Happy Hump Day! I’m excited to share this post with you as the beginning of an ongoing series about managing your career. I’ll share more details about this with you next week! 🙂
As a professor (ahem, PhDiva), I’m fortunate to have some structure, but also a lot of flexibility with my job. I do not have a traditional work from home job where I need to be online from 8-5, nor do I work from home on a regular basis or schedule. My job requires a lot of self-discipline and internal motivation. Aside from teaching, I set my own schedule and my own deadlines (for the most part). So, I’m forced to figure out how to motivate myself and for a homebody, that means figuring out how to be productive without being in my formal office. Here are my 5 tips, I’d love to know what works for you!
Have a dedicated workspace, but be flexible
This one is really the key. You should have a space in your home that is organized, beautiful, and can support your work. BUT, you should also understand that you’re not physically bound to working there all the time. I have a home office (design in progress), but sometimes I prefer to work at the dining room table while the pup looks out the front door. Or, I like to work outside or even on the couch depending on what I need to get done. When you work from home regularly, your dedicated work space can simultaneously feel like a sanctuary and a prison. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and work somewhere else, even at a local coffee shop for a few hours. Having your dedicated workspace to come back to, as a hub for everything you need, will help keep you organized and hopefully motivated if you love how it looks.
In my “school” office, where I hold office hours, prep for teaching, and wait for meetings to start, I have a Varidesk so I can stand up or sit down. I typically always stand in my school office. It helps me feel awake and productive. However, when I work at home, I typically don’t have the same strict, busy schedule, so I can work in a comfy chair at my desk.
A lot of people who work from home will tell you that you should get up every morning and get dressed. For me, that doesn’t work. I wear whatever is comfortable. Maybe my years in grad school taught me how to work well in pajamas, but adding the task of getting dressed to sit around doesn’t motivate me. Instead, I love wearing athleisure clothes, some light layers, and slippers. I can easily go run errands in an “outfit” like this, but also get a lot accomplished. I don’t feel the need to put on make up or style my hair and I can wake up and focus on getting to work. Find what suits you. If you feel better getting fully dressed, then by all means go for it! But, do not feel guilty if working from home for you means wearing sweats.
Prioritize your tasks
Prioritizing your tasks is so important, and this isn’t just your work tasks. Working from home can be such a privilege if you take advantage of it. As a communication scholar who has done a few studies about people who work from home, and read hundreds of them, I know firsthand that many people do not take advantage of being at home. Instead, they stress over their work tasks because they fear appearing as if they aren’t being productive.
One way to combat this internal struggle is to prioritize. Today for example, I’m working from home until I have a lunch date and a meeting on campus. Then, I’m coming back home to check more things off my list. So, I prioritized what had to get done before I leave including responding to some emails, starting laundry, walking the dog, publishing this blog, and grading. This afternoon, I know when I get home that I need to do some more laundry, finish up tasks related to teaching, and brainstorm ideas for a future project. Notice that this list isn’t 100% work related tasks, your job is not your life. Go ahead and make time for Starbucks in the morning if it helps you start your day. Take a break to go for a walk or schedule a call with a friend. You are lucky to be at home and work, don’t treat your home like a full-time office.
Track your time
This is my number 1 tip to increase motivation and productivity. I could go on and on about the numerous reasons why you should do this, but I won’t bore you. If you want to know, shoot me an email. Tracking your time for one week will help you understand exactly where it’s all going. It’s just like a budget. Tracking your spending helps you see where you spend your money so you can make adjustments based on your goals. Same principal here. If you consistently feel like you don’t get enough done when you work from home, OR if you feel like you over work yourself when you’re at home, then this strategy will help you. Plus, it’s a great excuse to buy a new cute notebook for the task. 😉
Last but not least, treat yourself. I try to think about little “treats” I want after completing certain tasks. For example, when I finally finish grading tonight, I’m treating myself to a glass of wine. Other treats are equally as simple but just as gratifying. If I check something off my list, I’ll treat myself by taking a yoga break, or walking the dog. Depending on how stressed I am, I’ll treat myself by completing one work task, then one home related task. That’s a boring example, but it relieves any potential guilt of not working hard or fast enough.
However, DO NOT punish yourself! If you don’t finish everything, that is ok. It simply means your treat is on hold. Don’t take something away because you need more time to complete quality work.
I am by no means a working from home expert. I, too, have days where hardly anything gets done and I feel stressed to the max. But, as someone who has studied working from home and motivation, I do know that these tips can help increase your productivity and motivation. Let me know if you try any out!