When I left agency life to become self-employed, I had to very quickly adjust to working from home. This meant no set hours, no managers or regular meetings, and no office desk. Essentially, no rules. While I loved the flexibility, I soon started to worry about how I was going to stay motivated and ensure I was still putting in solid work each day. In the digital age, more and more people are working from home, either as freelancers, or in self-employed and flexible roles. It’s starting to become even more prevalent now, with the spread of coronavirus. As more and more businesses are urging employees to work from home, it’s important to find ways to stay motivated that work for you. These are some of my tips.
Find Your Routine
The first thing that really helped me kick back into working gear was creating a routine. My routine pretty closely mimics a regular office day, with a couple of tweaks. Your routine should reflect the things that motivate you and that you enjoy. Because of this, everyone’s routines will be different. Test out different options until you find the best fit for you. My weekdays look a little like this:
- 9am. My work day starts around 9am, and I usually start my day by going through my emails and social media profiles. I’ll then spend the rest of the morning working on the day’s tasks.
- 10:30am. With my first break of the day, I usually make myself a tea and cuddle my dog, Ralph. I also use this time to tick off some household chores like unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry. I’m a huge procrasti-cleaner, so if I get these little jobs done on my morning break, I can’t be distracted by them later on.
- 1pm. If I’m feeling extra motivated, I’ll use my lunch break to go down to the gym and then have a quick meal back at my desk. Otherwise, my lunch breaks usually involve eating on the couch with Ralph, watching old episodes of The Office and just relaxing.
- 2pm. I find I usually feel more motivated and creative earlier in the day, and tend to fade a bit by the afternoon. Because of this, I like to get my more creative tasks done in the morning, so my afternoons are generally filled with admin and account work.
- 5pm. Done for the day! I make sure I’ve checked off all of my tasks for the day and prepare for tomorrow.
Create Your Space
I admit, this one has been a bit of a struggle for me. Despite having my own little study nook at home, I often find it hard to sit still and will move around the house at least a few times a day. Even right now, I’m typing this from the couch. Working from my laptop means that I do have the luxury of being quite flexible, but it’s important to have limits. I make sure to always start and finish my days at my desk, as it helps me to focus on my tasks and prepare for the next day. I keep my desk relatively clutter-free, except for a few photos, books and a desk plant. I also always have a notebook and some pencils handy.
It’s important to have boundaries in your work space. Maybe working from my couch is toeing this line, but I’m very strict on not working from my bedroom, and keep the TV off while I’m working. Different things will work for different people, but my advice is to try and find a space where you feel calm, motivated and productive. Make this your work space and try not to allow too many distractions to creep in.
Know Your Distractions
Working from home, you will face heaps of distractions, whether that’s kids, pets, the fridge, bed, TV, your phone, et cetera. Like I said, I’m a huge procrasti-cleaner. If I’m stuck on a task or I’m not just not feeling it, I’ll find any excuse to get up from my desk, which is why it’s important for me to always have a tidy work space.
My other big distraction is my dog, Ralph. He’s about ten months old, loves to be close to me and can be an absolute handful. Between him trying to jump up onto my lap, wanting to go outside and eating my indoor plants, I was constantly distracted. Luckily, he sleeps about 20 hours a day, so all it took was a little redecorating to settle him into our new routine. His bed and all of his toys now live beside my desk, and my house plants live on the table, out of reach and out of danger.
Your home will always be full of additional distractions that don’t exist in an office environment. As long as you know what is likely to distract you, you can put plans in place to remove these distractions and stay motivated working from home.
Set Goals & Daily Tasks
This is a big one for me. I’m the kind of person who loves planning and organising everything, so it’s important for me to know what my daily tasks are and what I want to achieve ahead of time. Every Monday I write down my goals for the week, and set myself tasks that will help me achieve these goals, whether that’s just finishing some account work, writing more content or getting a new client. You’ve probably already heard of SMART goals, but using this tool is such a powerful way to change your mindset around goals and keep you motivated and on track.
SMART goals should be:
An example of an un-SMART goal would be I want to get all of my work done. This is unspecific, unattainable and not bound by any timeframes. However, if we reframe it to I want to finish writing three articles by the end of the day, suddenly we have a specific, measurable and attainable goal. SMART goals are easier to keep track of and to achieve, meaning that you can kick goals and won’t be disheartened by unachievable tasks.
Mix it Up
All of that said, one of the best parts of working from home is the freedom! Why not take your laptop and work from a cozy cafe one day, or start and finish your day earlier than usual? Mixing up your routine from time to time lets you take a break from an office environment and may help you to refresh and refocus your motivation.