Five Tips to Stay Motivated When Your Job Stays Home

by : Cathy Goodwin

Q. I am considering a telecommute option, where I’d be working from home. How can I stay motivated?

A. Five tips to stay motivated -- especially starting out.

(1) Build structure into your day.

Create a schedule and To Do list every evening for the next day, before you sign off for the day. (And yes – it is important to sign off, even if you return later to complete a project.) Include breaks and email reading time. Define goals by numbers ("write 1000 words") instead of time ("2 hours on Mega account"). One of the joys of working at home is you get to quit when you’re finished ahead of schedule.

(2) Train friends and neighbors to respect your working hours.

Clients tell me about neighbors who say things like, "I told the UPS truck to leave the package at your house since you’re always home." Discourage phone calls with a prepared response, like "I will call you after four o’clock today." You will be tested. Prepare to hang tough.

(3) Get the family on board.

Deal with their concerns before you start and be prepared to show how you are creating a win-win situation. Clarify what counts as an emergency – a valid reason to interrupt while you are working - and what can wait till dinnertime.

(4) Build breaks into your schedule.

When I started my own business, I was warned, "Plan to get out of the house! Otherwise you'll never leave your desk."

Frankly, I didn’t get it.

Why wouldn’t I take breaks? Now as I find myself answering just one more email, or adding two more paragraphs to an article, I see the clock move and realize I must stop if I want to get to the gym or the store before closing time.

Bonus Tip: A dog will force you to get moving, no matter what else is going on in your life.

(5) Create reasons to finish your projects.

My weekly ezine motivates me to write at least one article a week. You may be energized by company and client deadlines.

As your responsibilities grow, you will tend to accumulate more and more "real" deadlines and it’s easier to stay motivated. But in the early stages, you’re isolated, you’re working hard and results don’t appear immediately. That’s why some people hire coaches and consultants to create accountability.

Bottom line: Not everyone enjoys the work-at-home option. My clients tell me they need six to twelve months to decide how they are responding to this arrangement. You may decide to return to a workplace where you can see real people everyday. Or you may get hooked on having a dog-friendly, gossip-free workplace where you can open the windows all year round.