Maybe you’re one of those people who don’t find productivity and motivation a problem but for many, one of the biggest work from home struggles is exactly that – maintaining motivation. It can hit us out of the blue when one day we find ourselves in an impossible slump, struggling to stay focused, jumping from task to task without making much progress and ultimately end up getting more and more frustrated with ourselves as the day drags on. At times, the most productive thing we can do is to admit defeat and take some time away from our to-do lists. It’s important to remember that we’re not alone in this, everyone goes through periods where motivation is harder to get a grasp on than others. It’s how we manage these times that’s important.
Here are five ways to stay motivated while working from home:
1. Create Your To-Do List Ahead of Time
Rule number one when working from home is to avoid sitting at your desk without knowing what you want to achieve that day. Otherwise, you end up spending hours procrastinating, putting tasks off and making zero progress on your to-do list. It’s so important to have your goals and tasks set out ahead of time so you know what to focus on and when. By sitting down and making to-do lists and task lists with actionable goals, you’re able to push yourself and your business forward more effectively. A few ways to do this include sitting down at the end of each workday and plan what you’d like to get done the following day. Create three key tasks to focus on each day and avoid overloading your to-do list. It’s easy to overestimate the things we can get done in a day but when we stick with key priorities and breaking tasks into manageable chunks, that dopamine hit from ticking off tasks will help keep up the motivation momentum throughout the day.
Be intentional about your time and create boundaries for tasks. If you’ve set aside a certain amount of time for emails, stick to that. It’s easy to get caught up in the back and forth of emails and end up spending your whole day doing them. Be clear with yourself about set times you reply and send emails and make sure the email tab isn’t left open on your desktop outside of that time. This will help you focus on one task at a time and avoid getting distracted when an email notification pops up in the middle of something else.
By planning out your day the night before this gives you a sense of how your day is going to pan out which then gives you a clear sense of purpose. Then once you start to make your way through those tasks and you’re ticking things off, this helps to boost your motivation, making you feel good and therefore helping your energy levels throughout the day.
2. Identify Your Most Productive Working Hours
Everyone works productively at different times of the day. When you work from home, you have the flexibility to determine your schedule so it’s important that you identify your optimum working hours and put in the effort to explore the times when you work best. For some, that’s first thing in the morning. When you know that about your working patterns, you’re able to plan your day around that. You may want to get up earlier and dive into work when you’re feeling the most energised, getting key tasks ticked off earlier in the day. That way, if you find yourself approaching an afternoon slump, you know you can afford to switch up your tasks and work on something easier or even clock off early If you’ve made the most of that key morning period. This is different for everyone and for some it’s the other way round where they find they’re at their most productive in the evening time. It’s really a matter of what works best for you and finding ways to build your routine to reflect that. It can be so easy to get stuck in that 9-5 way of thinking, even if you’ve left corporate and are working for yourself but working from home gives you the flexibility to work when you want to and work when you feel your most productive so make sure you take advantage of that.
3. Find an Accountability Buddy
We all have days where energy is low, productivity is hard to come by and you struggle with any kind of working motivation. On days like this, having an accountability partner or a community that you can turn to is really effective because you have other people who can support you and lift your mood as well as hold you accountable to any goals you’ve set – as we do within the Ormeau Baths Slack channel. It could be a matter of just talking it out with someone and getting a pep talk. Other days that may not be the case but having people you can talk to who can reassure you that what you’re feeling is normal and they too have experienced something similar can be enough to give you the permission to step away from your desk for a while. It’s so easy to put off goals and tasks when you’re the only person who knows about them but as soon as you share your goals with others, they feel much more real and because someone else knows about what you want to achieve so it’s easier to put the procrastination to one side and get on with it.
4. Use Your Breaks Effectively
Using your breaks effectively while working from home doesn’t mean you should cram them with household chores and other things you need to get done at home. Try to keep your brain in work mode throughout working hours so that you’re not constantly switching between work and home mode. This can have a detrimental effect on your motivation levels and how you feel in terms of productivity. When you realise that how you’re using your breaks is integral to your motivation levels you can adapt the things you do during those breaks to get the most out of your day. Try using your lunch break to read a few chapters of a self-development book, watching a TED talk, listen to a podcast or get outside for a walk. This helps keep your brain moving and avoid the notorious afternoon slump which, when working from home and surrounded by your comfortable environment, is tempting, to say the least.
5. Accept That Not Every Day is Going to be 100% Productive
There are going to be days when you’re just not motivated and that’s ok. Accepting this can be the hardest part to master but we all suffer from energy dips from time to time, it’s a very normal part of life and one that we need to get used to and learn to recognise the signals. When our motivation is low, it’s easy to get frustrated with ourselves and slip into negative self-talk. There have been countless times when we’ve ended up wasting hours to get simple tasks ticked off which we know should have taken less than half the time but if we’d just acknowledged that the motivation wasn’t there, stepped away and come back to it later, we probably would have had it done in no time at all. A lot of the time it’s about just giving ourselves the permission to step away from our desks and not assume that makes us lazy, recognising that our self-worth isn’t tied to our productivity levels.
Instead what we can do when we have days like these is to try and pick up on the signals early. Pay attention to the times you find yourself flitting from task to task, not being able to focus and try to step away from your desk. Take a break if you can and come back to it later. If that doesn’t work try switching up your tasks and focus on something a little easier on your brain or that uses a skill that’s much more natural to you. If that still doesn’t work, give your brain a rest and focus on doing something for yourself instead. If we shift our focus to filling our energy tank by doing things that make us feel good and well-rested, that will reward us further down the line so that we when we’re ready to return to our desks, we feel much more motivated and ready to work.