Working from home has become increasingly popular as technology has made it more and more possible. But WFH has also become more necessary for many in the midst of a pandemic and the resulting required social distancing.
Whether you have worked from home for a while or are just starting to figure it out, staying motivated while trying to complete your work at home can be quite the challenge.
So, whether you are a student trying to get schoolwork done or a working professional, here are 9 hacks to help you stay motivated while working from home. Spoiler alert: you can do it!
1. Make the most of your morning.
The morning hours are perhaps the most important to set yourself up for an entire day of success. Wake up early to make the most of those hours and get in some “you” time before the work day begins.
These morning hours generally happen before 7 a.m., essentially before the rest of the world wakes and starts calling, emailing, and texting you.
Decide what habits help your productivity and headspace the most, and prioritize those habits right away.
Maybe you wake up, meditate, exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, enjoy your morning coffee or tea, and catch up on current events; maybe you go on a long morning walk and write for 30 minutes in a journal; maybe you spend your morning working on a passion project before answering any work-related emails.
Whatever your routine, find what works best for you, and stick to it. Those morning hours will help you start the day strong, with a focus on your needs, before others’ needs become more insistent.
This is even more crucial if you have kids. Wake up before your kids do, and you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish before their day even starts!
And, if you can stay off social media for those first hours in the morning, even better. Focus on what you need to start the day, rather than what other people have been posting.
2. Set up a dedicated workspace.
If you’re working from home, you will inevitably be much more productive if you have a space in your home dedicated solely to work.
This special space will signal to your brain and body that you are there to work, which will help you create a work-life balance as well.
Make sure this workspace feels productive and fun for you by adding accents in your favorite colors, getting a comfortable (but not too comfortable) chair, setting up a standing desk or cycling seat if you’d like to feel more active, and gathering inspiring quotes or photos to hang on the walls.
Maybe you even buy some new indoor plants!
This space should make working feel almost like a treat. Allow your creativity to guide you as you set up and decorate a workspace just for your unique WFH vibe.
3. Dress for the “office.”
Though working from home allows you to wear your comfy clothes all day long and even fool your coworkers with a dress shirt on top and sweatpants on bottom, consider still dressing for success.
If you take the time to get ready in the morning, as if you were actually going to an office, you will signal to your brain and body that this is work time. The better and more professional you feel, the more productive you will be.
Of course, you can find comfortable office attire, but you’ll be surprised how much more effective you feel when you aren’t wearing pajamas to work.
4. Plan your day and set achievable goals.
As the saying goes, you usually don’t plan to fail, but you might fail to plan. Planning your day ahead of time will give you benchmarks to reach throughout the day and keep you from getting too distracted.
Set achievable goals for yourself, and mark them off as you reach them. This will give you a boost of energy and pride each time you finish a task and ensure that you are staying on track as you work.
Motivational speaker and author of The 5 Second Rule Mel Robbins suggests starting with the most looming and daunting task first. That way, you have the most energy to get this task done and will immediately feel more productive.
5. Coordinate meals ahead of time to avoid decision fatigue.
Generally, we make so many decisions during work throughout the day that deciding on meals can get exhausting.
To keep yourself healthy and motivated throughout the work day at home, plan your meals ahead of time like you plan your work tasks so that what you eat becomes one less decision you need to make.
You can meal prep by setting up or cooking meals on weekends or coordinate some other meal planning situation. However you like to plan your meals, just make sure you can keep yourself fueled with healthy food without worrying too much about how you get it.
This will keep you from making unhealthy decisions or forgetting to eat altogether. And you will have much more energy to get more done!
6. Take regular short breaks to maintain productivity.
The human mind does not focus too well for extended periods of time, nor does it multi-task well. Especially in this digital age, with entertainment constantly available at our fingertips, our minds flit from task to task, making us less effective overall.
So, you will actually be more productive if you take short breaks often throughout the day and focus for shorter but more concentrated periods of time.
Try setting a timer to concentrate hard on work for 40 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. This will remind you that you can focus for short bursts of time and reward yourself with a brain break.
Instead of allowing yourself to get distracted by social media, texts, or calls that are not work-related, you can actually turn off outside notifications with distraction-blocking apps for your work time. That way, you can focus on outside communications or social media only during your breaks.
7. Maintain collaboration with coworkers.
Working from home can get isolating, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. So, make sure you’re making time to collaborate with coworkers and colleagues if you can.
Try to video chat or speak on the phone whenever possible rather than texting or emailing. You could even set up video call coffee breaks with colleagues if you can’t safely meet up in person.
Keeping up with these work relationships will help you and your coworkers work together more effectively and will help make the work day seem more fun.
If you don’t have any coworkers and work alone, make sure you find ways to meet your social needs outside of work by calling and video chatting with friends and family members or meeting safely for a socially distant hangout.
Maintaining collaborative relationships will keep you mentally healthy and give you moments to look forward to outside of work.
8. Get outdoors whenever possible.
When you’re not working, try to get outdoors whenever you can. Spending time outside will allow you to gather much-needed vitamin D and help improve your mood.
Prioritizing outdoor time when you’re not working will also allow you to separate from work, providing more balance in your life.
Since the outdoors are separate from your office, you’ll likely find it easier to stop thinking about work when you’re outside. So take walks, go on runs, sit on your porch or back deck, or visit your neighborhood park, and enjoy the day!
9. Set boundaries.
Working from home can often make you feel like you never leave the office, so make sure to set boundaries. Try to set a hard stop time when it comes to work, and avoid answering any work emails, direct messages, or calls after that time.
By setting your own boundaries, you will send a message to your coworkers that they can create boundaries as well. This will help your mental health and allow you to be more productive when you have set time aside for work hours and will help create a healthier work environment for everyone in your organization.
Though it can feel difficult to set boundaries when work seems so important, separating work time from relaxation time and/or family time will be crucial to long-term success with a work-from-home position. You don’t want to burn out too quickly.
The most important goal when working from home is to create an environment, both mentally and physically, that will allow you to remain productive and maintain a healthy balance between work and play.
Offices create a natural separation, but if you work from home, you can create that yourself with these hacks. Best of luck working from home, and enjoy the freedom it provides!