The internet has made working from home a critical option for many moms. In fact, many organizations are now encouraging their workers to do it. For the employer, it cuts costs and gives employees more flexibility. For the employee, it cuts out the daily commute, and it gives them much more freedom. If you’re a freelancer, the fact that the pandemic basically normalized work-from-home culture is a WIN.
Working from home is not without its challenges. The biggest of those challenges can be staying focused and motivated. Without the rigid routine of a traditional 9 to 5 job (and no boss looking over your shoulder), it’s easy to let your productivity slip. Then drop. Then fall completely apart.
I want to tell you a quick story:
When I relocated to Atlanta in 2010, I opted to work from home, in part because I was a single mother in a new city and my closest family member was something like 3 hours away from me… and I hadn’t seen that part of my family in 18 years. I quickly came up with a fantastic proposal template (which I’ve included in your toolkit) that immediately put me to work online. I worked hard to build my reputation as a service provider in both administrative work and writing.
Then I got cable.
Now, I don’t know how you feel about David Boreanaz. Before I got cable, I didn’t really have any feelings at all about him. But when I got cable, TNT was showing reruns of both Bones and Angel, two of David’s television shows. Angel debuted around the year 2000 and though I had been a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I never really watched Angel… until I began working at home.
I made the unfortunate mistake of setting my office up next to my television then proceeded to watch 10 hours of Angel every single week for weeks and weeks. Not only that, but Bones was also coming on a few times a week.
I also discovered that I enjoyed Simon Baker’s portrayal of Patrick Jane on the CBS show The Mentalist, which came on a few times a week.
Finally, I discovered what all the hoopla was about when it came to life with the gang at 30 Rock. As you can probably imagine, I did not get very much work done during work hours.
Prior to that, I wasn’t a TV watcher. I didn’t even own a TV! Someone gifted me a TV and I watched it when I was stalling. Or tired of submitting proposals. Or stumped by some aspect of a freelance project.
Which, in the beginning, was often.
Eventually, I moved my office out of my bedroom and got rid of TNT altogether and I learned a valuable lesson –when it is time to work, I need to be working
How do you avoid getting distracted? Or being lazy? How do you make sure you are as productive at home as you would be in an office? Here are ten tips that will help you stay motivated when you are working from home.
1. Have a Set Workday
One of the advantages of working from home is that you can work the hours that you want to work. And this can change from day to day, depending on your schedule and even the rhythm of your household. Some days, I naturally work more hours than other days.
Set your alarm to ensure that you get a full day’s work done each day or each week if you decide to institute a more flexible schedule. Doing this will help you figure out the best times to do high-focus activities like writing and research.
2. Get Dressed for Work
When it’s time for work, get dressed for work. Don’t sit around in your PJs, because it won’t put you in the right frame of mind for working. I tell you this from experience, sis. Sometimes that just means wearing a jean jacket over my loungewear and putting on a full face of makeup. Lol.
But getting dressed for work WILL make a difference in how you feel and how productive you feel. You don’t need to put on a business suit to work from home. Dressing for work, though, will help to draw a line between your workday and the rest of the day.
Ladders published this really interesting article on getting dressed for working at home, and Motherly has this article that talks about the connection between getting dressed to work at home and happiness and confidence.
3. Create a Proper Workspace
It will help your productivity if you have a defined workspace. That might be a desk, or it might be an entire room. But having a specific space designated for work and work-related things will help you get into the right mindset.
It will also allow you to keep all of your work things together in one place. You know what – I edited a post last year on The Shelf blog that was really cool because it was a roundup of ideas for super-cute, really functional little workspaces, whether you have a corner to use or an entire room. You can read that post here.
4. Follow a Schedule
When you are working from home, how you use your time is up to you. You can choose what you do and when you do it, but you will still need to work with a schedule. This one goes back to working in harmony with the natural rhythm of your household.
Whatever type of work you do, you will still need to get that work done within a timeframe. But that’s true of both your work life and your home life, right?
Start each day by asking yourself “What would be the best use of my time?” Then identify the two or three tasks you can do that fall into that category. If you want to create a to-do list that begins after that last “best use” thing is done, go for it! Work your way down that to-do list without allowing yourself to get distracted.
Whether you are freelancing, running a home-based business (or side hustle), or you are working for someone else, you will need to be your own taskmaster. When you work from home, no one else will be there to tell you what to do and when to do it when you work from home.
But if you do get distracted or take a nap or whatever, you know that you’ve already prioritized the important stuff and gotten it done first.
5. Take Time to Think
I’ll tell you that the busier you get as a freelancer, the harder it will be to take time to just think. Think about your clients. Think about your business. Think about the type of work you’re doing. Think about your day. Think about the outcomes – what went well and what got weird. Think about something OTHER THAN the act of actually doing the work.
When I create content, before I even sit down to research anything, I search my brain for the questions people will probably want answered about the topics. I search my mind for my own questions.
But if I’m not careful, I can go from Monday to Friday and not spend much time at all in thought because I’m so busy DOING.
That’s a fast path to burnout. So, pencil in time to think by doing automatic activities like taking a shower, walking the dog or heading out for a stroll, or a quick bike ride with the kids.
6. Stay Off Social Media
Oh, my gosh. Social media is replete with rabbit holes, right? Today, in the middle of editing this article, I rabbit holed on Pinterest in search of decor ideas for a navy blue living room. It happens!
Stay off social media and don’t go surfing the web (tempting though it may be). While the internet is what allows people to work from home, it is also one of the biggest distractions. You decide to take five minutes out to watch a YouTube video, and before you know it, you’ve watched ten.
If you can’t trust yourself to stay focused, there are some productivity apps that you can use that will help. They will limit or block your access to social media while you work.
7. Take Breaks, Get Up, and Walk Around
If you try to work all day without a break, your productivity will surely trail off amid a barrage of external distractions, or if you’re normal enough, a trail off. The productivity will fall.
When you take your breaks, get up and walk around or go outside and get some fresh air. Sitting for too long is not good for you, and it will make you feel tired. You might even want to try working out. A bit of exercise will help keep you healthy, and it will improve your mood. It gets the blood flowing, and that will clear your mind and help you make better decisions.
8. Don’t Isolate Yourself
One of the drawbacks of working from home is that you can become siloed from your team and/or isolated from other people in general. If you are not careful, you will find that you are not interacting with other people anymore. That can have a negative impact on your mood and your productivity. It is important that you make time available for socializing as well as work.
9. Track How You Spend Your Time
It’s easy to get sidetracked when you work at home. You can get to the end of a week and find that you did a lot, but you accomplished very little that was actually on your list of things to do that would move the needle for your client or your business.
The best way to avoid this is to keep a record of what you do each day by using a productivity app. I use a free productivity-tracking app called RescueTime for this, and you can read my review of Rescue Time here. Knowing where your time goes is so important. Not just the time you’re billing clients for, but your other hours as well.
Heck, my pastor even sent out a Daily Thought Leader Schedule for congregants to use to help them get stuff done! But that’s because having a way to track how you spend your time will help you figure out other stuff… like if you can fit another client in, or if you have time for a certification course during lunch instead of watching the next episode of Manifest.
10. Eat to Support Focus and Productivity
This last tip was originally going to be about rewarding yourself, but it would have come with a caveat about sitting + being home + eating. So, instead, I’m going to put forth the idea that you should eat to help you accomplish goals.
I think most of us know that certain foods make us sluggish (hello, Thanksgiving dinner) while other foods keep our energy levels stable, or maybe even boost our energy. I keep beet powder on hand for days when I have a lot to do. And when it’s really crucial, I use frozen beets. #notagame
When I have a busy day, I try my best to minimize my eating and grab only what I need to eat. But I know that when stress creeps in, I’m far more likely to turn a homemade hazelnut coffee into a homemade hazelnut blended coffee + ice cream kinda thing.
Which makes my mind cloudy makes it near impossible for me to focus.
It took me years to figure out that what was driving down my energy was the way I was eating when I felt stressed. Midday lull can quickly become a midday nap when you’re responding to low energy levels with sugar.
So, just be mindful of what you eat on those days you want to be super productive.
Many people find that they are more productive working at home than in an office. But it does need a lot of self-discipline. You must put in place your own rules and checks to ensure that you put all your time to good use. You must be as strict with yourself as you would be with someone you employed. If you can do that, you will be able to stay motivated when you are working from home.