Again, there’s the temptation to binge watch Netflix until your eyes fall out, but I highly suggest using it to take up a hobby or a side-project that’s actually productive. It could be working out, like I said, or it could be something else you’ve always wanted to do.
Once I got my schedule down and streamlined the efficiency of my workday over the course of a few years, I found I had such free time. I sat down and decided I’d do something I always wanted, write a book. Using the freedom working at home provides, I use my early-ending workdays to write, and I’ve managed to publish two books in the last two years, and I’m working on a third. People with more traditional jobs may not be able to find the time, but you, working from home, will likely be able to streamline your own schedule so that you have time to take on another challenge. While it was book writing for me, it could be starting your own business for you. It could be learning an instrument, figuring out how to code, or any other number of things that can help bolster your personal or professional life. Use the freedom of working at home to your benefit, and don’t waste the opportunities it provides.