When you’re not physically able to go to work, you might find yourself losing your motivation, if for no other reasons due to all the distractions.
You may begin to feel like your routine is on the same endless loop – groundhog day over and over again.
Are you noticing your productivity dropping off, or your desire to stay in bed in your jammies increasing?
It’s all understandable – after all, this isn’t the routine you’re used to and have mastered.
But for all professionals – including those of you who were already working from home, and those who don’t have a choice anymore – what if you could access motivation on-demand?
You’d be more focused and energetic for certain!
The Secret to On-Demand Motivation
Think about a work proposal that got you glowing praise from your superior or colleagues.
Or about how you felt when you completed a project you worked really hard on.
Or even something like completing a marathon, or cooking a recipe that impressed everyone.
You felt great about yourself, right?
This sense of reward happens thanks to the mesolimbic or reward pathway of your brain activating when you accomplish something.
A neurotransmitter, dopamine, spikes up in your system, and is the reason you experience this rush of pleasure and a sense of reward.
And your brain enjoys this sensation so much that it wants to experience it again.
This desire to repeat what you did to unlock this sense of reward – continue working, complete more projects, run more races, etc. – is motivation!
Essentially, dopamine spikes up in your system in anticipation of a reward, and this is what drives you to keep going.
And in this article, I’m going to show you how to increase dopamine levels in a healthy and safe way, on-demand, to keep your motivation high when working at home!
7 Ways to Stay Motivated When Working from Home
1. Start Your Day with Some Tea
You might need your caffeine fix every morning to wake yourself up, but your regular mug of black coffee might have some unhealthy side effects.
Coffee contains a high level of caffeine, which works to block the neurotransmitter adenosine in your brain.
Adenosine works to slow down your neurons or braincells – this is what causes you to feel drowsy and sluggish and readies you for sleep.
By blocking adenosine, a cup of coffee can “wake you up”, helping your brain work faster and boosting the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine that keep you alert and focused.
However, the more you drink coffee, the more you’re likely to develop a tolerance to it, and even experience withdrawals when you don’t have your daily fix.
You’ll end up experiencing headaches, feeling grouchy, and unable to focus on your work.
Coffee might also make worse any symptoms of anxiety, can give you the jitters or heart palpitations, all stress-inducing and not exactly conducive for better focus at work.
This is why I recommend having black or green teas to start your day instead.
Teas – green teas specifically, contain the amino acid l-theanine.
L-theanine also boosts the production of dopamine, along with other neurotransmitters like serotonin.
These work to keep you alert, awake, and in a good mood too.
The difference is that l-theanine does this without giving you the same jitters as a cup of black coffee.
In fact, studies show that l-theanine helps relax you. while keeping you alert.
So not only does a cup of green tea – I personally love organic, ceremonial grade matcha – wake you up and keep you focused and motivated, it also keeps you calm and clearheaded to start your day!
2. Take a Cold Shower
Why not start your day off with a cold shower?
This might sound unpleasant to those of you who swear by your hot showers, but cold showers can increase dopamine levels too!
Think about how you feel when you jump into a cold pool or into the sea.
After that first blast of cold, doesn’t your head feel clear? Don’t you feel almost happy?
This is because not only does this sudden contact with cold water increase dopamine in your system (by almost 530%!) it also reduces concentrations of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Give it a try! After the initial shock of cold, after your body adjusts to the temperature, you’ll find yourself clearheaded and in a good mood to start your day.
3. Take More Breaks to Increase Productivity
You know how you can start your day wanting to maintain high levels of motivation? But what about continuing to stay motivated throughout the rest of the day?
One of the methods I recommend in my course, Total Recall Learning™, is taking brain-friendly breaks.
I say “brain-friendly” because neuroscience shows that breaks are a necessary part of learning and productivity!
If you find that the longer you spend trying to focus on work, the less you’re able to actually focus and recall material from earlier in the session, this is why!
What happens when you’re focusing on something, your brain is using its working memory.
Your hippocampus, a part of your brain inside your temporal lobe, temporarily stores information you’re absorbing here, waiting to make a connection and associating with your existing knowledge.
But your working memory has a limited capacity, and when you surpass this capacity, it’s like a glass of water overflowing.
On the other hand, taking a short break of just 5 minutes, to stretch or grab a glass of water, can help restore your working memory to full capacity.
It allows your brain to switch to default mode. Because it isn’t focusing on absorbing new information, it reviews what you learned, and connects it with what you already know.
This is what allows you to generate new ideas, problem-solve, and commit what you’re learning to long-term memory.
And every time you complete one of your work sessions – keep them around 20 to 25 minutes – you feel far more accomplished than if you kept glancing at the clock waiting for your 8-hour workday to end.
In fact, the just sheer act of completing a single task raises your dopamine – your motivation molecule! It makes you want to feel this again and you’ll actually get more done when you keep your working sessions to just 20-25 minutes at a time.
Voila! No more struggle to stay motivated – all because you took more breaks!
4. Create the Right Workspace
Since you’re at home, you might be working on your couch, at your kitchen table, or even in your bed.
And as tempting as it is, to try and relax while working, a luxury you don’t always have at work, working from the couch or bed is actually harmful for your productivity.
There’s even plenty more ways you can get distracted at home – pets, kids, people coming to the door, binge eating – the list goes on and on.
Once you get distracted, brain research shows it can take your brain almost 30 minutes to fully refocus on the task at hand.
So distractions actually have the opposite effect on your dopamine levels than the one you want.
The sense of reward has been withheld, dopamine levels tank, and you end up feeling demotivated.
So, to maintain your focus and motivation, it’s important that you create the right environment to enhance your focus when you’re working.
Pick an area of your home that is devoid of distractions, without things like the TV or your gaming console staring you in the face to tempt you away.
Make sure it’s away from places where your family members, flatmates, partners, etc. might regularly pass through. Get one of those cool privacy screens and it can help if people are passing through your work area.
Choose a desk and chair to work at instead of someplace you typically relax, like your bedroom or living room. I don’t recommend looking out a window either – again – distractions.
And if you’re a feng shui fan, you always want to face the front door because it allegedly creates better enegy coming into your home. Or that’s at least what multi-million book best-selling author Jack Canfield says, after he moved his desk to face the front door. More opportunities came his way once he moved his desk from looking out the window.
Since your brain associates certain places, like your bedroom with rest and relaxation, moving your desk to a different location will help your motivation levels.
5. Block or Disable Distracting Websites and Apps
Since you’re at home, you have greater freedom to use your socials or have Netflix or YouTube running in the background as you work.
As I mentioned earlier though, losing focus for a few seconds can lead to nearly half an hour of struggling to refocus.
And this in turn can lead to falling dopamine levels and motivation.
To make the most of your work hours so you can enjoy your entertainment guilt-free, I recommend blocking apps and websites that you think might distract you.
In fact, if you find yourself losing several minutes of time scrolling through your socials, or spending hours trying to look for something to watch on YouTube, dopamine is part of the reason.
Because your brain expects a sense of reward from a social media notification, or finding something good to watch online, you end up spending lots of time on these websites or apps even when nothing is happening.
If you’re unable to stay away from checking these things frequently on your own, you can use website blockers like Freedom, for both Windows and Mac, or StayFocused, a Google Chrome extension.
You can turn notifications for certain apps off on your phone for the duration of your work hours, too.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Another time you might want to turn your devices off or put them away is during bedtime.
The blue light from your screens can mess with your circadian rhythms and make your brain think it’s daytime and that it needs to be awake and alert.
This, combined with the dopamine-induced expectation of rewards from endless scrolling online, can disrupt your sleep.
And sleep is absolutely necessary for your motivation, along with other important things like memory, mood, and health.
When you sleep, your hippocampus and neocortex run through the things you experienced during the day, make sense of them, and store them in your long-term memory.
Moreover, when you don’t get enough sleep, your dopamine levels the following day are lower, causing you to feel forgetful, tired, sluggish and unfocused.
Not getting enough sleep also affects the part of your brain called the amygdalae, which also regulates memory along with emotions like stress, anxiety, fear and so on.
Without the right amount of quality sleep, your amygdalae can grow in size, and you tend to be more reactive to negative emotions from the day before.
It also causes brain fog, so along with being in a negative state of mind, you’re also unable to focus and think clearly.
A good 8 hours of sleep on the other hand restores your dopamine levels, and you wake up in what is called an alpha brain wave state.
Out of the four brain wave states (alpha, beta, theta and gamma), this state is the most ideal for learning, productivity and motivation.
You wake up alert, but also relaxed and calm.
Studies find that even a short nap during your day can improve your productivity and help increase the number of items moving into your long term memory.
So, make sure you’re putting your devices away before bedtime, and getting enough quality rest at the end of the day!
Sleep experts say to keep your room as cool as possible (they even recommend 66 degrees), and as dark as possible. If there’s a lot of light coming in from your window, or electronic devices, it messes with your sleep quality, so put a tshirt over your eyes or get a sleep mask and you’ll find that you sleep much better.
7. Get Some Exercise
Anything from a short walk to a full workout session can help improve your dopamine levels!
Physical activity has multiple benefits for your motivation and productivity.
The increased blood circulation, rich in oxygen, to your brain helps speed up neural connectivity.
This refers to the speed at which your braincells or neurons create connections as it learns new things, creates memory, generates ideas and solves problems.
This, along with the dopamine and other mood-boosting chemical messengers like serotonin and endorphins, put you in the perfect state for working.
You experience greater motivation, a better mood, as well as improved cognitive efficiency to help you stay at your most productive.
And working out has plenty of physical health benefits too when you’re spending so much time at home!
There you have it! Here are 7 ways to stay motivated when working from home.
Which one are you trying out first?
Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.
Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™.
She is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!