I’ve been working for myself for almost seven years now, and in those seven years, you’d think it would have gotten easier for me to stay motivated all the time when I’m working from home.
The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth.
My entire life, I’ve struggled with focus.
I’ll have the best of intentions, and even be excited to work on various projects, but actually following through and getting more than 20-30 minutes of concentrated work done at a time?
I fit the model for inattentive ADD to a T, and other family members have been diagnosed with it – but I’ve always had the mindset of “I’ve gotten this far in life on my own, I should be able to keep going.”
Focus issues are a really common problem with people who work for themselves, and friends of mine have gone a more clinical route with a lot of success.
However, I haven’t wanted to go that route. I keep searching for the silver bullet that will help me kill my procrastination and most importantly, live up to my potential.
What I have found, is that there are certain activities or routines in my life that can really help with my focus levels. I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about what separates the good days from the bad days.
A few times a month, I’ll have days where everything is easy. I focus, I flow from one task to the next, and a get a ton done.
I wake up the next morning with every intention of doing the exact same thing, but it doesn’t happen.
So regardless of whether you have ADD, suspect you have ADD, or just struggle with discipline and motivation when you’re working from home or for yourself – this post is for you.
Personally I think working from home is much more difficult, in some regards, than working in an office. It’s like when there’s a hot girl on the treadmill next to you – you run just a little bit farther and faster.
At home, there’s no one else. So it can be easy to slip into a mode of laziness where you’re not pushing yourself to get stuff done – it takes more discipline than the average person realizes to be able to successfully work remotely.
Like I said, I’ve spent 7 years figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to working from home and beating procrastination. If nothing else this post is meant to serve as a reminder to me, that when I’m not being productive and in a battle with myself – these are the things I need to focus on.
1) Close all tabs and all other applications
I’m the kind of person who always has 20 tabs open on his browser. Because my natural inclination is to jump back and forth between a lot of things, having the tabs open makes it easier to do that – and more difficult to get stuff done.
Simply by closing all of the other tabs in my browser, an easy opportunity to distract myself is made just a little bit more difficult.
2) Clean your office
I can find ways to get distracted no matter where I am. But I know that clutter makes it even worse – which is tough, because I’m not naturally a very tidy person.
Whenever I take the time to clean my office and get rid of all the unnecessary clutter, I find myself immediately gaining a boost in productivity. This is part of the reason that I often get more done at coffee shops than at home. Even though there are more people around, there are fewer distractions that will actually derail me.
3) Clean your desktop
As part of cleaning your office, clean off your computer’s desktop as well. Again, be proactive about removing things that can cause distractions.
4) Recognize When You’re Most Productive
The 9 to 5 work day is much more strongly engrained in us than we realize. But, that’s not necessarily when we’re most productive.
For me, I like starting earlier and quitting earlier. Ideally I like being up and working by 6 or 630 and being done by early to mid-afternoon.
Many people like working in the middle of the night. Understanding when you’re able to be most creative, and scheduling around that will help make it easier to focus on your most important tasks.
Supercharge this: Make your mornings even more effective.
5) Use Pomodoros
The Pomodoro Technique has been around for a long time now, but for someone who is working from home and has to be self motivated, I’ve found working in 25 minute bursts to be extremely effective.
That’s essentially what this strategy entails. It has you work in say 25 minute bursts each called a “pomodoro,” then you take a 5 minute break, and start another one. After 2 or 3, you take a longer break, say 15 or even 30 minutes.
I try and shoot for 10 Pomodoros a day.
Even though that’s just over 4 hours of dedicated work, that is often much more than I’ll do if I’m not focusing on being deliberate with my time spent in front of a computer.
Also, on the days where I hit my 10, I’m almost always even more motivated to keep getting stuff done after I finish. Positive actions have a snowball effect, the more you do, the more you want to keep doing.
Supercharge This: My buddy Jacob Sokol recently gave me the Productivity Planner journal. This thing is amazing. It’s been a great tool to think through what I want my day to look like, and actually help me get stuff done.
6) Don’t put too much on your to-do list
What is the saying? It’s something to the effect of: “It’s easy to over-estimate how much you can get done in a day, and underestimate how much you can get done in a year.”
When you put too much on your daily to do list, and you find yourself not getting anywhere close to checking everything off, you get anxious, frustrated, and will get even less done.
I personally like using my “top 5” method for getting stuff done. If I finish up, and then can get more done afterwards? Great. But I find following this strategy helps me easily get things done, and when I’m not doing it, I flounder a bit.
7) Know your “trigger habits”
This is the absolute most important thing I’ve done to help me kill my procrastination.
There are certain morning tasks, that when I do them, trigger other positive tasks and habits.
Specifically for me, making breakfast. Whenever I take the time to make breakfast, a trigger hits, and I then drink a glass of water or two.
When I’ve had a healthy breakfast and a few glasses of water, I get the urge to continue doing healthy things for myself and go to the gym.
After I’ve checked off those 3 very positive things in a day, I want to continue doing positive things and get work done.
So by recognizing my trigger habit of making breakfast, I know that doing that one thing, could lead to many more positive things throughout the rest of the day.
I talk a little bit more about this here.
8) Create accountability
Work isn’t the only thing I procrastinate and lack discipline with.
Working out and eating healthy is also another huge struggle. Over the last 6 months I’ve been working with Mike Goncalves, who has been absolutely crucial to helping me get my fitness back on track.
The biggest reason? Accountability.
He checks in with me almost everyday to make sure I’m on track. That feeling of having to tell him, “uh, I didn’t go to the gym today and I just ate an entire pepperoni pizza for dinner” is terrifying – so that accountability helps me to make better decisions.
I’ve also talked in the past about how my friend Ryan was crucial to helping me leave my job, because everyday during my lunch break I’d have to listen to all of the cool things he was doing while living in Hawaii. I wanted that, and talking to him was a constant reminder to take action on those goals.
9) Focus on what you want
I have a lot of things I want in life. Whether it’s a bigger house in the hills, more money to invest in projects I believe in, or simply just long term financial security and not having to stress about going out to nice dinners or buying a plane ticket.
I’ve actually created a list of all of the things I want in my life, and when I find myself procrastinating, I take a quick look at that list.
It serves as a reminder that I’ll never get there if I don’t do the work.
One of my favorite posts from this year is called “How to Get Everything You Want in Life.”
10) Ask yourself “Which task is causing me the most anxiety right now?”
Usually there are one or two things that are causing me anxiety with my work.
But it’s not the type of thing that is top of mind and constantly stressing me out. It’s usually something I’ve put off or forgotten about, that just kind of sits in the back of my mind and causes a low level amount of stress or anxiety that’s always there in the background.
By consciously saying to myself “what haven’t I done that is causing me stress?” I’m able to prioritize getting that done, and significantly helping my mental state.
Killing that stress and anxiety can be a big source of motivation – but you have to recognize the issue is there in the first place.
11) Listen to [email protected]
I’ve mentioned this dozens of times over the years. But [email protected] provides what they say is specially formulated instrumental music, that acts like “ADD medication” and helps you focus.
I have no idea of that statement is true or not, but when I put on noise canceling headphones and turn [email protected] on, I find myself getting into the zone much quicker and actually getting things done.
Another option for Spotify users is to go to Browse –>Moods & Genres –>Focus. They have a bunch of playlists there that I’ve found to have a similar effect.
12) Know when to change your surroundings
I can only work in one place for a 2-3 hours at most. After that, it just becomes a downward spiral of surfing the web or watching YouTube videos.
Once I’ve spent more than 10 minutes surfing the web, thats a solid indicator that I need to get up from my computer and go someplace else.
For me, this is usually up to my desk in the bedroom, or one of 5 different coffee shops in my neighborhood.
Often a change or scenery or breaking the routine, can help me get back in the groove and get on with the next task.
13) Use a Pavlok
For people who are really serious about breaking negative habits, the Pavlok device is pretty amazing.
Despite getting slammed on the tv show Shark Tank, this device has helped thousands of people break bad habits like surfing the web, smoking, heating un healthy foods, etc.
As their founder Maneesh Sethi says when asked if it really works “It works if you really want it to work.”
Meaning, if you’re actually serious about killing your laziness and productivity – this device coupled with the other tips here, can literally change your life.
I just recently received mine, and have been testing it out, so far results have been extremely positive.
14) Don’t try to multi-task
I’ve never been a multi-tasker. As much as I try to do it at times, it never goes well. It leads to crappy work (or no work), and has me feeling even more frustrated with my ADD nature.
This is why it’s so important to consciously decide which task you’re working on, and then block out all distractions along the way (clean your work space, clear your computer desktop, and close all of your other open tabs)
15) Use an Website Blocking App
Can’t rely on just your willpower to make sure you stay focused when working from home?
Well then, it’s time to get a little bit more extreme.
There are quite a few apps out there that will make block websites your programs you deem to be distracting.
Focus app is my favorite.
This is What Works for Me When it Comes to Beating Procrastination While Working from Home
There’s no silver bullet with this stuff.
These are the things I do on my good days, but for every killer day of productivity, there are others where I don’t even have the willpower to do these things, even though I know they will set me up for success.
And on those days?
Often times, the best thing to do is just give in and not work.
We don’t all have this luxury all the time, but if it gets to be early afternoon and no matter what you’ve tried, you aren’t getting something done – then leave the house and go do something fun.
It will clear your mind, and will remind you how lucky you are to be able to work for yourself or work remotely.
When I do this, and say, go play a round of golf, by the time I get home, I’m usually really fired up to get back down to work.
If you’re someone who is constantly battling yourself and feelings of procrastination, laziness or a lack of work ethic – know you’re not alone.
Whether it’s a clinical issue, a byproduct of too many distractions at your home office, or simply due to years of technology ruining our attention spans, it’s something many of us deal with. But learning how to manage it, and get stuff done, despite those tendencies can make all the difference in your business growth, personal growth, and overall happiness.