I thought staying motivated to work in lockdown would be a breeze.
You see I’ve been lucky to work from home for the past three years. I have a decent home office setup. I know that Zoom isn’t just a retro ice-lolly. And I’ve had to make up my own coffee-machine gossip for some time. And that’s meant my lockdown routine has felt strangely, well, normal.
In our pre-Covid world, people would often say to me ‘you must have so much motivation to work from home’. Or ‘I could never work from home – I’d never get anything done’.
I’ve never struggled with motivation. I’ve always kept a routine of getting up, having breakfast, a shower, then sitting down at my desk to do a day’s work. Yes I’ll pop downstairs to say hello, grab a coffee and procrastinate a little. But I don’t have a commute and am not having to work to anyone else’s agenda so can justify taking little liberties.
Then lockdown came along and things changed. Getting up and out of bed’s been no problem. I’ve never been one for lying in anyway, preferring to gambol out of bed with all the enthusiasm of a spring lamb.
Getting to my desk has been fine too. But that’s where things have changed, and I’ve struggled to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. I’ll break off to read the news, or check on Twitter. Browsing the internet to look at nothing in particular and daydreaming about the fells I’m missing out on. Then I realise I’ve wasted 20 minutes and get back to where I left off before the cycle starts again.
I find it frustrating, and although I’m still getting things done, I don’t have that same sense of drive I used to have.
It’s spilled into my leisure time too. Writing blog posts seems a chore. Getting outside to exercise has certainly felt more difficult. The things I enjoy just don’t have the same appeal with all that’s going on in the world.
I’ve been quite down if I’m honest, with every day feeling like groundhog day. And I suspect I’m not alone. With no end in sight to this madness, it makes no wonder motivation is at a premium right now.
Taking back control
So I decided to do something about it. Something within my control. I really couldn’t face going for a run, which told me the one thing I needed to do was go for a run. So I forced myself to lace up my trainers for a quick lap around the block.
The first few minutes irritated me. I told myself I’d reach a particular point about 10 minutes away before returning. I’d head home, sit on the sofa and each cheese (I was really craving cheese).
Then I spotted a family on the track I’d intended to take. They were to my right, so I turned left instead. Then the same happened again, so I took another diversion to maintain social distancing. That brought me out near the allotments where I’d planned to head back to my mountain of cheese.
But then something strange happened. The countryside opens up past this point. The track extends to the horizon. It’s super flat and quiet. And I kept on running.
There was no conscious thought process to it; my legs just kept on moving. One step in front of the other. I fell into a rhythm and I forgot about cheese. And better than that, my head felt lighter. Like someone had taken a squeegee to my grey matter in an effort to de-mist the brain fog.
I felt a sudden motivation to continue. My short token run had become a long, enjoyable adventure. The air was cool, the evening sun casting long shadows across the fields. I listened to the birds singing and the leaves rustling in the trees.
Nature doing its thing
An hour later, I was home but felt different somehow. I felt motivated. Keen to do more than just eat dairy and watch Gogglebox.
I’m writing this to remind me how good it felt to get out for that long run. And I’ve been proving my theory since. After weeks of struggling to get my thoughts down on paper, a little bit of exercise has made penning this post a lot easier.
See if you can replicate this feeling at work. Push through those initial distractions and find your flow. Switch off your phone. Open the windows. Put some music on. Promise yourself a reward when you’ve finished. Whatever it takes to get out of that rut. Think of it like a run – you might not want to go but you’ll feel better for getting through it.
It’s okay not to feel motivated at the moment. Do what you can and be kind to yourself. And to anyone (everyone?) else who feels scared, worried and uncertain about the future.
But take some time out, ideally in nature, and you’ll find that motivation lurking in all of us starts to bubble up to the surface again.