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Are You in the Work-at-Home Doldrums? Here Are 5 Strategies That Will Help

From changing how you make to-do lists to scheduling regular calls with team members—these strategies will help you avoid burnout as a remote worker.

As any remote worker or entrepreneur knows, working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, your schedule might be more flexible, with opportunities to squeeze in chores or childcare responsibilities in between work commitments. On the other hand, it’s easy to fall into a rut and feel disconnected from the other people in your organization—or, if you’re a solopreneur, to lose the drive and energy necessary to maintain your momentum.

When you feel like all you’re doing is slogging away at your tasks, you’re not particularly excited about the work that you’re doing, you feel fatigued—or perhaps restless—by the early afternoon, and your productivity has declined as a result, you’ve entered what I refer to as the work-at-home doldrums. It can be difficult to pull yourself out of the listlessness and lack of motivation that are characteristic of the doldrums. It requires a conscious effort to make a change to your daily habits and your work rhythm. Below are five strategies for regaining your dynamism:

1. Identify your great motivating desire.

One of the advantages of working in an office setting is that you’re surrounded by people who can boost your energy and inspire you when you’ve lost your verve. (Of course, if your team tends toward the negative, the opposite can happen too.) When you’re working remotely and/or independently, it can be easy to lose sight of your guiding purpose and become enmeshed in the minutiae of the day to day. If you’ve been feeling unmotivated lately, take some time to reflect on your great motivating desire. Napoleon Hill said that “the subconscious mind may be likened to a magnet, and when it has been vitalized and thoroughly saturated with any definite purpose it has a tendency to attract all that is necessary for the fulfillment of that purpose.” To attain that definiteness of purpose, journal daily about your long-term goal and your reasons for wanting it. Rather than just writing a bullet-point to-do list, take time each morning to contextualize your daily tasks in the scope of your motivating desire. Doing so will give you the purpose and energy you need to pull yourself out of the work-at-home doldrums, for as Earl Nightingale explained, “The key that unlocks energy is desire.”

2. Add exercise to the mix.

I have noticed that on the days that I skip my workout in the interests of “getting more done,” my productivity plummets, along with my energy levels. Depending on your work-at-home situation, you might be able to arrange your schedule so that you can fit in a 30-minute workout somewhere in your workday. Doing so is a surefire way to regain mental clarity, enhance performance, and reignite your passion for your responsibilities. Determine what works best for you: for some, exercising first thing in the morning helps drive their motivation for the rest of the day; for others, taking a mid-day exercise break enables them to step away from their work and get the energy boost they need to return to their work refreshed.

3. Reconfigure your work rhythm.

I’ve written previously on the importance of creating a daily work rhythm. Charting the ebbs and flows of your energy levels and time-blocking your activities to suit your biological and emotional rhythms is a very effective way to maximize your productivity and not feel drained at the end of your workday. However, maintaining the same routine for too long a period of time can have the reverse effect, causing you to fall into a rut. If you feel like you’re just going through the motions, it might be time to switch up your routine. Answer e-mails at the end of the day instead of at the beginning, move your planning and creation period to the early morning instead of the late afternoon, call clients after lunch instead of before it—reconfigure your schedule so that you’re doing different “types” of activities at different times of the day than you normally do.

4. Change your workplace.

Sometimes all it takes to regain your momentum is to change your work environment—even for a day or two. If you can do some or all of your tasks at a local coffee shop or library instead of in your home office, the change of scenery might help give you the mental space you need to refocus on your action items. What’s more, getting out and around people can boost your energy and help you get excited about adding value to others’ lives.

5. Schedule a regular call with a team member.

One of the biggest complaints from entrepreneurs with home offices and remote workers is a sense of isolation. These feelings of loneliness and disconnection, coupled with anxieties about not appearing busy enough to those in a central office, can really take a toll on your productivity and, more detrimentally, your emotional health. Scheduling a regular time to check in with a team member via phone or video call will help you feel more connected and energized. In addition, talking through your current projects will help lessen any concerns about the quality and quantity of your contributions. 

Whether you are growing your business out of your home office or are working remotely for a larger organization, it’s likely that you’ll experience the work-at-home doldrums at some point in your career. Knowing how to identify when you’re in them and implementing strategies to free yourself from them will be a crucial part of your success journey.

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