After leaving a fifteen-year career in finance where I commuted about thirty minutes to a very plain-vanilla looking office every day, I found myself suddenly working from home. Although I loved my new found freedom, I quickly learned I could piddle away the day all too easily doing I don’t even know what! Also, I could go days without interacting with anyone. While personally being somewhat of an introvert, I found at times the solitude very delicious, but not always inspiring or motivating!
Often before the “pandemic” when I would meet people and tell them I work from home, they would respond with “I could never do that, I would never get anything done” or “I need my co-workers.” Now, these same people who said they could never work from home are finding themselves forced to adapt to a situation they never thought they could thrive in, and they are looking for ways to stay motivated and productive working from home.
Since I struggled with this same thing, I would love to share five practical tips that I found hugely helpful in staying motivated and productive when you are working from home.
Wake up Early
Now when I say early, for me, that means usually no later than seven in the morning. The most important thing here is you don’t want to get in a routine where you are on a college schedule of getting up at ten or eleven in the morning each day. Even if you are someone who works better in the evening, it is vital to stay in the rhythm of starting at an earlier time, and it will just make you all the more productive if you choose to work in the evening.
Waking up earlier, it will give you a chance to start your day with something you enjoy or that inspires you. For me, I enjoy listening to audiobooks briefly and choose to listen to things that inspire me and bring me joy. I also have a breathing practice called the presence process that you can learn more about at this link http://www.thepresenceprocessportal.com/ that I do for fifteen minutes in the morning that helps me feel calm and centered as I move through my day. The key here is you want to have something in the morning that you look forward to getting out of bed to participate in and with. It could be a book, a practice, dancing, or a brief online class that inspires and motivates you to get up and greet the day with anticipation!
Put on actual clothes and get ready
I am not saying you need to put on a suit or even business attire to work from home. It is essential, though, to get out of your pajamas each day and put something on that is comfortable and helps you feel good about yourself. Here is an actual study that was done, and it shows the connection between clothing choices and emotional states. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/link-between-clothing-choices-and-emotional-states-0330124
As you can see, it is essential to be mindful of what you are wearing and make sure it feels suitable for the tasks ahead for the day.
Another thing I found very helpful working from home is staying in the routine of getting ready each morning as if I was going to an office. Just having the habit itself is very comforting and helps me feel prepared to greet the day or the mailman with our scaring him. Dr. Indumathi Bendi says, “Carrying out routine activities reduces stress by making the situation appear more controllable and predictable.” Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but especially in these times, I treasure that small piece of predictability each day!
Have an office to go to
Even if it’s a desk you put in the kitchen or a spare room, I have found it invaluable to have a designated space that is not your bed or the couch to work. Although it is nice to have the luxury to work from these cozy spaces, they are used to support sleeping and relaxing, not working, and creating.
I have turned my spare bedroom into my office and have a desk, computer, and printer, and few touches to keep me inspired but not distracted. Creating a space in your home to designate as a workspace is vital to keeping you motivated and productive.
Make a schedule
Having a schedule, especially when you first start working from home, can be very helpful in staying motivated and productive. If you are used to having someone schedule your time for you and then suddenly go to no schedule at all, it can feel like you have been set free onto a wide-open freeway with no idea what direction you are going in. It is essential to guide yourself each day, and the good news is now you can do that in the way that works best for you!
I don’t use a schedule, but instead, I set the tasks I want to get done for the day. For example, I have a certain amount of emails, phone calls, and follow-ups that I want to do for the day. Having these goals work well for me. It also motivates me to move through the to-do list as quickly as possible because once my tasks are completed, I can spend the rest of my time doing things other than work.
Avoid getting on any other websites that are not for work.
I don’t allow myself during work designated time to “google” things as my curious mind can start going down the Google rabbit hole. Then the next thing, I know it been two hours and I now know everything there is to know about Avocados. Staying off google and other non-work sites will help you stay focused and productive. Be aware of what sites are useful for accomplishing your work and use them, and stay away from websites that are distractions.
Talk to other human beings
This is probably one of the biggest ones I struggle with. It is not talking to people that I struggle with; it is nudging myself to reach out and stay connected to people. Two things I don’t miss about the office are office politics and people. In all seriousness, though, it is important to me I don’t t end up one of those weird old ladies with infinite numbers of cats that never leaves the house. I make a conscious effort to reach out to people. When I do this, even though it is not always comfortable for me, I often feel more connected. I love that the interactions with others spark new ideas, and often, it will motivate me. For example, recently, someone shared with me some beautiful stories of their travels to New Zealand, and it sparked my love for travel and adventure. It made me start thinking of all the places I still want to visit.
Some of the things I am currently doing to stay connected is reaching out to people I have not spoken to in a while. If reaching out to people does not come naturally to you, it is good to set a goal of each day of how many people you will reach out to, even if it is just one. Talking to at least one person, even if it is your mother, is essential. Hearing someone else’s voice, laughter, and seeing their smile(if your Facetiming) has a different quality to it that email can’t deliver. I also took the initiative to start a weekly zoom group that I am responsible for setting up each week. I get together with a group of seven friends, and we spend one hour each Thursday evening to check-in and share what is going on with us and how we are coping with current changes in our life. Starting a Zoom hangout is a great way to find connections and offer each other support. It is very effortless for me as I am just providing the platform, and I don’t need to come up with content or a plan! I would encourage everyone to at least start one of these type groups, and if you feel moved, you can start several of them!
The other thing I am doing is treasuring the human interactions I have at the grocery store, along with what little interaction I get while being out and about. I do this by offering a warm smile and waving to people to acknowledge them and our shared connection. It always feels good when they wave or smile back.
Get outside enjoy nature and fresh air
When I first started working from home, my idea of getting out in nature and enjoying the fresh air was getting the mail. Since I have learned to prioritize my time better, I now find I have time in the early evening each day to take a walk and enjoy the beauty of nature. I find this walk grounding and inspiring. Also, it gets my blood moving, literally, and invigorates my body and mind, giving more inspiration for work and other important things in my life.
Also, at times when I feel like I have been looking at a computer screen until I have gone cross-eyed, I find it helpful to get up and take a brief walk around the block, and then I come back refreshed and revitalized for the task at hand.
Whether you get outside in the morning, throughout the day, briefly or in the evening, making time each day to get out and enjoy nature will enrich your work and your life profoundly!
In conclusion, these are some quick, helpful, and practical tips that I have learned throughout the years to help you stay motivated and productive when working from home. I hope you try them and use them to create more ease and freedom in your workday and your life. One thing that took me a while to embrace in life is that discipline equals freedom. If you work from home it will help you very quickly realize the truth in this statement.