Like many online creators, whether it’s a side gig or your full-time occupation, you most likely work from home a lot.
No boss looking over your shoulder, no stressing out over deadlines, extremely flexible hours: working from home definitely has its perks.
Yet for anyone who’s worked from home for a while, we know that slumps in productivity can be just around the corner, even for the most organized among us. When you work freelance or are self-employed, there will be times when your motivation is scarce and procrastination reigns.
A lot of us rely on our day-to-day level of motivation and inspiration to get work done. But what if you don’t feel like being productive for a day, or two, or a week? Pretty soon, guilt and frustration might build up, and you’ll start resenting your work.
Fortunately, it’s a common case, so plenty of solutions exist. Here’s our take on how to get out of a slump and refresh both your motivation and productivity.
1) Be your own boss
One trick that has proved extremely helpful is to act like your own manager for a set period of time. This should be for a short, designated time slot only—after all, organizing and managing is a job in itself.
So let’s say that you block out two hours every Monday to be your own boss. Spend this time assessing what you’ve done last week, evaluating your monthly and weekly goals, and setting yourself new deadlines. And don’t forget to give yourself credit for the amazing work you’ve done!
In business, what makes a good boss is someone who gives clear assignments and offers regular feedback. The worst bosses I’ve had were the ones who never gave clear indications of what I was supposed to do, and acted appalled when I asked for more clarity. Be your own clear, straightforward boss, and use your prioritizing and managing skills to define exactly what you’re expecting from yourself.
2) Refresh your work system regularly
We recommend refreshing your work system/action plan every three months or so. Spice up your routine to avoid getting bored.
Dedicate a good chunk of time to this process, as it will affect how well you work in the following weeks and months. Ask yourself what worked in the previous system, and keep these elements. If working early in the morning and taking the afternoon off was best for you, keep it that way. If it started to become a drag, and you tended to snooze to avoid getting things done, change up your routine.
Try to work two hours in the morning, and two in the late afternoon. When you block time like that, you won’t believe how productive you can be in a short span. For example, I now get the equivalent of six to eight hours of work done in just three to four hours. That’s because when I sit down to work, I know exactly what I have to do, cut off all distractions, and dive into my job with determination and love.
That feeling of not wanting to work is just your brain dreading how disorganized this part of your life can be.
3) Browse through methods, and find what works for you
Trying different planning methods and different routines is in itself a part of your work. It’s a good thing to spend a reasonable amount of time trying out new methods, searching until you find the bits that work for you.
Personally, I use Google Sheets to keep track of my daily tasks: to-do lists, social events, admin tasks, and even finance and billing. Over time, I’ve created the perfect template for myself to keep track of everything. It was such a relief to me to find this system—it’s saved me so much time.
As long as I keep my system updated on a daily basis, it’s almost automatic to figure out what my next steps are. Digital calendars, apps, paper planners: you can try many things before finding your tailored way to run your work smoothly. Don’t lose hope.
4) Hide distractions (that means your phone, too)
A lot of us here use their phone as a work tool. My trick is to dedicate a time block to tackle all of my tasks that require using my phone. Once these tasks are complete, I put my phone in another room or give it to someone else in the house so that I can only get it back if I have a work-related reason.
Cellphones can numb the brain—throw it out the window if you must, but don’t keep it on your desk. Once your focus is broken, it can take up to 20 minutes to re-establish the same concentration.
Once you put away your phone and start working, you’ll often remember important little tasks involving your phone. By that time it’s either off, in another room, or out the window. We recommend having a piece of paper next to you to write down all the things you thought of as you were working, so that once you pick up your phone again, you can get them done. You won’t believe how refreshed and relaxed your brain will feel at the end of the day just from cutting out phone distractions.
5) Have a dedicated, decluttered space
While we recommend blocking out time to work, we also recommend building a space in which you can focus. It doesn’t have to be fancy—just free of distraction. I like to shift spots throughout the day, but I only take my laptop, a pad, a pen, and a bottle of water with me.
Hiding the clutter (even if it’s books, pads, cables, etc.) will clear your mind and rest your senses. It’s very effective long term, as your brain will be less stimulated by fuss. There are great videos out there on how to design workspaces in even the tiniest apartments. We’ll make sure to compile our favorite examples to share with you!
6) Don’t be on a schedule every day of the week
This is a reminder to stay gentle with yourself, and be mindful of the amount of pressure you undertake. Keep your plate full if you want to achieve your goals, but remember not to overload it. Sometimes, by wanting to be too productive, we end up scattering our energy, and forget to make time for what makes a day beautiful.
Allow yourself to have some days that aren’t scheduled or clocked and see how these days unfold. Chances are, your brain will be so trained to be in a productive mode that you’ll almost have to force yourself to wind down. Taking it easy is a worthwhile effort—remember, you deserve it.
Working from home requires self-discipline, and we don’t always have it in us to keep it up.
You can’t work with a guilty, frustrated, unmotivated mind.
A little cleaning up and setting ground rules might just be the boost your brain needs to remember how work can be fun and galvanizing.
You have to invest time to make time. Work on, boss!
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