How do you stay motivated while working from home? I actually get that question quite a bit and I’ve gotten it even more recently with so many people now working from home due to Covid-19. Honestly, I’ve been training for this moment for the last 10 to 15 years of my life. I work remotely. My whole team works remotely and they can’t get distracted or allow themselves to miss deadlines. Here’s what we do.
You don’t have to have a formal office. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be the corner of your kitchen table. It can be on the sofa. Wherever you dedicate your workspace you need to keep it there as much as you can. Is it great to be able to take your laptop and travel around? Sure and I do that sometimes. I travel between home and the office but in each location, I have a unique space that is the same each time. Your brain realizes it’s time for work when you sit down at your dedicated workspace.
Again, when you have a normal routine it triggers your brain that now is the time for working and helps increase your productivity. Part of my normal routine includes tea. My brain knows that when I come into the kitchen and make my tea it’s time to hit the desk and start working. Also, I’ll tell you, it’s very important to get dressed every day. Especially during a crisis like this where it’s so easy to think “Oh I’ll just wear my pajamas all day.” It definitely can have an impact on your performance. If you get yourself dressed and ready like you’re going to the office for a regular workday, you are more likely to work. It’s disruptive to have to stop your work in the middle of the day to get dressed for that zoom call. Maintain your morning routine as much as possible to trigger your brain into work mode.
Your plan doesn’t have to be super formal. It can just be a list of what you want to get accomplished on a certain day or in a particular week. The key is that it needs to be written down, not in your head.
Different people do this different ways. Normally, I get some of my best ideas in the shower. It’s just how I am. I know that when I get out of the shower I have to write some stuff down. I take notes in my notes app on my phone so I can have them for later. I do like to make a list of what I want to accomplish on the following day so before bed, I will look at what needs to happen the next day and add it to the list.
Now, I have a master list of things I want to accomplish this quarter and the grand list of what I want to accomplish this year but you have got to take it a day at a time. It’s like that old saying. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So make your list and put your least favorite things at the top. Whatever you hate (taxes, anyone?) put it at the top and get it done because as the day goes on you will be less and less motivated to do the thing you don’t want to do. Then, when you get that thing done that you hate you will feel like a rockstar.
Include non-work tasks in your plan also. What does that mean? It means you have a schedule. For instance, I work out twice a week. I keep the same times and the same days. If it’s not on my schedule, I’m not going to do it. If I want to have dinner with friends, I put it on my schedule. If I don’t schedule the non-work items, invariably something will come up and they won’t happen.
We’ve talked about making a list of everything you need to do. Now it’s time to actually schedule it out. Again, the least favorite thing first and include slots for personal stuff as well. You want to schedule things like lunch and social media checks. I know I can go down the rabbit hole if I allow myself to get on Tik Tok so I can use that as a reward while I’m eating lunch or something. You have to schedule it because it’s so easy to get distracted. How many times have you gone to check your email and then something gets your attention and you’re totally off on a tangent? A great piece of advice is to only check your email twice a day. Check it every morning and every afternoon and you’re done. If you let that mail notification rule your life it will totally take over. If there’s an emergency my clients know they need to text me.
Be sure to schedule non-appointment days. For me, Friday are non-appointment days. Friday is my day to catch up and get prepared for the following week. It’s easy to skip what you don’t schedule. I can’t stress this enough.
If you’re self-employed or working from home, it’s not ok for people to call you at 10:00 at night or, even worse, 6:00 in the morning. Yeah, I don’t love that. I love even less being called before 8:00 on Saturday mornings. Because of the nature of what we do, I have made myself accessible to some clients after hours for emergencies. Sometimes when it’s live you just can’t avoid it. Most normal people can schedule regular office hours and that is totally ok. It’s is completely appropriate to say “I’m available to you from 8:00 until 5:00 and after that, I’ll get to you the next morning.” Establish those hours from the very beginning when you add a new client.
What does that mean? It means having some kind of webinar or something to check in with your team. There are no substitutes for face-to-face interaction. Right now you can do that with a webinar, zoom call, go-to-meeting, or FaceTime on your phone. It will help you like nothing else. Our team meets every single week by webinar, even if we can’t meet in person. No matter what, at 10 am on Wednesdays, we come together virtually for that work webinar because it helps us as a team. Something I love that we do very consistently during this time is kudos. Each team member shares what they think someone else on the team did really well that week. It’s great for team morale. To me, it carries more weight to have someone who is in the trenches with you, doing what you do every day, telling you that you did a bang-up job. Of course, I’m also going to share my own kudos, but I think it means so much to the team to hear it from their colleagues.
You don’t just want internal collaboration with your team. You also want external collaboration. I recently had someone ask what’s something that’s changed the face of your business long-term. My answer: Networking. Networking is the single most powerful tool you have to grow your business. Networking matters and right now you have to network where you can. That means jumping on a webinar or zoom call. If you are part of a group and right now they’re offering a weekly webinar to help educate you because at the moment nobody can get together in person, jump on there. You’d be surprised at how many people pay attention to who’s attending.
You need to network with potential colleagues but also potential customers. It is by far one of your strongest tools. I have connections from 20 years ago that I still have now because networking is such a powerful tool.
Also, any kind of face-to-face interaction encourages creativity. One of the things we like to do during our weekly webinars is to share areas where we are having trouble and get ideas from the entire team. Sometimes you get stumped. You work with a customer for so long that you need some outside inspiration. My team is great about helping each other. Someone will share a great article or graphic and the problem is solved. I love that sense of camaraderie from my team. They’re constantly looking out for each other. You can’t have that without collaboration so it really helps you stay motivated.
If you know you’re getting in a mood and you’re feeling bummed out and not particularly motivated, do what inspires you. That may be listening to a killer playlist you love. It might be a book that really kicks you in the rear. It might be a podcast. I have an Audible book that I have listened to I cannot tell you how many times. Relationships and your network are your best friends. You need people you can go to when you are having an issue. When people reach out and help you it’s so incredibly motivating. Whenever you need some inspiration, do what works for you, whether that’s a killer playlist or a listening ear.
For me, I have podcasts that I listen to for work but I also have a podcast that I listen to just for fun. It comes on every Wednesday so you better believe that “on Wednesdays we Popcast.” I listen every single week and I schedule a time to do it.
These are the tips my team uses to stay focused and keep our motivation while working from home. I hope they help you as well!