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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

How to Stay Motivated at Work While Working From Home

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How to Stay Motivated at Work While Working From Home

Working from home initially sounds like a great idea—no commute and no more stuffy suits or ties. Those loud co-workers and other office distractions have suddenly disappeared. The problem is that the excitement and novelty of working remotely will fade away, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time. To continue to be productive, you must learn how to stay motivated at work when your home has become your new office.

Failing to find that critical motivation can lead to procrastination, decreased productivity, and mental distress. Here are some useful tips on how to stay motivated so you can be happy, healthy, and productive while working from home.

1. Set Up Your Home Office

If at all possible, create your workspace in a room that has a door you can close so you have more privacy. Make sure you have some good home office equipment. At a minimum, get a high-quality chair, one or more monitors, a laptop stand and a good desk. An ergonomic keyboard and good mouse will also come in handy.

Set up your workstation correctly. It must be ergonomically correct to reduce strain on your neck, shoulders, back, and other body parts, especially since you’ll probably be working for hours straight. You can set up your workstation in certain ways that will help you increase productivity at work.

2. Practice the Art of Decluttering

In an article from The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that people were less productive when they were exposed to excessive clutter.[1] They had a harder time focusing and processing information.

Declutter Your Home Office

Declutter your home office by getting rid of paper, trash, stationery items, cups, and other unnecessary things. This will make it way easier for you to find the things you need while working

Practice minimalism. Make sure your workspace only has the essential things you need to do your job.

Reduce Digital Clutter

Clutter does not only refer to physical things, unorganized files and software in your computer can also be considered as clutter—i.e. digital clutter. Getting rid of digital clutter on your work computer can help you work more productively.

Here are some things you can do to reduce digital clutter:

  • Do you have 120 documents on your desktop? Organize them in folders.
  • Put miscategorized documents in the proper folders.
  • Delete non-essential files and folders that are taking up space.
  • Clean up your work e-mail. Go through your e-mail inbox and archive important e-mails. Delete unnecessary e-mails.

3. Create a Morning Routine

Having a morning routine is a great way to get motivated in life. It sets a positive tone for your entire day and helps you stay motivated at work. It’s an organized, repeatable process that will get you in the habit of starting each day strong and ready to tackle the world.

Get Up Early

Make sure you get up early. I normally had a 50-minute commute. After working remotely, I had more time so I started getting up a little later—and then, just a “little” later. I had to quickly break this habit because I noticed I wasn’t as productive as I was when I got up early.

Studies have shown that people who get up earlier are actually more proactive than those who get up later.[2] So, if you want to start your day positively, getting up early is the first step.

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Wake Your Body Up

Getting up early is different from waking your body up. You may wake up early mentally, but your body may still feel like sleeping. Jumpstart your day by waking your body up early in the morning. I like to start the day by opening the blinds and then jumping in the shower.

Walking around the block a few times is a fantastic way to get the blood in your body flowing and muscles moving. I try to walk in the morning at least three times during my work weeks. Another good way to prep your body for a busy day is to stretch or do yoga for 5 to 10 minutes.

Have Breakfast

Having breakfast is important. Unless you’re fasting, your body will reward you for putting good, healthy nutrients into it when you get up in the morning. High-fiber cereal, smoothies, and juice are nutritious options that will give you the fuel you need to begin your day. Drinking coffee, tea, or water is fine, too.

Explore Other Routines

Everyone has a different morning routine. You can start developing your own routine to have a great morning and do what best fits your lifestyle. What’s most important is that your routine should energize and prepare you for the workday.

4. Wear the Right Clothes

There’s a reason we wear different outfits for different occasions and activities.

Clothes have a strong psychological effect on our motivation and ability to work. Dressing too casually can actually make us less focused and alert according to Dr. Karen Pine, a fashion psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire.

According to professor Pine,[3]

“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.”

I can definitely relate to this. When I worked from home in shorts and a t-shirt, I felt less motivated. I felt like I should be relaxing, watching TV, or doing things other than work. But when I began wearing jeans and one of my normal work shirts, I instantly felt more motivated. I felt like I “should” be working.

A good rule of thumb is to wear the types of clothing you usually wear for work. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but try to dress the way you normally would as closely as possible.

5. Make a Schedule

Creating a schedule that contains a list of prioritized tasks is a great way to optimize your time. Additionally, it can also help you stay motivated at work.

Not having a prioritized list of what you need to do each workday can result in procrastination, disorganization, wrong prioritization, and an overall decrease in productivity.

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Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can create a daily schedule:

  1. Each morning, document what you must get done that day. You can also create the schedule the evening before the next day.
  2. Create the list of tasks chronologically (from the first task in the morning to the last task at the end of the day).
  3. Break larger tasks down into smaller steps.
  4. Put a star or other identifying mark next to tasks that have the highest priority.

Some apps can help you schedule tasks, but you can also use Microsoft Excel or Word to create your schedule.

6. Know Your Peak Energy and Slump Times

Each of us has different energy levels at different times of the day. No one is energetic and motivated all the time at work. Know when you have the most energy and when your energy levels tend to be lower. This will help you optimize your daily schedule and maximize productivity.

Do the most difficult tasks when your energy levels are at their peak. Do the simpler, less demanding things when your energy levels are lower.

7. Reward Yourself

Rewards are some of the best motivators. Knowing that we have something to look forward to boosts our mental and physical energy levels.

Always reward yourself after completing a certain number of tasks or finishing an entire day of hard work. There are many different ways to reward yourself, such as taking a coffee break, watching a TV show, listening to a podcast, eating something you like, or visiting one of your favorite websites.

Just make sure that the rewards are big enough to keep you motivated but not too big that it becomes distracting.

It can be easy to watch two YouTube videos, then two more, and then two more! Later, you’ll discover that you’ve spent an hour online already and haven’t done your work yet.

This is why schedules are so important, especially if you’re prone to get distracted or sometimes struggle with time management.

8. Get Enough Sleep

Be sure to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. When we’re sleep-deprived, our mental and physical energy is quickly sapped. We lose motivation, vitality, and productivity.

When we are sleep-deprived, even simple things become difficult. It’s critical that you get the proper rest. Without it, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.

9. Take Regular Breaks

Working remotely oftentimes frees us from the normal office distractions, but this hyper-focused environment can also make us work too long without stopping.

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Have you ever worked without taking breaks and felt drained? Have you experienced muscle and joint pain after working too long without breaks? Not taking regular breaks can cause muscle and joint problems and even cause repetitive strain injuries.

Taking regular breaks boosts our energy and vitality, increases our motivation, improves our focus, and makes us more productive. Get in the habit of taking a 5 to 7-minute break every hour.

Get up and do something that allows you to mentally and physically disconnect from your work. Take a quick walk, stretch, go to the kitchen, and make a healthy snack or drink, or spend some time with your pet. Watch a short video, listen to a podcast, call a friend, meditate, or plan out some fun activities. Make sure you take those breaks consistently each workday.

10. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise is something that all of us need to do. Why is this important?

Think about those times when you were working while you were physically tired, mentally exhausted, or in a bad mental state. Every hour feels like two hours. Things that were normally easy started to require a lot of effort, and it felt harder to stay focused.

Regular exercise has been scientifically proven to increase our energy, lower our blood pressure, help control our weight, and strengthen our immune system. It also decreases stress, increases our confidence, helps us sleep better, decreases depression and anxiety, and improves blood flow to our brains.

As adults, we generally need 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week as well as muscle-strengthening exercises.[4] There are many ways to do this. Join a local gym or cross-fit center, engage in outdoor activities, or join a physically active Meetup.com group. You can also create a gym in your own home.

Creating a highly-effective and low-cost home gym is very simple. I recently converted my garage into a home gym. I bought a good set of resistance bands and a yoga mat, and I regularly watch different high-intensity interval training (HIIT) YouTube videos to switch things up.

Many people say they don’t have time to exercise. But now that you’re not commuting, you have more time to do other things. Use this extra time to exercise regularly. It will greatly improve your body and mind. And you can have fun while you’re at it.

11. Make Sure You Love Your Job

This is the most important tip on how to stay motivated at work—make sure you love your job. It’s extremely hard to stay motivated when you don’t enjoy what you are doing.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that only 34% of Americans are engaged at work.[5] This is a paradox of life: most people spend far too much time doing the things they don’t like and not doing enough of the things they say they love.

When you love what you do, you feel energized. You’re more creative, and you’re more inspired to go all in and do your best work.

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Here’s some sage advice about the importance of doing something you love from Steve Jobs:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

How do you know when you’ve found a job you love?

  • You’re using your natural gifts, strengths, and talents.
  • It’s aligned with your core values.
  • When you do it, time will fly by. You can do it for long periods of time and feel energized – not drained.
  • You enjoy it so much that you’re excited to get out of bed in the morning to do it.

If you’re not doing what you love now, take Steve Job’s advice and keep looking. Don’t settle.

12. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you can’t change the fact that you’re working remotely, change how you view the situation. Yes, there’s more isolation, you don’t have a structured office environment, and you may have to go through an adjustment period. However, you can change your perspective towards these into a positive one.

Develop a positive mindset so you can appreciate the benefits of your new situation. You don’t have to commute. You’re saving money on gas and wear and tear on your car. Also, you don’t have to worry about parking fees or bridge tolls anymore.

You don’t have the normal office distractions. You have more time to be laser-focused on what you’re doing without having to worry about being interrupted.

It’s an opportunity to unleash more of your creativity. You have control of your environment: the temperature, lighting, food, and your schedule.

John Wooden explains why having a positive mindset is important:

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.

Conclusion

Remote work is the new normal for many people, especially now that COVID-19 has stopped tens of millions of people from performing their work duties in offices.

A study done by 451 Research revealed that 67% of businesses that implemented or expanded work from home policies because of COVID-19 believe these policies will stay in place permanently or for a long time.[6]

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Once you master these tips on how to stay motivated at work, you’ll find that working from home can be fun, fulfilling, and highly productive. It can also be an opportunity for you to do your best work in the comfort of your own home.

More Tips on How to Stay Motivated at Work

Featured photo credit: Corinne Kutz via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles Amemiya

Speaker, life/business coach, social responsibility advocate and technical writer.

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.

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Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.

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Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.

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Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.

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Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.

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So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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