Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
You know what’s really great about having a regular 9-5 job? The structure itself is meant to keep you motivated. There’s no reason to find your own motivation because it comes from outside sources as a package deal. Motivation in a regular full-time job can take many forms including an office, a uniform, fixed work hours, a regular salary, work colleagues and managers. Unfortunately, when you’re running a freelance business (such as myself) these structures do not exist. Creating a web of motivation support pillars will ensure you and your business don’t crash and burn.
Here’s 4 ways you can keep motivated while working from home.
1. KEEP REGULAR HOURS
This one’s extremely important. A 9-5 type job offers regular hours. Even if you’re working on shift, the hours are still regular. In my current full time job as a senior software developer I go in to work at 08:30, have an hour lunch break at 13:00, leave at 17:30. When I was working at McDonald’s I thought the irregular hours would drive me crazy but they didn’t, because they weren’t actually irregular. You either work from 08:00 – 17:00, or 12:00 – 21:00, or 16:00 – 01:00. This of course does not exist in my freelance business. Back when I started doing this, my hours were all over the place. I’d write at 18:00 as soon as I got home from work. Then take a 3 hour break to play some DOTA 2, then go back to writing at 00:30.
Now I keep regular hours even though my freelance business is part-time. I start work at 21:00, finish at 00:00. This allows me to spend time with my family between my full-time job and my freelance work, while at the same time giving me enough hours of work every day to finish my projects. If you check out my daily blog posts you’ll notice that they’re mostly all published around the same time of day.
That regimen, that structure, keeps me motivated because I know what I’m getting into every day, when I’m getting out, and what I need to finish in what time frame.
2. BLOCK DISTRACTIONS
This might seem obvious to you, but it doesn’t only include your dinging mobile phone, or the drone of the TV in your room. It also includes websites you know are a time-sink for you and chatting software. For me this means blocking facebook, reddit, twitter, gchat and skype. I could probably waste a whole day messing around on just two of these. When it’s time to write, I somehow manage to convince myself that I need all five running concurrently. Doing that is a surefire way to destroy your business.
Instead block them out. Do whatever you have to do to block these black holes of productivity during your work hours. Even better, reward yourself for a job well done at the end of your work day (or work hours) by allowing yourself to visit your favorite websites. Now I visit reddit only once I’m done with my day and I can honestly say I’ve done a good job.
If achieving this level of zen-like constraint is impossible for you (as it was for me), then check out this Chrome extension. StayFocusd (@stayfocusd) tracks the amount of time you spend on time-wasting websites and once your allotted time is over, the websites get blocked for the rest of the day.
3. INTERACT WITH HUMAN BEINGS, OUTSIDE
Colleagues at the office provide much-needed regular interaction with other human beings through the day, but working from home does not. Instead you’re just looking at a screen talking to yourself and before you know it you’re drawing a face on a volleyball and calling it Wilson. Fix this by going out and talking to people. This might be anything from just talking to the person in front of you in line at the grocery store or getting yourself a workout buddy to hit the gym with. Whatever it is, make sure you do not miss out on social interaction as this can leave you depressed and demotivated. Here’s a great article on the phenomenon of freelance writer isolation and how to kick it.
Human beings are social animals and we yearn for that contact. An office environment provides that interaction, your bedroom does not. So you’re going to have to go outside and find it.
Oh, and, gchat doesn’t count.
4. GET DRESSED AND OUT OF THE BEDROOM
Speaking of your bedroom, for the love of Cthulhu, do not work where you sleep and don’t spend all day dragging your feet around in your pajamas. It might seem tempting to chill in the most casual clothes possible while working from home (after all, there’s no co-workers, who cares?) and that’s exactly the problem: they’re too chill. In this Forbes article about how casual dress is killing productivity at work, fashion psychologist and professor of psychology Dr. Karen Pine had this to say:
“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
There’s a lot of truth to those words. Few things kill productivity faster than sitting on your bed, with a laptop, wearing nothing but shorts and a tank top, attempting to put words on a blank white screen.
So ditch the pajamas, put on jeans and a shirt, move your laptop out of the bedroom (ideally into an actual home office if you can afford the money and the space to set one up) and get to work!