Keeping your motivation up when you're working in an office is relatively easy. You need to get your work done before you can return to the comfort and privacy of home, so dragging your feet will only cause you further inconvenience. And with your colleagues surrounding and observing you, you’ll at once be reminded that you’re part of a team and driven to show productivity.
For most of us, though, that office life is behind us: gone for the foreseeable future, at least, and plausibly gone for good. Unless you've been hibernating in a hermetically-sealed underground chamber since early 2020, you know perfectly well why it isn't advisable for people to gather in significant groups. Regardless of the broader consequences, remote working is the new normal.
So how are you supposed to stay motivated when you’re working from home with your colleagues many miles away? How can you achieve focus when trying to get things done in an environment designed and built for comfort? It isn’t easy, but it can be done, and in this piece we’re going to set out five tips that can help you manage it. Let’s get started.
Assemble a solid home office
Slouching on the couch with your laptop on your lap can sound like a good idea when you’re used to a stuffy office. Isn’t that an ideal scenario? No more needing to sit at a desk under harsh fluorescent lights (per this piece, they can really bother some people). With your mind at ease, you can truly focus on getting things done. Well, things don’t work that way. Not only does such an arrangement lead to lowered productivity due to reduced concentration, but it also becomes uncomfortable remarkably quickly.
You need a proper home office — or as close to one as you can get with the resources and space available to you. At a minimum, that means a desk, a practical chair, enough artificial light to keep you awake during the winter, and whatever computer peripherals can help you work efficiently. Multiple monitors are particularly useful, for instance, and you can use a laptop dock to make it optimally easy to take your laptop elsewhere for the occasional change of scenery.
Rely on the right tools
Getting lost in admin is one of the fastest ways to get bored and disillusioned, and it’s a major risk when you’re working remotely. Digital communication within an office is often lax because the workers can simply talk directly when necessary, and any confusion concerning time or task management can be resolved through impromptu in-person meetings. But if you allow such poor digital management when people are working remotely, admin tedium will build up.
There are two components to good remote-working admin: using the right tools, and ensuring that everyone knows how to use them appropriately. The importance of SaaS is why businesses everywhere are scrambling to find and deploy the best task management apps on the market — and while options proliferate (as evidenced by myriad roundups featuring varied tools: examples here and here), you can stay exactly where you are.
TickTick makes it vastly easier to manage a remote business, allowing you to keep tasks managed across all major platforms. You can queue up all your key actions, giving each one a suitable priority level and deadline along with a custom prompt to nudge you into action ahead of time. Speaking of prompts, the Daily Alert feature is great if your mind drifts due to the weight of your workload (understandable when you don’t have colleagues or employees around to keep you sharp). It pops up at a set time every day to let you know what you need to get done that day.
And with TickTick Premium, you can make good use of Smart Lists. Using core logic operators, you get to create task lists to help you focus your attention on the most pressing concerns. For example, if you want to plan your schedule, you can create a Smart List showing only the top-priority tasks with start and due dates within the next week. I find this hugely useful because it lets me set up and knock down the most onerous tasks first, leaving time for other things.
Work towards small goals
To a major extent, our actions are governed by psychological rewards. When you do something right and achieve a victory, your emotional state improves (particularly when it comes to your level of confidence), and that feeling encourages you to keep going so you can reach it again. This is why people who pursue goals are so much happier. Even when they encounter setbacks, they can stay fixated on where they’re going and what they want to do.
Since the days can start to blur together when you’re working from home, you need something to break up the monotony, and that means pushing towards small but meaningful goals (more on this). Maybe you can aim to get a particular project done by the end of a working week, or set yourself a challenge of cultivating and demonstrating a new skill. However you define and approach your goals, simply having them in place will make a huge difference.
Maintain a clear routine
As much as people have always liked to complain about the daily grind of commuting to and from work, there’s a lot to be said for the clear distinction it established between their professional lives and their personal lives. When they were at their places of employment, they needed to get work done — and when they were home, they didn’t need to think about work.
Now that so many of us are working from home, we’re finding that distinction much harder to achieve. What does it mean to finish a working day now that you’re not necessarily going anywhere? Worrying about how much you’re getting done can lead you to feel that you should work longer hours to make up for it, but that’s a mistake. You can’t stay motivated if you reach the point of burnout due to too much work. When your day is done, log off, and go elsewhere.
Relax and take regular breaks
Even if you get into the habit of starting and finishing work at sensible times, the lack of anywhere to go (and colleagues to hang out with) can lead you to stay at your desk for the entire day. And since there’s no realistic way for anyone to mandate that you take a break, you can just keep on working through the time you would have taken for lunch.
Don’t do that: you need breaks. There’s a reason why good managers talk about them so much, and it isn’t that they’re trying to sneakily extend the working day. The longer you spend on a task without letting your mind fully wander, the worse your mood will get. You’ll become impatient, frustrated, and prone to making mistakes — and all of that will sap your motivation. So take a deep breath, relax, and take the day as it comes.
Note: Laura May is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine. We write about beauty, fashion, lifestyle, relationships, travel, trends, and anything else that matters to you. Name throwing you off? Don’t take it too seriously — we intend to stand out from the crowd.