I will say it loud, clear, and for everyone to hear: I am nothing without a routine. My morning routine helps me transition into the day, waking me up from a (hopefully) deep sleep and stepping into my work tasks with ease. My nighttime routine achieves the same but, of course, the opposite. I’m able to wind down from the tasks on my to-do list and quiet my mind and body for the aforementioned restful snooze. But my work from home routine? Well, that’s proven to be a bit more of a challenge.

When March 2020 hit, I was certain I’d be taking a brief break from the office, only to return to my “pod” (oh, the days) a few short weeks later. I couldn’t have predicted that the pandemic not only would see me grow into an unmoored work-from-home enthusiast but set me on the path of becoming the nomadic writer whose title I’ve always dreamed I would be lucky enough to claim.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Image by Teal Thomsen

But as we know, when the world gives us what we want, the journey to embodying that gift and privilege isn’t always seamless or simple. As someone who isn’t often in the same place for more than a few weeks (don’t worry, I’m working on that), it’s taken a lot of learning, patience, and flexibility to arrive at a work from home routine that feels stable and secure. And though our situations may differ, and our at-home offices might boast a different décor, I’ve discovered a few widely-applicable tips and tricks that I’m confident anyone can weave into their work from home routine.

So while it may be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day and knock out a few emails from the comfort of your couch, I’m here to advise: don’t. As someone who’s been there, I can attest to the fact that so much joy can be garnered from sticking to a few rituals, practices, and habits that let you take on the day with grace, energy, and an appetite for the promise (and productivity) it will bring.

Image by Riley Reed

How to Creative a Work From Home Routine That Boosts Productivity

1. Identify the Top Three Things You Need to Accomplish

As someone who’s trying to step away from her perfectionist tendencies and let go of the need to people please, the idea of not checking off everything from my to-do list came with a little added anxiety. But approaching my day with unrealistic expectations only set me up for failure. Staring down a 28-point task list where everything felt like a priority is a foolproof recipe for stress combined with an unproductive outcome.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more intentionality you bring to your to-do list, the more effective you are as an employee. These days, my master to-do list may reach far and wide, but I keep things focused by numbering the top three things that have to get done and can get done. In fact, this is a habit I’ve started doing at the end of my work day. That way, I have a clear idea of where things left off the day prior and can tackle those immediately.

2. Knock Out a Few Easy Wins

This tip falls in tandem with the first. After identifying the three things I have to accomplish the next day, I always like to throw in a few tasks I know I can complete in 30 minutes or less that I’ll do alongside these for an extra boost of confidence. While I’ve always been told to knock out the hard stuff first, I’ve found that jumping straight into something that I won’t see the finish line of for a few hours can feel like a slog. What’s more, it slows down my pace.

By taking on a few easy wins and knocking them out alongside the harder stuff, you get that positive reinforcement that can keep things rolling until *poof* your to-dos are complete.

3. Practice Taking Actual Breaks

I don’t know about your relationship with work, but I definitely used to have a problem with taking breaks. I’d feel guilty for getting a little fresh air or sitting down to lunch without my computer nearby. And if my Slack chimed without the sender receiving an immediate response, you can bet my anxiety signals were sounding off.

PSA: We’re not robots. We’re human beings with a certain energy and output threshold that needs replenishing throughout the day. Ever notice how the longer you sit in your chair, the less you feel your own butt? Yep, your brain’s falling asleep, too.

Effective, inspired work isn’t only the result of diligence, but stepping away every so often. Just as life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, neither does our productivity.

My work thrives when I break for a walk outside or stop for a conversation with my partner. To make sure this happens on the reg (and that you don’t go several hours without looking up for lunch), build in a few regular breaks throughout the day. An easy way to structure this is with mid-morning, lunchtime, and afternoons pauses. And your Apple Watch is telling the truth—it’s important to get up and step away from your desk at least once every hour.

Image by Matti Gresham

4. Prep Your Meals in Advance

I’m a fan of making as few decisions as possible during my workday, (and OK, every day). Decision fatigue is real, y’all, and the more choices we subject ourselves to throughout the day, the more difficult it becomes to make a decision that serves us best. While this is true in just about every aspect of our lives, it appears perhaps with the most frequency in what we eat.

If you haven’t heard, we’re big fans of meal prepping at Camille Styles. There’s a certain joy and comfort that comes with knowing your fridge is fully stocked and you have all the components for healthy, satiating meals to keep your energy high throughout the day. I’m a fan of prepping a few jars of overnight oats for an easy grab-and-go morning meal and I love roasting veggies and cooking grains in advance for endlessly customizable lunch bowls.

Take a little time on the weekend to plan out what you want to eat for the week ahead and do your grocery shopping in advance (though be sure to avoid the Sunday rush). And I can’t emphasize it enough: Step away from your computer when lunchtime hits.

5. Design a Workspace That Inspires

I’m grateful to have never been subjected to the depressingly drab cubicles that were once ubiquitous in workspaces across America. And while I certainly have never needed a ping pong table or free-flowing kombucha to keep me motivated at work, there are a few creature comforts that make the workday all the more enjoyable.

My home office boasts a faux sheepskin rug that I keep draped over my chair for extra comfort. I also made sure to put my money toward something that wasn’t only cute, but ergonomic. (This is my favorite and it comes in the loveliest muted hues.) Beyond that, I like my accessories to match and bring me a spark of aesthetic pleasure when I use them. Function and form fit my space best.

And for times when I’m on the road, my top priority is crafting a comfortable spot on the fly. There’s a few easy ways to achieve this that almost any space can accommodate. I always make sure to keep a cute, seasonal candle in my bag when I’m traveling and I even take my current vision board with me for an added boost of inspiration. From there, so long as my trusty notebook and favorite pens are within reach, I’m a happy worker. Oh, and I’m never without my favorite mug.

Image by Belathée Photography

6. Set and Communicate Clear Boundaries

Setting boundaries is one of the best things you can do to maintain a productive flow. Whether it’s with your partner, roommates, or kids, be sure to let them know when you need to be left alone for either deep work or meetings. I’d recommend communicating this verbally to start, and then, if available, go to a separate room with the door closed for an added physical boundary.

Along with taking regular breaks throughout the day, it’s important to let your coworkers know when you’ll need to hop offline and when they shouldn’t expect a response from you. We all have lives and other things to address and take care of beyond our work. While we’re thankfully in a place where most people understand that, they can’t respect your boundaries if they don’t know what you need.

7. Make Time for Movement

I’m a strong believer that working out shouldn’t be overwhelming. Personally, I’ve noticed that when I seek out the forms of movement that help me feel good and grounded in my body, I’m more likely to commit. And in fact, I’ve found movement to be a salve that keeps me strong and centered all throughout the work day.

Spend a little time reflecting on what supportive movement looks and feels like for you. Perhaps that’s a quick walk in the morning, afternoon, and evening to create natural breaks and bookends to your day. Or, maybe it’s pressing play to a yoga, pilates, or another online workout program that helps you tune in with your body. Whatever route you choose, ensure it’s one that honors your body, mind, and bandwidth. When you do this, movement can become the ultimate form of self-care.

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