Today, I want to write about a challenge that I encountered a couple of months ago. And in the current situation, I am sure I am not the only one who has been, or still is, struggling with this. I am talking about the difficulty of motivating yourself when working from home.
I have worked in office environments for most of my career and never really had the opportunity to work from home. I always used to think that this was something wonderful, I could focus on things without interruptions, I could wear sweatpants to work, and I could organize my own days better. While these are all still big benefits to me, working from home full-time also has its pitfalls. You might start your days later because you don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time, you get distracted by other tasks at home, you miss the social contact with your coworkers, or you forget to take breaks or to have a proper lunch. In my case, the fact that I decided to embark on the self-employed career path adds an additional challenge. While the freedom to build my business on my own values is wonderful, at the same time, I have the responsibility to make sure that things are happening and moving forward. Otherwise, my great business idea will never become a real livelihood.
Here are four ways that I have found helpful to motivate myself when working from home. I wrote them from a self-employed perspective but I am sure you will find something useful here also if you are working remotely for your employer or are looking for the right job for you (full-time job hunting is one of the most demanding jobs there is!).
1. Create a Routine
People sometimes think that when you are self-employed, you work when you happen to feel like it. I doubt that there is any successful entrepreneur who only works when they are feeling inspired. In fact, I don’t think the inspiration will ever come if you just wait for it doing nothing.
To me, having a routine is key. It ensures that I keep moving toward my goals and it also ensures that I have enough time for other things in my life. It’s important to find the right routine for you. I mostly work from Monday to Friday. My alarm goes off at 7AM, I take a shower, have a big breakfast (a luxury that I never had when hurrying to the office), and get to work. I find it easier to concentrate in the morning, so I spend the morning with tasks that require concentration, such as writing reports or building new training materials. Or sometimes, like today, I do my least favorite tasks first thing in the morning to get them out of the way. I have a light lunch around noon and then I dedicate the afternoon to more routine tasks. I am usually done with everything I wanted to accomplish by 5PM or 6PM. I shut off the screen, go take a long walk, and then do other things such knitting socks (my newly-found favorite hobby!). I might sometimes do work on weekends but only for an hour or two per day.
Do I manage to follow my routine every single day? No way! Some days, I wear my pajamas until noon when I finally take a shower and others I just do easy routine work all day because my concentration is totally gone. But most days, I do. And when I don’t, I tell myself that it’s okay not to be perfect and that I will do better tomorrow.
2. Break Your Goals Down into Small Steps
Goals, of course, help you to achieve whatever it is that you desire. Reach your quarterly targets, have a certain level of income, or get your dream job.
I need very concrete and small goals. If my goal was only to “make a living with my business idea”, I would get so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t know where to start and what I should be doing each day. Instead, I have determined a yearly target, which is the amount of income that I want by the end of the first year. Then, I break that down by month: what do I need to do every month to get to my yearly goal? And then I determine on a weekly and daily basis what I need to do in order to reach my monthly goals.
To me, it is essential to have small successes every day. It doesn’t really matter how tiny the achievement is, as long as it makes me feel like I am moving forward, it gives me more energy and motivation to keep going. Today, for example, posting this blog was one of my goals. If you are job hunting, your goal might be writing an application for a certain job or spending 1 hour to look for open roles. And even when you are an employee in a company, you can normally break your responsibilities down into smaller portions. For me, the smaller and more specific the goal is, the more likely I am to achieve it and step by step, to get to my final goal.
3. Separate Workspace from Homespace
One of the big challenges when working from home is the fact that for most of us, home is usually a place where we do things other than work. Spend time with the family, do housework, or relax.
Separating a workspace can help you get to the work mood and to maintain a balance between your professional and personal lives. If you have a spare room to create a proper home office, consider yourself lucky. If you don’t, you can set up a temporary work station every morning. Take your laptop or tablet, your planner, other work tools and set them in specific place. As long as they are there, the space is meant for working. Once you are done for the day, collect your work things and store them away until the next morning. I use the latter and it works for me. I also like moving my workstation to different locations which is definitely one of the benefits of working from home. Sometimes it’s the couch, sometimes it’s the dining table. Switching postures helps me not to put constant stress on the same body parts.
4. Build a Support Network
Working from home full-time can get lonely! It is easy to lose faith on what you are trying to do if you have no one to cheer you on.
My support network consists of friends, family, and other people who can support and advise me. My husband has been my biggest cheerleader whenever I have doubted my own abilities and encourages me to keep working toward my dream. One of my best friends agreed to act as a client when I needed to test a workshop. I also have an entrepreneurship advisor who has helped me answer so many questions about building a profitable business. And I am making connections with others in a similar situation to mine.
If you have a team, videocall daily with your colleagues to keep having social interactions. And if you are job hunting, you can hire a career coach to support you and make connections with other job seekers to help keep each other going.
Do you find motivating yourself difficult when working from home? If so, how did you overcome it? I would love to hear your tips. 🙂