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Career Insights: Staying motivated while working or studying at home

In our latest Career Insights blog, YAIA’s Careers Director, Kate Kalinova, and Careers Officer Lauren Twine, explore ways to stay motivated while working or studying from home.

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc globally, more and more individuals are finding themselves working and studying at home. Depending upon how the crisis unfolds across the world in the coming months, working and studying remotely may be the new norm for an extended period of timesomething that the world has not seen before.

Those who’ve experienced it in recent weeks know first-hand that working remotely requires some adjustment. Specifically, working at home means maintaining your own personal accountability and motivation in the physical absence of your colleagues or university peers. Many are finding it to be a lonely time, even though screen time has increased dramatically. Finally, separating your work and home lives can pose an additional challenge, with all your daily activities in the same place.

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies that you can try out to remain motivated while working or studying from home.

Top Five Tips

1. Set the scene

First things first, create a work environment at home that is conducive to your productivity and focus. This should ideally be in a room that is dedicated to working in a calm environment, such as an office. Of course, space is limited for many so this may not be possible. In this case, simply set up some space at a desk or at your kitchen table as best as you can. Laptops, which many are using at home, are less ergonomically friendly than desktops, because people tend to look down at their screens rather than having them at eye-level. A good tip for this is to put a few books underneath your laptop to prop it up higher!

Listening to music is another great way to both keep you company and help you stay motivated. You may need to restrict this to music without lyrics if they distract you.

2. Establish a routine

Next, keep a routine. Get up at the same time each day and get ready for work as you would under normal circumstances. Dress for work, rather than working in your PJsthis will help you get in the right mindset for work or study

Once you’re sitting down in front of your computer, take notes: this will help you focus and remain active during your classes or Zoom meetings. For students, it may be helpful to then transcribe these notes into flashcards for extra revision.

To keep yourself accountable, implement some time management strategies. These include making a to-do list, where you tick off items you complete, and creating blocks of work to divide up your day into more manageable segments. Our Deputy CEO, Emily Gadaleta, creates calendar invites for herself to block out chunks of time in her calendar to work on certain uni assignments or work projects. She feels this keeps her accountable on finishing her daily tasks on time and also provides some structure to her day when working from home.

3. Check-in with colleagues

Check-in with managers/teachers, and colleagues/peers regularly to encourage each other. This action cultivates a two-way benefit. You can focus on work matters of course, to maintain a high level of communication, but also think about how you could implement some virtual team building or social activities to boost morale. This helps you stay engaged and provides encouragement that you’re on track with the course content or given projects, while fostering a sense of community.

4. Stay active

Don’t forget to exercise! With the lack of commute and the need to stay home as much as possible, it can be very easy to forget to get active. Back to the routine management, by waking up at the normal time, you will have ample opportunity to take a walk or run before settling into your work for the day. Additionally, take regular breaks and move around the house during the dayespecially if you feel your workstation is not as ergonomically sound as you’d like it. Try walking meetings (as long as where you live doesn’t currently restrict this, and ensure physical distancing in the streets).

5. Make time for self-development, hobbies and social activities

While working or studying from home can make leaving room for your personal time difficult, it’s important to diversify your activities in order to stay motivated. In light of this, it is helpful to add in regular hobbies and social commitments to your routine. Weekly Zoom or Skype ‘drinks’ with friends, colleagues and peers are increasingly popular, and it’s especially effective if you set aside a time every week to unwindfor instance, 6 PM Friday drinks or 11 AM brunch on Saturdays.

Saving time on commuting to work/school also provides an opportunity to follow-up on long-set aside projects, and there are plenty of online learning courses available to boost your employability skills and international affairs knowhow. Of course, given the drop-out rate on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is quite high, it’s important to have a strategy in place before committing to a course, as giving-up halfway can add to your stress and make you feel demotivated to pursue other projects. To avoid these pitfalls, pick courses that genuinely interest you and only take on as many courses as is sustainable with your other commitments. This will help maintain your natural interest and willingness to study your topics.

At the end of the day, close down your computer, and go pursue some of your isolation-approved hobbies! Whether it’s curling up on the couch with a new read or heading to the kitchen for some impromptu culinary experiments, make sure you are making time to take a rest, both from work and self-development projects. YAIA’s Communications Director Alexandra Pascoe aptly notes that there is a great deal of pressure to use this time to be productive or to start or finish projects you’ve been meaning to work on. She emphasises that “being kind to yourself, understanding that there's only so much you can do and that there will be periods where you’re not as productive, is really important. Give yourself down time and maybe focus on a couple of things that you really enjoy to help separate your time working and your leisure time”.

Looking for more?

Try tuning-in to online webinars being hosted by a range of different organisations! Just a handful include the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre, the University of Western Australia’s Perth USAsia Centre, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Diplo Foundation. Additionally, if you are keen to build up your publications portfolio and contribute to topical debates in the field of international affairs, YAIA’s Fellowship Program offers the perfect opportunity to do so! Applications close on Friday, 22 May 2020 and the whole program is done online.

If you’re interested in learning more about keeping motivated while working from home, don’t hesitate to contact the YAIA Careers team.


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