I’ve worked from home for about five years as a freelance computer programmer with a little side of blogging and youtube, and the one question I get asked all the time is how I manage to stay motivated and get any work done. So once and for all (unless I come up with more tips in the future of course) here’s how I do it.
Sounds pretty obvious but you’d be surprised how many work from homers stick the TV on as “background noise”. Seriously, don’t do it, aside from the fact that you’re not getting to really enjoy whatever show you’re half watching because you’re trying to get work done, you’re probably not doing that great a job of getting your work done because you’re distracted by whatever’s on the box.
If you’re like nah! I can multi task like a pro, I’d at the very least avoid Game of Thrones because once you watch one episode you’ll be so sucked in before you know it it’ll be 3am and your inbox will be full of irate emails from the office asking where that super important report you were supposed to have done by 6pm is.
Music…for some of us
Music on the other hand could be a good choice. It depends on you, what you’re doing, and what kind of music it is. My boyfriend swears by listening to classical music, or those youtube playlists of music for productivity, he absolutely cannot listen to songs with lyrics, I prefer the radio because then I can’t get sucked in to attempting to choose songs for myself (I’m crazy indecisive, if I had to choose my own songs I’d probably lose about half my day hitting the skip button).
See what works for you, start making your own playlists of songs that you like to stick on while you work that aren’t going to distract you. Avoid anything that makes you want to sing along with because that’ll end up being just as distracting as TV.
It’s best to keep the volume on the lower side, there’s a reason it’s called background music, don’t start your own little home office rave.
You might want to avoid playing music from the computer you’re working on because the temptation can be a little high to get sucked into choosing songs rather than working. If you’re playing them on your stereo across the room you’re less likely to get up to skip songs.
Getting a Work Mode Routine
When you work in an office, or a location that isn’t your own place, you have a routine. You know, you get up, shower, get dressed in outside people clothes (not your PJs) and head off to the office. It’s a little routine that triggers something in your brain that tells you it’s time to crack on and be productive. When you finish your day you have another routine that involves leaving the office which signals your brain that your work day is over and it’s time to relax.
When you work from home, you lose that, you can roll out of bed and get to work without even brushing your hair or getting dressed and while that is a nice little fantasy it’s hard to get into work mode without some kind of routine to kick your brain into gear.
Do whatever works for you, experiment, maybe it’s just the act of getting up, showered and dressed that kicks you into work mode, maybe going on a little walk around the block, or going to the gym in the mornings will get you in gear.
Honestly, before I had my little morning routine it was a struggle to get myself into work mode without procrastinating away at least half of it.
Set A Schedule…and Stick To It!
Whether it’s a simple schedule that just says which hours of the day you’re going to be working, or a more in depth task list of what you’re going to be tackling each day, having some kind of schedule will help you stay on track.
Of course figuring out a schedule is just half the battle, sticking to it is the real challenge. I track my hours as I work so that I can realistically see how much time I’m spending on each task, and how much time overall I’m working each day. We all have an idea of how long something *should* take us so it’s a way to be able to see if you’re actually working as hard as you think you are or if you’re spending the majority of the day staring blankly at your laptop not getting much done (or hanging out on social media).
Take A Break
If you don’t take breaks, your whole day can start to turn into a break, or you could end up burning out from working too much. I know this one should probably be in with the scheduling but it’s so important that I wanted to give it it’s own fancy little header.
If you were in the office you’d be taking breaks, there’s a good reason for it, you can’t keep focused non stop for the entire day, you need to stretch your legs, to eat food, to pop to the loo, to make a cup of tea, to reset your brain and come back to work feeling fresh. Don’t neglect your break time! If you do then you might find that it’s a struggle to stay on task and you’re way more likely to end up getting sucked into “break time” activities while you should be working.
Breaks will help you focus on your work when you should be, and when you do have breaks you’ll be more likely to stick to reasonable time periods for your break time fun.
Turn off social media
If you work on a computer then it can be tempting to get sucked into social media or youtube (they’re my two biggest enemies when I’m trying to get shit done). Ban them during work time, break time sure, refresh instagram 752 million times if you like, but when you’re trying to get through your workload keep them turned off.
I know if you’re a blogger/youtuber/social media-er it’s extra tricky because part of your job involves social media so you can’t just not go on there, you need to go on there. Trust me, I know guys, when I’m working on my blog, instead of totally banning myself from using social media, I give myself some limits to using them.
Simple ones that aren’t set in stone, like times to check in if I’ve posted about a new piece of content (usually 30 minutes after posting, then at hourly intervals until the post isn’t getting any more engagement), and time limits on how long to spend engaging with my audience (usually around 10 minutes depending on the situation). Like I say, it’s not set in stone, if I think spending more time engaging is a valuable use of time then obviously go for it.
Find a space to work
I didn’t have my own workspace for a long time, and in all honesty I still don’t really have a space all of my very own which obviously is every basic bitches dream right? How many of you are daydreaming about how amazing you would make your spot right now? (I am!!! Embarrassingly I’m so basic that I’m already imagining the pastel calligraphy posters telling me to reach for the stars every time I look up from my keyboard).
It doesn’t need to be huge, it doesn’t need to be fancy. At the moment my work spot is the coffee table in my living room where I setup my laptop and notebooks and any bits I need for the day before cracking on with things. Of course if you happen to have a nice spot where you could stick a desk so that you’re not having to pack everything up and get it out again everyday then go for it. The nicer you can make your space the better. This kind of ties in with the idea of getting yourself into work mode. If you have a space that you use just for work then it’s going to help your brain get the idea that when you’re there it’s to get work done.
Rejig and Revise
Everybody’s different, what works for me might not work for you so try things out and if it doesn’t work for you try something different. Keep looking out for ways that can help you to stay motivated and stay focused on what you want to achieve each day.