If you’re new to the whole work-from-home thing, you might default to what many of us do the first time we find ourselves no longer having to commute to an office: staying in bed until the last possible moment, then spending the rest of the day doing remote work in our pajamas.
And I do mean “the rest of the day”; work expands to fill the time allowed, as the saying goes, and it’s too easy to do a little bit of work, get distracted by something else, do a little more work, realise you haven’t eaten anything yet, try working again but spend most of your time on social media, finally decide to take a shower, tell yourself you’re going to put on fresh clothes but decide it’s too late in the day to wear anything but pajamas, and then spend the last few hours before bed pushing yourself through all the work you didn’t accomplish during your theoretical “workday.”
Which means you need a morning routine—and it’s worth noting that this routine does not have to happen during your typical “morning hours.” If your natural chronotype wants to run a smidge behind what it would if you had to set an alarm clock, go ahead and let yourself sleep until you’d naturally wake up. (Yes, you’ll have to reset your circadian rhythm once you start going back to the office again, but sleep is so important to both personal and public health that I’m in favour of turning off the alarm for now and letting your body get the sleep it needs.)
Once you do wake up, have a plan of action already planned. In other words: know what you’re going to do and in what order you’re going to do it.
Maybe that means “use the toilet, brush your teeth, drink a cup of coffee, walk the dog, take a shower, get dressed, pour a bowl of cereal, open laptop and begin processing email.”
Maybe it means “help kids get breakfast, drink a cup of coffee, set kids up with distance learning project, do 10-minute YouTube yoga routine, take a shower, get dressed, check in on kids and offer guidance, take laptop to sofa on other side of room and log in to Slack.”
Your work and family commitments will help you determine your new morning routine; maybe you need to be ready for a daily video conference at 10 a.m., for example, or maybe your children naturally wake up around 6. But if you don’t get that morning routine in place, you won’t be ready for your 10 a.m. conference—or for whatever else the day might throw at you.
Because, for many of us, the way we spend our mornings is the way we spend our days. So add a little bit of structure to these atypical, structureless mornings, and it might very well improve your mental health, your family harmony, and—of course—your workflow.
And remember: The sooner you get your day going, the sooner you get your work done. When you work from home, you can stop working as soon as the work is finished—so take advantage of that privilege while you can.