In the spirit of staying productive while working from home, we enlisted the help of photographer and friend of Society6, Angela Lewis. Here, she shares her strategies for creating a work from home routine that will help keep you focused and inspired.
As you find yourself working from home, cooped up inside for too many hours of the day, hopefully these tips on how to structure your days and keep healthy will be helpful. Above all, please be gentle with yourself — remember that we’re in a new reality with no certain timeline, so steps and structure might not suffice some days and that’s OK!
How to Begin Your Day
Having a morning ritual is key to setting the tone for the rest of your day. Plan your ideal morning — what would you love to do to begin each day? Coffee & breakfast straightaway? Writing morning pages? Meditating with your cat? Making your bed? Immediately venturing outside for a walk? Do something for yourself, switch it up when you see fit and remember that you can always choose to stay comfy in bed and sleep in!
Getting dressed is next. I’m not going to tell you to wear your “work clothes” and do your hair, unless that feels best for you. Lately, throwing my hair up in a messy bun is one of the small joys I’ve encountered. I’ve also found that throwing on a comfy and conscious outfit (that aren’t pajamas) makes me feel awake & confident throughout the day and also allows for spontaneous walks or Zoom calls.
Set up a Designated Work Space
Creating a dedicated workspace creates helpful boundaries within your home. Choose a nook that inspires you and take some time to decorate it! Put some art on the walls, pile inspiring books nearby, collect a few of your favorite pens & notebooks and add some fresh flowers or plants to liven it up. If it isn’t possible, or the nook just isn’t doing it for you, that’s totally OK! Work from wherever feels good that day – couch, dining room table, front porch or even, sometimes, your bed! Just make sure your bed is made and you sit on top of the sheets!
Make Your To-Do List
Part 1: Organizing Your Many To-Do’s
Coffee in hand, favorite pens by your side, write out your to-do list analog-style. This can be done in a notebook, on an individual piece of paper or on something visual, like a chalkboard hanging on your wall. Begin by writing the month at the top, followed by every single personal & work-related task you’re planning to get done. This initial (likely very long) list is your reference point to dictate your daily to-do’s going forward.
Part 2: Do the To-Do’s
Now, create a plan for your first day! Keeping in mind to be easy on yourself regarding the expectations of what you take on. I recommend choosing no more than three major tasks from your list.
1. Open up your notebook to two blank pages
2. Fill in the left-hand page with the date, followed by your three tasks in point form
3. Parallel to your tasks, on the right side of the page, write the times of day from when you wake up, to when you go to bed (I have 9am to 8pm, see the photo for reference)
4. From there, fill in the time slots with your chosen tasks, peppered around your meals, workouts and any social events you have scheduled.
Set yourself up early to avoid distractions. Try to pinpoint the major distractions in your home — if it’s a messy desk or kitchen, clean it! Try putting your phone in another room, turning your computer to Do Not Disturb mode and closing distracting tabs on your browser. If you live with roommates (cat included), close the door or put on headphones to symbolize you’re in a zone. Your cat will only be offended for a brief moment 🙂
Execute Your Tasks Then Take a Break
My favorite method to track and time tasks is through The Pomodoro Technique, which allows you to work in momentary bursts, then reward yourself with a chill recess. Once you’ve completed a task, be sure to acknowledge your amazing determination by crossing it off, or if you’re like me and want to relive the joyful memories from your youth, place a sticker next to it. Who doesn’t love stickers as a way to reward yourself?!
Go for a stroll, make tea, water your plants or make lunch! My favorite food to prepare for the day is a low-key charcuterie board to snack on. This helps me avoid frequent trips to the kitchen for snacks — the ultimate distraction.
Stretch It Out
Stretching is almost as important as caffeine to feel alert and productive all day long. Make sure you get up and stretch at least once every work-block. Keep a yoga mat laid out, plop down, set a timer and do your thing.
Create a Shutdown Ritual
A shutdown ritual is simply a set of actions performed at the end of each workday. It is a productive method created by Cal Newport that many freelancer friends of mine use. Since home and work are now inseparable for many, this helps keep a healthy work/life balance by freeing your mind from stressful work thoughts in the evenings. Each person can customize their own set of rituals to suit their life, but some basics are;
1. Review what tasks you completed that day
2. Create a plan for tomorrow
3. Close down your computer & say something out loud like, “workday complete” or “see ya” or “OK cat, now we can hang”
Repeating this every single day is a way to signify your workday is done and encourages routine.
Disconnect From Technology
At the end of the day, I like to do something creative using my hands. What are ways that resonate with you personally to disconnect? Cooking a meal? Completing a puzzle? Writing snail mail to a bud? Do something to end your day with the same personal intention that you began it — even if it feels silly, you’ll be giving yourself the space and love that we all deserve right now.