Studies have shown that working from home can have positive effects – and even increase productivity. However, working from home under normal circumstances is very different from being forced to work at home due to a global pandemic. Many of us are now faced with significant shifts to our daily lives and new worries and stresses. Every time we turn on our TVs or open our social media, we are faced with reminders of an uncertain future and a constantly changing present due to COVID-19.
Under the current circumstances, maintaining motivation while working at home can be difficult. Here are three things you can do to help create and sustain motivation for yourself and your work:
1. Avoid spending time and energy on things you cannot control.
We are hearing a lot of news telling us what we can do, who we can see, and where we can go, and it’s changing on a day-to-day basis. We need to be informed and follow proper protocols to keep ourselves and others safe. However, our mindset is not helped with checking the news every hour. In fact, this can be detrimental to motivation because it saps our energy by keeping us in a heightened state of alert. It can make us feel helpless and feed into the why-try-at-all mentality.
I find it helpful to set aside a dedicated time to catch up on the news. This can help prevent overdosing on news consumption or constantly being distracted during the workday. Personally, I set aside ten or fifteen minutes after dinner to read CBC’s and The New York Times’s COVID-19 updates, but choose whatever reliable sources work for you.
If you still find yourself overwhelmed with worry, you can try two different strategies. First, try giving yourself a dedicated time to worry. Tell yourself, I can’t worry about this now, but on Saturday at 2 PM I can worry about this as much as I want. When that time rolls around, chances are you won’t feel like worrying about it. If you still find it difficult to stop worrying, try setting a timer for five minutes. During this time, write down your worries or even say them out loud – just get them out. Then, when the timer is done, stop and return to what you were doing.
Keeping in contact with coworkers can motivate you by keeping you accountable and giving you the opportunity to be inspired by your peers’ work.
2. Stay connected.
It’s vital to stay connected to friends and family during this time of physical distancing. In fact, scheduling a call with a loved one for the end of the day can be a great way to motivate yourself while you work. However, it’s also important to stay connected to the people you work with. COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, states that “Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about.”
Staying connected with your coworkers is vital for motivation, especially when working remotely. Keeping in contact with coworkers can motivate you by keeping you accountable and giving you the opportunity to be inspired by your peers’ work. Maintain regular team meetings and facilitate time to talk about how working from home is changing workflows. Encourage open communication and collaboration and maintain regular check-ins.
3. Set deadlines for yourself.
When we work in an office, there are many things that motivate us by structuring our work: the fact that we start and end work at a particular time, or something as simple as a coworker saying, “Hey, can you get me that report by three today?” Setting deadlines for yourself at home can help add back some of that structure.
Try breaking your larger jobs into smaller tasks and setting deadlines for completion of each task. Even if the deadlines are arbitrary, they give you a sense of being held accountable and of accomplishment when you meet the deadline. Also set deadlines for your workday. There is a saying that work expands to fill the time allotted to it, so setting out a clear “end time” when you begin the workday (even if that time changes day-to-day) will motivate you to be productive within the time you’ve set aside.
We often view motivation as something elusive and uncontrollable – either we have it or we don’t. It’s easy to hold this belief and wait to start tasks until the motivation strikes us. But the reality is, motivation is something that can be cultivated. During these times when so much is out of our control, focusing on what you can control and taking practical steps to stay motivated can make working from home easier.
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