Working from home certainly has its perks, but if you're not careful, they can start to work against you.
When the commute is non-existent, it’s easy to wake up and crawl from your bed to your couch — or not leave bed at all — and sign on to Slack and get going for the day. Without the office and coworkers around you keeping you in "work mode", it's entirely too easy to find yourself washing dishes or watching TV when you should be working.
While these little work-from-home moments won't tank your productivity if you enjoy them every once in a while, living your life without a workday routine will slowly start to wear away at your productivity and your happiness.
The benefits of setting a good morning routine even when you’re working from home are numerous:
- Your stress levels are decreased, because expectations are clear
- You sleep better knowing what will be on your plate when you wake up, rather than wondering or worrying about what the day will hold
- You’ll increase your productivity because you’re less likely to get sidetracked during the day
- Reaching goals will be easier because you have a clear plan for the future
There are a few ways to prepare for a productive day when you’re working from home. In a lot of ways they mimic what you’d do on a normal day when you’re working in the office, and that’s the beauty here. You want to make your day feel as normal as possible.
Whether you’re full-time remote or just occasionally calling the kitchen counter an office, try implementing some or all of these steps in your morning routine for a more productive work-from-home day.
1. Establish a wake-up routine
One of the perks of working from home is that your wake-up time can be a little later or a little more flexible than when you're heading into the office. However, you should try to make your wake-up routine consistent throughout the week.
If you never know exactly what time you'll be ready to sit down and start working, it makes it impossible to plan what and how much you'll get done each day. This lack of expectations causes internal stress for you, and external stress for the people who rely on you.
Another good idea: start your morning with a glass of water. It’s what CEOs do. Kat Cole, CEO of Cinnabon, drinks 24 ounces first thing in the morning, and Huffington Post founder Ariana Huffington starts her day with hot water and lemon.
This tip isn’t unique to working from home, of course, but anything you can do to give your morning a healthy rhythm will be to your benefit. Plus, it can be surprisingly difficult to remember to hydrate when you're working from home (even though the kitchen is so close!) so this starts your day off on the right foot.
2. Stretch or move your body
When you wake up, do a big stretch and get moving, even if it’s just a little bit. A short morning workout -- whether it's simple stretches, jumping rope, or a quick walk around the neighborhood -- will give you energy and help your mind prepare to focus throughout the rest of your day.
When you start your day with a little exercise (and it really doesn't have to be a lot!), your body will thank you: morning exercises burn 20% more fat than workouts later in the day, and people tend to make smarter eating choices throughout the day after a morning workout.
Working from home, the day can get away from you -- so scheduling a little exercise for first thing in the morning will ensure you get your exercise done, rather than realizing at 8pm that the whole day has passed you by.
3. Set an intention for your day
What is it that you could use a little bit more of? What is the best possible outlook you can have for this day? What do you need to feel sure of?
Intentions give you purpose throughout the day, which is even more helpful when you’re working in not-so-normal circumstances. They don't have to be fancy; in fact, often the simplest intentions are the most meaningful.
- I will handle whatever problems come my way.
- I am open to what today brings me.
- Today, I will listen.
Sometimes intentions come naturally (like the need to be more patient with yourself) or you have to dig for them. Either way, they really help you to live in the moment and evaluate yourself as the day progresses.
4. Get dressed
The temptation to work in pajamas is high. They’re cozy and comfortable, but adding a get-ready routine to your work-from-home day can signal your brain that the workday has begun. Even just throwing on a pair of jeans and running a straightener through your hair can make you feel like you're "on" and ready to go.
“When you feel like you’ve made the effort to get dressed and put on something you feel good in, then you’ll be more likely to approach your day with confidence and with purpose,” says fashion stylist Sally Mackinnon.
Save the sweatsuit for after 5pm, to signal to your brain that the workday is over and it's time to relax.
5. Make a to-do list
You could lay in bed all day, checking email and *appearing* productive, without ever getting much done when you’re working from home. This is when the to-do list becomes very handy.
Whether you're at home or in the office, it's extraordinarily helpful to know exactly where to start when you sit down to work.
Keeping track of the day is easy with the Ink+Volt Progress Pad, which was designed with good habits in mind. Forming a routine or habit when working in a new environment (even if it’s your home) can be difficult, so keep it basic and know where your goals are and what’s helpful in accomplishing them.
If you’re going to be working from home for a while or just need the most organization possible while you’re out of the office, the Complete Home Office Suite from Ink+Volt is the way to go. Complete with a planner, pens, and 4 productivity notepads, it will set you up for success.
6. Organize your workspace
Taking a quick minute to set your workspace for the day — eliminating any unneeded sticky notes, gathering up your pens, or putting stray papers in order — gets you ready for the day, but more importantly helps you save time and prevents distractions throughout the day.
This doesn't have to be a deep clean -- in fact, it shouldn't. The start of your day should be about sitting down and getting to work as efficiently as possible. Save the serious organization session for the end of the day (so that cleaning can't serve as a form of procrastination).
7. Make a schedule
Even if you make a to-do list, it’s a good idea to assign deadlines or a schedule to your day, so you don’t get overrun with other tasks or distractions and completely bypass something important.
No one is going to swing by your desk on the way to the big meeting, so it's up to you to make sure you are on time (or even early) to your most important engagements throughout the day.
One of the perks of working from home is being able to break up your day by throwing in a load of laundry or making an above-average lunch, but those tasks can end up taking a lot longer than you might expect. Keeping a schedule will help you stay on track, even when you take some breaks.
8. Mindful email check
It’s easy for emails to take over your day, but many successful people say emails are how they start the day. One survey found that about half of CEOs start their days by checking email. Meanwhile, just more than one-third of entry-level employees do.
The key difference in how these successful leaders do email in the morning will surely help anybody, regardless of their work status: The survey found that most CEOs scan their email for urgent messages, that way they know what major tasks they may be dealing with during the day.
Don't get bogged down in the minutia first thing in the morning. Instead, scan for key information and then move on. Email feels productive, but it usually isn't. Once you've gotten what you need from it, move on to real work.
9. Skim the news smartly
If you want to change the world, you have to know what’s happening in it. While reading the news right now can be a stressful endeavor, it’s helpful to know what’s going on in your community and most of us feel the pull to check in with the new first thing in the morning.
However, scrolling endlessly (and passively) through the news all day long does nobody any favors. Too much — e.g. the doom scroll — can really hinder your mental health and make you more unproductive. It's not just the time you spend reading, but how it affects your mood afterwards (which affects your productivity and the tone of your interactions with coworkers), and those negative effects can last hours.
Schedule a time each day where you will spend a few minutes just taking in big events, without delving in too far, so you can stay on top of what is happening without impacting the rest of your day.