Working remotely is even more challenging during COVID-19 with added stress and extra distraction from roommates. A few simple rules can help you stay motivated. Don’t be too yourself; we all do our best under these special circumstances. Most people find working from home a challenge, especially in the beginning. From piles of dirty laundry to TV, many distractions lurk. But where is the motivation?
Sometimes pajamas and a comfortable chair just don’t offer the same kind of motivation as a suit and an office chair. Whether you are home alone and it is too quiet in the house, or you are at home and your family is not ‘under control’; you may find it difficult to focus. Let alone that you get your work done and that you feel productive. The following tips will help you to get and keep motivated when working from home.
1. Limit distractions and interruptions
You may struggle to get back to work every time you’re interrupted. You can stay motivated by limiting distractions and interruptions. For example, mute your phone notifications and check your email only once an hour. Or, set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” until you have completed a specific task. If you’re working from home with kids, keep them busy to prevent them from disturbing you. Give them tasks and plan to check on them at some point. Establish some basic rules about what is a good reason why they are allowed to disturb you on the job. This is a must for good motivation while working from home.
2. Provide a dedicated workplace
You might be tempted to work slumped in your couch, or even from bed. After all, these are the most comfortable places in the house. But if you associate your bedroom with your work, it can disrupt your sleep. For parents, this is a well-known phenomenon; also for toddlers and preschoolers it is important to associate spaces with goals. Back to your workspace. Make sure you have a specific place in your home where you set up your workplace, the kitchen table or a desk in the corner of the living room are already a much better alternative to your bedroom. Even better is a special rounded room, but unfortunately not everyone has that luxury.
3. Create a schedule
I’ve always been a proponent of this in the office as well: make a schedule. Without a structured workday, time can slip away unconsciously. You may notice that your working days start later and later (back to your student life) or that you take extra coffee breaks. Then your working hours extend until later in the evening, so that you also stay up late at night. Or maybe you find yourself easily distracted at work. And tasks that used to take 20 minutes suddenly take 2 hours. Therefore, it is important to have a clear schedule. Set realistic goals for your workday, make a time estimate for each task.
4. Work in small blocks of time
Building on point 3: by blocking small amounts of time and planning what you will do during that period, large tasks are more manageable. You may find that while working from home, you have more motivation when you tell yourself that you only need to complete one quote in the next 30 minutes, instead of telling yourself to make 50 quotes by lunchtime.
By scheduling your time, you make (and feel) yourself more responsible. You’re less likely to get lost on social media if you know you only have 15 minutes to complete a task. And you’re less likely to put off if you’ve set yourself a tight deadline.
5. Don’t put off tasks
That brings me to the next tip. Research shows that we tend to postpone tasks that evoke uncomfortable emotions. If you’re worried about a medical appointment, you’re usually not motivated to call the doctor. Or if you’re worried that studying will bring frustration, you could binge-watch netflix instead. In these cases, the lack of motivation while working from home stems from your desire to avoid discomfort. And if you’re working from home, there are always plenty of opportunities to do something more fun than the work you’re supposed to be doing.
So think about what emotion(s) you’re trying to avoid. By acknowledging the emotion, it can feel less scary. Remind yourself that you can deal with an uncomfortable feeling. Additionally, remind yourself how good you’ll feel when you finish the project, rather than how bad you’ll feel if you don’t do the work. This can remind you to take action, regardless of whether you feel like it.
7. Challenge yourself
Sometimes a small challenge can help you get moving. For example, I like to turn things that I experience as ‘uncomfortable’ into direct action. In this I challenge myself. Another example, more professionally, is to challenge yourself as a copywriter to write a certain number of words in 30 minutes. Once you see how many words you actually get written in that half hour, you can see this as the start of a personal challenge. Try to beat your personal best in the next 30-minute period. Challenge therefore certainly provides motivation when working from home.
6. Practice the “10-minute rule”
It can be hard to convince yourself to start working on a task you really don’t want to do. Whether you know it’s going to be boring, frustrating, or just really challenging, convincing yourself to get started is hard. One of the best ways to get started with something you don’t want is to use the “10 minute rule.” Tell yourself that you only have to work on something for 10 minutes. Then, after the 10 minutes, you can take a break if you want. More often than not, you’re going to find yourself choosing to continue after 10 minutes. Getting started is usually the hardest part. But once you do, it’s easy to keep the momentum going. It is not for nothing that they say “a good start is half the battle”.
8. Take care of yourself
You’ll never be at your best when you’re exhausted and only consume caffeine and sugar. You need a healthy diet, sufficient rest and good self-care to perform optimally. But it’s being more challenging from home (and especially during COVID-19) to meet your physical, social, and emotional needs now. Eating healthy may not be as easy if you limit your trips to the grocery store. And video chatting with friends is not the same as meeting in person. So take a step back every now and then and ask yourself what else you can do to take better care of yourself.
9. Reward yourself
You may find that you work best when you know that there is a small reward waiting for you. For example, tell yourself that you can watch your favorite show when you finish working at 6:00 pm. Or tell yourself that you can drink a cup of your favorite tea once you have this report out. It sounds ‘cheesy’ but the smallest incentive can often help you to do your work efficiently. And it helps you see what you can achieve.
10. Experiment with different approaches
There are plenty of online tips to work well at home. But everyone is different. And what works for one person may not work well for another. So it’s important to experiment with different approaches to discover what works well for you. Maybe you find yourself more motivated in the evening, or maybe you have more energy after a morning workout. I wish you the best of luck and remember: “we are in this together”.