By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Working from home can give you a more flexible schedule, help you be more productive with your work, and create a better work-life balance. If managed incorrectly, though, it might be harder for you to focus or get anything done. It’s important not to confuse flexibility with disorganization. An established morning routine is key to staying motivated and organized as a remote worker. I found that practicing a few morning rituals made me happier, more productive, and kept me from burning out. Although many of us are returning to work with new safety guidelines, others’ jobs are keeping them remote forever. Learning how to work independently is a necessity.
One of the reasons a morning routine is so important is that it gives you time to ease into your day and spend a few moments preparing for your busy schedule. How many of you wake up and check your phone first thing? According to research, forty-six percent of Americans check their email or social media before they even get out of bed. To be productive, you need time to get ready for your day and prepare for bright screens and work demands.
Time blocking is a great technique to organize your entire day and your morning routine. When you work remotely, it is very easy to get distracted by things in your home. Time blocking helps you ignore these distractions and allows you to be productive without feeling like you have to multitask. Research shows that only about two point five percent of people can effectively multitask. Although most people believe they can do multiple things at once, studies have shown they only believe this to be so. In reality, it leads them to be more stressed and less productive. Time blocking allows you to set aside a certain amount of time to work on a single task. After that time is up, you have to move on to your next task. This method helps you be more focused and more productive.
To effectively time block, you must block out every waking hour of your day. To start, you must block out things you do every day, such as your morning routine, workouts, meal prep and meals, homework, weekly meetings, etc. Then decide what other weekly priorities you have. Do you have an assignment that is due before most of your others? Do you have a meeting tomorrow you need to prepare for? Block those off and give yourself enough time to finish the work for them. Always schedule out the most important things in your week before time blocking other activities.
To be most successful, schedule yourself “office hours” to answer emails, phone calls, and social media notifications. Make sure to over-schedule for tasks you think might take longer and schedule some extra time for anything unexpected that might come up.
Time blocking is a very effective tool. It keeps you accountable and makes you more productive. Even the tech entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Elon Musk use time blocking. However, they take it to the extreme and schedule out every five minutes of their day. For the average person, scheduling out every hour is enough to experience the benefits of a segmented schedule.
Meditation is an important component you should block off in your morning routine. Our minds are distracted by thoughts forty-seven percent of the time. If you meditate each day, you give yourself a chance to relax and reset your brain—this actually modifies its structure and improves brain function.
Meditation is one of the best things to replace your phone habit with first thing in the morning. Instead of exposing yourself right away to the news, email, and social media, use that time to be calm and mindful. You’ll find that you are more productive and efficient throughout the day after just five minutes of guided meditation.
Amongst several other things, meditation can:
If you really want to seal the deal for meditation benefits, finish your meditation by writing down three things you’re grateful for. Starting your day with gratitude instead of stressful social media content reduces your distractions from stress and helps you be happier and feel more fulfilled throughout your day.
Working from home gives you more time as it also eliminates your office commute and allows you to organize your day how you like. Instead of using this time to get some extra sleep, take advantage of it, and use it to get in daily exercise. If you want, you could simply use this time to take a walk around your neighborhood. In this way, you are allowing yourself some time to clear your mind while you “commute” back to your work place—your home.
Since working remote gives you the flexibility to organize your day, why is it so important we keep exercise as part of our morning routines? According to a recent study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, morning exercise is better for balancing your hormones. The stress hormone, cortisol, which also keeps you awake, reaches its highest point at 8 a.m. In order to take advantage of this, it’s important that you get moving early. In addition to stress reduction, morning exercise also improves your ability to stay focused, learn, and make decisions.
It can be extremely tempting to stay in your PJs all day, but it helps your mental health and focus when you maintain a normal morning routine. According to the American Psychological Association, maintaining the schedule you had when you commuted to the office can help you feel more purposeful, even during quarantine.
To maintain the most normalcy, continue to take care of yourself each day by showering and brushing your teeth. This will also allow you to ease into your day instead of going straight from your sheets to your desk. Basic hygiene is not only important for mental health, but also for keeping you prepared for any video calls you might have that day. Working from home does allow you to dress and be more casual, but doesn’t excuse an untidy appearance. You don’t want to have to rush to get ready for a meeting last minute or have your boss think you’re being unprofessional.
Everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how many of us actually eat it? Many of us skip it because making it can take a lot of time in the morning. Even if you use the time blocking method, you may not want to factor in an extra hour for breakfast preparation each morning. However, there are ways to make breakfast a more efficient part of your everyday routine. One way is to make a week’s worth of breakfast over the weekend. Another way is to choose quick breakfast options that you can easily heat up, eat, and be on your way. Powerful Foods Instant Oatmeal is an excellent option because it is quick and incorporates all of the healthy ingredients a well-rounded breakfast should have: whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy.
These components are essential for your breakfast to give you all of the benefits it’s supposed to. If used properly, breakfast will:
A morning routine is vital for a productive home work day. Each person will have different morning rituals. However, everyone should incorporate morning workouts and other healthy lifestyle habits that aid in stress reduction.