Because Lullabot is a distributed company, I interact and communicate with my co-workers a bit differently than some in traditional, physical offices may. We kick-off projects with on-sites, in-person workshops and the like, but for much of the life of a project, I’m not physically in the same room as the rest of the team. We communicate and collaborate a lot on the phone, in Google Hangouts, and in Slack. While working with a distributed team can, at times, really help with productivity and give a great sense of autonomy, there are also times when you feel unmotivated and you can't rely on the energy of the people in the room with you to get you going. After a year and a half, I can finally say I’ve found myself in a good rhythm and feel like I’ve learned how to work efficiently and effectively in a way that keeps me motivated and focused throughout the day. Below are just a few ideas and tips that have helped me maximize my productivity, creativity and enjoyment of my work.
Personalize your routine
Don’t be afraid to experiment and find a daily routine that fits you best. You can lean into your natural rhythms and have the flexibility to work during the time of day you’re most creative and productive. It’s okay to work outside of the 9-5 time box. Just make sure you’re still able to make all the necessary meetings and are in touch with your team. At Lullabot, we use Slack to stay connected with team members and projects when working odd hours.
It can be tempting to multitask, especially if you’re working from home. Washing the dishes and trying to run a client call at the same time is just a bad idea. Multitasking involves context switching, which often quickly depletes energy and can lead to exhaustion. You actually can get more done if you focus on one task at a time. One of the great things about working for Lullabot is that we’re usually assigned to a single project for a duration of time. Because of the narrow focus, I’ve noticed that I often produce better quality work within a shorter amount of time. Creating a task checklist can also help you avoid distractions and multitasking and keep you focused throughout the day.
Create a dedicated space for work time
The boundaries of work and personal time can be very easily blurred when working from home. Creating a dedicated space for work allows you to mentally shift from work time to personal time when the work day is complete. Don’t have an entire room to dedicate to an office? A small area in the corner of a bedroom or dining room will do. Using a notification system such as a post-it-note on the door or a do not disturb sign can let family members or significant others know when you can or can’t be interrupted. When your work day is done, performing routine activities such as making dinner or going for an end of the day walk can help you mentally wind down the work day.
Complete tasks away from the computer
It’s good to keep in mind that the computer is only one of many tools at your disposal, and that you should whenever possible work in other mediums. Stepping away from the computer and using a different tool to complete a task can be mentally refreshing, encourage exploration and can help reset energy for a new task. As a design team, we often take this approach and sketch out ideas on paper whenever possible before working on the computer.
Taking small breaks throughout the work day can help keep you motivated and focused. Short walks or doing small tasks like emptying the dishwasher can help clear your mind when you’re working on a tough problem. Shifting your focus to simple tasks during breaks can help reset your mind and inspire new solutions. It’s what designers like Cameron Moll refer to as “creative pause.” Sometimes taking a break can slip your mind when you’re secluded and are in the zone. Setting an alert that goes off during certain parts of the day can help remind you to get up, stretch and walk away for a bit.
Switch up your routine
Routines are great, but too much repetition can be boring and reduce your motivation. If you can’t seem to focus on a task, don’t be afraid to change things up. It can be something as small as removing yourself from your home office and working at a coffee shop, or moving to a standing desk for part of your day.
It’s important that you feel connected to your team and the work that you do. Feeling isolated can interfere with your motivation and focus, and the lack of personal connection can make you feel less accountable when working on a team. If you’re feeling disconnected, don’t be afraid to reach out to coworkers for a quick non work-related chat. At Lullabot, we have several co-workers that join a morning coffee or afternoon lunch Hangout. You can also reach out into the community and join local meet-ups if you’re itching to talk shop in person with someone.
Hopefully by experimenting with a couple of these suggestions, you can more consistently maintain your motivation, focus and have productive, rewarding work days. Have other suggestions to add to this list? I’d love to hear what helps you to stay motivated throughout your workday.