Things that have helped me:
* Clear the goddamn desk. Things on your desk other than what you need is a distraction even if you see them and don't act on them.
* If you're like me, you have certain pavlovian impulses to hit up your favorite social media sites. HN has anti-procrastination features, use them. There's also black-listing browser extensions you can turn-on so you don't go to whatever time suck social media you use.
* Commit yourself to doing at least some meaningful work everyday. It's OK if it's only a short time. 1 or 2 hours of intense focus can easily look like a solid day's work to anyone that's paying attention to productivity.
* Talk to human beings one-on-one. If you can't help yourself, try helping someone else. You will feel better about work. Just call them up and offer to help them out of the blue. If not a co-worker, then a friend.
* When you take a break, really take a break. When you sit at your desk, really work.
These work for me. They may not work for you or anyone else.
Keep your work and private computer separate. Makes it much easier to do work when on the work machine and social network stuff when on the personal machine.
Failing that, have two separate accounts on your computer.
If possible, take breaks and lunch in a separate room from the computer.
I use Firefox as my personal/side project browser and Chrome/Edge for work. NEVER, EVER do personal or side project work on a computer you do not own - in most states that's enough for your employer to be able to claim IP ownership in anything you do. If you have to, go buy a used $100 laptop or Chromebook. If you can't afford that, you have no business pursuing a side hustle yet, anyway.
I've accidentally found that a shared monitor helps - I have a nice, big, 4K monitor that's way nicer than the dreck my employer provides, so I use it for work, too. Because I actually have to switch the input and that's a bit of a pain, it keeps things focused on work until the end of the day, when I switch over until the next morning. (This would be easier if the POS MacOS could properly detect the removal of monitors - Windows does this flawlessly!)
Staying focused or motivated is a goal that shouldn't be a goal in the sense that if you take care of your mental health. Motivation and staying focused will naturally occur. Per person it differs what you need to do to stay healthy, maybe see a therapist if things go bad (e.g. if it really affects your daily living).
But in general it boils down to these things:
-Do work you enjoy, i.e. that relates to the values you have
-Take regular breaks and time-off. No lunch break behind a desk. Take holidays. Don't work 80 hours a week.
-Do meditation/yoga and/or sports to stay physically healthy and lower stress
-Do fun things next to your work that activate/stimulate your body. Playing guitar, painting, meeting friends, cooking. Watching TV / doing computer games is more of the same behind a screen work and thus does not re-energize you
-Take care of your social life, meet friends, family etc.
Hope this helps. Otherwise check Happify for exercises and tracks around this topic.
The reason a lot of men struggle, especially younger ones, is that our society overall, especially single-parent homes headed by women, don't provide an example of this.
If you need advice on this topic, check out the Red Pill and MGTOW channels on Youtube. They emphasize being on your purpose first, and dating last.
The work isn't interesting: Depending on your team dynamics you may be able to talk to your boss about this and try to get some more interesting stuff added to your plate. If you work for a toxic org or you're on a very small team this may not be possible. And to add another answer that people typically don't like - just do it. I just saw this tweet yesterday and it was very timely for me as I've been struggling with motivation this week and last.
The pace of the work isn't interesting: I have trouble motivating if I have too little work - "oh I have three days to do this 4 hour task!" I also have trouble motivating if I have way too much - "I'm definitely missing one of these deadlines" and I worry about whichever task I'm not working on at any given moment. Having too little work may be an indication that you're ready for the next level in your career, at your current org or elsewhere. If you have too much, you need to talk to your boss.
You're home so much: Go for a run. Get your own groceries instead of Instacart or drive to get your carry-out instead of using DoorDash. Go for a drive for no reason. There are plenty of ways to get out of the house without being risky about it unless you are high-risk.
Let me ask you: How often do you exercise? Do you meditate? When was the last time you lost yourself on a good walk? Have you been taking vitamin D supplements (important for us northerners during the winter)? Lastly, when was the last time you met up with a few friends for coffee (if viable in your location)?
Motivation and mild depression can be easily conflated.
Next try to move around or set non-work tasks or outdoor tasks for breaks or even during all-company calls if you have them. Going for a walk or gardening or even laying outside in the sun for a 60 minute zoom call that you're only a passive observer on does wonders compared to sitting in an all-room office.
Also avoid any escaping behaviors (e.g. addictive) like alcohol, drugs, video games, social media, etc. If you start doing these things from a place of weakness things get ugly fast. Only do them from a position of strength like celebrating something not because you're bored/unmotivated.
Second, a while ago someone reframed the "motivation" concept to me and it's been really beneficial. It's easy to think of "motivation" as an extrinsic concept, but most of what we call "motivation" is actually better termed "discipline". It's a lot easier to fix "discipline" issues than "motivation" issues.
Lastly, if the issue is deeper look into the japanese philosophy of ikigai.
(I also find music can be pretty useful)
As I go through the workday, I move tasks from "need to do today" to "doing" or "did today". The "did today" list becomes what I tell my team the next day at standup.
I also have lists for "need to do this sprint" and "need to do sometime (non-sprint work)".
I track my time working. I use an iOS app called ATracker Pro, and I like it because it's local-first and simple. When I am engaged in work or doing something work-related and mandatory (trainings, OS upgrades, etc.), the timer is ticking. When I step away for lunch, bathroom, breaks, etc., or feel like browsing Hacker News for a while, I stop the timer. I have a goal for myself of 7 hours of work a day, and 35 hours of work a week. The app notifies me when I hit the goals. Some days I manage only 5 hours, while other days I exceed 10.
The time tracking is for me to stay accountable to myself. My workplace doesn't require me to track/log time. It's simply for me to know that I am giving my employer the time they expect of me... not less, and preferably not more. It helps me to find work/life balance. I can allow myself to take a nap in the middle of the day, or start work late, and know that it'll work out.
I try to be consciously aware of procrastination. The timer is to help with that (so I stop the timer if I feel like procrastinating---then I can do so guilt-free). But also, I am aware that procrastination is an emotion management problem, not a time management problem. Reflecting on that helps me to break out of it. I ask myself, what do I feel negatively about? Is the task too vague? Are the implementation details unpleasant? What's the smallest step I can take to make progress?
Lastly, I recommend the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," specifically the first three: Be Proactive, Begin With The End In Mind, and Put First Things First.
- When it's difficult to start the day, I usually fool myself, I'll say OK I'll try 25 minutes and see if this works, usually I get hooked and continue working for hours.
- Try to adjust the task in hand so it is not so boring and not so challenging
- If you finish working leave something half finished (and a bit exciting) for the next day, since usually the start is the most difficult part I leave something unfinished that I actually want to do from the work I'm doing
1. Exercising well (45-60 min of strenuous exercise, 4-6 days per week, walks for sun exposure)
2. Eating well (limited junk food, no alcohol, no eating outside of a fixed time window, home cooked, mostly veggies)
3. Sleeping well (8 hours, consistent timing, early to bed, no caffeine after noon)
You feel better for doing all those things and want to keep doing them as a result usually. I love to lift heavy weights and sleep. Eating healthy not so much but life isn't all about having what you want all the time.
I do differ with the no caffeine past noon though. I don't have too much trouble with caffeine and falling asleep though.
Apart from sleeping well, fitness & diet are tough at first but once you get in the flow they're easy and actually become a part of what you love to do. Just got to find the right workout for you.
Something I’m currently experimenting with is to practice sport outside and more regularly. I just got a bike with the goal to go outside a bit every day or so, and relieve my anxieties and other sources of tensions.
That worked for me in the past with other types of sports but all sport facilities (swimming pools, squash courts, bouldering areas, etc) are currently closed here. So let’s see if biking helps ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I'd say try to enjoy this, focus on things other than work for now.
- Use the Leechblock browser extension (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/leechblock-ng...) to block all distracting sites (facebook, twitter, news sites etc) from 8.30 to 6.
- Leave my phone across the room. Your phone should never be in your sight.
- Use tactile and audible gadgets (not computer or phone apps) to keep track of time, such as:
- I bought one of the cube timers with audible and flashing lights on Amazon to remind myself to close my eyes for 2 mins after every 20 mins of work. This podomoro timer gives me a sense of momentum throughout the day.
- I use timeular (https://timeular.com/), an 8-sided physical Bluetooth time tracker, to accurately track the time I spent on various tasks during the day. Once I've spent 7-8 hours of work-related tasks, I feel completely free to stop working. This encourages me to focus on work during the day.
Obviously where your home office is matters a great deal. I am occupying whole basement of the house. I can imagine someone in small apartment with kids would have absolutely horrible experience in comparison and I can't imagine being able to concentrate on any work in such environment.
Sometimes I feel mentally wasted and I just go for a bike ride, hike, swim whatever.
If it is due lack of social contact (due to working from home), try hanging out with friends or acquaintances everyday. It's a good idea to do that anyways.
Lack of exercise and exposure to sunlight can be a factor. Being outside on a nice sunny morning really cheers me up. Carve out time to walk in a park or in the midst of nature.
If the work isn't interesting, try to see if there are other places you can contribute and ask for it. If you can also identify a interesting problem worth solving then you can own it and run with it.
Lack of appreciation at work or from colleagues can also be a factor. If that is the case, acknowledge that many are also going through a rough time at this point. Perhaps you can help set an example and try influencing the culture a little bit. For e.g. an attaboy on a solid PR to a colleague or engaging in conversations outside of work before start of meetings.
I've tried many things but I've come to the conclusion that I will never have the same motivation for tasks I'm not interested in.
I've found that if I sit around and wait for that motivation to hit, it will never come so it basically boils down to "just doing it".
I know how that sounds but I have to just force myself to do it. I have the opposite problem with my own projects... I work on them to a fault so I'm not sure how to resolve this other than to start my own business.
- Working at a cafe, if they're open near you. Prevents distractions like porn, pets, TV.
- Getting a physical pomodoro timer like this: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000J5OFW0/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b... I tried the webapps and they just wouldn't stick. I needed something on my desk that I cannot minimize or close. I set it to 40 min blocks for "work" in which I devote myself to staying focused. Every time I want to click away to youtube, I glance at the timer and it brings my focus back. When it's done, I set it for a 10 minute break. This is what I did in college too.
If I have any tips, first, try to figure out why you can't focus or you aren't motivated. If you can't focus because of a distraction and it can be removed, remove it. If it can't be removed, can you remove yourself (to another room or even outside for a bit)?
Getting motivated can be tough, because there's probably a million things that can factor into that and your job is only one of them. That takes some self reflection and maybe a friend to talk it over with. One clue you've given is that you seem to lament spending so many hours of your day at home. Prioritize getting outside when you can, if only for a walk. Work outside for a bit if you can.
In the before times, most of us went to offices and we got into "work" mode. Offices are specifically designed for that. An astonishing amount of GDP is spent on offices to "encourage" you to focus.
In these times, I highly recommend a dedicated physical location in your home where you try to only do work (an office if you have a house, a small desk if you have an apartment). Working on the couch does not work for me. In fact, it makes it worse.
If you can manage it, put your phone as far as physically away from possible. The phone is a pandora's box of distraction. I don't care how much self-control you have or if you have turned all notifications. If you can have it within arms-length, you are always within arms reach of losing focus.
I work from a laptop and desk in my bedroom, and in the evening if I want to do "computery" thing, I move down to my basement where I've a gaming rig set up. There, I can work on side projects, play video games with friends, etc...
The only rule I make is that I can't work on side-projects on my laptop, or work on my main work on my second rig.
In terms of diversifying my schedule, I try to not work on any one thing for more than 2 hours. I force myself to either work on something else, take a coffee break, or literally anything else.
Edit: Suggestions for OP. Find purpose; keep your workplace tidy and if possible try to separate work from your free time as much as possible.
also go outside for a short walk to simulate the daily commute.
I bought a PS5 and have been doing most of my gaming on that in a separate area and it's helped in both aspects.
1. Use one monitor. Dont have videos or TV on. Dont do non work related things before work.
2. Breaking tasks into manageable chunks so you can experience meaningful progress. Watching yourself complete things spurs you on, but only if you arent dwelling on the overwhelming nature of the task. Focus on the little picture.
However, this could simply be a mental health thing in anyone's case. There is nothing to lose and nothing to be ashamed of by consulting a professional about it.
But that’s not always sufficient. As several others have pointed out: he/she who has a why can endure almost any how. Find your purpose & goal, and align your work with that purpose. The concept of ikigai is a good starting point.
We start each day with a video call with the team. Even when there's not much to say. Sometimes I just have a voice channel on discord open with a few colleagues where we can spit our stuff.
It wouldn't replace being in an office but some of their features definitely helps create a sense of being somewhere else such as having a desk, meeting areas etc.
What I am currently trying to do is to find a office space just for myself close by but that has proven pretty hard since everybody is expecting to write contract for > 6 months.
The working from home part I have a lot of experience with:
1. Rituals are an important factor in maintaining a psychological distance from your work and your personal life. Create a concrete, formulaic morning routine! Get dressed in certain clothes for work, wear different clothes in the evening. Listen to a particular genre of music at work that you never, ever listen to in your leisure time.
The goal is to have your brain associate certain behaviours and feelings with particular stimuli. I don't have any papers to cite about the effectiveness of this practice but I've been working from home for years at a time and I can't imagine why I would ever go back to commuting to an office regularly. This has been more important for me when I don't have a dedicated home office!
2. Don't stress about being butt-in-seat. Go for a walk if you get in a rut. Take a 15 minute nap if you get sleepy in the afternoon. You'll get most of your work done during the day and often your subconscious brain needs time to work and it does that when you're not paying attention to things. Focus on getting good quality work time in. Across all industries, knowledge-workers are most productive when they are well-rested and are not stressed out.
3. Talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns if you're not getting enough. Sleep is key.
4. Do not forgo ergonomics. This goes whether in an office or at home but you need a good physical space that is suited to your body type and needs. Don't try to hunch over a laptop at your kitchen table for hours at a time. Get up, move around, try different postures and aim to get whatever funds you can access through your company, government, local network to get proper equipment.
5. Have a local network of folks you can meet up with on the regular. Pandemic times and all but even if you can meet on a corner for a little water-cooler chat it helps build a sense of place and belonging. Lots of people are working from home these days. In non-pandemic situations I'd go for coffee at a regular cafe we'd meet at and had a pass to a local co-working space. Being out in your community and seeing those familiar strangers along the way is a good thing and worth holding on to.
In the end, it turned out that I had undiagnosed ADHD that had been accommodated by an almost perfect office environment. At home, the glaring lack of focus became a huge issue.
I don’t know if you may have the same, but to my understanding this is how many people have first discovered symptoms.
Second advice is - Get a routine. Learned about it from a book - Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make time, Find Inspiration and Get to Work.
"Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself."
The book has short paragraphs and anecdotes about world famous artists, writers, novelist, musicians, scientist, painters etc, so some people may find it boring. But I keep reading it intermittently.
Motivation is fleeting, sometimes it's not there. And in those situations, discipline helps you continue doing what you do.
Since everything that can distract me (except HN) is blocked in Linux, I am forced to reboot to access it which is a great deterrent.
The gaming setup doesnt have slack/messenger and all those distracting things so when i boot it up in the evening i know im off work.
Speaking of which...
- Stay physically active / exercise
- Get sunlight every once in a while
- Stay socially, intimately, and sexually active
Add a pomodoro ticker on top of that, and you're good to go.
I've worked mostly at home for most of the last 20 years (albeit with some BIC periods, depending on customer work) and I have found the last year terribly difficult, far more than any other period (even when I first started working mostly from home after about 15 years of full-time BIC).
Sometime yesterday I just stopped. I couldn't work anymore. I had plenty to do, but I felt drained, far more fatigued than simple lack of sleep would explain.
Long story short, playing cards with my GF for an hour before supper then vegging for the evening and getting a solid night's sleep reset things for me.
I had burnt myself out, again. There's been a lot of that this past year.
My prescription? Little things.
1) Take breaks.
Even if you have a lot to do. Even if breaks are essentially somewhere else in the house right now. Get away from your screens, do something that allows as much of your work self as possible to disengage. For me, this means not reading, not even wrenching (unless the project on the go is well in hand, or something I can do without thinking, like changing the brakes or oil).
This the toughest one for me. I am not a gym rat and have no love of exercise, but I love how I feel afterwards. Force yourself to get a walk, do squats, pushups, anything. It really does help.
3) Keep a schedule, more or less. Keep separate work and non-work places.
Working from homes gives you 7/24 access to work, and sometimes work is a break from the real world and its covidiots and its selfish twits. For me, engaging in work gives me a break from that selfish, twitty, covidioty world.
But work fatigues your work self, and too much work self fatigue exhausts it to the point you can no longer work.
4) Forgive yourself. Be graceful with yourself.
We are our own worst critics, we see our "flaws" thousands of times larger than they are - if they "are" at all (cf "spotlight effect"). Some days, the schedule will be hard to maintain, exercise won't fit in to that schedule, the non-work-self distractions will pale, or any of a thousand other things will cause you to ignore the advice you have given yourself, the routine you have tried to keep, and you will skip the breaks or the workout or you will overwork.
And you will be tempted to chastise yourself, to be angry with yourself. Don't, don't be.
Forgive yourself as you would forgive someone else, give yourself permission to backslide today and try again tomorrow.
5) Reach out to others. That helps too. Just like you did here.
We're not "all in this together", necessarily, but we are in this more or less the same way. We can learn from each other, support each other, and that helps us too. Selfish altruism, as it were.