In the UK, a third of all employed people work from home. By 2020, this is predicted to rise to 50%. And yet an issue I have come across time and time again, both during research for my book The Freelance Mum and as a business consultant, is people saying: “I find it hard to motivate myself; to get started.”
According to science, motivated people have higher levels of dopamine – a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. It’s this chemical that motivates us to get up and go for a run, rather than just sitting on the sofa and thinking about it. Or to start work.
Fortunately, it’s possible to trigger a dopamine release; meaning being motivated is something that can be learned; it’s not necessarily a genetic trait. So, if you find it hard to get started in the morning and need some tricks to kickstart your brain into work-mode, these will help…
10 Motivation Tips For Freelancers Who Work From Home
1. Ditch the PJs
The clichéd image of a freelancer lounging around in their pjs all day is largely myth and not particularly helpful. While still in your nightwear, your brain basically remains in sleep mode, so get up, showered and dressed before you start work. Just as you would if you worked in an office.
2. Swallow the frog
Knowing that you have a dreaded task at the top of your list can lead to procrastination. We tend to think: ‘If I don’t actually start work, I won’t have to do that boring job’.
Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou has a workplace tradition of beginning the day with ‘swallow the frog’. Each employee has a toy frog on their desk and it represents that one, dreaded task. Complete it and the frog can leave your desk. You can then get on with the work you actually want to be doing.
3. Plan your day
Starting out with a full day ahead – and no plan of what you’re doing, when – can be overwhelming. So write a list of all the tasks that need doing – actually write it, rather than doing it on your phone, then you’ll have the satisfaction of striking off tasks once they’re complete.
Work out how much time each task requires and try to stick to it. Especially for work that is important but has no clear end; like engagement on social media. Set yourself half an hour at the beginning and end of your working day for this, for instance.
4. Limit emails
Most of us are emailed multiple times a day – by clients, colleagues, employers, friends and family but also for marketing purposes. These emails easily distract from the task you’re working on, so set yourself email-checking times.
Perhaps three times, during your working day, is realistic. And if you only have a few hours to work, think about whether you need to check emails at all. Can you complete the important tasks without looking at emails? If so, do.
5. Take a break
As well as allocating set times for each job, designate breaks for yourself. A cup of tea between tasks is a good excuse for a break from the screen. It also signals that it’s time to move on to the next job.
Equally, decide what time you’ll have lunch and try to eat it at the table, away from your work. Focus on how it tastes, as mindless eating is more likely to lead to snacking later on. The Freelancers’ Cookbook has great ideas for quick, healthy lunches and snacks.
6. Set an end-time
You may have a work cutoff if you have kids in childcare who need collecting but even if you don’t: set your own end-time. Psychologically, this will help you to get started, as you know that once it hits 5pm (for instance), you’re free to relax. How you spend the rest of the evening is then up to you.
7. Fresh air and exercise
Starting the day with a run – even just a five-minute jog around the block – or a brisk walk will help to wake you up. The exercise gives you endorphins which energise you and make you feel happier; a blast of fresh air awakens all the senses.
If you start to feel lethargic or bored during the day, go for another walk. If you have a child sleeping upstairs, or can’t leave the house for another reason, use a YouTube video for a quick yoga workout. Stretching and deep breathing will reinvigorate you.
8. Working unconventional hours
If you identify as a morning person but have kids waking up early meaning you can’t start work in the early hours, you might find yourself relying on the evening for work. This can feel quite stressful, as the day draws to a close and you’re feeling exhausted but you haven’t started working yet.
Keep realistic expectations: set yourself just an hour for work, knowing that after that you can head straight to bed or watch telly. Again, having the evening stretching out ahead with no set plan will feel daunting. Decide on your task(s) and get it done within the hour. Continuing work when you’re tired is pointless; it won’t be your best work. Keep it short and focused.
9. Use an app
If you find yourself feeling fuzzy-headed or in a muddle, and need to reset before you can continue with work, try a mind app. Headspace teaches you mindfulness and brings you back to the present, while Calm is good for slowing down your breath and busy mind. Hypnotherapy app Clementine has a power nap recording – if you need 30 minutes of shuteye – or sessions for both confidence and de-stressing. You can just sit back and listen.
10. Treat yourself
This doesn’t mean spend £60 on a massage – though you can, if you want – it means finding little ways to boost yourself throughout the day. For instance, drinking your morning coffee while standing in the garden, in peace. Or a relaxing afternoon bath. Maybe it’s a glass of wine at the end of the working day. Whatever it is, if it brings your some joy, make it part of your daily routine.
Photo by Penny Wincer