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Staying motivated while working from home

As someone who’s worked from home for years, I’ve been asked about this a lot. How do I concentrate when I’m at home? How do I get things done? What keeps me from playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time all day?

I think people ask me this because they think about how they behave at home currently and then extrapolate to if they were home all the time.

Most people who work outside the home are only there when they’re waking up (grumpy, groggy, and stressed about being late) or when they’re done for the day (exhausted, brain dead, and overwhelmed). Or weekends, which are reserved for fun times (hopefully!). So they think about all the things they do at home (half make the bed/spill coffee in the morning and eat leftovers/binge Netflix at night) and think that’s what they’d do if they worked from home – forgetting what causes them to do those things in the first place (an office job).

Doing work you dislike for someone else’s company in an office you have to commute to is draining. So it’s no surprise that when you get home at the end of the day, you don’t want to do anything. You want to change into pajamas and veg.

The truth is, when your home is your office, it works pretty similarly to when an office is your office. You get the same surge of motivation in the morning, the afternoon slump, and the wishing you weren’t working. The difference is, you have more flexibility in when and how you get things done.

So when you worry about how you would get work done from home, ask yourself this: how do I get work done in an office? The answers are probably site agnostic. Your boss will still probably check in with you if you work from home. You’ll still have deadlines. Your coworkers will still have questions for you.

With those out of the way, here are some additional things that help keep me honest.

Coworking places/coffee shops. Sometimes, having other people around helps keep you off of Facebook and churning out TPS reports. So, a couple days a week, head to a coffee shop or a co-working space. I use an app called Croissant that lets me use a bunch of different co-working spaces to increase the variety – my discount code is elliot21, if you want to check it out!

Have a routine. The advantage of working from home is flexibility, but all that freedom can also paralyze you. Having a routine gives you some much needed structure.

Optimize your schedule. I, like many, have an afternoon slump. Unlike many, I hate mornings. Finally, I’m very efficient at night. So, I relax during in the first couple hours of the morning, take a break (or a nap!) during my slump, and really crush work at night. The important thing is to be honest with yourself and ask when you do your best work; set that aside as business time, and let yourself be free the other times.

Do work you love. I know, this isn’t always possible. But if the work you do from home is something you enjoy, that makes a huge difference in your productivity. Or at least it does for me.

Keep the place clean. Some writers I follow on Twitter have been passing a joke around:

“How’s the book coming?”

“Great! My house is spotless.”

Cleaning can be a great way to procrastinate. So make sure your workspace is clean ahead of time so you have no excuse not to work!

Take evenings/weekends. The problem with working from home is the opposite of what people think: it’s not that your home is your office, it’s that your office is your home. When five o’clock rolls around, no one is there packing their bags and leaving to remind you you can stop working now. And I’ll tell you, working 14 hours a day is a very efficient way to burn out. Set a time of day that you’re done working, and as much as you can, keep your weekends work-free. You need the time to recharge, and it makes you better at what you do.

Track how you spend your time. Knowing how you spend time really goes a long way. There’s no way to optimize your schedule or make an effective routine if you don’t know how much time you spend on different tasks!

What do you think? What problems are you worried about? Any remote workers have any tips to contribute? Let me know!

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