Do you remember how much you used to put off homework when you were a child?
You would beg, plead, bargain with yourself (and the powers that be) just to delay the dreaded task.
Well, you’re grown now and working from home. Your motivation is going to have to come from within.
However, even for the most effective remote workers, it can be hard to get going in the morning – and stay going – without a great routine in place and a few clever tactics to help.
Virus or no virus, the future of the workplace is going to look very different after COVID-19, with lots of companies already realising how working from home can be more productive, save money and appease employees who want a better work-life balance.
So now is the time to hone your working habits.
Here are 5 ways to stay motivated when working from home.
1. Master your morning
A good morning routine sets you up for the day and gives you the momentum you need to perform at your best. There are lots of personal development theories out there about how to shape that morning, from the 5AM club to Marcus Aubrey’s Own The Day, Own Your Life (both good books with an emphasis on strong starts to the day).
However, there is a danger in setting unrealistic habits, only to feel like a failure early in your day if you haven’t managed to stick to them.
Here’s a simple pre-9am rule that works for me:
Move – Get the body going with a run, a walk, bedroom yoga, even just padding about the house cleaning for 20 minutes
Meditate – This can be while running or just for 10 minutes on the sofa and it makes a massive difference to have some stillness before you get going
Dress – Put on real clothes, not pyjamas, and take time in that ritual
Nourish – Fuel your body before you start the day, whether that’s just a coffee or a nutritious breakfast
2. Plan the Day Before You Start
Do you remember when teachers used to tell you to plan an essay before starting to write it? Planning what the day will look like is essential to a productive and focussed week. It’s easy to get lost in responding to emails or reactive work so you need to have an idea of your goals for the day. Furthermore, working from home means that employers are even more focussed on results, in the absence of facetime, so there’s actually more pressure to deliver.
When you sit down at your desk, put aside 10-20 minutes to write down on a blank sheet what you need to get out of the day. One idea is to divide it into two columns: “What do I have to do this week?” and “What do I want to do this week?”
If you balance out your critical To Do list with your big picture “interest” projects you are more likely to find the week fulfilling – and stay motivated.
3. Use The Pomodoro Technique
Working from home effectively does not just mean clocking up as many hours as you can. In fact, burnout is a real concern, as days extend into evenings and people find it hard to switch off. What you need is a way to organise your time to get optimal focus.
Enter the Pomodoro Technique. Developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the theory is that you break up your work into manageable chunks of time, split up by regular breaks. The suggested time is 25 minutes with a 5-minute break, in four sets, followed by a longer break between sets.
You can check out the Focus Keeper app here.
4. Know Your Slump Times (And Plan for Them)
It’s very difficult to avoid a slump at some point in the day. For some, that might be 4pm, when all you can think about is snacks. For others, it might be the hour after lunch, when you feel a little too fed. Whenever it is, we tend to slump at the same time of the day. It’s much harder to avoid this than it is to lean into that slump and do something specific with it each day.
For example, block out that hour to reply to emails. Do a mindless task that you can do to music. Schedule a social call with a team member to check in and re-energise, just as you would over coffee in the office. Go for a daily walk.
Don’t beat yourself up about slumps, just use them for easier things.
5. It’s OK to Reset the Day
One of the dangers of setting the expectation to be uber-productive all day is that you’re left in a panic if the day hits a bump and you lose motivation. You get to 11am and realise you’ve gotten nothing done. That’s it, this day is a write-off.
Not so. In fact, the “write off” attitude is a destructive thought pattern that can turn a slow start to a fully wasted day. Snap out of it. When the day is going badly, be kind to yourself and take a moment to reset and break the pattern.
You can do this by literally making believe the day is starting again. Jump back into bed for a 20-minute nap, shower and dress again, have a great cup of coffee, and then “start” the day over.
Or, if you don’t have that much time, close your laptop, find somewhere with light and listen to SimpleHabit’s Focus meditations to get you back in the game.
Or if it really is going terribly, set teeny tiny tasks that it would be impossible to not complete – reply to ONE email, read ONE article – and as you finish the tasks you may find your momentum comes back.
That’s enough to get you going! If we’ve missed something brilliant that works for you, please share in the comments.
HomeHero is a digital home manager, taking care of your chores, bills, maintenance and admin, to free up your time for what matters most.