Working From Home: Creating a Daily Routine to Boost Your Mood and Productivity
Working from home can be a gift and a curse. You’re confined to a box for weeks on end like a musty, forgotten pet hamster — but you’re still expected to run your ass off in that hamster wheel? Without the depressing commute, annoying back-to-back meetings and interruptive coworker drive-bys — how is anyone expected to get anything done?
Sarcasm aside, many people find working from home difficult. Getting through your workday with only the sporadic conference call to timestamp your existence can be totally disorienting. Without some kind of schedule to follow, many people are unable to start and stop tasks, prioritize projects, and are left feeling unproductive and guilty come 5PM. On top of that, all of this discombobulation is underlined by an anxiety about what is going on in the world. So, in the interest of your mental health, here are some ways to add structure to your work from home day to help you feel happy, healthy, productive — and more in control of your time.
Set an alarm to wake up and moveThis might be overly ambitious for some. The moving part, I mean. Waking up should be easy enough for most of us.
Starting your day with physical exercise will immediately put you in a good mood. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are literally feel-good chemicals that minimize discomfort and reduce anxiety. You will feel the effects after just five minutes of movement — so even if you are just doing jumping jacks in your PJs, that counts.
RELATED: 10 stress-busting techniques that actually work.
Start your business day with a shower (and get ready)Shower. Not only because you just exercised (sort of) — but also because you smell like last night’s binge-watching sesh. And today is a new day!
Some experts advise putting on actual work clothes because it tricks your brain into getting into the work mindset. I would advise against this because you are not Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. WFH outfits are a great opportunity to be comfortable while looking cute. Even if you are just throwing on a blouse or sweater, some (preferably clean) leggings, and some cute flats or moccasins, you will feel fresh AF and ready to tackle your to-do list. And you won’t be scrambling to throw a blazer over your ripped, coffee-stained band t-shirt when that impromptu video call pops up.
Caffeinate, eat, relax and set your to-do listBefore diving into your emails, take some time to prepare your mind and body for what is bound to be another frustrating day of awkward conference calls and remote tasks. Eat some breakfast, sip your coffee, talk to your dog or cat — or whatever morning routine you love to mentally level-set. Just relax and take a moment to breathe.
This is also a great time to set your priorities and tasks for the day. Jot down a to-do list, and assign priority levels and difficulty levels to each item so you know what order you need to tackle them in. Grab another cup of coffee, and then (and only then) you are ready to open your computer.
SEE ALSO: How to boost your confidence at work.
Create your workspace and tackle your tasksOftentimes, working from home means working sporadic hours. And Karen doesn’t understand boundaries, so you know you will have about 15 unanswered emails that came in overnight. Go through these emails quickly to clear your plate for your intentional to-do list.
Start completing tasks one by one: starting with the most difficult items or items you marked as high priority (read: attached to cold-sweat-inducing deadlines). Your brain is at peak focus at the top of the day — and therefore best equipped to tackle tasks that require more critical thinking. Even if you don’t finish them, planning an approach will still make it easier to move the work forward. If you mitigate the stress of uncertainty surrounding how you’ll tackle a new or troublesome task, you will feel lighter and more energized for the rest of the day, allowing you to move through your progressively easier tasks as smooth as Michael Jackson's Criminal.
RELATED: 15 phrases you need to stop using in your work e-mails.
Schedule small breaks throughout the day (you deserve it)If you have managed to send less than three passive-aggressive emails by the time noon rolls around, congratulations! You deserve a reward! Go get yourself some lunch, hydrate, go for a walk, play with your pet, do your nails, pop a blackhead. Just go do something that isn’t work.
Pro tip for work-from-home breaks:Don’t enjoy your chill time by your computer. Shut its stupid face (violently, if it’s satisfying) and physically leave your workspace to enjoy another location of your home.
RELATED: All the zodiac signs as dog breeds.
Eat a healthy(ish) lunch to keep you fuelled for the rest of the dayYou do not have to eat a salad of broccoli and quinoa to survive the next two months. Fist a sleeve of cookies and pound some pizza pops if it feels right. Just feed yourself at a set time — and don’t forget to eat at all.
If you are lazy like me, or did not join the hordes of grocery hunters stocking up on Y2K-levels of supplies, you can feel great about the fact that ordering food for delivery will probably save someone’s job. Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear mustard-stained ACDC t-shirts (and drop your eats right at your door).
RELATED: 20 healthy 5-ingredient lunch ideas you can make quickly.
Enjoy phone calls and focus on the interactionsSometimes working from home means a meeting-free day. And sometimes it means a series of aggravating conference calls. But hey, at least you’re getting some human contact. Phone calls are classified as socializing.
Pro work-from-home conference call tip:Try to schedule your calls in a block so that you can carve out this time for distraction-free periods in a quiet space. Find something or someone to occupy your kids, lock your needy cat out of the room and put on your “pleasant” voice.
End your workday: Know when to stop workingWhen you are sitting in the comfort of your own home, already in your comfy after-work clothes, surrounded by so many half-finished beverages that it looks like a scene from Signs (“swing away, Meryl”), it’s easy to lose your sense of time and space and end up working late into the night. Also problematic is the fact that the only Segway between being at work and not being at work is shutting your laptop. But do shut it. Set an alarm for the same time each day that you intend to stop working, and stick to it. There’s always tomorrow. And Karen can wait.
SEE ALSO: 20 work-from-home mistakes to avoid.
Create a consistent bedtimePartying until 5AM is for Friday to Sunday. On weekdays, try to get to sleep at around the same time every night. Screwing with your sleep-wake cycle can throw off your entire routine, mood, balance and sense of regularity. Set a bedtime and try to budget 20 minutes of wind down time before KO o’clock — read a book, listen to music, smoke a joint, whatever works. This is also key to waking up to start your day the next morning.
RELATED: Why the best sleep of your life happens with your dog (and not your boyfriend).
Sharing the space with kids while working from homeIf you’re sharing your new work space with wee ones, many of these steps apply for them too. Depending on their age and readiness, they will also need a daily routine, and activities to keep them busy. You may need to spend some of your off-hours figuring out ways to keep them learning and engaged during the work day, but setting up a schedule ahead of time will help everyone’s day run more smoothly. Thankfully, there are tonnes of free online resources.
Pro-tip for working-from-home with children around:The younger they are, the more frequently you’ll need to switch their activities to match their attention span. At the same time, be kind to yourself, if things aren’t always going according to plan: this is not an ordinary situation, so if there is unstructured down time, and it feels right for your kids, run with that.