Under normal circumstances, commuting from my bed to my kitchen is a dream commute, especially here in Los Angeles. But these are not normal circumstances and working from home these days, doesn’t feel like a perk at all. Truth be told, it feels a little like being on adult time-out. After 7 weeks of WFH, I’m genuinely missing my co-workers. I miss walking over to my neighbors’ office to shoot the breeze or having them stop by mine. I miss the routine of sharing snacks and getting quick answers to questions I’d rather not go digging around on our intranet to find. No, I’m not loving it but I get that it’s necessary so after weeks in quarantine, I’ve adopted some strategies to help me be productive while WFH—. And less anxious too.
Here’s what I do:
1. I have a good (modified) morning routine
I probably sound like a digital echo chamber as much as I go on about how important it is to have a morning routine, but that’s because it really is. It’s the secret weapon of many productive people. I’ve modified my routine for the times and added a couple of “self-care” steps. Who knew that something as simple as drinking my coffee from a latte glass could perk up my quarantine mornings so much?
2. I signed up for a meal delivery
During the good old days (that was February 2020), my breakfast often consisted of a smoothie while I’m in the car a light breakfast from the cafeteria around 9:30/10:00 am; usually a fruit salad, or boiled eggs, or some type of protein. But then the quarantine happened and I found myself without a cafeteria option. Plus, food shopping was a bit of a hassle for those first few weeks due to all kinds of reasons.
Signing up for Splendid Spoon solved that problem. That to them, I had a delicious stock of smoothie and all sorts of meal options.
3. I make an effort with my appearance
When I started to WFH in March, I didn’t make much of an effort to “dress” for work. In the mornings, I would pull my hair back, brush my teeth, and put on any old tee shirt or top. When I needed to take Zoom calls, I would check to make sure I didn’t look like a slob, but that was the extent of me taking care of my appearance.
One day, I had a morning meeting with a new contact and made an effort to dress up. I pulled my hair to the side to look a little chicer and put on mascara so my eyes would stand out on camera. I also put on a nicer, but still casual, top. It’s the look I would normally do for a weekend run to the farmers market: casual chic. The point is, I put 10 minutes more into getting ready for WFH. That day, I noticed that I felt better about myself and was a little more productive. So now, I make an effort to dress casual-but-presentable to WFH.
4. I distraction-proof my surroundings
I’m a big believer that our environment affects our mood so I try to tidy up in the evenings. It’s a habit that helps me shift from work to home-life mode. Tidying up in the evenings is also the first step to distraction-proofing my home for the next workday. I know myself and if I didn’t do that, I’d use housework to distract myself when I should be working.
I do other things to distraction-proof my space: I have a few concentration playlists on Spotify that I play, I will leave my personal cell phone in the bedroom, and I log on to Slack where my team hangs out all day.
5. I take a walk on my lunch break
A 15-minute walk is part of my morning routine. During these quarantine days, walking to a nearby park and back is my second outdoor break of the workday. It literally helps me take a break. I get my much-needed dose of Vitamin D, which is a natural mood booster and energizer. I also get a little human contact as I say hello to near-strangers and neighbors. Someone on my team has added a weekly yoga class that I really should try and remember to stick around for. I’m also taking advantage of free streaming classes some days and just this past weekend, my friend signed me up for a Nike challenge. With a fresh supply of masks, I can join them for some hikes and walks during the workweek and weekends.
6. I connect with teammates
I mention using Slack to help me stay focused, well, it also helps me maintain my sanity. I’m an ambivert that leans toward extroversion. That means, I’m fine being by myself, but only up to a point. Thanks to our group connecting on Slack, we have a couple of social threads to follow like the “recipe” thread. Another way that being on Slack with them helps my sanity is that I don’t feel the need to work harder to appear productive. Being on Slack, I’m being monitored even more than when I was working from the office.
7. I have a functioning office set-up
When I would WFH a few days here and there, I just worked from a laptop. And that was fine. Now that I’m doing it 5 days a week for weeks on end, it really helps that I have a monitor, an ergonomic office chair, and a wireless mouse. Not only does this help me to work faster, but it also mimics my office set up so I sort of feel like I’m in the office.
8. I surround myself with flowers and nature
The $10 a week I spend on flowers is another self-care treat well spent. It’s a little bit of nature for my desk and something restful and beautiful to rest my eyes on during the day. I’m also very looking to have a view of the San Gabriel Valley mountains from my window.
9. I switch off
Of everything I do, probably the most helpful thing is that I make sure to switch off work when the workday is done. I close the laptop and turn my kitchen table back to being a kitchen table so I feel like I’m home. I also continue my pre-quarantine evening routine of tidying up my apartment as a way to switch into home mode.
10. I have a regular bedtime routine
I take advantage of the perk of having more free time by sticking to a regular bedtime routine. More stress means you and I need more rest, not less.
You hear the term “we’re living in unprecedented times” a lot these days. The term has become a clique, but it really is true. These are extraordinary times. I don’t quite agree with those people who say, do whatever helps you cope. That will lead some people to think it’s okay to drink booze, smoke more weed, stay up later, beat their spouse and children, etc. When we’re going through challenging times like these, we need to practice more healthy habits, not fewer. We need to baby ourselves, speak more softly to each other, have more patience with the people who serve us.
Be grateful for every. little. thing.
Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. Using systems, routines, and some psychological trickery, she can help almost anyone hack their mind and life for greater productivity. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if she's available for one-on-one work.