To stay organized and motivated when working at home, you need balance.
Though you are unemployed, you DO have a job: Finding a job. If you’re having a hard time getting organized now that you are home all day, or if you’ve lost the motivation to stay organized and productive with your job search, keep reading …
Regardless of how long you’ve been unemployed, spending your days at home is a new routine. At first, you’ll likely take a bit of time to get over the shock of losing your job. This might mean a short period of couch-potato’itis. But, once you’ve given yourself about a week to sulk, it’s time to pull up the boot straps and get to work.
It’s up to you to make the most of this time you now have, but it’s easier to say than it is to do. These 10 Tips for staying organized and motivated during unemployment should make your job easier.
10 Tips to Motivate & Organize You While at Home
1) Don’t change your morning routine.
While you were employed, if you got up at 6:00 a.m. and jumped in the shower while the coffee was brewing, continue to do so. Keeping your internal clock on track will tell your brain, “It’s time to work.” You’ll not only be more productive during the day, you won’t need to re-train your body-clock when you do find work.
Following a regular daily routine that closely mirrors your normal work routine is likely the best step you can take to maintain your motivation and productivity. While it is fine (and, expected) to have an occasional deviation, allowing for some spontaneity you might not get to enjoy otherwise, make sure that you keep the schedule deviations to a minimum.
2) Get dressed.
While you will certainly have days when you can’t drag yourself out of your bathrobe, it should not become a habit. We’ve all heard the expression, “Dress for success.” It applies to you now, during your period of unemployment!
The way we look has a direct impact on the way we feel. While no one may actually see you during the day, your appearance affects your attitude and your body language, which, in turn, affects the tone in your voice. You’ll sound more professional when you make those all-important phone calls to land your next interview. And, you’ll be ready in the event someone wants to Skype “immediately” or asks you to come in “as soon as possible” for an interview.
Do the basics, at least: Shower and put on your street clothes. Men, you should shave if you don’t wear a beard normally. Women, you should do your hair and make-up. These things will all add to your level of motivation and you will be more productive during the day.
3) Wear shoes with laces and/or hard soles.
Believe it or not, those comfortable slippers are slowing you down physically and emotionally. It’s a fact. If you’ve fallen into the habit of leaving your slippers on from morning till night, try wearing a pair of street shoes. You’ll notice the difference almost immediately.
Women: “Shoes with laces”generally means tennis shoes. While few of us would wear these to our places of employment, they are sufficient at home to keep you motivated. Skip the slip-on shoes and go for the laces. It makes a difference.
4) Designate a room or an area as your “home office.”
If you don’t already have a traditional home office, it’s time to set one up. It should be an area away from the main traffic routes in your home, such as the living/family room and kitchen. Get creative — but don’t skip this step.
Just as we know that a child’s grades will go up when he or she has a designated spot for homework, so to will your levels of motivation and productivity increase when you work from your new “office.”
Make sure the area that you’ve designated as a home office is used only for that purpose during your work day. And, take the time to set it up properly: You’ll want to have typical office supplies in addition to your lap top (stapler, portable filing system, etc.)
5) Set your work hours.
“Working from home” doesn’t mean you are necessarily engaged in wage-earning work. Your work may (and should) be squarely focused on finding employment. That is now your job — to find a job. And that job takes time.
Set your hours, and keep them reasonable. An 8-hour work day is sufficient. Much less, and you can’t be truly productive. Much more, and you’ll fall out of balance in the other areas of your life.
6) Prepare a business plan.
As anyone starting his or her own business should know, the business plan is a critical road map. Now that you are in the business of finding employment, do yourself a favor and prepare an actual business plan.
Use a business plan template as your guide, make the necessary adaptations for the “business of finding a job,” and complete the plan. Then, begin following the plan.
If you don’t yet know what to put in your business plan, all of the “ingredients” can be found in this blog under the WORK category!
7) Chair a family meeting.
Gather the spouse, kids, dog, and anyone else under your roof together for a family meeting. At this meeting, you will lay out the ground rules for your period of unemployment. Those rules should include a statement about your home office — “Respect my space” — and your work hours — “I’ll be working from 9:00 to 5:00. Please do not interrupt me for non-emergencies. I’ll be happy to listen to you during my lunch break.”
8) Take breaks.
Just as you need to do when you are employed, breaks are necessary for your stamina. Without them, we grow weary too quickly and can become discouraged.
If you find that you are sitting at the keyboard for hours on end, you need to make a change.
You’ll be more productive if you take sufficient breaks. Once an hour, take a short break to stretch your legs.
At the top or the bottom of each hour, step away from the keyboard. It’s time to move, not play computer solitaire. 5 minutes is usually enough to get the blood pumping again. More than 10, and you’re officially in distraction mode.
And, stick to a regular lunch schedule. Don’t let it lapse into a 5-hour detour, but do take 30-60 minutes to enjoy lunch.
9) Mind the distractions.
It’s easy to become distracted when you’re working from home. In fact, this is the biggest problem area for most.
By following these tips, you’ll cut down on many distractions — but you still need to diligently avoid things like unnecessary web surfing, domestic chores, social calls lasting longer than 2-3 minutes, and the television. I can’t tell you how many people get hooked on soaps while unemployed (and then wonder why they’ve yet to find a job!)
If the distractions are unavoidable, or you simply aren’t yet disciplined enough to dodge them, consider taking yourself outside of the home. A local coffee shop is an ideal location to use as an office. Not only will it pull you away from the distractions, you’ll have the opportunity to network with others who are now sharing office space with you. (And, the coffee is usually fabulous! But, mind that budget!)
10) Connect with others.
For those of us not setting up shop at a local coffee-house, the work-from-home lifestyle can be very isolating. This, in turn, puts many at risk for slipping into a clinical depression. Thus, “connecting with others” is critical.
First, make sure to get out of the house every once in a while. As much as possible, make these outings business related: Go to the library and research, or do some of your work there for a change of scenery. Take your laptop to the coffee-house. Schedule brief meetings with business professionals to not only increase your network, but to increase your motivational level.
Inside the home, you still need to connect with others. Using social networks like LinkedIn and participating in group discussions will help you maintain that all-important “social connection” we need as humans. Not only will you improve your networking skills, you keep your brain stimulated in a business-focused environment.
I am not advocating socializing; I’m advising that you connect with others in a business context. By engaging in daily online communication with other business professionals, we protect our minds from the atrophy that can so quickly occur at home. During your work day at least, avoid the chit-chat associated with the more traditionally social sites like Facebook. And, under no circumstances do you want to engage in Farmville on Facebook. (If you don’t know what that means, good for you!)
Now that the holiday’s are behind us, it’s time to get back on track. Until you find that job — or until the next holiday — it’s back to the daily grind. But don’t let the rigors of working at home get the best of you.
Print out these tips and hang them where you’ll see them. Just a quick glance will remind you how to stay organized and motivated!
~Lynda C. Watts