a cup of coffee, a planner, and a bagel

I recall how, as a kid, my mother was INSISTENT I do my homework and go to bed at the same time every day. At the time, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to make my own decisions about my day-to-day schedule; after all, I was eight years old and had an OVERFLOWING amount of wisdom. However, my mom understood that routine was important for me for several reasons: having routine gave me structure, was an element of consistency in my life, and helped me establish healthy habits (which my eight-year-old self TOTALLY realized…totally).

The reasons why routine was important for me as a child are the same reasons routine is important for adults. When we have systematic habits, we often find ourselves less stressed, less overwhelmed, and more likely to reach our goals. In a time full of change and uncertainty, creating a work-from-home routine has produced a sense of stability in my life. Routine is powerful in that it helps maintain my sanity and increase my productivity. (Check out my typical work-from-home routine in the bonus content below). If you find yourself needing to create healthy work-from-home habits, check out five tips that have helped me create a powerful remote-work routine!

  • PLANNING TOOLS ARE MY BFF. I am a huge advocate for using a daily planner to keep tabs on how time is being spent. When working from home without structure, it’s easy to fall into a trap of becoming lackadaisical. When I use my planner, I tend to be more energized and structured, leading to greater efficiency in my work. Use your planner to organize an overarching schedule for your day or plan tasks out hour-by-hour. (I personally favor the latter, and have found my Day Designer planner to be extremely useful in planning the specifics of my day). Planners are also helpful in keeping track of your to-do lists, along with your schedule, in one location. If you prefer the digital planner route, I suggest using Google Calendar to plan your day, or check out this list of The 9 Best Planner Apps of 2020.

 

white iPhone and planner on a desk

 

  • ESTABLISH A MORNING ROUTINE. For me, a disheveled morning equals a disheveled day…and when your office requires a 30-second commute, it’s much easier to hit snooze and roll out of bed five minutes before your Zoom office meeting begins. By creating a morning routine, I am able to gather my thoughts as I prepare for the workday and settle into a positive mindset before the workday begins. Everyone’s work-from-home morning routine will look different according to various wants and needs, but a few things I have found help me start my day on the right foot are:
    • Dressing in real clothes. I do not wear a dress and heels to sit at home all day (although, if you do that, kudos to you!) I switch from lounge mode to productivity mode when I trade my sweats for a sweater.
    • Still getting up early. I know, it’s so tempting to hit “snooze” until the last possible second, especially knowing you don’t have to get fully ready. Resist the urge and give yourself a few minutes to plan for the day (see above!) or do things that make you happy, which brings me to…
    • Starting the day with self-care. The first thing I do when I wake up is (attempt) to avoid checking my phone, and instead, jot down five things that I am grateful for. Then, I have quiet time, make my bed, get dressed, go eat a healthy breakfast, and make a cup of coffee. Making the bed seems like a little task, but little tasks are the ones that lead to big changes and help me start my day right. Everyone’s routine looks different; for you, it may be exercising first thing, or journaling in a notebook for five minutes.

If you need help sticking to your morning routine, check out the Streaks app that helps you build and maintain good habits. You can also create an evening routine by implementing similar processes, as well.

 

  • GET CONSISTENT SLEEP. Not only do consistent wake-up and bedtimes add stability to your life, but you are more likely to sleep better, which leads to many health benefits. If you find implementing a consistent sleep schedule into your routine difficult, try:
    • Limiting your screen time at night. Television screens are typically so far away that the blue screen will not affect you, but gadgets you hold closer to your eyes, like phones and computers, are more likely to impact your sleep quality and alertness.
    • Tracking your sleep history. For instance, I like Apple’s Bedtime option in the clock app, where you can schedule your wake and bedtimes and analyze your recent history on your iPhone.
    • Set a reminder to unwind an hour before you go to bed. Take part in an activity that helps you wind down and relax, like spending time with family, taking a bubble bath, or indulging in your favorite TV show.

 

woman sleeping on white sheets in a bed

 

  • TAKE REGULAR BREAKS. Implement breaks into your work-from-home ritual—and make them consistent. Eating lunch around the same time every day helps me stick with routine, along with implementing a break into my afternoon where I take a walk or call a family member or friend. If you desire more variety in your day-to-day routine, alternate your break times every other day; for example, walk at 2:30 Monday, 3:30 Tuesday, 2:30 Wednesday, and so on. It’s also valuable to schedule short, five-minute breaks to stretch, get a glass of water, etc. so you do not stay stagnant while working all day. I love using my Apple Watch to remind me to take mini-breaks to stretch or walk when my physical activity is low.

 

  • FIND WORK-LIFE BALANCE. Part of creating a healthy work-from-home routine is finding a healthy work-life balance. Set “work hours” for your daily tasks and meetings; when those hours are up, stop yourself from working through your office to-do list or checking work emails. Schedule deep, uninterrupted work times throughout your day and use productivity apps to focus; this way, you are efficient and don’t feel overwhelmed with tasks when the day is finished and feel the need to keep working. As you build your work-from-home routine, make sure it isn’t JUST work; you need time for the things and people you love. (For more tips on how to avoid burnout and overworking, check out my article “How to Avoid Overworking While Working from Home.”

 

African-American family playing Monopoly together

 

I hope these tips provide direction as you create your own work-from-home routine. Everyone has different approaches and needs, so it’s important to find what works best for you. I think Skilled at Life has it right when they state, “I used to view having a routine as being boring, rigid and stifling…but on the contrary, I have learned that designing and adhering to a personal daily routine is the path to freedom, productivity, happiness, and fulfilling our true potential.” Here’s to the power of routine while working remotely!

Bonus Content:

Here is a run-down of my typical work-from-home routine that I try (with grace!) to stick to. I take shorter breaks to stretch, as well, but didn’t include those for the sake of being concise!

7:15 A.M. Wake up and complete my morning routine

8–10 A.M. Work, typically on my heaviest project for the day (I have been advised to use mornings to tackle the biggest tasks I have coming up because I focus better in the mornings, and then feel better about my accomplishments for the day. Everyone differs, though, on whether they focus better in the morning or afternoon!)

10– 10:15 A.M. Break, typically will do a chore or to-do list task

10:15 A.M.–12 P.M. Work

12 noon—12:45 P.M. Lunch break!

12:45– 2 P.M. Work

2-3 P.M. Daily work meeting

3-3:30 P.M. Work

3:30–4 P.M. Daily walk/connection break

4-5:15 P.M. Work and wrap up my tasks for the day

5:15-6:15 P.M. Exercise

6:15-7:15 P.M. Cook dinner and eat with family

7:15-9:15 P.M. Cleaning, family time, and wrap up the day

9:15-10:15 P.M. Self-care and ready for bed…then do it again tomorrow!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marah Whitaker headshot

Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me. 

Connect with me on LinkedIn.