Working from home or remotely has become more and more common. But with this new workplace trend comes new challenges. One of these is trying to get the motivation Monday mornings to get back to work and avoid the Monday Blues. Mondays are generally days that signal the start of the work week and end our weekend rest and fun. It can be even more difficult to find that motivation Monday morning if you don’t leave your house, your usual relaxation space!
In this blog we will talk about ways to help you find your motivation Monday mornings so that you can be at your peak performance even when working remotely.
We will apply research from Ecological Psychology, which emphasizes how our environments interact with and influence us. We will talk about 5 simple tips to help you shift from weekend-mode to work-mode from your home office when working remotely. They are to:
- Remove or cover your workspace when not in use
- Have designated sets of clothes
- Change up your workspace environment
- Designate fun ‘work tools’
- Create a helpful “Commute time”, a.k.a create separation in space and thought
As always, our team of researchers has sifted through hundreds of articles to bring you science-backed tips and tricks to help you improve your cognitive capacities. Our research comes from Psychology, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Ergonomics, and Psychophysiology to help you stay at your peak mental state when working remotely.
Your Environment and You
Ecological psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on how you and your environment interact and create opportunities for action together. Ecological psychology recognizes that you are embedded into a particular context, and that context also plays a role in how you could perceive it. Here’s a simple example:
Imagine you’re back in school. You walk into a classroom for the first time but it looks the same as every other classroom. There are multiple desks facing one wall with a chalk or dry-erase board. There is also a table, chair, and podium facing the desks.
As a student, where do you sit? You probably sat at one of the desks facing the board. Why didn’t you choose the table by the podium facing the rest of the desks? You’re probably thinking “That’s the teachers area! I can’t sit there!”
Ecological psychology argues that when you entered the room, instead of perceiving tables and chairs, you perceived opportunities for action, or affordances. A student, the front of the room with the podium and table weren’t available opportunities for action because you were a student. If you were the teacher, then they would be. The only thing that would change your opportunities is the role you play in the classroom.
The tips here will focus on how to adapt and alter your environment to trick your brain into giving yourself a different “role” and perceiving (or not-perceiving) different things as opportunities for action.
Tip #1 Remove or cover your workspace when not in use–to relax on Friday and motivate on Monday
The tip is as simple as it sounds! When you’re not working, find a way to cover your workspace or even remove it. You can take a sheet or a blanket and cover your desk when it’s not in use, or if you set up a movable workspace (such as a desk with wheels), simply roll it away and store it for the night or weekend.
Now you may be saying, this is too simple to have any real effect. On the contrary, the simplicity is what makes this deceptively effective! Remember that this tip is about how we interact with our environment and how our environment interacts with us in a dynamic way! The key is to understand how we perceive opportunities for action in our environment.
There are two basic principles behind this.
- Removing opportunities for action limits what we think about what we do as a way of increasing your self-regulation skills. Think back to the classroom example. When you walk into a classroom as a student you don’t think about sitting in front or giving a lecture. Because sitting in the front of the room is not available for you, you don’t think about teaching the class and do think about where you can see the board or which friend you want to be near. Simply covering or removing your workspace eliminates the possibility of getting work done there! This means that you’re less likely to think about work and more likely to focus on relaxing.
- When you create opportunities for action, you are more motivated to act. This is key to getting that motivation Monday mornings. When you start your Monday with a small goal/action (such as wheeling your desk inside or taking a sheet off it) you are creating opportunities for action and accomplishing small tasks. This helps you start your day with success. Achieving small goals also helps provide you more energy for your day, by increasing the amount of dopamine released. And basic biomechanics shows that when you start moving to accomplish small talks, your body is more likely to want to continue moving and working. This can lead to a type of ‘work-ready’, or anticipatory, state. Think of it like stretching!
Tip #2: Designate sets of clothes for work and non-work
This may be something you did when you were in the office every day, but probably let it fall by the wayside when you started working remotely. Afterall, your boss won’t know if I have fuzzy pajamas on! Intuitively we think that we should focus on being relaxed and comfortable, but that’s misleading. Comfort is important, but you also need to be sure that you’re getting your body and brain ready to work!
So, still wear work clothes for working and leisure clothes when relaxing. Again, think of the classroom example. Being a student or a teacher changed how you thought you could act. If you have work clothes and leisure clothes, then you’re doing something similar in that you’re changing your role!
This tip requires you to be consistent, as you want to automatically associate each role with particular clothes. If you don’t have the ability to get completely new clothes, then try to get something simple to change the way you feel or see yourself. For example, when working you could wear a blazer, a particular watch, or certain shoes designated just for work. This can help you start to link what you do with what you wear. Similarly, you should try to make sure your work wardrobe could possibly help you for work. If you are writing things down alot, it might be helpful to have your hair up or to have a shirt with a pocket to keep a pencil easily available. This is part of the psychology and efficiency behind uniforms.
Tip #3: Change up your workspace environment
This seems a bit counterintuitive because most of the time we think that consistency is important. There’s some truth to that, but when you’re working remotely in the same spot, the consistency can get dull and even tiring. This is especially the case when you’re trying to find motivation Monday mornings after you have had a weekend relaxing.
One reason that finding motivation Mondays is hard is because you feel like it signals that your enjoyment and fun time is over. This is an association you want to avoid when working from home! You don’t want your home to feel like a trap! So changing up your workspace can provide a bit of novelty and creative freedom.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Change up the location of where you work! You could move your desk to a different place in the house, or spend a few hours at a cafe or library. If it’s comfortable outside, work on a patio or balcony.
- Change up pictures or desk decorations. If you have pictures on your desk, try changing them around with others in your house, or change decorations seasonally. PRO-TIP: If you have a digital picture frame, get different sets of pictures to rotate on a monthly basis.
- Lights. Use a different light bulb or string lights to mix things up. Consider using blue-hued lights for your work area and yellow-hued lights in the relaxation areas of your home. We’ve also talked about how using artificial lights can help your sleep hygiene!
- New project = new place. Change your environment when you start a new project. This can be especially helpful if you adapt your environment to the project. For example, if you’re writing for a magazine about food, maybe put some cookbooks in eyeshot.
What this does is prevent you from thinking about your desk as the SAME place as your home. If you’re changing it monthly or seasonally, it helps you see it as different from your home that stays largely unchanged. This is called creating a dynamic coupling with your environment. This allows you to have more control over your settings and make you feel more psychologically comfortable, powerful and motivated when you return to work after time away.
Tip 4: Designate fun ‘work tools’
This is a really simple way to get yourself motivated Monday mornings to start your work week when working remotely. If you were in an office, you might have a favorite mug or enjoy using the fancy pens your office buys, or other small pleasures and rewards that help you get through the grind in your office. Some of these things are what we miss when we work remotely, because we have nothing to look forward to since we use the same things every day.
Break that monotony and create some excitement and motivation Monday mornings by designating some fun work tools! Again, this could be almost anything: a special mug that says “Motivation Mondays- Example of an Oxymoron”, fancy coffee that you only drink during work, an ergonomic keyboard, or a special laptop case. Make it something special and personal, but whatever it is make sure you ONLY use it when you’re working! Whatever it is try to add a little excitement to your work week so that finding that motivation Mondays is a little easier.
Tip 5: Create a helpful “Commute time”
One of the biggest advantages to working remotely is that you don’t have to worry about traffic, crowded subways, or finding a seat on the bus. Most people get stressed during a commute, fighting for a seat or searching for the fastest lane. It’s a hassle and most people want to minimize it or cut it out completely!
But completely cutting your commute also eliminates the advantages of commuting! Yes there are advantages. The main one is that commuting gives you a chance to separate yourself from work, physically and mentally. Sometimes we still feel a bit angry or wound-up, but often that bit of time between work and home helps us calm down immensely.
To help you understand why this is important, and why it can be difficult, imagine you are a clinical psychologist or a therapist for just a minute. All day long your job is to hear people’s problems, and then you go home and hear your spouse, friends, and kids talking about their issue too. It’s hard to separate because it’s all the same type of stimulus!
That’s the kind of overlap or mixing that can occur when working from home. Work can be stressful, but you don’t want your home environment to cause the stress or work! Ideally you could create some physical and psychological distance between your work life and your home life.
Here are some ways to put distance between work and life, and create work-life balance:
- Take a short walk around your neighborhood when your work days ends
- Sit in your office, write a journal entry, then close it. This signals the end of the day to you and your brain.
- Try our Self-Alignment technique. BONUS: This can also help prevent burnout!
- Have an end of work routine, like shutting off the lights or changing right after you finish work.
- Close the door to your office, or even lock it.
Creating mental and physical space between your work-life and non-work-life is key to help prevent a workaholic mentality, and help prevent burnout. Finding the motivation Monday mornings can be hard if you are constantly seeing ‘home’ as a ‘place of work’, so try and create the distance physically and psychologically.
Recap of motivation monday: 5 tips to get motivated when working from home
Understanding how you and your environment work together is key to motivating yourself and finding out how to be at your best when working remotely. Remote work has a lot of advantages, but challenges as well. One of those is finding out how to get motivation Monday after a relaxing weekend at home, because instead of going to work, you already live there!
Luckily Ecological Psychology provides some tips to help you get that motivation Monday mornings, especially when working remotely or from home. The 5 simple tips we covered are:
- Remove or cover your workspace when not in use. This can prevent you from thinking about work or working as a possible action when you’re not supposed to be working.
- Have designated sets of clothes. This helps you understand work as different and prepares your body and brain for work. It also allows you to create role associations with particular clothes, so that when you’re wearing certain clothes you feel as if you’re occupying a particular role.
- Change up your workspace environment. This helps you exercise control over your environment and allows you to be motivated by breaking up monotonous elements. You create a dynamic relationship with your environment, where you’re also changing it. This is doubly effective if you change up your environment so that it is well suited for each new project!
- Designate fun ‘work tools’ by making some fun objects or tools for work only. This could be a fun work mug, a colorful notepad, or an amazing smooth pen.
- Create a helpful “Commute time”, a.k.a create separation in space and thought by planning a smart commute time to unwind and let yourself mentally ‘leave’ work. You can do this by taking a walk, journaling, or creating another personal end-of-work ritual.
These tips can help you increase your motivation Monday mornings and help you create a good work-home balance. This is one of the most important things you can do to work effectively from home.