We don’t talk about it enough: But working from home is a minefield!
It feels like every few minutes something pops up to make us procrastinate, distract us, and totally suck out our motivation.
Anyone who’s worked from home for more than three days knows exactly what I’m talking about!
I’m betting my favourite yoga pants that you (yes YOU) have folded the laundry, done the dishes, decided now is the moment to Kon Marie your wardrobe — or done anything in order to avoid doing an important-but-not-fun business task.
And the distractions, oh the distractions! Ever tried working with Sex in the City or Friends playing in the background? Yep, me too. And it just… never works.
We’re in the kitchen making a quick cup of tea and think: “Okay, just a quick Facebook break and I’ll do ______,” and suddenly it’s very late afternoon and time to pick the kids up or make dinner!
Even when you love what you do, part of working from home is grappling with distractions and keeping yourself motivated throughout the day. It can be so damn hard to stay focused and productive!
If you’re nodding along right now and thinking back to a particularly unproductive day you had in the last week working from home: I feel you girl. Some days the struggle is so real.
But! Procrastinator commiseration aside: After many, many years of working from home, I have gotten a bit better at it.
While I’m not perfect, I’ve created a few practices along the way that work well to help me get stuff done… without frantically trying to hit all my deadlines in 30 minutes late at night after procrastinating all day.
Today, I’m spilling the beans on these practices with you. Here are 10 tips that help me stay focused and motivated throughout the day when I’m working from home:
Tip 1: Keep a super short daily to-do list.
Now, let me be clear: I have a ginormous master to-do list that I’m constantly adding to. BUT I’ve learnt that focusing on that huge to-do list day to day completely sucks my motivation and is immediately overwhelming.
Tearful trial and error has taught me that no matter how much I try to smash things out, or how many hours I work, or how much I prioritise work over everything else in my life (joy, adventure, relationships, meal times, sleep, exercise, showering, reading for pleasure etc), there’s still NO WAY I’ll complete everything on my master list today/this week/this month.
So, instead of focusing on my master to-do list day to day, I keep a super shot daily to-do list, and it definitely helps keep my motivation high. If I know at the beginning of the day that I’ve only got two or three must do things that I really need to smash out, I am much more likely to get stuck straight in and get them done.
A short to-do list, where I focus on my top priorities for the day, is much more motivating. I know I can tick both boxes, and move on.
Tip 2: Use the Pomodoro Technique (a.k.a. work in 25-minute blocks).
It works just like it sounds: You set a timer for 25 minutes, work work work, and then take a 5 minute break to do whatever the hell you want before diving back in for another 25 minutes of focused effort.
Examples of what I do in my 5 minute break to re-energize: make a pot of mint tea, jump on my rebounder, play with my pups Stan and Olive, head outside and stand in the sun, catch a few Instagram stories, message my honey, stretch, put a face pack on, dance around talking to myself.
As you can see: the world is your oyster. I’m always surprised how much I can get done in a focused, uninterrupted 25-minute window AND how long an intentional 5 minutes of play can feel.
Pro tip: On days where I have a lot to do? This is my failsafe technique to make sure I cross my big tasks off.
Tip 3: Do your most important task first, even though it’s not always the most fun.
It feels so good to hit the ground running! I like to get in there and knock over my most important task first at the beginning of my workday. Everything else feels like it’s downhill after that.
What can I say? The feeling of having achieved something important before 9:00 in the morning is just so exciting for me that it keeps me going.
The “most important task” is also not usually the one I really want to do, nor is it the one that feels like it would be the most fun. In fact, the truth is my most important task for the day is usually something I feel a whole lot of resistance around doing. But! I’m always very relieved, happy, and chuffed with myself when I cross it off my list.
Tip 4: Remove distractions.
And by “remove distractions” I mean work offline as often as you can!
For me, this is super helpful if I’m coming up with blog post content, or working on deliverables for a client, or creating a sales page. I’m able to settle down to work, focus and, as a result, create faster and much more easily when I’m offline. This works especially well when there’s no option for me to be online. (For example, I’m sitting in a cafe that doesn’t have wifi right now working on this blog post!)
Accessing Google Docs and Dropbox offline, using the Self-Control app for Mac, and even whipping out Post-It notes or the good ‘ole pen and my journal, are my tools of the trade to get stuff done offline.
Tip 5: Batch certain tasks, particularly tasks that you need to do regularly in your business.
Every time I switch between tasks it takes me a little time to settle into work – even on the days when I’m really in the zone. That’s why I think that batching helps me get more done in less time. And I always feel more motivated and productive when I’m progressing a task quickly.
Batching just means doing more than one instance of that task at a time. It’s particularly useful for tasks you do regularly for business as usual. Things that I batch: bookkeeping, blog content creating, invoicing, social media scheduling, preparing for coaching sessions, writing thank you cards, writing emails for a nurture sequence.
I love feeling like I’m organised and working in advance, so batching definitely helps me build momentum and stay focused when I’m working from home.
Tip 6: Monotask.
I say this because on the days where I try to multitask, I just end up stressed, overwhelmed, and getting to the end of the day with nothing of substance done.
But if I try to focus on one task at a time? At the end of the day I can point to something and say, “Yes, I did that.”, and feel as if I’ve really pushed the needle forward.
Tip 7: Find an accountability buddy.
An accountability buddy is someone who helps you stay accountable to your goals. The idea is that you touch base with each other at the beginning of the day or week and let each know what your priorities are for that day/week. Then at the end of the day/week, you report back and let your accountability buddy know how you got on.
If like me, you’d do almost anything rather than let someone down when you’ve made a commitment, this kind of public accountability — even with just that one other person — is a powerful way to light a fire under my arse.
Tip 8: Have a dedicated workspace.
Having a focused space is a great way to train your brain to “show up” in that space when you’re working. For me, stepping into my workspace is like a trigger: “Okay, now I’m at work, so we’re going to do work things.”
I’m very lucky. I have my own dedicated office upstairs in our home, so I can work away here undisturbed.
But I know not everyone has that luxury! If you don’t have a home office, I recommend, if you can, allocating a little spot in your house as your dedicated workspace; even if that is a corner of the lounge room, or a certain seat at the dining table, or a desk in the guest bedroom, or your local library, or a co-working space, or your favourite cafe.
Tip 9: Confirm tomorrow’s number 1 priority before signing off for the day.
I love a little pre-planning! If I’m clear on my most important task for tomorrow the night before, I know exactly what to get stuck into first. This means I’m not wasting any time in the morning messing around, trying to figure out my priorities, and can dive in straight away.
Tip 10: Always remember: Done is better than perfect.
For me, achieving and being able to tick something off my list is really, really motivating. And I’m more likely to do that when I’m aiming for done or for excellence, but not perfection.
Perfection takes a bloody long time, which means I’m not really ticking stuff off. And if I get stuck on the minutiae trying to make things “perfect”, I’m never really achieving.
I say: Screw that! Go for done. Done is much more motivating than perfect.
Keeping yourself motivated, productive and happy working from home can definitely take work. I hope my tips help!
I’d love to know, what’s your favourite way to stay motivated working from home?
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