At this time of year, Tommia Hayes is generally busy coordinating with hundreds of business leaders in various states to host her employer’s biggest event of the year, a corporate and social responsibility conference, which usually takes place every June in New York City. York.
That conference, like countless plans planned by the pandemic, is now canceled. But that hasn’t stopped Hayes, the nonprofit HealthCharities senior communications manager, from being as busy as ever.
The 30-year-old Washington, D.C. resident says she works more days now that she has switched to virtual event planning and has taken on entirely new responsibilities on the job; you are earning two professional marketing certifications; and you have to coordinate with your fiance to provide full-time child care and home schooling to your 5-year-old.
Some days Hayes says the workload is energizing and helps her feel like she is making significant contributions to her team, especially during a time when job security is a top concern. But most days, you find the juggling act exhausting.
Hayes is one of many workers who, as they enter their third month of teleworking, their focus and motivation are diminishing.
While many professionals across the country launched the fight to work remotely by sharing productivity tips, morning routines, and modified workspaces, the novelty of the collective experience is now fading.
“Now that we’ve been at this for a couple of months, it’s hard to keep that motivation going for the long haul,” says certified industrial organization psychologist and leadership coach Kimberly Adams.
Motivation can also change if the nature of your work is different, whether you work more hours to meet demand, fewer hours as responsibilities disappear, or you perform tasks outside of your job entirely. CNBC Make It spoke to experts for advice on taking control of your motivation and rethinking what it means to get the job done today.
Take time for yourself every day
Productivity experts say one of the best ways to stay focused in a new environment is to establish a sense of routine. Executive Coach, Keynote Speaker and Management Professor Monique Valcour recommends reserving a few minutes each morning to plan what to do that day. Then, break down what you need to deliver into small, achievable steps you can mark on the go.
Valcour says this can help you feel like you are making significant progress toward a bigger goal, which can be very motivating. Leave longer-term projects for another list (which should also be broken down into steps of weeks or months) so you can focus on what specifically can be accomplished in one day.
Hayes says her 30 minutes of “free time” in the morning have been a great benefit to her routine. “Before my son wakes up, I make a cup of tea, sit down and relax a little,” he says. “I connect early before people are really looking for me to answer anything. Then I go through what I need to process and motivate myself for the day.”
Find out what work gives you energy
When designing what to do every day, make sure you have at least one thing on your to-do list that you enjoy, Valcour says.
“We all have certain tasks that give us a real sense of progress, and others that simply have to be overcome,” says Valcour. “Make sure you have at least one thing each day that will give you a boost that will make you feel more engaged.”
It may be a good idea to turn to your manager to make sure it is aligned with what you are expected to deliver and that it includes work that you find motivating.
Conversations with your boss can also go a long way in helping you feel that your work is valuable to the larger organization, which can help you find meaning in your day-to-day life.
“Understand the purpose of how your tasks fit into the big picture,” says Adams. “If you don’t understand how your work fits into the big picture, it is an opportunity to seek clarification so that you can feel that the work you are doing is valued.”
Build on rewards
After identifying the work that energizes you, you will still need to find ways to drive that you enjoy less but still expect.
Make these tasks feel less complicated by generating rewards than you will have to do once you mark them.
For example, when Adams feels unmotivated to complete a daunting task on her plate, she tells herself that she can enjoy a walk with her dog as soon as she does.
For others, that could mean rewarding yourself with time to sit outside, exercise, listen to a podcast, or play with your children.
“Do it in a personal care way to replenish your energy throughout the day,” says Adams.
Take stock of what you accomplish each day
It’s easy to mark things off a to-do list and immediately add things to go on, which is an easy recipe for burnout. Valcour suggests that workers truly recognize everything they have done in a day or week, task by task, as a visual reminder of what they have accomplished.
“There is a familiar feeling of rushing all day but doing nothing,” says Valcour. “Calculate your structure for a sense of progress, plan your work, and reflect on the things it felt good to work on.”
Talk to your boss
Remote working and living under the stress of a pandemic has caused many people to work longer hours every day. Some may drift into workaholism as a distraction from the news, while others may feel the need to overwork and show that they are afraid of losing their job.
Either way, experts agree that it’s important to be honest with your boss about how you feel about your workload. Discuss what is most challenging for you and get an idea of what support from your boss can help.
If you have less work to do because some parts of your work are not transferable to a home environment, create it with the manager, but they also see potential new ways to contribute to the organization, Adams says.
This was Hayes’ approach when he found changes to his regular tasks, including writing social copies and scheduling virtual events, which meant he had more time to help the team in other ways. For example, Hayes says he has taken on the task of writing more thought leadership pieces on behalf of the company, and that he is helping to supervise a new team member.
“I wanted to make sure [my boss] she knows I’m a team player and I can support her in any way she needs, “says Hayes.” The team is doing everything possible to show their work and demonstrate to the organization that their contributions are significant. “
Prepare well physically
Working remotely can also come at a physical cost, which can affect your mood and motivation to do something productive.
As much as possible, try to keep a separate workspace so that you can physically and mentally disconnect outside of business hours. If you don’t have room for a dedicated space, that could mean you simply set up a tent at the dining room table every morning and remove it, keeping the equipment out of sight when you log out.
Try to change your posture every hour to reduce back, neck and shoulder pain. For example, you can start your day at the kitchen table, then move to a standing position or sit on your soft sofa. Take breaks to stretch, rest your eyes on the screen and recharge mentally throughout the day, says Adams.
As you progress through even more stable times, you will have your days off. Experts say it is important, now more than ever, to be realistic about having those feelings and to be self-compassionate when it happens.
Valcour says he realized he doesn’t have as much energy when the weather is bleak.
“Although I had a lot of outstanding deliverables, I wanted nothing more than to lie on my couch,” he says of a recent bad day. So, he took a minute to think about what he really needed to accomplish that day to meet a deadline. “So I gave myself a little permission to be human,” she says of spending the rest of the day unzipping outside of work. When the weather cleared the next day, she felt refreshed to start again.
“Recognize funk as a signal to take a break and step back and think, ‘What do I want to do to respond in a healthy way?'”
For Hayes, she noted that her son began to adopt the same coping habits when he had bad days. When she felt unmotivated from work and stressed by the news, she watched television, ate, and dropped her routine. When you noticed that your child was doing the same, you decided it was time to be proactive and respond to stress in healthier ways, such as reading, exercising, eating healthy, and going out to play.
“Now, instead of just wanting to watch TV, my son will search YouTube for kids’ exercise videos. And when I read, he picks up his own books or plays with his toys,” says Hayes. “You have to lead by example.”
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