Ready or not, working from home has become a reality for people everywhere. In part one of our “new normal” series, we shared four tips to creating a more productive work-from-home environment, yet optimizing your home office is only the beginning. For many, it’s finding an overall flow for the workday that’s been most difficult.
Fear not! This post offers helpful insight to get us into a better workday rhythm. Here are a few tips for establishing a more productive work-from-home routine.
Routine improves our working from home productivity
Working from home gives you the flexibility to structure your day however you would like (which could be either a blessing or a curse). Because of this, it’s important to establish a solid routine – this is critical to your overall success.
According to researchers at Tel Aviv University, “ritualistic behavior in both humans and animals developed as a way to induce calm and manage stress…heightening our belief that we are in control of a situation that is otherwise out of our hands.” Predictable and repetitive routines help you take control of your day and, subsequently, your life. However, creating a routine can be hard to do, especially when no one is pushing you to get out of bed in the morning and your commute is from one room to the next.
Define Your Core Working Hours
A common frustration when working from home is that “I never stop working, since there are no office hours at home.” You may be struggling with an overlap between “working time” and “family or personal time.” These lines blur if you don’t consciously devise a realistic schedule to adhere to.
There are several things you should consider when establishing your new core working hours.
You’ll want to balance the needs of your family (including your pets) with the requirements of your job. Do you have an infant, younger children, or high-energy puppy? Are you the primary chauffeur or dog walker? Do you fix breakfasts or home school your children? Take their schedules or routines in account when creating your own. (Staying productive as a work-from-home parent is a balancing act, for sure.)
What are your natural circadian rhythms? If you’re an early bird, perhaps you can begin working before sunrise when you’re fresh and focused. If you’re a night owl (and if your position allows), you probably concentrate best when the house is silent and the sky is dark. Working eight or more hours straight is taxing and unrealistic. Consider portioning your workday into small chunks of focused time to avoid burnout and to counterbalance distractions.
Whatever you decide, clear your new core working hours with your teammates to make sure it’s acceptable. Explicitly communicating this upfront will help to avoid any potential misunderstandings later. Lastly, prominently display your schedule near your office space so your family will be mindful of your time commitments.
Take Charge of Your Morning
How you start the day is just as important as the day itself. What you do in the space between opening your eyes to opening your laptop is vital to your well-being.
To determine this, consider what’s important to you. Is it exercise, meditation, or journaling? Consuming your first cup of coffee in a quiet space? Showering or putting on “real” clothes? Be thoughtful when defining your morning routine. Contemplate what activities both nourish or energize you and then write it down. Writing these down takes the pressure off you to remember what you must do, which reduces mental clutter.
Once you’ve established your morning routine, set your alarm so you have plenty of time to accomplish your activities before launching into your workday.
Take Consistent Breaks
Breaks increase productivity and creativity. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. According to research, “aha moments” came more often to those who took breaks than those who didn’t.
Need inspiration? The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management method that structures your day based on 25 minutes of focused work followed by 2- to 5-minute breaks. A longer break (15-30 minutes) is taken after completing four work periods. This technique is wonderful not only for maintaining focus, but also for incorporating deliberate breaks throughout the day.
Try the 50/10 Rule. Work in 50-minute intervals followed by 10-minute breaks. When you work according to the 50/10 Rule, there’s no grey area for getting your work done. Fifty minutes is a manageable amount of time for uninterrupted work, and a ten-minute break is enough to recharge your productivity muscle.
An office environment automatically lends itself to daily activity such as walking to and from the car, stretching to reach books or paperwork off a shelf, or climbing stairs to your next meeting. Working from home does just the opposite due to being enclosed in a smaller, confined space the entire day. Therefore, it’s necessary to intentionally incorporate movement.
Moving your body on a regular basis is vital for your mental and physical health. Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.
There are multiple approaches to incorporating activity during the day. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Invest in a pedometer or fitness monitor. 10,000 steps are the recommended daily target goal for healthy adults. A fitness monitor tracks your movement and provides gentle reminders when you’ve been sitting still for too long.
- Use the bathroom on a different floor of your home. Climbing stairs helps our body produce endorphins – the hormones known for creating a sense of happiness in our mind. In addition, stair climbing leads to increased strength, endurance and bone density.
- Incorporate small bursts of exercise. Every hour, power through 10 pushups and 10 squats. Or 2 minutes of jumping jacks and 2 minutes of burpees. Small bursts of exercise are just as effective as a longer workout.
- Speed clean. Put 10 minutes on the clock and perform as many household chores as possible. Do this once per hour. You’ll be amazed at how quickly these micro-chores add up.
- Get Up. Stand Up. Take calls standing up, especially if you spend a lot of time on the phone. Standing burns more calories than sitting and opens your lungs for better breathability.
- Use a stability ball. Sit on a large stability ball instead of a traditional office chair. The instability of a ball requires you to increase stomach muscle activation and thus increase core strength, improve posture and decrease discomfort. (And bouncing is fun.)
- Get outside. Fresh air and sunlight can improve memory, fight depression, and lower blood pressure. Get outside and clean up your yard, plant a flower, or pull a few weeds. Give Fido an extra walk or two. Fill the bird feeder, walk to the mailbox, or tidy up the kids’ toys laying in the yard.
Whatever you do, figure out what works for you and don’t overthink it. We all have different needs, goals, and desires which is why it’s important to create our own routines. Begin by setting one reasonable “try” and just do it. Keep in mind – it’s never too late to start a new routine.
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