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  • Strategies to Stay Motivated While Working from Home

    If only my desk looked this good… Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash

    Working from home is a great problem to have.

    For people like me, because of the lack of structure, it’s freeing to be home calling your own shots. However, as time goes by the isolation may end up leaving us feeling less professional and a little out of touch. Because of self-imposed rules that don’t always serve me well, I’ve have had to come up with my own strategies for staying motivated and feeling engaged when I’m working at home.

    This list is not made up of strategies like, “how to cope with getting your work done when you want to do laundry or sneak off to Pilates.” These are the bigger ones that none one seems to discuss much. I’m reviewing things like isolation, motivation, and how to feel like you accomplished something when no one is around to watch.

    These are what have helped me and I hope they resonate with you or just open a dialogue where you need it. Without further ado, here are my Strategies to Stay Motivated While Working From Home. I hope they help.

    The Situation

    Many years ago, I started working from home. My company had undergone a reorganization and I was not keen on staying in a branch office. It was ultimately the 4 am conference calls that were the deciding factor in the change and I took my boss up on the offer to work at home.

    At first, there were no issues with my productivity. I was deeply connected to a peer network, and traveled across the country to train and consult with our branches. Working from home was ideal, furthermore, I was more effective and creative. Certainly, in the beginning, I didn’t need strategies to stay motivated working from home!

    Things became complicated when I left corporate and started my coaching and consulting practice.  I no longer had peers. It was just me.

    The first year was amazing! I was in the field working with my small business clients. However, I decided quickly that I did not want to work with small business owners and converted the practice to career and job search coaching exclusively. Hence spending even more time home alone.

    Fast forward to 2018. My husband and I decided to move to a town of 7,500 in Northern California. We left our family and social network, in contrast, we didn’t know anyone other than our realtors. We are an hour away from family, which is fantastic because they are so close, but as it turns out, they are just far enough away with Bay Area traffic that it is a hassle to get back as much as I would like.  I have to admit that I significantly underestimated the challenges of the move.

    I was running a business, working from home, setting up a country property, and trying to stay sane with no local network. There were certainly some dark days. I found myself on the couch reading romance novels and walking my dogs, only to pull it together and try to make it look like I had it under control before my husband came home.

    What does this have to do with job search strategy and being a great coach?

    As I was coming out of the last year, I started thinking about those of you who may also work from home and may also be facing similar challenges.

    Have you become inwardly focused?  Are the only people you talk to those in your company network?  Have you stopped keeping up with people’s lives? When was the last time you met a friend for coffee? Maybe you have lost the finesse of being with people, networking, interviewing, or just life on the outside. Do you need strategies to stay motivated while you work from home?

    It seems like being alone for a considerable chunk of the day plays tricks on us. Because it is just us with lots of quiet time, it’s difficult to stay motivated for work, family, clients, yourself, your spouse or partner, practicing self-care… where to do you find the energy to tackle a new long term project like finding a new job?

    The Solution

    Due to my own experiences, I thought I would share a few strategies that have gotten me back on track.  They may not be right for everyone, but they are definitely a place to start. I have included articles from other sources that you may find interesting also.

    Strategies to Stay Motivated While Working From Home

    Find a Live Social Network – #1

    Because I have horses and had always lived in the city, I boarded them at a local regional park venue. With the horses at the barn, there came a built-in social network. As a result, riding and barn relationships were my social, physical, and networking outlets.  Thus, I would spend two or three hours a day at the stable with an incredible group of women who came from all backgrounds. 

    The group offered support not just for horse things, but we had wonderful discussions about life.  Most noteworthy was the diversity of the group. They are executives, teachers, lawyers, political consultants, artists, marketers, journalists, entrepreneurs, working people, ER nurses, college students, and ballet dancers.  The bond of our horses brought us together, but our life experiences were the glue of our network.

    It was a heavy loss when I moved as part of the reason for the move was to bring the horses home. I love them, but they don’t actually talk even though they offer a different kind of support.

    What also I did not realize was that my outlook had been subtly undermined working from home and out of a professional environment for so many years. As a result of the activities around the move, it took a while for me to realize how isolated I actually was. Hence, being alone so much affected my attitude and was reflecting poorly on my work and relationships.

    As a solution, one of my 2020 goals is to volunteer in our new community. My hope is to work with the county library and offer free coaching services to the community as well as work on library projects. 

    Ranch life. This is Skye enjoying turn out before winter. The horses do help with work motivation as horses are not the least expensive hobby…

    It’s abundantly clear that I need a social outlet to recharge me.  I tend to be more of an introvert than an extrovert, but there is something about human connections that is so essential to find balance in our life.  In the future, I certainly won’t underestimate my need for a network again.

    Likewise, if you are overwhelmed at home, perhaps find a coffee group, take an exercise class, or volunteer at your child’s school.  Any group that gets you with people and thinking about new things can boost your motivation and start to generate the creativity you will need as you start your job search.

    Article: 5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering

    Your Spouse or Partner Can’t Be Everything – #2

    First of all, I think this is a big one. Many of us fall into a trap that our spouse is the only person we should talk to for most of our support. In many cases that is the right answer for a strong relationship, but it also comes with pitfalls if one does not have an extended network. Consequently, we learn to rely on them so much that we can overwhelm them if we are not careful. Likewise, we often do this with our friends, cousins, brothers, and sisters especially if we have a small family or network.

    My husband is a fixer.  He wants to clear everything out of my path to make it better. It is an amazing quality and I would not give him up for anything. However, sometimes I need to hear myself talk to get to the root of the problem and not everything I bring up needs fixing.  Unfortunately, when I am stressed, I forget to be clear his need to fix gets exacerbated. This dynamic is not that unique and it seems to be a pretty typical relationship hot point for many of us.

    That said, if you have a sensitive partner or spouse, they can end up feeling like they are not enough if they can’t pop in a quick fix. Above all, it’s important to learn to communicate to the best of your ability and tell them how they can help so that they don’t end up feeling inadequate. Most of us, myself included, feel inadequate if we don’t know how to help.

    Finding a good coach, therapist, counselor, or support group is essential to get your thoughts out, especially in times of significant changes.  It helps you communicate better with those around you because a nonjudgmental third party can help you tell your new story and express your goals so that your friends and family know how to support you.  People want a specific job and way to support us that they can understand. If you know what you need, you can ask for help.  Family can then be most supportive and commit to staying on task.

    I can tell you that for the last year that I was at home without my social network, it took a toll on my husband because he was the only person I was talking to. I got a great coach for myself, and in a month or so of working through what was going on in my head, life was back on track.

    Everyone gets stuck! Even coaches.  Find a great team to support you. 

    Article: Support From Your Spouse

    Article: Ask For Help Without Making it Wierd

    Pets Are an Amazing Stress Reliever – #3

    This is Piper. Sometimes she makes it hard to concentrate.

    If you are new to the blog or don’t know me, animals are a massive part of my life. There is a growing body of research about how dog owners live longer, horses are great for therapy, and most animals have a calming presence. It seems like our animals help us in more ways than we realize because they are so open and forgiving.

    Even if you don’t have a pet at home, there are lots of local outlets where you can find peace with animals.  First of all, you can volunteer at the shelter or with a rescue to walk dogs. There are animal-assisted therapy and enlightenment courses you can take throughout the country.  Finally, if you have your own pets, just spend conscious time with them.

    As a result of back surgery years ago, when I was recovering, I walked the paths at the local zoo.  It was the walking exercise I needed, but spending time with the lions, tigers, wolves, and hyenas cleared my mind.  Even more than the big casts, the children’s petting zoo with the sheep and goats was a favorite of mine.

    Article: How Dogs Drive Emotional Well Being

    Article: About Pets & People – CDC

    Become Comfortable Doing Nothing – #4

    It seems like “doing nothing” is one that trips up many of my friends and clients. I firmly believe that to ramp up to tackle a giant goal, life change, job change, or any large project that you have to incorporate downtime. Certainly, if your entire day is packed with work, family, kids, dogs, yoga, after school sports, and laundry, how are you going to find the energy to add in more?  A job change is a huge undertaking.  Don’t underestimate how much you will need in the tank to get through it.

    I spent a year in a funk after our move.  Because of my outlook, I wasn’t effective for a long time. Rather, it felt like I was doing something wrong. Due to the fact I was coming out of a period of profound change I underestimated how stressful the past year or two had been.  I was a caregiver for my stepfather who passed away, my husband had back and shoulder surgery, we moved, I sold a house, I left my family network, I restructured my business, and I was setting up a 5-acre farm. Above all, I was exhausted.

    Our minds and bodies heal in sleep.  We need to heal in quiet too.  My year of reading and resting gave me clarity on what I want the future to be.  It enabled me to write again and genuinely have the depth of energy and balance to want to help people through coaching.

    The guilt of being home and not working or not feeling like you are working when no one can see you is a big deal.  That’s one of the hardest things I had to overcome. I had to learn to give myself permission to do nothing and find a way to see that I was still accomplishing something, even if it wasn’t as much as usual when I am in a peak performance mode.

    Rest is a strategy to stay motivated while working from home.

    I’d suggest if you are feeling guilty about not accomplishing enough, you write down everything you did at the end of the day.   I felt like I was not accomplishing anything, but my lists had 10 – 15 things on them, even if it was just feeding the dogs and mundane tasks.  I was contributing, I just had to see it on paper to believe it, and it did not matter how many times my husband told me I was doing enough.

    It’s important to give yourself credit for doing even small things, especially if you are a person who only feels capable and valued when you are doing everything.

    If you are getting ready to tackle a job change, please be kind to yourself and recharge if you need to before you start.  You will make better decisions, be open to connecting with new people, have the ego strength to deal with criticism and “no,” and most importantly you will have all your wits about you when you are sitting in an interview trying to figure out just who your next possible hiring manager is.

    Article:  The Case for Doing Nothing

    Video: What Can You Do to Get Through a Crap Week? 

    Working With Your Thoughts When You Are Alone – #5

    When the only lens you have is your interpretation of what’s going on during the day, chances are you will underestimate yourself and get a few things wrong. The voices in our heads are rarely kind. See #4.

    A piece of advice given to me many years ago was to picture a stream with little boats going by.  Think of one of those sushi bars with the little boats of goodness going by. Each boat has a thought on its deck: good ones, bad ones, critical thoughts, and supportive thoughts. We have the choice to pick up the boats with good thoughts in our pockets.  Most importantly, we can let the boats with the bad stuff go on past and do nothing with them.  We don’t have to pick up every boat.

    So, those are my strategies to Stay Motivated While Working at Home, at least as far as the big stuff goes. I’m still working on the not playing with the dogs when I should be working part.

    Working at home has been the best of times and the worst of times for my career.  I wouldn’t change it now for anything, but I know that I have to get out in the world and keep my connections to be happy and prosperous.

    If you are working from home and about to start a job change, please take some time to consider your social and professional network, schedule your self-care, surround yourself with positive influences, and help your family, spouse or partner understand just what kind of support they need to give you.

    Wishing you all the best in your career,

    Kris

    PS: If you have anything to add to my Strategies to Stay Motivated While Working From Home, feel free to leave a comment.

    PPS: Feel free to contact me with any questions. Please let me know if I can play a part in your career or job search strategy coaching needs.

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