Working from home isn’t always as ideal as people would like to think. At the end of the day, you have a job to do just like your friends who work in an office, only you have the added obstacle of every possible distraction to keep you from getting anything done.
It’s self-defeating really. You try and prevent yourself from spending all day looking at random stuff online, figdeting with productivity tools till you’re practically joining a MySpace group of anarchists, and just when you think you’re about to do something remotely productive, you turn your head to planning dinner – tuna orzo salad (hot, not chilled).
I’ve been asking myself in the past few days why I can’t seem to stay motivated. It’s a recent affliction and one that I’m having trouble shaking. As a writer, I’m accustomed to the natural ebbing and flowing of the writing process and I’ve learned to adapt to my flow, which isn’t always aligned to Zen philosophy.
So how does the average person working from home in a profession that requires solo work keep on track? Apart from the occasional assistance of chemical stimuli such as caffeine? Or the pick-me-up from the quantity of sugar found in 10 Skittles? I’ve found there are actual proven tricks I can play on my brain to will me into working and convince myself that it can be fun. Keep in mind these are all very frugal solutions.
- Walk around naked (if you are alone) – Ok, this one isn’t so literal, but it’s meant to put things in perspective. Choosing a random, free-spirited activity to get you out of your head and out of the context of your work while still being home will help you disassociate yourself a bit from the task-at-hand. This in turn will help diffuse some of your brain’s clutter and make you feel more relaxed. Whether it’s singing, dancing, playing the piano, or doing jumping jacks, make time to get out of your skin once in a while. Do this a few times in the course of your day.
- Change rooms – I know this sounds crazy, but I play musical rooms throughout the course of a day. I take my laptop from the living room to the guest room to my bedroom and work for several hours in each place. The change in scenery, light, and temperature has a big impact on my energy levels. Each time I move to a new room I feel reinvigorated.
- Beware the gifted gabber – Sometimes I get fantastic ideas and derive inspiration from chatting with friends online that I can later use to craft my own story ideas. I think chatting online is an effective communication tool for collaboration, keeping people up-to-date on trends and news, and sharing ideas, but I also think it’s a slippery slope that gives way to sloth-like behavior. It’s an easy trap as we’re all social creatures, but don’t suck more than an hour total of your day into chatting, unless it’s directly related to your work. (i.e., interview feature conducted over IM)
- A foolish consistency will save you – Keeping disciplined is hard, but it’s not impossible. The best way to counteract the distractions is to keep some sort of schedule. For me, I wake up when my husband leaves for work (anywhere between 8:15 and 8:45AM). I have a daily routine of making myself coffee, eating breakfast, and going online to check out my feeds. I’m not really a morning person in terms of being productive and I no longer berate myself for my lack of strong work ethic in the AM hours. I work around my handicap (if you can call this one). I do other things like researching online and getting informed about the day’s stories and events, jotting down ideas for future articles, and sometimes leaving my apt to actually work out or make my morning coffee run. By the time I eat lunch, I’m ready to sit down and do some serious work.