Working from home initially sounds like a great idea—no commute and no more stuffy suits or ties. Those loud co-workers and other office distractions have suddenly disappeared. The problem is that the excitement and novelty of working remotely will fade away, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time. To continue to be productive, you must learn how to stay motivated at work when your home has become your new office.
Failing to find that critical motivation can lead to procrastination, decreased productivity, and mental distress. Here are some useful tips on how to stay motivated so you can be happy, healthy, and productive while working from home.
1. Set Up Your Home Office
If at all possible, create your workspace in a room that has a door you can close so you have more privacy. Make sure you have some good home office equipment. At a minimum, get a high-quality chair, one or more monitors, a laptop stand and a good desk. An ergonomic keyboard and good mouse will also come in handy.
Set up your workstation correctly. It must be ergonomically correct to reduce strain on your neck, shoulders, back, and other body parts, especially since you’ll probably be working for hours straight. You can set up your workstation in certain ways that will help you increase productivity at work.
2. Practice the Art of Decluttering
In an article from The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that people were less productive when they were exposed to excessive clutter.((PubMed.gov: Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex)) They had a harder time focusing and processing information.
Declutter Your Home Office
Declutter your home office by getting rid of paper, trash, stationery items, cups, and other unnecessary things. This will make it way easier for you to find the things you need while working
Practice minimalism. Make sure your workspace only has the essential things you need to do your job.
Reduce Digital Clutter
Clutter does not only refer to physical things, unorganized files and software in your computer can also be considered as clutter—i.e. digital clutter. Getting rid of digital clutter on your work computer can help you work more productively.
Here are some things you can do to reduce digital clutter:
- Do you have 120 documents on your desktop? Organize them in folders.
- Put miscategorized documents in the proper folders.
- Delete non-essential files and folders that are taking up space.
- Clean up your work e-mail. Go through your e-mail inbox and archive important e-mails. Delete unnecessary e-mails.
3. Create a Morning Routine
Having a morning routine is a great way to get motivated in life. It sets a positive tone for your entire day and helps you stay motivated at work. It’s an organized, repeatable process that will get you in the habit of starting each day strong and ready to tackle the world.
Get Up Early
Make sure you get up early. I normally had a 50-minute commute. After working remotely, I had more time so I started getting up a little later—and then, just a “little” later. I had to quickly break this habit because I noticed I wasn’t as productive as I was when I got up early.
Studies have shown that people who get up earlier are actually more proactive than those who get up later.((Wiley Online Library: Proactive People Are Morning People)) So, if you want to start your day positively, getting up early is the first step.
Wake Your Body Up
Getting up early is different from waking your body up. You may wake up early mentally, but your body may still feel like sleeping. Jumpstart your day by waking your body up early in the morning. I like to start the day by opening the blinds and then jumping in the shower.
Walking around the block a few times is a fantastic way to get the blood in your body flowing and muscles moving. I try to walk in the morning at least three times during my work weeks. Another good way to prep your body for a busy day is to stretch or do yoga for 5 to 10 minutes.
Having breakfast is important. Unless you’re fasting, your body will reward you for putting good, healthy nutrients into it when you get up in the morning. High-fiber cereal, smoothies, and juice are nutritious options that will give you the fuel you need to begin your day. Drinking coffee, tea, or water is fine, too.
Explore Other Routines
Everyone has a different morning routine. You can start developing your own routine to have a great morning and do what best fits your lifestyle. What’s most important is that your routine should energize and prepare you for the workday.
4. Wear the Right Clothes
There’s a reason we wear different outfits for different occasions and activities.
Clothes have a strong psychological effect on our motivation and ability to work. Dressing too casually can actually make us less focused and alert according to Dr. Karen Pine, a fashion psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.
According to professor Pine,((Forbes: Is Casual Dress Killing Your Productivity At Work?))
“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
I can definitely relate to this. When I worked from home in shorts and a t-shirt, I felt less motivated. I felt like I should be relaxing, watching TV, or doing things other than work. But when I began wearing jeans and one of my normal work shirts, I instantly felt more motivated. I felt like I “should” be working.
A good rule of thumb is to wear the types of clothing you usually wear for work. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but try to dress the way you normally would as closely as possible.
5. Make a Schedule
Creating a schedule that contains a list of prioritized tasks is a great way to optimize your time. Additionally, it can also help you stay motivated at work.
Not having a prioritized list of what you need to do each workday can result in procrastination, disorganization, wrong prioritization, and an overall decrease in productivity.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can create a daily schedule:
- Each morning, document what you must get done that day. You can also create the schedule the evening before the next day.
- Create the list of tasks chronologically (from the first task in the morning to the last task at the end of the day).
- Break larger tasks down into smaller steps.
- Put a star or other identifying mark next to tasks that have the highest priority.
Some apps can help you schedule tasks, but you can also use Microsoft Excel or Word to create your schedule.
6. Know Your Peak Energy and Slump Times
Each of us has different energy levels at different times of the day. No one is energetic and motivated all the time at work. Know when you have the most energy and when your energy levels tend to be lower. This will help you optimize your daily schedule and maximize productivity.
Do the most difficult tasks when your energy levels are at their peak. Do the simpler, less demanding things when your energy levels are lower.
7. Reward Yourself
Rewards are some of the best motivators. Knowing that we have something to look forward to boosts our mental and physical energy levels.
Always reward yourself after completing a certain number of tasks or finishing an entire day of hard work. There are many different ways to reward yourself, such as taking a coffee break, watching a TV show, listening to a podcast, eating something you like, or visiting one of your favorite websites.
Just make sure that the rewards are big enough to keep you motivated but not too big that it becomes distracting.
It can be easy to watch two YouTube videos, then two more, and then two more! Later, you’ll discover that you’ve spent an hour online already and haven’t done your work yet.
This is why schedules are so important, especially if you’re prone to get distracted or sometimes struggle with time management.
8. Get Enough Sleep
Be sure to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. When we’re sleep-deprived, our mental and physical energy is quickly sapped. We lose motivation, vitality, and productivity.
When we are sleep-deprived, even simple things become difficult. It’s critical that you get the proper rest. Without it, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
9. Take Regular Breaks
Working remotely oftentimes frees us from the normal office distractions, but this hyper-focused environment can also make us work too long without stopping.
Have you ever worked without taking breaks and felt drained? Have you experienced muscle and joint pain after working too long without breaks? Not taking regular breaks can cause muscle and joint problems and even cause repetitive strain injuries.
Taking regular breaks boosts our energy and vitality, increases our motivation, improves our focus, and makes us more productive. Get in the habit of taking a 5 to 7-minute break every hour.
Get up and do something that allows you to mentally and physically disconnect from your work. Take a quick walk, stretch, go to the kitchen, and make a healthy snack or drink, or spend some time with your pet. Watch a short video, listen to a podcast, call a friend, meditate, or plan out some fun activities. Make sure you take those breaks consistently each workday.
10. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is something that all of us need to do. Why is this important?
Think about those times when you were working while you were physically tired, mentally exhausted, or in a bad mental state. Every hour feels like two hours. Things that were normally easy started to require a lot of effort, and it felt harder to stay focused.
Regular exercise has been scientifically proven to increase our energy, lower our blood pressure, help control our weight, and strengthen our immune system. It also decreases stress, increases our confidence, helps us sleep better, decreases depression and anxiety, and improves blood flow to our brains.
As adults, we generally need 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week as well as muscle-strengthening exercises.((NCBI: The Importance of 60 Minutes or More of Daily Physical Activity)) There are many ways to do this. Join a local gym or cross-fit center, engage in outdoor activities, or join a physically active Meetup.com group. You can also create a gym in your own home.
Creating a highly-effective and low-cost home gym is very simple. I recently converted my garage into a home gym. I bought a good set of resistance bands and a yoga mat, and I regularly watch different high-intensity interval training (HIIT) YouTube videos to switch things up.
Many people say they don’t have time to exercise. But now that you’re not commuting, you have more time to do other things. Use this extra time to exercise regularly. It will greatly improve your body and mind. And you can have fun while you’re at it.
11. Make Sure You Love Your Job
This is the most important tip on how to stay motivated at work—make sure you love your job. It’s extremely hard to stay motivated when you don’t enjoy what you are doing.
A recent Gallup poll revealed that only 34% of Americans are engaged at work.((Gallup: Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S.)) This is a paradox of life: most people spend far too much time doing the things they don’t like and not doing enough of the things they say they love.
When you love what you do, you feel energized. You’re more creative, and you’re more inspired to go all in and do your best work.
Here’s some sage advice about the importance of doing something you love from Steve Jobs:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
How do you know when you’ve found a job you love?
- You’re using your natural gifts, strengths, and talents.
- It’s aligned with your core values.
- When you do it, time will fly by. You can do it for long periods of time and feel energized – not drained.
- You enjoy it so much that you’re excited to get out of bed in the morning to do it.
If you’re not doing what you love now, take Steve Job’s advice and keep looking. Don’t settle.
12. Develop a Positive Mindset
If you can’t change the fact that you’re working remotely, change how you view the situation. Yes, there’s more isolation, you don’t have a structured office environment, and you may have to go through an adjustment period. However, you can change your perspective towards these into a positive one.
Develop a positive mindset so you can appreciate the benefits of your new situation. You don’t have to commute. You’re saving money on gas and wear and tear on your car. Also, you don’t have to worry about parking fees or bridge tolls anymore.
You don’t have the normal office distractions. You have more time to be laser-focused on what you’re doing without having to worry about being interrupted.
It’s an opportunity to unleash more of your creativity. You have control of your environment: the temperature, lighting, food, and your schedule.
John Wooden explains why having a positive mindset is important:
Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.
Remote work is the new normal for many people, especially now that COVID-19 has stopped tens of millions of people from performing their work duties in offices.
A study done by 451 Research revealed that 67% of businesses that implemented or expanded work from home policies because of COVID-19 believe these policies will stay in place permanently or for a long time.((S&P Global: COVID-19 Shakes Up the Future of Work))
Once you master these tips on how to stay motivated at work, you’ll find that working from home can be fun, fulfilling, and highly productive. It can also be an opportunity for you to do your best work in the comfort of your own home.
More Tips on How to Stay Motivated at Work
- How to Get Motivated to Go to Work Every Single Day
- 10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home
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