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13 Ways to Stay Motivated When Working From Home

  • Georgi Todorov
  • 10 min read
13 Ways to Stay Motivated When Working From Home

Intro

Since the pandemic's start, a large percentage of our working population has started working from home. What was once a space of rest and relaxation post-work has now become the workplace. So how do you stay focused in this new work environment?

13 Ways to Stay Motivated When Working From Home

Life is about structure and discipline, and if you can establish some discipline in your home workplace, you can become successful at staying motivated and productive.

Here are 13 ways we suggest you stay motivated.

1. Establish Your Workspace

Establish Your Workspace

In an office, everything is delineated and created with a purpose in mind. When you enter an office, it feels like an office. It feels like a place for work.

When you’re working from home you’re in control of that in your homemade workspace, as well. Create your own little workspace that makes you feel like you’re in your own personal office.

This means keeping out all of the distracting unnecessary extras and making the space cohesive.

What Makes a Good Workspace?

A good workspace has a lack of distractions and should have some natural light. Establish a workspace that’s far from where you’ll hear a lot of noise, and is away from heavily trafficked areas.

You want to be able to establish a space that is quiet and doesn’t feel suffocating.

It should have only the things you need for work:

  • A comfortable, yet effective chair (you don’t want something that’s easy to lounge in)
  • Desk - It may seem obvious, but the right type of desk makes the difference. Ensure you have a desk with proper drawer space so everything you need is within arms’ reach.
  • Ensure proper lighting - Zoom conference calls are a new norm, and you want to make sure that you look like your most professional self on those calls. The proper lighting is one step to help you with that.
  • Computer
  • Stationary
  • Printer
  • Calendar
  • Sticky notes

You may need or want some more specific things, but definitely keep it simple. These are basic things, and the more established your space is the less likely you’ll need to get up and wander around your home.

Creating a space that will help you stay focused is crucial.

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2. Create a Work-From-Home Schedule

Create a Work-From-Home Schedule

This is especially important for those folks who aren’t beholden to specific hours of the day. You may have an array of projects that need to get done, and you’re working in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night unable to establish time for yourself.

This is where the schedule comes in. What hours are you going to work? When are you going to have lunch? When are you going to allow for breaks? Establish some hours, because this begins to create expectations instead of things being loosey goosy.

If you establish that you’re going to work from 9 - 12 and then take lunch, you’ll then have no other expectations in those three hours than to work.

It’s great to invest in either a notebook planner or a schedule board for your wall. This way you can always see it, and be reminded of where you are in the day.

Make sure to stick with your schedule. Certainly, things come up, and depending on your job, you may have to be prepared for interruptions or other obligations, but you should still perform those duties within the structure of your schedule.

Once you start to bend that schedule or break it you have now broken into your own personal time, and that can result in a lack of motivation if you feel like your day is nothing but work.

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3. Dress for Work

They say to “dress for success” and this is especially true when working from home. We all remember the days when wearing our sweatpants and that cool Def Leppard TShirt on Zoom calls was funny and fun, and hey, no judgment on your Jam Jams.

However, dressing for work when you’re working from home can put you into the mental space for work. So remember to “dress for success” even if it’s in your own home.

It certainly doesn’t have to be a three-piece, ironed suit, or a pressed $1,000 blouse and skirt combo (not that we’ll judge if it is, Mr. and Ms. Dapper), but something that would just constitute work clothing in your field. Something that’s professional.

It may seem out of place in your home, but if you have established a workspace as we said before, then dressing for that particular space should start to feel much more normal and motivating.

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4. Have a To-Do List Everyday

Have a To-Do List Everyday

On par, and in conjunction with, having a work schedule, a to-do list is crucial. Approaching the day with an ambiguous plan can lead to certain failures. You just need to approach the day with a plan.

This is where the to-do list comes in. It’s not only the to-do list itself but also the ritual we create with it that allows for success.

Here is a plan of attack for writing and executing your to-do list:

  • Beginning of the Week - The Sunday prior to the work week, look at what needs to get done and create a day-by-day to-do list. This can start generally, just to give yourself an idea of what the week will look like.
  • Night Before - The night before, take a look at the schedule for the next day. Solidify and establish what the to-do list is, and give a timeline for each particular activity so you have a goal. Prepare yourself mentally for the next day.
  • First Thing in the Morning - That morning, before you start your day, maybe as you’re taking the first sip of your morning coffee, take a look at your schedule, and really visualize your day. Stick to it, and get after it!

This is a simple practice to follow and only takes a couple of minutes a day but can help you to focus and be successful every day.

This allows you to also break apart your days, instead of feeling overwhelmed by a week of work, you can take tiny bites out of your week.

5. Manage Your Workload

Don’t try to overload yourself!

A schedule and to-do list will help to avoid this issue, but it’s important to recognize that work is daily, and if you didn’t finish something today that doesn’t need to be done today, there’s still tomorrow.

It can be easy to say, “well I’ll take the next hour to finish it up even though I should be done with my day”, but once again you’re breaking the boundaries into your personal hours.

Don’t overburden yourself with tasks. This can lead to you feeling overwhelmed, which can lead to a lack of motivation. Take it one task at a time.

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6. Work in Time Blocks

Establish blocks of time for you to work and allow for breaks. About 1.5 hours is a good block of time to establish focused work. Then take a short break. Step away from your computer for about 5 to 10 minutes, before you return to the next project.

This also depends on you. How long is a particular project going to take you? Also, are you able to sit for 4 hours and focus on a project? Be honest with yourself. It’s crucial to know how you work most productively.

The crucial aspect to remember is that, much like the schedule and to-do list, they should be established so you have realistic expectations, and a system to follow, instead of working for too long and exhausting or frustrating yourself.

Establishing work blocks with breaks in between is crucial to staying motivated throughout the workday.

Here’s an example of a day established with work blocks:

  • 9:00am - 10:30am Work on Project A
  • 10:30am - 10:45am Break
  • 10:45am - 12:00pm Revisit Project A
  • 12:00pm - 1:00pm Lunch
  • 1:00pm - 2:15pm Work on Project B
  • 2:15pm - 2:30pm Break
  • 2:30pm - 3:45pm Revisit Project B
  • 3:45pm - 4:00pm Break
  • 4:00pm - 5:00pm Close out your day (emails, final touches)

That is just an example of a day of work blocks in its simplest form, but what it allows is a way to see the day in bite-sized chunks.

It makes the day seem doable, instead of making you feel overwhelmed, which is an easy way to lose motivation when working from home.

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7. Be Organized

It’s easy to waste time trying to find your notepad, or your highlighter, or any random nick-nacks you may need at any particular moment, and then all of sudden you have spent 20 minutes digging through your desk drawers only to realize it was right in front of you, to begin with.

The lesson: Be organized. Not only with the physical aspects of your work, but also with tasks and time. This is where to-do lists, a work schedule, and work blocks are very helpful. Those are tools to keep your day organized.

Establish a space for notes and meetings. Always have a particular space for paperwork and make sure that it’s all within reach at all times. Place your to-do list somewhere you can always see it, as well as your schedule.

Part of being organized also has to do with having very little in your workspace. Keep your space limited to only the things that are necessary.

8. Limit Social Media Distraction

Limit Social Media Distraction

The average person picks up their phone 96 times a day. That means we pick up our phones every 10 minutes! We may not even open up our phone, but just picking it up gets in the way of our productive day.

Now imagine getting lost on your phone. How much time do you lose from that? Social media has become something to fight against during our work days.

However, there are a couple of solutions for this:

  • When working from home, switch your phone to airplane mode, or silent mode. Ensure that you will not be receiving any notifications throughout the day.
  • Place your phone out of reach. Put it in another room so that you won’t be tempted to just look at it.
  • Never have any unnecessary tabs or windows open on your laptop and turn off notifications for that, as well. This is especially important if you are constantly working on your laptop, and distractions are just a click away.

Your daily focus can easily be derailed by simply looking at your phone. Create a space where that isn’t going to be possible.

9. Stay Physically Active

Working at home can create a relaxed feeling, but the last thing you want to do is tune out.

The body can easily do that especially when it’s sequestered at a desk. However, if you want to stay focused and motivated, keeping your body active is a great way to ensure this.

Ideas for Staying Physically Active Working From Home

  • At the end of every work block get up and go for a short walk around the house.
  • During a break do a little easy exercise to get the blood flowing i.e. 20 push-ups, 20 squats, or 20 jumping jacks.
  • Invest in or construct your own standing desk. Staying sedentary is not only bad for your motivation, but it can also be detrimental to your health.

10. Declutter Your Workspace

A cluttered room is a cluttered mind. A messy space can mean the difference between an unorganized and distracted work day and one that’s productive and smooth.

  • When you’re about to take a break, make sure to clean up your workspace a bit so when you get back to work, there isn’t a mess.

  • At the end of your workday, make sure to tidy up your home workspace, and ensure everything is organized.

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11. Take Regular Breaks

There’s a reason workplaces are obligated to give their employees breaks. A break is an ability to clear your mind and step away. It’s not healthy to continually be glued to your computer screen.

Having the ability to disengage from work for 15-20 minutes every hour allows you to relax for a moment without completely losing focus on your work. After all, your mental health is crucial.

Also, you’re in your own home so you can make your own breaks. Be honest with yourself, maybe you are knee-deep in a project and you are getting frustrated, and can’t focus. That’s the perfect time to get up from your desk, do some push-ups, and relax.

12. Define Boundaries Between Work and Personal Life

This is the culmination of everything we’ve discussed so far. If you don’t have boundaries, you risk your work-life spilling into your personal life very easily. You may be done with the day sitting down to dinner and your phone lights up with an email.

If you answer that email you have allowed your work life to enter your personal life, and this results in a feeling that your personal life isn’t safe from the stress of your work life, but you have to establish those boundaries.

Once the workday is over:

  • Turn off your notifications on your phone.
  • Put your phone away completely.
  • Completely close your laptop or turn off your computer to signify your work day is over.
  • Exit out of your mail so you won’t hear those notifications.

Create a ritual surrounding the end of your workday so you can step into your own personal life without guilt.

It’s easy to become distracted in our personal lives as well with email notifications and such, but if we stop them from coming in we will be able to enjoy our own personal time without distraction.

13. Don’t Forget to Rest!

When your home is also your workplace it can be difficult to take time for yourself, but that’s one of the most important aspects of working from home. Make sure to give yourself time for breaks, and ensure that you take time to truly rest.

Enjoy your life. Life is lived in the home, and it shouldn’t be spent worrying about work. The way to be motivated every day is to remember you’re working for the time to have for your own personal goals and health.

Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to try these ways to stay motivated while working from home. Find out what works best for you, and keep experimenting to help you get better at it.

Remember, it’s about your workday so you have to figure out what works for you.

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