Wherever in the world you are reading this from, first of all I hope that you are healthy and safe. Perhaps in your country the Covid-19 regulations have also led to a situation where you need to work from home like here in The Netherlands, again. For some it’s a blessing, but for some it’s, well, a challenge. In case you are in the last category, I wanted to share some tips that have helped me in the past.
From 2013-18 I lived a so-called laptop lifestyle, which meant that my business as a life coach and social media consultant was fully online and enabled me to work from wherever. It was an amazing time for which I am grateful as it taught me a lot. Including the fact that, whichever place you call home, whether its Spain, Goa, Greece or Bali, you still need to work from there. Staying motivated can be a challenge especially when there’s sun and fun outside!
Working Location-Independently brings Freedom, but with it comes the Responsibility to Self-Motivate.
Thankfully over time, I learned a lot of tips and tricks that helped me to not just stay motivated, but also to appreciate and become more effective at working from ‘home’. Since this seems to become a reality for many of us again, I would love to share some of those insights here and hear your feedback too. Perhaps you have some additional tips yourself, which you are more than welcome to share in the comments below. Let’s work at seeing this work-from-home situation as a gift rather than a limitation.
1. Start Your Day The Right Way
If I could share only one advice, it would be this. The way you start your day makes all the difference. This begins with the alarm. Even though you could theoretically sleep longer, I can wholeheartedly recommend setting your alarm at your usual waking time. Perhaps even earlier…? You can see it as getting a head start on the day. While everybody else is still asleep, you get to ___ (fill in the blank).
You get to work at projects that you usually don’t have time for, read the newspaper quietly, squeeze some exercise in, listen to an inspirational podcast, make yourself a healthy breakfast, you could also walk or cycle a block instead of your usual work commute… You will feel fulfilled before you have even opened up your laptop. Getting excited yet?
2 . Your Work Environment
Since you will be spending eight hours or more at your desk, you might as well create a work place or a cosy work corner that you enjoy. Apart from being ergonomic, make sure that it’s also enjoyable. If possible, try to reserve this setting only for work, a place you get excited to sit down and get started at.
You could add some flowers, perhaps a candle, photographs of people and places that make you happy, motivational quotes that inspire you to be your best… Think about it, you get to decorate this place entirely your way, so if you feel a little rebellious, simply add anything here that you could never place on your desk at the office. Make sure not to place personal items behind you though, you know, Zoom calls 😉
3. Get. Dressed.
It may seem unnecessary to mention this, but the temptation arises to just stay in your pyamas or yoga pants all day. No one will see you anyway, right? No Zoom calls scheduled today. Nothing wrong with that at times, but you could ask yourself how it will make you feel at the end of the day? In my case the answer is usually: unaccomplished. Plus we’re also less motivated to take breaks, which I will get to in the next point.
So. If you have the chance, I can only recommend getting dressed as if you’re going to work. For the ladies, put on your perfume and make-up too. Why? It subconsciously signals us that we are transitioning into working mode. Putting on a power outfit can help you through those days when you are particularly unmotivated. Plus, you can also try on new outfits that you would never wear to work. It’s a small act each day that simply says, ‘I care’.
4. Breaks Between the Busyness
I once wrote a whole blog article about the importance and providing inspiration to take regular breaks (haha, found it!). Because, even though meanwhile we all know how healthy it is, and as easy as it sounds, it can still be really heard to actually do. Some of the reasons we tend to resist taking breaks are: you feel as though you are wasting time (but it makes you more efficient after), you fear losing your flow (it actually gives you the energy to sustain it) or you feel guilty (focus on the end result). So if you have the chance, make sure you have at least a breathing break every hour.
A breathing break would mean that you consciously breathe, perhaps with a hand on your belly, for a few counts. It will also make you more aware of how shallow we usually breathe. Even better break ideas are: a walk outside during lunch time, a lunch break where you make a healthy lunch and eat it without checking your e-mail at the same time, a dance break (the best!), a stretch break, a social break where you connect online with a colleague since you can’t meet at the coffee machine. Any other break ideas?
5. Finding Your Focus
So, how do you stay focused all day when you are sitting alone behind the screen? Apart from good coffee, there are two ways of working that have really helped me. The first one is a time management method called the Pomodoro Technique. It starts with writing down the first task you will focus on for 25 minutes without interruption. You set a timer and take a short break when it rings. After completing 4 rounds of this full-focus working, you can take a 20 minute break. And repeat. You can find lots of information including pomodoro timers online.
The second way of working is for the creatives and free spirits. You write down the three tasks that you absolutely need to get done that day, and then ‘follow the flow’. You may start with task one, skip to the third, answer an e-mail and return to the first. It may sound totally chaotic to some, but interestingly enough, when your intuition guides you, you will still get to the same result as those who got there in a straight line. Also make sure to. take. those. breaks.
6. Connect With Colleagues
If there is anything that this pandemic has emphasized, it’s that we are social creatures. Ok granted, some of us more and and some less. But we need each other. We need to reach out and stay connected. Especially when working from home. While staring at the screen for hours, we suddenly start missing that one colleague who always seems to start chatting when we’re in full-focus mode. Well, text him or her. Call a colleague from time to time. It might seem weird at first, especially for the introverts among us (yup, same here), but it does remind us that we are all in this together.
This is actually the one thing I missed most when I worked only online: colleagues. To counteract, I would often work at cafes or co-working hubs with other entrepreneurs who were in the same situation. Even though the pandemic has prevented that part in some places of the world, we can still meet with friends or colleagues who work from home too. Have a change of scenery from time to time and seeing real human faces can make all the difference. Plus it’s another reason to get dressed 😉
7. Ending The Day
Woop woop, you’ve made it! The working day is done. Now what’s next? I can only recommend taking some transition time before you move on to the next item on your to do list at home. Perhaps even a ritual that signals your brain that the working part is done. You could clean your working place, I mean, we might as well use those disinfectant tissues, right? Swipe away the stress. Clean and close your laptop with a sigh of gratitude. And take 5-10 minutes to do something you enjoy.
Since I also work as a nutrition coach at NewFysic, I hear from many clients that this is a difficult moment of the day (or a little later when the kids are sleeping) where they will have that glass of wine or bowl of chips or piece of cake because, ‘now it’s time for me’. But if you have that time for yourself in a different way, the need to ‘reward’ yourself in an unhealthy might not be as urgent. You can also have a walk/ nature/ social/ nap/ breathing/ dance break to mark that transition between work and leisure time.
Sooo, I truly hope that this has brought some motivation or momentum to your (work-from-home) day. Was there a particularly point that resonated with you? Do you have questions about anything? Additions? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
In case you are actually beginning to love working from your laptop and are / have been considering starting as an (online) entrepreneur yourself, then you are warmly welcome for a Free Clarity Call (20-minute video call) to look at your next steps. Of course you can also book a Free Clarity Call if you are having difficulties working from home or because of this Covid-19-situation or any other area in your life where you may be feeling stressed or stuck.
For now, I wish you a beautiful rest of your (working) day and let’s stay connected!