(Image caption: a photograph of a desk and chair, with a mirror hanging on the wall. There are homeware goods on the desk that create a warm atmosphere: fairy lights, a candle, a photo album and beauty products.)
It is safe to say that the shift from working and studying in offices and on-campus to being seated behind a laptop screen all day has been an eye-opening (and eye-straining) experience. Whilst it can be a challenge to adjust to working from home, really we are lucky that the work we are able to do within the publishing industry is still largely do-able, because of technology. The one big difference that I didn’t anticipate, and that I have had to learn to adapt to and am still learning to deal with is this: self-motivation.
I consider myself a hard-working individual; I am always time-conscientious with work and enjoy feeling productive and like I have achieved things with my time. But take away having to get out of bed and get dressed for work and university, and it becomes difficult to get myself into a working mindset. Usually when you would attend classes in person you switch off from outward distractions for a few hours; you are present and surrounded by other people who are all present and concentrating on the same thing. Being at home takes away, essentially, the working environment. Suddenly your main point of contact with colleagues and fellow students becomes typing on a screen, or facing someone through a camera lens. And it very quickly becomes draining. The division of time between being on a phone for leisure and being on a phone for work becomes blurred. It becomes difficult to separate ‘free days’ where you would give yourself a break from studying and ‘working days’ because more-often-than-not you will end up spending time behind the same screen. So what is the solution? What is the answer to self-motivation at home?
For me, creating a studying space at home is essential. Whilst I cannot separate the outlets of technology used for work and leisure, I can separate the physical space in my home where I am to be in the two separate head-spaces. My bedroom, naturally, is my leisure space, where I relax and unwind and watch copious amounts of Netflix and the like. And across the hall in the spare bedroom is where I have set up my working desk. It is important to keep it a neat and tidy space where I don’t become overwhelmed, so I always make sure to organise it after every studying session. It is also important for me to have this space at home because due to studying in a different city from Edinburgh Napier University, I cannot physically be at the uni library.
A great article with tips to self-motivate when working from home is ‘How to Stay Motivated When You Are Working From Home’, published by http://verywellmind.com which is a website with information about mental health. The article mentions some top tips to stay organised at home such as creating a schedule, establishing a separate workspace (which, as mentioned, is one I would recommend), and trying to limit distractions.
Of course, I still have to be strict with myself at times to keep my attention from wandering. Unless I need my phone for a specific task I try to leave it in a different room so I am not tempted to have a scroll on social media or check my notifications, which are things that I would not do were I in a workplace or classroom. Also I try to think of my working hours as ‘shifts’ or ‘classes’ where my time is wholly devoted to these tasks – I need to do this as it can be very tempting when a friend might want to go for a walk in the sunshine to think ‘I’ll just do this task later’ because it is up to me to set my own working hours outside of class.
Although it is a challenging time for all of us, it also gives us a chance to grow and learn about ourselves as people and what we are capable of, because we are coping with a situation we never could have anticipated. And whether we are students or teachers, employers or employees, is it important to recognise that if we can succeed in the current working environment and motivate ourselves from home, it is setting us up to be able to flourish in any working environment at all.