Remember when working from home started last March/April? It seemed like a fantastic idea, shirt and tie on top, underwear on the bottom, sipping coffee from the living room sofa while attending meetings on Zoom instead of sitting in traffic. It was instant paradise! The co-workers you might not have vibed with were no longer an issue, and the break room and other distractions went away! It seems, however, the more people I talk to, the more tell me their motivation has up and went with 2020. Suddenly the novelty of being home all day wore off. In its place are distractions like the TV, social media, children and pets running around wanting your attention, snacks in the fridge, neighbors wanting to chat through the screen door, and online shopping, to name the favored few. Staying motivated is a full-time job. If you aren’t motivated, you will find yourself putting off what you usually got done without hesitation, and soon you’ll feel stressed and anxious that you’re falling behind or not carrying your weight.
Below are some ways to stay motivated, even if you’re in your underwear working from home.
Ideally, an office is what you want. A place you can close the door and shut out the noise and distractions until you’re ready to enter the home zone again. Try a standing desk or comfortable office chair, padded seat cushion, or go crazy and buy a brand new desk! Invest in light for video conferences and use earbuds to help stay focused and cancel background noise out.
My wife might be shocked I know who Marie Kondo is, and maybe reading this, you’ll have no idea what I am talking about, but in all seriousness, it is time to declutter the space you are working. When junk and clutter surround you, you’ll be more likely to get distracted and not have the right zen to stay focused and productive. So look around you. Does the item bring joy or, at minimum, function as a need for your workstation? If the answer is “no,” relocate it or toss it. No need to be in a mess in your home office!
You channeled your inner Marie Kondo for your work space, but now I’m asking you to take it a step further and declutter your technology. Cleaning up old files on your computer and phone can make a difference in your productivity. Step 1 to declutter your technology is to look at your desktop. Do you have pictures and files everywhere? Try organizing them into folders and delete the ones you don’t use or need. Create a folder for rarely used documents and a folder for misfits that have nowhere else to go. Next, open your emails. No one likes to do this, and if you do, you’re a freak of nature, haha. But seriously, do it. Delete emails that no longer serve you or have been buried by new ones. You’ll feel better once you have an organized, clutter-free inbox!
Wake up at a designated time. If you usually woke up at 6 am and took an hour to drive to work, don’t just let yourself sleep in for an extra hour. You might enjoy it for a short amount of time, but in the long run, waking up early and at the same time every day is your best bet for staying motivated. Not sure what to do with your extra time that you used to use for commuting? Get to work earlier, or start a side hustle. Or, if neither of those options motivates you, try self-improvement like watching a sales training video or listening to a business-related podcast. Lifelong learning will always pay off.
Start your day by awakening your physical state. Pull open all the curtains and diffuse a bright essential oil such as lemon or peppermint. Play some music that will liven up your mood, then consider getting the blood flowing by going for a walk, or if it’s too cold, try jumping jacks, pushups, or even a yoga video. Incorporating exercise into your routine is essential. If you only want to awaken the body and not partake in 30 minutes of a workout during this routine, be sure to schedule it in for later in the day. All you need is a youtube video or set of resistance bands, and you have a home gym. So go for it! Then, take a hot shower and bask in the accomplishments you’ve already made. Next, get dressed with real clothes, not your cozy pj’s grandma had monogrammed for you. Sure, pajamas are a relaxing and comfortable way to take advantage of your home office, but I will challenge you to get dressed for the day. You want to feel “in the zone.” Dressing for work will help you do so! I’m not suggesting a formal dress or suit for your Zoom meetings, but real clothing instead of sweatpants win. We have programmed ourselves to think: “PJ’s = relax” or “Yoga pants= Netflix time,” and the brain doesn’t just let this go because you’re ready to tackle ten spreadsheets and call clients all day. Subconsciously you will be less productive in pajamas. (Sorry to break it to you.) Next, pour a rewarding coffee or tea or fresh lemon water, AND eat breakfast. Breakfast is essential for the body but also for the mind. When you work from home, you need to find nutritious, filling ways to feel satisfied so you won’t mindlessly snack. The key is not just to be awake mentally but awake with all of your senses. See: Bright sunshine, Hear: motivating music, Smell: Oils to liven you up, Touch: Feel your body stretch and move, Taste: Healthy breakfast and a coffee, tea, or water.
Next, I want to encourage you to stay motivated with a real schedule. People with plans are more productive period. I tell my sales team this all the time. Want to be focused, organized, and productive on time? Get your calendar out and schedule everything from your routine time to meetings and more. Write down non-negotiable items that must get done and prioritize them. Get the most important things done right away and schedule in time for yourself if you need to break down a must-do item into bite-sized steps. Use highlighters to prioritize (if you’re like my wife) or just circle/star/create a system (if you’re like me) to understand what you need to do. I know it’s 2021, and there are apps and a plethora of tools at our fingertips for schedule making. If you prefer technology, go for it! Just be sure to check in with it every day and make sure it isn’t just noise on your phone or desktop.
Still not feeling motivated? Could it be that you are too focused? Be sure to take a break regularly to help you increase your motivation. The home environment is much different from than office environment. The office lends itself to bathroom jaunts, snacks in the breakroom, watercooler gossip, etc. But at home, you can become overly focused and burn out very quickly.
Rewards for yourself are one way to take intentional breaks. Complete the task at hand and get a cookie. It sounds like something you’d tell your dog or child, but it works on adult humans too. Set your phone timer for an hour and tell yourself, “If I work through this hour without distractions, I can get up for a cup of coffee when the alarm goes off.” or try “if I check off the first five tasks on my list before 11 am, I can watch a YouTube video.”. Just beware of rabbit holes. Don’t have coffee and scroll social media for an hour, don’t watch one Youtube video and then one more and then one more, and then click an ad and shop for an hour. Breaks and rewards keep you on track; if they distract you, reevaluate.
Finally, keep your motivated day going with an evening routine, and be sure to get plenty of rest. (It seems obvious, but working from home tends to throw us off from paying attention to when we go to bed). No point in working hard all day to stick to a routine, to destroy it with lack of sleep. Just as you opened the curtains, close them. Have a hot herbal tea, diffuse lavender, take the dog for a walk, play a video game, try an Epsom salt bath, or read a book. Self-care is essential, and your night time routine should be positive. Decompress from zoom meeting after zoom meeting by unplugging from technology—Plan family games or a phone call to a loved one. The point is to stay connected to who you are at home, not just in the workplace.
The last piece of advice I can offer to stay motivated while working from home is to do a ‘happy check.’ Are you happy with your job? Do you feel it is sucking the life out of you or feel energized to be part of the organization? I know right now it may be the only option you have to support yourself and your family, but if you are genuinely unhappy, allow yourself to have an exit plan. It would be best to work at a job that will enable you to showcase your strengths and God-given gifts. If you feel like the day drags on and on and are unhappy, it might be time to create a plan to move on. Look at all the reasons the current job is helping you, such as working from home, no commute, more time with family, fair pay, and focus on that until you found a new opportunity or path. 2021 can be the best year yet, and you can be motivated from home. It just takes the right routine, expectations, and a positive mindset to do so.
2021 might look a little different than years in the past, but I bet you’ve already established some routines in 2020 to help take you to a healthier, happier level now. With the pandemic still looming, it’s important to remember if you are working from home at any capacity, you are privileged. Staying motivated might be challenging, but you can do it and do it well! Once you master a routine and schedule, you might even want to say goodbye to office life forever.
I’m interested in how you are coping and what strategies you have for working from home. Leave me a comment and let me know!