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9 Ways to Self-Motivate While Working from Home

9 Ways to Self-Motivate While Working from Home

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

More by this author

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 September 17, 2020

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

There’s nothing quite like a state of “flow” when you’re working. The rare moments when your inspiration aligns with your motivation likely lead to some of your most creative work. Plus, it feels great to actually check a task or project off the list so you can move on to the next thing. Meanwhile, a mental block — its opposite — can cause work to feel laborious and uninspired. Forget creativity when you have a mental block — it makes it difficult even to start working on what you need to do.

A mental block can manifest in several ways. Perhaps your imposter syndrome is squelching your creative ideas, for instance, or you’re overwhelmed by the breadth of a project and its impending deadline. Maybe you’re just tired or stressed.

Either way, having a mental block feels like being trapped in your own head, and it can seriously dampen your ability to think outside the box. The problem is, you’re so locked into your own perspective that you don’t see more innovative approaches to your problems.[1]

Luckily, jumping over these mental hurdles is simpler than you think. You just need the right strategies to get your flow back.

Try these five practical ways to overcome a mental block.

1. Break Your Project Down

A few years ago, I was working on changing a company product that I believed would hugely benefit our customers. Sounds great, right?

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As inspired as I was to make people’s lives easier, though, the sheer magnitude of the task at hand felt overwhelming. Every morning, I cracked open my laptop to work and felt totally paralyzed. I loved the idea, yes, but actualizing it felt risky. What if it didn’t turn out the way I pictured in my mind? More importantly, where would I even begin?

A former colleague gave me great advice over coffee:

Change how you think. Start by breaking the big project down into small tasks.

When a major project overwhelms you, you only see the entire forest instead of the individual trees. And as you stare it down, you start to feel discouraged by your own lack of progress, thus slowing you down further.

Breaking down a massive task into smaller chunks makes the work feel more manageable. You’ll have multiple clear places to start and end with, which will lend a motivating sense of productivity and mastery to your process. Learn more about it here: The Motivation Flowchart: The Mental Process of Successful People

Think of it as accumulating small wins. When you realize you’re more capable than you have once thought, you’ll develop the momentum and confidence needed to get your big job done little by little.[2]

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2. Change Up Your Scenery

Of course, there’s a time and place for sitting down to get things done. But if you’re experiencing a mental block, switching up your surroundings can make a big difference in your output.

Have you ever noticed how your environment directly impacts your performance and mood?

Your brain associates your physical surroundings with certain feelings and activities. So, if you feel mentally stuck, your mind may need some new sensory stimuli.

During this time in your life, it may not be possible to set up shop at a cafe or move from your cubicle to a conference room, so you may need to think outside the box. If you’re working remotely in a home office, try going to your dining table or couch. If the weather cooperates, sit outside for a bit with your computer or take a walk around the block.

You can also simply rearrange your workspace. Not sure where to begin? Try decluttering. Some studies show that an organized desk enhances productivity.[3]

The point is to stimulate your brain with new sounds and sights. You may find a much-needed dose of inspiration when you work while breathing in the fresh air, listening to city sounds, or staying in the comfort of your own living space.

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3. Do an Unrelated Activity

When it comes to productivity, a bit of distraction isn’t always a bad thing. That’s especially true if your chosen distraction helps you get things done in the long run.

Have you realized how your most creative thoughts tend to bubble up when you’re, say, lying in bed or taking a shower? In their research of the “incubation period,” scientists have discovered that people’s best ideas seem to surface when they aren’t actively trying to solve a problem.[4]

In a 2010 study, participants needed to look for a roommate or new employee based on the profiles that the researchers gave. The people who had a brief “incubation period” — in this case, working on an anagram — consistently made better choices than those who spent more time weighing their options.

If you can’t seem to prime your brain for a project, try doing something completely unrelated to work, such as washing your dishes, working out, or calling a friend. Some experts say finding another low-stake project to work on can help jump-start the creative part of your brain and activate your flow.[5]

The key is to allow your unconscious mind to do its best work: eliciting the new knowledge your conscious mind may be ignoring or suppressing.[6]

4. Be Physical

Feeling antsy? When your mind won’t seem to settle into a state of flow, it may help to swap out your mental activity for a physical one and see how it impacts your perspective.

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While any physical activity is beneficial for your body — and getting up to move can serve as a helpful form of distraction — certain forms of exercise can more directly impact the mind. To be specific, relaxing, flow-based exercises like dance, yoga, or tai chi can create a gentle sense of momentum in your body, which can prime your brain for the same state.

Stress-reducing activities may also be necessary. Meditating or taking slow, deep breaths will also calm your nervous system if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Evidence shows that the logical, creative part of your brain essentially shuts off when you’re stressed.[7]

On the flip side, when your mind and body are relaxed, you can think more clearly, be more creative, and focus for longer periods — all of which will help you overcome a mental block.

5. Don’t Force It

It can be frustrating to fight against your own mind. If your mental block won’t go away after some effort, it may be time to take a break. Forcing creative thoughts only adds to your stress levels, which in turn inhibits your ability to think creatively. And if you sit and stare at a project for too long, you’ll not only waste valuable time but also begin to associate this specific work with frustration and produce work you’re not proud of.

“I know that forcing something is not going to create anything beyond mediocre, so I step aside and work on a different project until it hits me,” the artist Ben Skinner said about his creative process.[8]

If your work isn’t time-sensitive, then it may make sense to step away for a while to focus on something else, be it an administrative task that requires less creativity or a project that you feel motivated to work on.

When the time is right, you’ll find your way back to the original task with a fresh, creative perspective (hopefully).

More on Getting Rid of a Mental Block

Featured photo credit: Jonas Leupe via unsplash.com

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