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9 Ways to Self-Motivate While Working from Home

9 Ways to Self-Motivate While Working from Home
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What does it mean to ‘be your own boss’? If you’re working from home you know exactly what it means. You probably have exterior deadlines to meet—but what if you don’t? What if your motivation has to come completely from within?

We grow up in a system that provides assignments, checkpoints, and deadlines. Independent thinking and self-motivation aren’t classes we take. There’s no room in high school or college where you sit down and use building blocks, of whatever form, to achieve a goal you set for yourself. That’s why it’s important to think of, and actualize, ways to self-motivate. It’s important to train yourself. As John Dewey put it, “Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.” Here are some starting points to help you self-motivate while working from home.

Don’t create unrealistic expectations

It’s natural and healthy to be ambitious and to chase your dream. But goals are steps you take in a lifelong process. You can expect to achieve your ultimate dream of writing that great novel or starting a successful business if and only if your expectations are realistic on a day-to-day basis. Set simple daily goals, such as writing five-hundred to one-thousand words, and go from there. Is the writing terrible but you hit the goal? Good. Build up incrementally. Continue to hit the small goals and expect yourself to improve. A dream is not a goal. You live in the dream, never outside of it.

Organize a balanced day

Just like in any facet of life, establishing balance while working at home is essential. There’s something very Zen about this:

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Balance communication – Make sure communication tech is up to date, make sure to build your network and talk to contacts daily; but make time for “water cooler” conversation unrelated to work

Simulate commute time – Before you sit down to work, set aside a time to clear your brain, a time away from the screen in which you’re mindful of everything around you

Compartmentalize – Make your workspace completely separate from the rest of your home-space, and don’t use your computer for tasks that aren’t work-related; set up Do Not Disturb times of no distraction and let your contacts know when you will and won’t be available

Create distractions – Designate times to purposefully distract yourself: every two hours get up for a breath of fresh air or a glass of water—these times are ripe for realizations

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Create a system of healthy rewards

When you’re really wanting to ‘get it’ and succeed as your own boss, it can be easy to do nothing but work. Since when do productivity and creativity stem from a lack of diversity? Self-motivation while working from home is a lot like following through on New Year’s resolutions:

Exercise – Find a type of exercise you really enjoy and frame it as a reward for getting work done; you’re rewarding yourself when you exercise, because your body appreciates the increased blood-flow and oxygen distribution

Food – Incorporate a variety (variety is key) of healthy brain foods into your diet and set an eating schedule; just like with exercise, you’ll be rewarding yourself for working by helping your body feel better

Play – Schedule times for fun activities and once again, treat these times as a reward; don’t deviate from work and play schedule, so that you create a pathway in your brain, essentially tying in work with play

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Exercise

There’s a reason you’re seeing the word exercise for the second time here. Not only is exercise a reward for your body, it’s imperative for your creativity and health. Sitting too much puts you at risk of cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, emotional distress, and other issues. But how do you balance exercise with getting work done? Besides taking medical recommendations, try “deskercises”—exercises you can do at your desk to keep blood flowing and brain active.

Keep current and share ideas

Einstein said, “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” One way to do this is by paying a good deal of attention to what’s happening in your field. As you get ideas from others and begin to understand what’s valuable to them, you can in turn share your ideas. This will make you valuable to the community, you’ll make new contacts, and gain new insights to use.

Get to know yourself

Learn your peak productivity times. The great thing about working from home is you can adjust your sleep schedule based on when it’s easiest for you to get things done. Are you a procrastinator? Recognize it and be mindful of the moments when you are slipping into I’ll put it off ‘til later mode. Trying thinking the word ‘no’ when a procrastination or anxiety instinct comes up. What type of learner are you? Try the Multiple Intelligences Self-Assessment. Adjust the way you work with how you learn best. For example, if you’re musical, try listening to instrumental music or classical music while you work.

Take advantage of related technologies

There a ton of productivity apps, whether you have an iPhone, Android, or other device. These can help you get things done, but you have to be motivated to begin with—you are the one doing the work, not the app. The nice thing about productivity apps is they make it easier to focus on the big stuff.

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Set aside lazy times

This is all part of balance. But take note: lazy time needs to happen away from the internet. Why? Because the internet splits your attention. Loll around, watch a movie, read an entertaining book, anything that doesn’t involve consuming tons of stimulus and information like the internet does. There’s such thing as productive laziness–it gives your brain the biggest break, an enjoyment of simple focus undivided. Once that focus melts away into reverie, the muse comes.

Pay attention to your body

You can’t motivate yourself without sleep. Be aware of what your body needs or what it has too much of. Being mindful of these things will help clear your brain. It’s like there’s a bump in the road and you’ll keep hitting it unless you recognize it’s there. Don’t try to ignore the bump. Attend to it, learn what it is, hack it, and move on.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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