7 Ways to Stay Motivated While Working Remotely

One of my favorite aspects of being a freelance writer is working remotely. Before freelance writing, I dabbled in work from home culture during the fall semester of my junior year, and I loved it. The position I held was only about 10 hours a week, and I was able to do the work whenever I wanted as long as I got it done. When I stumbled upon freelance writing during my senior fall, I similarly loved the idea of being able to set my own schedule. There were some days I struggled with productivity, but I slowly began to compile tips that would help me stay motivated while working remotely. 

When March 2020 rolled around, everyone joined work from home culture due to COVID-19. And suddenly, so many more needed tips on how to stay on top of their work in a different atmosphere. In this blog, I’ll share my 7 best tips on how to stay motivated while working remotely. 

1. Establish a schedule

The way you structure your day is ultimately up to you, but it should have a regular cadence. When I was traveling full-time during 2019 and early 2020, I would often do a few hours of work in the early morning, go out and explore, and then continue to work after dinnertime. These hours were outside of the typical 9-5 workday, but it worked for me. I didn’t mind that they were non-traditional. 

Today, while living on the North Shore of Oahu, I keep a much more typical daily schedule. I normally work when I wake up in the morning until my productivity pitters out in the afternoon. I firmly believe that knowing when I’m going to work helps me to stay on top of my to-do list and alleviate stress. 

2. Create a workspace

I’ll say it here. I’m very much a couch/bed worker and that’s about as anti-work from home and anti-productivity as you can get. Everything I’ve ever read online or heard from other remote workers includes setting up a fancy desk with a good chair. It just doesn’t work for me. I advocate creating a space where you know you’ll be productive. In my current apartment, I’m most productive not at my kitchen counter, desk, or bed but on my living room couch. It’s where I get the most done. It’s right near a big window, and I rarely feel like I’m going to fall asleep there unless it’s a time I should be sleeping anyway (like 11 PM). 

Think about the conditions you need to be productive. If it’s a desk and chair, great! If a kitchen table near a window works for you, perfect! If it’s on a couch with a coffee table like me, that’s okay too. It’s all about knowing where you’ll be most successful and rolling with it. 

3. Work in small blocks of time

There are some days that I wake up, look at my schedule, and think, “There’s no way I can do all of that today.” 

And that’s simply not true. It’s just how it’s written down that’s making it look overwhelming. When my to-do list is getting the better of me, I try to break it up into small and specific blocks of time. For example, I know it only takes me around 20 to 30 minutes to write 500 words if I’m motivated and focused. Sometimes it can take even less depending on the topic. I’ll set a timer for 20 minutes and try to knock it out as fast as I can. Once I get one order or project done, I’ll move on to the next. Slowly, one by one, I’ll move down my to-do list, feeling motivated that I’ve been productive that day. 

4. Get up and move

Throughout the day, I often find myself stuck. I’ve been staring at my computer screen for hours, and my cursor has only moved inches. To remedy this, I get up and move. I do a simple household chore, I go to the beach, I rollerblade around the block. I do anything at all to change my scenery before I continue working. More often than not, this is enough to shake me back into productivity even if it’s only been 10 minutes. 

5. Make a to-do list

I’ve mentioned a to-do list quite a few times above, and it’s been a game-changer for me while working remotely. Having a clear to-do list is essential when it comes to doing the right things in the right order. It’s very possible to procrastinate while “being productive” if I don’t have a to-do list telling me what needs to be done that day or even at that point in the day. I’ll see an order due 3 days from now that looks less stressful or more interesting and begin working on that instead of the order due in 2 hours. Crafting a clear to-do list early in the day (or even the night before) allows me to ground myself for the day and stay focused. 

6. Be realistic

While my to-do list is a helpful tool, I occasionally look at it and get overwhelmed. I’ll have optimistically put 10+ things on that list for a single day hoping I can achieve them all. At some point in the day, I have to step back, realize that I’m only human, and be realistic about my own limits. It’s okay if it doesn’t get done. If I get even 75% of my to-do list done, then I’m in a good spot. It’s okay to be optimistic, but it pays to be realistic with yourself and with clients. If you feel you have a mounting list and nothing is getting down, you won’t be able to stay motivated or productive. 

7. Know when to call it quits

There are some days that working remotely just seems impossible. My eyes are burning from staring at my computer screen, and my mind is anywhere but client work. And you know what? That’s okay when you don’t have that many deliverables. One of the best things about working remotely is that you’re able to structure your own schedule and be your own boss in many ways. If it’s 2 PM and I’ve largely done what I’ve needed to do that day…I’ll call it a day, get a good night’s rest, and start early the next day.

Final thoughts

It’s looking more and more like working remotely is the future of work. I feel fortunate to have found my love for work from home before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It’s allowed me to reflect upon what helps me to stay motivated while working remotely and share it with others who may want to head back into the office. 

For more remote working tips, check out my book Remotely Exceptional: A Playbook for Companies and Their Remote Workers on Amazon.