Let’s be honest, most of us would like to work from home. It’s a big part of the reason why books (and the related websites) such as The Work-at-Home Success B ible are so popular. It’s why so many people try to encourage their bosses to let them telecommute. Heck, it’s part of the reason I’m writing this blog. In all these cases, the chance to earn money without having to go into an office, or even get out of our PJs, is a major drive in the desire to work at home.
There’s a problem, though: When taken out of the office environment that helps us to focus on the task at hand, many of us (myself included) suddenly find that there are many things that draw our attention away from the work that needs to be done. It’s hard to stay motivated when working at home. Luckily, there are ways to counteract our tendency to goof off. It takes time to fully integrate them into your daily schedule; as with breaking any bad habit, trying to fight a lack of motivation takes time and effort. But if you’re going to be a success while you are working at home, you need to keep in mind these
12 Work-at-Home Motivation Tactics
1. Keep Your Work, Play and Home Lives Separate: You might not see what this has to do with motivation, but make no mistake: this is the biggest thing you need to do if you’re going to stay motivated. The biggest problem with working at home is that your work, play and home life start to blend together. It gets easy to start doing things like wash clothing when you need to be writing or watching TV when you should be replying to email. Eventually, your work can end up languishing. If you’re going to stay motivated to work, you need to make sure that you aren’t getting distracted. It’s tough to do, I won’t deny; that’s why you can follow these next steps.
2. Set Up a Specific Work Space: One reason it’s easier to stay motivated in an office is the office itself; it’s specifically designed for work, with limited distractions. If you don’t have a similar home office and try to work at, say, your kitchen table, it’ll be all the easier to look over at the dishes that need to be put away (or those delicious cookies that need to be eaten…) and put your work aside. Setting up a portion of your home as your office and doing all the work (and only the work) when you are in that office will help to cut down the temptations and distractions.
3. Dress For Work: I know, I know, you’d rather just stick to pajamas, or at least causal clothing, if you’re working from home; heck, it’s one of the advantages I laid out at the start of this very article. But getting into business clothes (or at least business causal) will help you to focus on your required tasks and help to keep you motivated. You’ll be thinking less about relaxing and more about working, which is how you can keep your mind on your business tasks.
4. Make ‘Office Hours’: Another reason that you stay more motivated at the office is that you have office hours. A regular work day means that you only need to stay motivated for so long, which means it’ll be much easier. Setting specific work hours will also help to keep the work and other parts of your life separate. You don’t need to make it a 9-to-5 schedule (unless you are telecommuting to a job that requires it); instead, you can work whenever you find you are your most productive. Just be sure you work at the same time all the time, to help build up a schedule.
5. Plan Your Work Schedule: While you’re at it, you should try to plan out your work schedule, to help plot out what you are doing and how to get it done. If you set particular tasks to do at particular time frame, it will be that much easier to get them down. By making sure that your time is planned out (at least, as much as you are able when there are external factors to consider), it’ll be that much easier to stay focused on what needs to be done.
A Side Note To My Fellow Parents: I know first-hand that creating a schedule and setting regular ‘office hours’ is tough if you have children in your household, particularly if they are too young for you to allow them to play independently or create their own regular patterns. The best advice I have for you in this respect is to work around their schedule (make their nap time into your office hours, for example); it allows you to maximize the time you spend with your child and the time you spend working.
6. Tackle the Worst Tasks First: While we’re talking about scheduling things, keep this in mind while making up a schedule: you should do the least pleasant tasks first. A big part of being unmotivated is trying to avoid the things that you want to do the least; if you can get those tasks out of the way, you’ll not only have more momentum for the rest of your work, but be happier that those tasks aren’t still waiting to be done. If you can ‘eat that frog‘ to start your day, it’ll be smooth sailing for the rest of the day. That said…
7. Try to Vary Your Work: While it’s good for your productivity to focus on one thing at a time (people don’t really multi-task well), you can end up getting burned out or worn down if you keep hammering at the same task, particularly if it takes a long time to complete. After you spend a few hours on any given task, it’s good to switch to something else to give your mind (and possibly your body, depending on your type of work) a break. Don’t forget to come back to the initial job, but switching your work can prove almost as refreshing as mixing a break or two into your schedule, which brings us to
8. Take Breaks: You need to have breaks during the day if you are going to keep going. There’s a lot of factors to consider when planning your breaks: how many breaks, how frequently to take them, how long they should last, and what to do during those breaks are all considerations you will need to work out. I recommend taking at least five minutes every hour to get up, step away from the computer, and simply stretch. You might also want to mix in some exercises during part of your workday, or possibly even take a mid-afternoon nap; it might take some time to find out what works for you (and what works for your family, as well), but adding a few breaks will likely make you more productive in the long run.
9. Turn Off the TV (and Video Games, Social Media, Etc.): Here’s a biggie; If you’re hoping to be as productive at home as you are in an office, you need make sure that you aren’t surrounded by any distractions. It’s tempting to watch TV while working, or cruise social media sites in between responding to emails (or answer personal emails during business email periods), but doing so will simply give you less time for what you need to do, and end up blending it with what you want to do. You’re better off saving the relaxation for after the work hours, so you can enjoy it more while it’s uninterrupted. (Exception: If your job is a crafting type that requires lots of repetition and little focus, go ahead and fire up the Netflix.) There is one type of media I’d recommend, though:
10. Listen to Music: This is a personal favorite method of mine to help keep focused and motivated. Having music on (specifically, classical instrumental music) keeps my brain from wandering, helps to spur my thoughts, and also keeps me energized. I can’t say that doing so will help you in the same way (although I’m not the only one to recommend it), and I also can’t promise that Justin Bieber will as beneficial as Mozart, but pumping up the jams should help to keep you motivated and productive while you are working.
11. Get Into A Routine: Once you have a work space, schedule and isolation from distractions established, it’s important to make it into a routine. It’s hard to break habits, and if you can turn these positive activities in a regular routine, it will be that much easier to stick to a plan that helps you get work done. It will take a while to do so, though, and you’ll need to stay focused on keeping up your schedule if you hope to turn it into a regular routine. One way to help encourage yourself as you make that change:
12. Reward Yourself For Completing Tasks: Yes, connect rewards to your progress. If you get all your goals done for a particular day, you should get a reward or two. By choosing something that that you really enjoy doing, you can help to spur yourself on through the times when you don’t want to work. The trick is to connect your rewards to your progress in your work-at-home goals; if you, say, watch TV or cruise the social media networks (or whatever you choose as your reward) during one of your work breaks, you’re likely to end up spending more time on the reward than on finishing your work, counteracting the entire purpose of the reward.
A Final Note: This sort of trouble staying motivated doesn’t only apply to working from home; it can also affect you if you are searching for a job, as I’ve noted before. Job hunting is basically a job itself, and the same rules apply to stay motivated: create a work space, take regular breaks, stay focused on your search for work, and reward yourself for your progress. Follow those suggestions, and all the job hunting advice out there, and you will hopefully have a new job in no time.