I’ve seen online that many people are having a hard time working from home due to the lack of structure and routine. This is common; without the structure of going into a place of work and the routines of the workplace, you have to create them yourself.
The good news is, working from home often gives you the flexibility to create routines that work well for your body clock and style of work.
One of the reasons it’s difficult to have a routine while working from home is because of the unpredictable nature of home influences. The delivery guy arrives. The dog needs to go out. The kids are in the kitchen getting their food.
Another reason why it can be hard to stick to a routine is because without coworkers around you who are also working, you may feel a lack of motivation to work. The strong pull of the couch and binge-watching sounds much more appealing. Or the hours end up slipping by while you scroll and scroll and scroll.
Here’s how to create a routine to help you work from home more effectively and productively!
In order to create a routine, you have to build the framework. Set your alarm and get up at the same time each day. Have a morning routine that you do at the same time every day: Get dressed, eat breakfast/ drink coffee, read for a few minutes. If you are a morning exerciser, be sure to do your exercise. Whatever you do, don’t turn on the TV! If you check social media, set a timer.
Next, do your work according to when you work best. This depends on your body rhythms. For example, I’m most alert and do my best focused work in the morning. So that’s when I make sure to crank out the most work. After lunch I start to lose steam, and by mid-afternoon I’m in an energy slump. I use that time to do less concentration-focused work.
Knowing when you have more or less focus and/ or energy will give you general times for when to do which types of work. So for example, a typical day might look like this:
7am Get up, exercise, get dressed, breakfast
8:30-ish: Check emails, revise to-do lists, set work plan for the day
Work on focus-intensive work and highest priority items
Calls, emails, admin
Your body clock may work differently; maybe you’re in low gear all morning and really get going in the afternoon. Or maybe you get a second wind later in the evening. Set a schedule that works for you.
If you have other people’s schedules to work around, take that into consideration. For example if you have young children at home, take client calls during your kids’ naptimes, and fit in work after they go to bed. If you and your partner are both working from home, talk about your work schedules so you know when to stay out of each other’s way and when you can share break times.
Don’t try to stick too rigidly to a time schedule; you will most likely get thrown off due to the unpredictable nature of home influences and will end up beating yourself up for not staying exactly on your schedule. It’s better to have a general idea of when you will do which type of work during the day.
Be sure to take breaks during the day, but not too many! Here are some 5 minute breaks that will refresh you without derailing you from work mode. And make sure you get some exercise each day, for your health and sanity.
Some people like to do the Pomodoro technique or use timers or apps to try to stay on task for a certain amount of time. I don’t use those because if I am in full work flow when the alarm goes off I find it very disruptive. Instead I make sure I’m working during my designated work time. If I need to check something online I stay off social media. Then later I designate a limited amount of time just for social media. Resist the temptation to intersperse work with checking your feeds! And turn off all notifications so you don’t have disruptions while you are concentrating.
Transitions are very important for helping you focus. When you physically go to your place of work, your commute is a transition from your home life to your work life. Then when you go home, your journey gets you out of work mode and into your home mindset. Without these physical transitions, you have to create other transitions. That’s why your morning routine is so important: it sets your mind into work mode. When you are done working, do a routine that transitions you out of work mode into home mode.
At the end of the day, it’s very important to clean up your work area and your home areas, put things away, and have everything generally tidy before you go to bed. That way when you wake up you can do your morning routine and get right to work. If you walk into a mess with dishes that need to be washed and clutter everywhere, your mind will be distracted and it will be hard to focus on work.