Some people say I’m lucky to be working from home. I know I am. However, most of those who say that are people who have never worked remotely and think it’s total freedom. Watching TV in your pyjamas, eating snack foods, firing up the Xbox360 while your laptop is on the couch next to you, waiting to be put to work. What a life!
If you have the opportunity to work from home, you will see that there are many temptations to just put your feet up and forget about work. And these temptations won’t ever disappear, no matter how many months or years you’re been working remotely for. While occasional slacking is fine (and can happen when you’re at the office as well), keeping that up may put an end to your privileges. Finding motivation must be the biggest challenge facing people who work from home.
Want to find out how to resist the urge to slack and stay motivated, even if there’s no one looking over your shoulder? Here’s my top six tips that have worked for me:
1. Get up, get dressed!
Everyone I’ve talked to imagines people working remotely do so in their PJs. The truth is I’ve done so at the very beginning. While one of the luxuries of working from home is optional trousers, getting dressed has physiological ramifications. In other words, getting dressed equals ‘time to work’. So, make an effort and throw on some proper clothes if you want to jump start your day and actually get work done. Of course, you don’t have to go crazy and put on a suit. Who needs it when you’re all by yourself and there’s no around to see what you’re wearing? Just dress casual as you would if you were to go to the office.
2. Build structure into your day
Every night before bed, I put together a to-do list for the next day. This way I have a clear picture in my head of what I need to accomplish the following day and I don’t waste time in the morning thinking about the first task I should be working on. I use a fantastic application called Trello that keeps me organised. I’ve been using it for over a year and, let me tell you, it’s the best tasks management app I’ve ever used and believe me, I’ve tried loads.
When you’ve finished your tasks for the day, don’t forget to sign off. You may be tempted to finish work and continue browsing aimlessly on the Internet. My advice is to sign off and get out of the house, otherwise you’ll never leave your desk. Didn’t you used to leave the office when you had finished for the day?
3. Discipline yourself to avoid distractions
When you’re working from home, there are lot of distractions and forcing yourself to stay on task can be challenging. You only have so much willpower to go around. I’ve read about people who are recommending using apps like RescueTime to see exactly how much time you’re wasting during the day browsing around aimlessly or watching movies or checking Facebook or Twitter. I’ve tried it once out of curiosity but it didn’t work for me. There are probably loads of apps for that but none of them will ever work if you don’t acknowledge the fact that working from home does include work.
When it comes to time management, I honestly believe you need to train your brain to realise when it’s time for work and when it’s time for play.
4. Breaks are great…
… but do set yourself a limit. If you’re feeling stuck or don’t feel like working, take a walk, watch a TED Talk or put on your favourite song (it’s what usually works for me). But don’t forget to come back to work.
Some people set time limits by setting an alarm. That might work for some but I usually take breaks between tasks. So, when I complete a task, I reward myself with a 5 to 10-minute break. You can do whatever you feel like during these short breaks – take a nap, prepare yourself a snack or just go outside for a short walk. Then when you get back to work, you’ll feel recharged and ready to move on to your next task.
5. Get the friends and family on board
This must’ve been one of my biggest challenges. If you share a flat with other people and work from home, they’ll imagine you’re not doing any work so you will have time to clean up the flat, do the laundry, and wash the dishes because, well, you’re at home. So, sit them down and clarify what it means to work remotely with emphasis on work.
6. There is no such thing as “just one game of Solitaire”
I know that’s a lie and so do you. So, don’t try to convince yourself that you’ll just start playing one game and then get back to work. You know you won’t.
I hope these tips will help you overcome the urge to slack off and lose focus and instead motivate you to get to work. After one year working from home, I can honestly say I’m more focused and productive than I have ever been and that’s because I have tested it all and found what motivates me to get work done even when I’m not at the office.
And one last thought – my biggest motivation is my work. I love what I do so finding motivation is not as difficult as it can be for other people whose jobs are just, well, jobs.
How about you? What keeps you motivated when working from home?
Photo by BrianHolm