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5 tips on how to stay motivated and happy while working from home.

A freelancer's mini guide on balancing productivity whilst maintaining a relaxed home during this unsettling time.

This whole staying at home thing isn’t new to me. As a freelance brand consultant and art director I am used to the lack of routine and ‘normal’ schedule that we are all experiencing during this challenging and bizarre period. I had actually even ‘self-isolated’ for the last few months before the crisis due to breaking my leg, so I can fully appreciate the trials and tribulations of being cooped up at home.

A few friends have been telling me of their difficulty in keeping motivated to get dressed in the morning, let alone sitting down at the desk to crack on with work. Not only questioning their personal hygiene needs but the point of their jobs and even entire existence. This is an easy rabbit hole to fall into. We’ve all been there.

So I thought I would write a few quick tips on how I avoid this kind of negative thinking.

Tip №1:
Make a morning routine. Even if this only involves the basics. Setting an alarm still (if you don’t naturally wake up at the same time each day) Ideally go to bed at a consistent time every night to help develop a natural sleeping pattern. Swiftly followed by whatever your usual morning routine is when you’re heading for work. It’s all too easy to think, well I don’t have anywhere to be so I’ll have that extra hour in bed or not bother with a shower today. But these seemingly small things actually have a bigger impact on your mental and physical well-being. As humans we naturally like a bit of a rhythm, a routine. Although it’s fine to break it slightly every now and then, do yourself a favour and try to keep yours going as best as you can. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Tip №2:
Gratitudes. This is something I have picked up in the last couple of years and found very powerful. It sounds like a chore, and it can occasionally feel like it but hear me out. Once you’ve done your basic morning routine, sit down with a tea, coffee or both if you’re a crazy Brit like me! Take a notebook or as I have, a mini diary and write just one thing you are grateful for at that moment in time. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, often it’s just that the sun is shining or you slept well the night before. But this little act of positivity is a subtle yet powerful mood boosting step. It’s hard to get into a routine of it but if you leave your notebook close to where you have breakfast or start work, it’s a great habit to form that requires less than 1 minute of your time.

Tip №3:
Set yourself some mini goals. Now I say mini because if I set myself targets that are unachievable within one day I just won’t do anything. It feels overwhelming and it’s easy to do nothing instead. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Pomodoro technique. I sometimes use this when I need to really focus and although very regimented, can be very productive and balanced. Essentially you set a timer — there are some great sites to use like: https://www.marinaratimer.com/spcJ5 which gives you 25 minutes of focussed work time, followed by 5 or 15 minute breaks. Enough time to really crack on but then have that much needed coffee switch off. I will admit that it’s great when you have very set tasks, but I also break the rules a fair bit. Mostly because when designing, I get into a bit of a flow and don’t always need to break it so often. So use it in your way, it can be as strict or flexible as you like in accordance with what you’re trying to achieve.

Tip №4:
Designate a work space. It’s very easy to sleep into working on the couch mode. Not only is this terrible for your back and posture (talking from experience!) it’s also a melding of both your work space and your relaxation space. This merging is not only bad for productivity, but negative on your mental well-being because you no longer have a divide and ‘off’ switch from work. I’ve learned this the hard way working from home, and although I often work from my dining table, I don’t allow myself to work from the couch or worse, bed! Again a seemingly insignificant choice but one that is really important in creating a divide between work and leisure time.

Tip №5:
Don’t be too hard on yourself. This is a big one and perhaps one of the most important. I think there’s a bit of pressure being felt right now that we should all still be go go go whilst at home. That we must keep running on that business building treadmill and feel guilty if we do sleep in that extra 30 minutes. And this isn’t healthy. I think if this crisis is teaching us anything, it’s that the more basic human needs are far more valuable than we usually give them credit for. The quality time spent with our loved ones at home, our amount of sleep, and even just the need to slow down and relax a little. So embrace this time with productivity, whether it’s that wardrobe clear out you’ve been putting off, or finally starting your side hustle. But keep a healthy dose of kindness to yourself too. Allow yourself the breather we’ve all been craving and you just might find that it gives you the space to figure out your next great move.

I hope these have been helpful and do let me know your tips for working from home, I’d love to hear some more!

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