If you work at home, you know these pitfalls and distractions. TV, refrigerator, bed, couch, other people, social media, everything else in the Universe. You get sucked into a show, and suddenly three hours of binge-watching have passed. Working at home is not for sissies. You need motivation and self-discipline, when there is no one there to physically pry you off the couch and away from The Big Bang Theory reruns. But there is work to do!
So let’s talk ideas and tips on how to stay motivated when you work at home – whether for yourself or someone else. Whether you work at home an hour a day or 10 hours a day, these will help keep you focused on getting the work done.
1. GET DRESSED
It is easy to roll out of bed, walk the 8 feet to the desk, and start working. But I find that if I physically go through the effort of getting dressed (which for me means bra, t-shirt, and yoga pants) I know I’m in work attire. If I stay in my jammies, there is just too great a temptation to jump back in for a quick nap. Not to mention underboob sweat while I’m sitting at my desk. You know I’m right, girls.
2. DEDICATED WORKSPACE
Do you have your own physical space? If you work at home regularly, you need one. Whether it’s a whole office with a door, or a shelf in the dining room, dedicate a space to your work. Keep all your stuff there, and don’t let other non-work stuff pile up there. And when you start working, physically “go there.” I am lucky enough to have a home office, with a built-in desk, cabinets, bookshelves, and tons of storage. I love being in my office. When I work at the kitchen table or couch, I feel way too casual. Also, if you work at home, you ideally have a way to create a barrier between your personal and professional lives. I can close the door. When the door is closed, Mommy is working. No knocking or yelling for me. If you don’t have a door? You can still create a space. When you’re setup at the table, it’s your work time. Create the space, and hold yourself accountable to use it.
3. CHECK IN WITH YOUR PEEPS
When you work in an office or other non-home location, what’s one of the first things you do when you get to work? You check in with your people! Maybe you head to the breakroom, say hi to your cubemate, or check in with your boss. When you work at home, there is no one physically there to check in with. So create it! Check in online with your online communities, groups, fan pages, and friends. When I login every morning, it means I’m working and people know they can find me online. It’s a way of making myself accoutable to others. They know where to find me, and I’m at the other end of their private message or email.
Now you may or may not be someone who can work with music playing. But let me tell you, music can be a huge motivator. Spotify, Pandora, Songza… all great applications that allow you to create playlists and stream music from your computer or mobile app. Create different playlists depending on what you’ll be working on. Something quiet and mellow for background, or your favorite jams for when you take a break and need a major pickup. (For the record, I couldn’t concentrate and turned off the music while writing this post. But as soon as I publish it, I’m going back to jamming to some One Direction.)
Do you set daily (or weekly, or yearly) goals? Do you write them down? Are you a checklist person? When I write down or declare my goals to others, I am far more likely to follow-through on them. Today I have 6 things to do – and I will sit here until they’re done, whether it takes me 2 hours or 6 hours. Yesterday, I told my team I’d be doing a Periscope. I put it out there – I told people. They were now expecting it. I had to follow through. Putting the goals out there – big and small – will help keep you focused and accountable to achieving them.
6. 50 MINUTE HOUR
I implemented this recently, and it’s been surprisingly refreshing. For every hour of work, I give myself 10 minutes to take a break. I get up, get a snack, walk around and get a bit of exercise. It gives me a chance to get away from my desk, social media, and the endless online “noise.” I can say hello to others in my house. When you work in an office or other physical location, you get a built-in break. You physically leave your desk and head to the “break room” or out with co-workers to lunch. Give yourself that same luxury to refresh and refocus.
7. REWARD YOURSELF
When you are your own boss, no one is doing your year-end performance evaluation and telling you that you “met expectations.” No one is giving you a raise, and no one is rewarding your hard work. Only you can do that. But guess what – you CAN do that! When you meet and exceed your goals, give yourself permission to reward yourself. Whether it’s treating yourself to a 59 cent ice cream cone at McDonald’s or an expensive item you’ve been coveting. You are creating your own “carrot” to motivate yourself. Write down that goal, hang a picture of that new Michael Kors purse you’re dying to get, and eat that carrot when you reach the goal.
So bottom line, you’re striking the balance between staying disciplined, and letting yourself relax. Be the boss who manages, and be the employee who wants to sneak off and talk to her friends. Keep working, then take a break. Define, finish, and reward yourself for meeting your goals. These tips really help me. I’ve been working at home for four years, two years as a senior executive for a technology company, and then two years as my own boss with my own businesses. It wasn’t easy to get into a completely new groove and habit, but once you do, you won’t want anyone to disturb your worktime and work space.