15 Tips to Increase Motivation When You Work from Home
It seems like a dream: set your own hours, work from anywhere, never wear a suit again, be your own boss. Indeed, when it comes to freelancing and working remotely, there are many benefits to working from home. However, if you’ve ever given this a try – whether for a day or as a new, full-time career – you know that there are times when it can be hard to find the motivation needed to get things done.
If you’re sitting there, staring at your laptop willing yourself to, “work…come on, get started…just do something, anything!” there is hope! Read on for 15 tips for increasing motivation when you work from home.
1. Articulate and Remember Your Why
Do you know or remember why you wanted to work from home in the first place? It could be a small reason such as you need to be home for the plumber to come by to bigger reasons such as you want a fully flexible schedule. No matter your “why”, it’s important to keep it top of mind throughout the day. You can write it out and pin it somewhere in your line of sight. If you ever find yourself losing energy or becoming more distracted, you can look at this note as a reminder why you’ve chosen to work from home. You can also use your why to set your goals. By breaking down your why into actionable steps, you’ll be able to more easily tie your day-to-day tasks to the bigger picture.
2. Establish a Morning Routine (and Stick to It)
If you were to interview people you consider to be successful (or just listen to podcasts of others doing so), you would likely discover that behind every outperformer is a strong morning routine. Every person is different, but this routine typically includes:
- Standard, early wake-up time
- Healthy breakfast
- Personal time to build focus, whether through meditation, writing, prayer, etc.
- Prep for the day ahead
The most important part of the morning routine is designing a plan you will stick to. No matter what components you choose to include, it should prepare you for a full day of productivity.
3. Get Dressed in “Real” Clothes
This tip may seem silly, but many people who work from home often think one of the main perks is being able to work in your pajamas. This is a personal preference, but if you stay in your pajamas all day, it’s possible you feel more tired. Your body and your mind associate different outfits with different occasions. Just as you are able to perform better athletically with the proper gear, you’ll also be able to perform better professionally if you’re dressed appropriately. This is not to say that you have to don a suit when working from home. However, if you want to stay motivated while working at home, it’s probably a good idea to change out of the articles of clothing that remind you sleeping.
4. Designate a Specific Work Area
Sure, with a laptop, you could work from your bed. However, don’t. Just don’t. If you want to be productive and motivated while working at home, you need a designated workspace that is separate from where you sleep. Choose a space that has ample natural light or good desk lamps. Make sure it is equipped with everything you need to perform your job as if you were in a traditional office. If possible, try to keep your office as a separate room. If you’re in a smaller home, you may be limited to a common table or desk. This is okay, but make sure to set up the area for each workday so you can more easily stay on task and not get distracted by other items in the area.
5. Set a Schedule
This might be the most important step in maintaining motivation while working from home. Setting a schedule can help you power through uninteresting tasks and can keep you from getting too distracted by non-value add activities throughout the day. Your schedule should include blocks of time for:
- Calls or remote meetings
- Food, social media and other breaks
- Key tasks and projects
- Review at the end of the day
You may think it’s not necessary to schedule in lunch or social media downtime. However, when working from home, it’s tempting to “graze” and eat throughout the day. By scheduling in a specific lunch break, you can control the snacking and stick to a healthy routine. Also, social media is one of the biggest distractions these days. By factoring in downtime to check your accounts, you can avoid the trap of toggling back and forth between actual work and social media constantly. Note, if your work requires you to use social media, be sure to delineate what is work-related and personal use.
6. Eliminate Distractions
If you find that setting time aside to “waste” on social media or other random internet browsing is not enough, then you may need to take additional measures to eliminate these distractions. If this is the case, a few tricks that may help include:
- Place your smartphone in another room (but with the volume up loud enough to hear if anyone calls)
- Block certain websites on your computer so you can’t access them during work hours
In addition to tech-related distractions, if you are distracted by other elements in your environment – noises, temperature, physical objects, kids, pets, etc. – take steps to minimize these distractions as well. Your environment needs to be supportive of your work from home efforts if you’re going to perform as well or better than you do in an office.
7. Use a System of Incentives or Rewards
Sure, “getting paid” should be enough of a reward to motivate you to work, but it doesn’t always work that way. Instead, you may need smaller items to help you get through tasks or long-work days. Examples of incentives include taking a break to go outside after a long work session, giving yourself a set amount of time to do something fun like play music or play a game on your phone after finishing a project. Think about what would motivate you to keep going during a boring or challenging project and work these items or activities into your workday.
8. Get a Workout In
If working out is not in your morning or daily routine, it should be. Even 20 minutes a day can give you more energy to get through the day. Determine when you get the most out of your workouts and stick to that time every day. If you’re new to working out, start slow and build up to your desired time. Walking, jogging, yoga, bicycling, weight-lifting, martial arts, CrossFit, etc. – there are endless options available to get your heart rate up. Also, be sure to mix up your workouts so you don’t get bored. As always, check with your doctor first before beginning an intense exercise regimen.
9. Go Outside
When you work from home, it can be easy to spend the entire day inside your house. You may even think that you don’t have enough time to leave. However, consider a typical workday at an office. You go outside at least twice – when you leave your house and when you arrive back home at the end of the day. Most people likely leave more than that, whether to get coffee, lunch or just a bit of fresh air. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you don’t need fresh air. So get up, stretch your legs, get some fresh air. You can also combine this step with your workouts and scheduled breaks.
10. Interact with Other Humans
Even the most introverted and independent of workers need some human interaction. When you work from home, you won’t have the same built-in level of interaction with co-workers as you would in an office. Some all-remote companies are good about building connections through employees using remote channels. However, even if your company is good about this, it’s best to interact with someone face-to-face during the day. Social interaction, even if it’s limited, can help you avoid feeling isolated and can improve your mental health. If you go day after day without talking to other humans, you’re likely to lose motivation quickly.
11. Get an Accountability Buddy
If you’re really struggling to get your work done or stick to a schedule, it can help to find an accountability buddy. This is someone who is usually in a similar field or who faces similar challenges. Together you can come up with a plan to support one another when working from home. Perhaps you schedule periodic check-ins or set goals together. Although your buddy can’t force you to work, just stating your goals and objectives out loud may provide the accountability you need to get working. This buddy can also be a good source of support during challenging periods. If you are struggling with motivation, your buddy can provide encouragement and may even have some tips to share.
12. Delegate as Much as You Can
When faced with a long list of difficult tasks, human nature is to try and check off the easy ones first. While you’re likely to feel some satisfaction and motivation from crossing items of your to0do list, often times these easy items are mere distractions. You could spend countless workdays performing routine tasks and never move on to the important and more fulfilling responsibilities. If you fill your days with meaningless actions, it’s likely you’ll lose motivation quickly. Review your to-do list and see what you can delegate to co-workers or contractors. This will free you up to focus on the work that gives you purpose, the kind of work that you are always motivated to do.
13. Try “Productivity Hacks”
While the word “hack” implies a quick fix, there are a lot of productivity methods out there that can actually improve your motivation and work success. The Pomodoro method, for example, operates in blocks of 30 minutes. After every 25 minutes of work, you then take five minutes off. After every four “Pomodoros” (aka two hours), take a longer 15 to 30-minute break. Another method called “Don’t Break the Chain” involves marking on a calendar every time you perform a certain task. The consecutive marks on your calendar will serve as their own form of motivation to keep it going and not break the chain. Pick one that works for you and watch as your motivation struggles fade.
14. Implement Project Management Solutions
In order to successfully work from home, you need to be able to manage your time and duties well. Using project management solutions and software can help keep things organized. Tools such as Breeze, Asana, Basecamp, Trello and others offer different approaches to managing projects. When you can see all tasks in a single layout, it’s easier to find the motivation to keep moving items forward. These tools also improve team collaboration even when co-workers are in different locations. Often times poor communication can destroy motivation (ex: if your co-workers don’t care, why should you?). Project management solutions address this by showing what everyone is working on and the status of all tasks and projects in the pipeline.
15. If All Else Fails, Take a Break
If you’re really struggling to maintain motivation and get through the task at hand, take a break. Give yourself a set amount of time to get away from your desk. Use this time to go outside, get a fresh drink of water, do a little exercise – anything to create a clear break from the present work challenge. Once this break is over, take a few moments to reflect on this list and see what you else you can do to increase your motivation. You may just need a reminder of why you’re working from home or you may need to ask for help. With a clearer head, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how to move forward.