Due to the current COVID-19 situation, many more people have begun working from home. Maybe that’s you, and you’re struggling to adjust to your new work environment or build your motivation. Below you’ll find some practical tips to help you make your new circumstances a success.

#1. Create a morning routine

Set up your day for focus and motivation by getting your mornings right. What you do first thing in the morning sets the stage for the rest of the day, for better or for worse. So use the first hour or so after you wake up to do a few things to take care of yourself and help your motivation and energy along. Here are some examples of things you could include in your morning routine:

  • Drink water – as soon as you wake up. This helps wake you up and hydrates your body after a night’s sleep
  • Exercise or stretch – proven to have a positive impact on energy, focus, and emotional wellbeing
  • Eat a healthy breakfast – give your body and brain the fuel they need to get to work
  • Learn something – exercise your mind and expand your horizons
  • Journal – get your thoughts down on paper instead of them buzzing around your head

morning routine

Make it easier for yourself to start (and stick to) your morning routine by preparing the night before. Lay out your exercise clothes, put a glass of water by your bed, and prep your breakfast ingredients.

#2. Write a to-do list

But don’t overfill it. Separate your tasks for each day into a “must do” list (as short as possible) and a “nice to do” list (as long as you want). This shows your priorities in a clear and simple way. Be specific with your to-do list, writing down the tangible action steps to complete the tasks rather than just the tasks themselves. For example, “Write blog post on [topic] and share to Facebook & LinkedIn” is more actionable than “Work on marketing” and you’re more likely to complete it.

#3. Declutter and organise your workspace

A messy desk = a messy brain. That doesn’t mean you can’t have objects in your workspace that inspire you or tools you need for work. But having clutter and mess around will only distract you and add to your stress. Having a neat, uncluttered workspace can help you be focussed and calm while you work. It’s also helpful to have everything you need for your work nearby when you need it.

Why not spend the first 5-10 minutes of your workday doing a quick tidy-up and putting your tools in place?

neat and tidy workspace

#4. Limit distractions

If your work allows for it, put your phone on silent or do not disturb mode, and keep the screen facing down. It will be there when you need but won’t distract you with unnecessary notifications. Keep a notepad open on your desk and jot down anything that distracts you during a work period – you can get them off your mind and have a reminder to look back at them later when you have time.

If you need to work in a shared area of your home, try using noise-cancelling headphones to tune out the surrounding noise and help you to focus.

#5. Visualise your success

Cognitive research has shown that visualising your success is very powerful in helping you achieve it. So at the start of a day, a project or a task, imagine yourself completing it with energy, focus and creativity. Imagine how you’ll feel after you’ve completed it. Visualising these things in as much detail as you can shows your brain how to make them a reality.

#6. Commit to focusing

After you’ve visualised the desired outcome of completing your work, commit yourself to focus for a set period, and stick to it. Remind yourself that even if the work is mentally draining, you only have to do it for that amount of time, and then you can rest for a while.

#7. Work in sprints and take regular breaks

Think of your workday like a HIIT session: work with as much intensity as you can for a set amount of time, and then take a break for a few minutes away from any screens. The best time limits are different from person to person, but I’ve found that working in blocks of around 45 minutes is enough time to get in the zone, but not too long to get mentally fatigued. Then I take a 5-10 minute break away from my computer to rest and reset.

Working in sprints helps keep your focus fresh and your creativity flowing.

#8. Reward yourself for completing a task

Teach your brain that hard work is rewarding by doing something enjoyable at the end of each work session or after completing a challenging task. This might be going for a quick walk outside in the sunshine, making a cup of coffee, or just taking a moment to feel proud of yourself. This will give you more motivation to work hard on other things.

#9. Find the time of day when you work best

Not everyone is a morning person. That’s why you need to work with your body clock, not against it. Finding your biological peak time (the time when you are most alert, focussed, and creative) can go a long way in boosting productivity and the overall enjoyment of your work. For example, if you are most alert in the morning, use that time to do your most challenging or creative tasks, leaving the routine tasks till the afternoon when your stamina is running low. Or swap this around if you focus best in the afternoon. Customise your schedule to suit your biological peak time.

#10. Drink plenty of water

One of the most often overlooked ways to improve your alertness, focus, memory and many other mental functions is to drink enough water. It can be easy to forget if we’re busy with work, but staying hydrated is crucial to keeping your brain running effectively throughout the day.

Our brains are made up of 75% water. So keep a bottle or a glass nearby wherever you’re working to remind you to drink.

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