When the reality of COVID-19 sunk in, finding the motivation to keep up with work or school each day dropped to the bottom of a long list of concerns for a lot of individuals. Five months later, daily responsibilities and the COVID-19 pandemic are still going strong, and for many, this means being at home and in front of a screen for hours at a time.
With no clear end in sight, adjusting to the new normal of working from home has understandably taken its toll; uncertainty about the future, challenges with mental and physical health, constantly being in the same environment, and having to stay distant from peers and colleagues are just some of the things affecting our ability to even focus on our daily responsibilities, let alone tackle them with any sort of enthusiasm. It’s no surprise that as the weeks go on, staying motivated seems like an impossible task.
Acknowledging such obstacles to motivation, however, is an important step in managing them. While we may know how new and difficult the current situation is—having likely heard the word “unprecedented” more times than we can count—that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to boost motivation when working from home begins to wear us down. Here are six tips to do just that!
1. Lay Out Your SMART Goals. Goal setting is an excellent method for building up your motivation. Finding the motivation to tackle work and school can feel pointless if we see no direction. Therefore, setting personal goals gives us something to work toward, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has left many feeling like they are floating in space.
Now, this doesn’t have to mean shooting for the stars right away—start small, and remember to keep your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Maybe your goal is to exercise three times a week; maybe it’s to send out that one email you’ve been putting off, or maybe it is to take time out for yourself to just do nothing and rest. Whatever your goals may be, jot them down for when you need a reminder of where you’re headed.
2. Tackle Your Daily Tasks. Having goals set up can help us frame the future and stay on track, but sometimes that isn’t quite enough to drum up much-needed motivation—especially if the day ahead is still filled with uncertainty. One way to regain control over that uncertainty, however, is to plan out your daily tasks.
When the day ahead is still bouncing around in your mind, along with everything else trying to grab your attention, it can seem a lot more overwhelming, making it a challenge to feel motivated to tackle those tasks. Seeing the pieces of your day laid out in front of you can help declutter your mind and provide a more accurate picture of what you have going on. This list can include work-related tasks like a 3:00 meeting or non-work-related tasks like making your bed or eating breakfast. Going a step further, crossing out each task once it’s finished can be a weight off of your shoulders, and the immediate reward of seeing the list get smaller can give an extra boost.
3. Build Your Routine. Just as with planning out your daily tasks, control is key in a time where so much is up in the air; it can be difficult to stay motivated when you feel as though you have no idea what is going to happen next. Now is the time to start building in small aspects of your routine, as a way to add some predictability back into your life. Again, this doesn’t mean adding a hundred new parts to each day—start small and test out a few habits here or there.
For example, maybe each morning you like to drink a cup of tea before you start work, or you want to take a long walk each afternoon. By creating little habits that you can count on, you can regain a bit of control and predictability, and focusing on these things may not only ease some of the emotions present due to the pandemic but also give the feeling of a stronger grip on each day.
4. Emphasize Self-Care. One of the most common pieces of advice for someone feeling the mental/emotional impact of COVID-19 is to emphasize self-care—and this is a go-to for a reason! If we continue to drive forward and push ourselves during such a period of anxiety and stress, we will burn completely out without realizing it. Dedicating time each day for things that focus on your mental and physical health is crucial.
You can even narrow this focus onto caring for your motivation. When feeling particularly unmotivated, hammering away at your brain to continue on a task can not only be exhausting, but it can often be completely counterproductive. Sometimes, we have to let our minds take the wheel and ask ourselves: “What am I motivated to do right now?” It could be that you are struggling to motivate yourself to finish that article, but you are really motivated to finally start practicing the guitar. If so, set aside 30 minutes to play. Allowing your brain to direct your motivation for a bit of time can re-energize you and reset your attention so that you feel fresh when you sit back down to the work/school-related task. It also can remind your brain that there is motivation in there, it just needed to be guided out!
5. Stay Social. Another significant way to boost your motivation when working from home is to keep up with social connections. Staying distant from one another can be harder for some than others, and we don’t realize how important interacting with others is until something like a pandemic pushes us apart. Without the certainty of peers, friends, or even family in close proximity, many are left feeling alienated and even anxious, making the motivation for daily tasks even harder to come by.
Luckily, technology has brought us to an age where other people are a simple text, call, or FaceTime away, and while too much screen time can sometimes do more harm than good, having at least one person you can turn to when you need inspiration, a boost, or a vent session might be what you are looking for when feeling unmotivated. Even when socially distancing, try to make room—six feet at least—for the people in your life.
6. Seek Out Therapy. For many, COVID-19 has stirred mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and it is not unlikely that challenges with mental health could pose a significant obstacle to motivation. Seeking out a licensed mental health professional will provide a space for you to discuss the source of your difficulty to stay motivated, as well as provide techniques or strategies for managing disruptive thoughts and emotions. Visiting websites like Psychology Today, asking friends for referrals to their therapist, and even talking to your physician are great resources to begin connecting with a mental health professional.
Although there may be more uncertainties than certainties at the moment, it does not have to mean that motivation, energy, and productivity are out of reach. Acknowledging the challenges that we currently face while finding places to take a bit of control back into your life will allow you to find those elusive bursts of motivation and take on each day in the best way possible!
To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.
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