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If you work from home, the habits you develop shape routines you live by every day of the week. For most of us, we establish a routine without putting much thought into it. That explains why sometimes our days are productive and sometimes they aren’t.
As studies show, 40 percent of what we do daily is powered by habits, meaning our habits control us and the outcomes of our actions. The right routine will promote improved productivity as well as a boost for your overall well-being.
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Why Create a Daily Routine When Working from Home?
The perfect routine can make all the difference between operating at peak efficiency and struggling to reach your goals through a poorly planned day. Routines can be energy- and time-saving.
You see, when you find a pattern that works, and when you repeat certain actions consistently, your brain forms associations between cues and response. It means the brain doesn’t have to expend too much energy or effort making a decision related to that habit.
More importantly, a well-planned daily routine sets you up for success. Do you feel like unhealthy habits are holding you back, making you inefficient? Don’t fret. This post is for you.
Tips for a More Productive WFH Routine
1. Plan the Night Before
Most people don’t bother planning for the next day. They just go with the flow. If you’re freestyling your days, it might be difficult to maintain productivity throughout your workday. When things like email or additional work pop up, you can lose track and end up not achieving your goals.
If you want to be more effective and productive, start your daily routine the night before. Plot out blocks of time, each with a specific activity you want to accomplish within that time.
Time blocking can help you avoid multitasking, which negatively impacts productivity. If you don’t have any system in place, try using spreadsheet time tracking. Whether it’s Excel or Google Sheets, you simply need to create time blocks for each day, week, or month. You’ll then specify the activities for each of these time blocks.
The spreadsheet will guide you on what you need to do each day of the workweek and you’ll always know what to expect.
2. Get Enough Sleep
You can’t work effectively if you’re feeling groggy because you didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Experts recommend sleeping at least seven hours every night, but we know that doesn’t always happen.
Certain habits could be preventing you from getting quality sleep at night and disrupt your routine the following day. These include watching TV before bed, eating right before retiring for the night, and using your phone in bed.
To help you sleep peacefully, here are some handy tips to consider:
- Set a specific time for sleeping. Depending on when you wake up, set a time to hit the bed every night. This ensures that you get sufficient sleep so you can wake up relaxed and ready to work.
- Turn off the TV an hour before going to bed. The light from the TV can affect your sleep patterns. That’s why it’s advisable to turn it off, along with any other electronics, at least an hour before you hit the sack.
- Find an activity that helps you wind down. Avoid strenuous activities like working out or heavy lifting toward the end of your day. Instead, take a warm bath or read a book to induce sleep.
Your goal should be to not only sleep the recommended seven or eight hours but to get quality sleep each night. Once you’re well-rested, you can stay productive throughout the day.
3. Define Your Work Hours
For some, the work hours are already set by their employers or clients. If it’s not (as is the case for freelancers) you should prioritize doing so yourself. Defining your work hours helps you to stay organized and get more work done. In short, this will enhance your routine.
The trick is finding a schedule that matches your lifestyle. Some find a split schedule more convenient. This involves working for four to six hours in the morning or afternoon, and then putting in an additional hour or two in the evening. This schedule can work great for parents who want to spend time with their children.
The other advantage of following set hours is that it helps you get out of the “always on” mindset that’s become synonymous with remote work.
4. Skip Emails First Thing in the Morning
Mornings are a great time to focus and do more productive work that requires strategy and creative thinking. Don’t waste this time when your concentration is at its peak by checking and responding to emails.
You don’t want to spend the rest of your day reacting to other people’s needs instead of engaging your brain in proactive tasks. Create a habit of setting aside the first morning hours without email or chat.
To avoid the temptation of checking emails or chats, turn off all notifications on your phone and computer. Let this be the time you spend doing more meaningful work and committing to your priorities.
5. Set Aside Time in Your Routine for Household Chores
We can’t stress enough the importance of working with routines. That includes planning every bit of your day, including household chores. When you first start working from home, seeing dirty dishes in the kitchen or laundry can distract you.
That’s why it’s common to find yourself doing laundry or the dishes when you’re supposed to be working. You can avoid this by scheduling these tasks ahead of time. You could try leaving everything clean and organized before going to bed. Or, set aside a few minutes before you start work to perform these chores.
When everything is in order, you won’t waste time thinking about the chores awaiting you.
6. Schedule Lunch and Breaks
To maintain a steady routine, it’s essential to schedule specific times for lunch and mini-breaks throughout your workday. When you have a specific time for lunch, you can plan your work around deadlines or set targets to complete before then.
Without scheduling breaks, it’s easy to forget to take rests, which are necessary to help you stay focused. Plus, you’re more likely to feel burnt out and drained from overworking and failing to refuel your energy.
As a result, you may fall into the trap of procrastination and end up bingeing on Instagram reels and YouTube videos. Try to set breaks that are an ideal fit for you, whether they are five, ten, fifteen, or twenty-minute blocks.
Most importantly, use your breaks wisely. Moving away from your desk and doing some physical activities can help boost your productivity and well-being. This could range from a brisk walk or a jog outdoors, to attending a virtual fitness class.
7. Implement the “Eat That Frog” Philosophy
Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog describes the benefits of tackling the worst things first. The author suggests starting your daily routine with the most pressing or difficult task first. These are tasks that are likely to encourage you to procrastinate.
Once you accomplish that task, everything else will be easier. Furthermore, even if you do little else the rest of the day, you’ll be happier knowing that you accomplished something important.
8. Learn to Say No to Unreasonable Requests
Saying no to extra requests is one of the most effective ways to maintain a productive work from home routine. The moment you accept additional tasks, your routine falls off balance, and your productivity suffers.
So, know when to decline requests and when to accept them. This will save you from ending your day with regrets about not achieving your daily goals.
9. Establish an End of Day Ritual
The line between work life and personal life is very thin when you work from home. It’s easy to get so caught up in your work that you lose complete track of time. No wonder 25 percent of remote workers cite unplugging from work as their topmost struggle, according to a Buffer survey.
Another study by Microsoft discovered that 40 percent of professionals continue working outside of regular hours, which results in less family time. That’s why you need to create end-of-day routines to help you unplug.
Here are some ideas:
- Set aside a dedicated time for mental solitude. Reserve a few minutes at the end of the day to step away from everything and separate yourself from other thoughts and ideas, to focus on your own. This allows you to process and concentrate on your emotions and can be an effective way to disconnect from work.
- Reflect on your accomplishments. A personal debrief that focuses on the things you’ve accomplished is a great way to de-stress. Try to write down a list of three good things that happened to you each day. Doing so forces your brain to scan the last eight or so hours of your workday and reflect on your performance and achievements.
- Find a hobby. Another end-of-day routine to help you disconnect from work is to engage in a mastery task like cooking or learning to play an instrument. When you make this a routine, your brain will automatically switch to relaxing mode when it’s time to engage in that activity.
- Set an alarm at the end of the day to signal the end of your workday. You don’t have to stop working at the exact time. However, knowing that your workday is technically over can help you finish up and call it quits.
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Final Thoughts on Establishing a Routine That Works for You
These tips are just guidelines to help you be more productive. You can’t implement everything, and you certainly can’t implement everything all at once. Try to experiment with a few of these suggestions and stick with those that work for you. Create a personalized routine and track the results for one week. If that doesn’t work, keep trying until you find the optimal work from home routine.
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