After about a year of commuting by bus, train, and foot to my employer’s Hollywood office, working from home became my dream. After being laid off, I got the opportunity. Since I had freelance writing opportunities, I worked on the side; I continued working even though I wasn’t quite full time. I enjoyed the benefits: no commute, no traffic.
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If I’m honest, there were days when I didn’t bother to get dressed. After a couple of months, I quickly realized that having a routine was necessary for my mental health and productivity. I found myself working into the night’s wee hours, waking up late, and repeating that cycle for weeks. Once I realized working from home wasn’t one big party, I set some ground rules for myself. Here are a few things I do each day to keep a healthy balance between my work and home life.
1. Create a morning routine
How you start your mornings can affect how you navigate your day, at least from my experience. For this reason, I created a morning ritual that I now stick to without much thought. First things first, I make my bed. I thought working from my bed was a good idea until I realized that it wasn’t healthy for my bed to be where I worked and slept. Making my bed is a physical indicator my day has started. On days when I like to lounge and work, I use my chaise. Never my bed.
Next up, I make a slow cup of coffee with my Moka pot. I find this gives me time to wake up without feeling rushed. I don’t check my emails or social media until I’ve had a glass of water and a cup of coffee. Now, I am notoriously terrible at making breakfast—or any meal for that matter. That doesn’t mean I won’t encourage you to whip up something to eat, even if I’m not the best example.
If coffee isn’t your thing, maybe make a smoothie or even read a few pages from a book you’ve been putting off finishing. Essentially, my coffee-making time is my morning self-care. That is 15-20 minutes I block off for myself. I imagine this would be more difficult if I had children, but this time is sacred to me as a single woman.
2. Call my friends during lunch
Setting a time for lunch is essential in any workplace scenario. Instead of only nourishing my body, I feed my mind with some chit-chat. I call one of my friends every day to catch up. We talk while I move about the kitchen, making some quick, struggle meal that is typically a boiled egg, a piece of fruit, and any other miscellaneous thing I can pop into the microwave and make in three minutes. I love how that time breaks up my day. Since my friends live on the East Coast and I live in LA, my lunchtime works best for us to catch up due to the time difference.
3. Sit outside and get some sun
When I started working from home, there were many days when I’d look up and the sun was setting. I’d think to myself, “I haven’t been outside all day.” Getting outside became an intentional practice for me. I would walk to get coffee from the small business on the corner for a midday pick-me-up or go for a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air. My practice has changed a little due to COVID. I left LA for Atlanta in March to be close to my family, and visiting my favorite shops anywhere feels like a task these days. You have to remember your mask. You may even have anxiety about coming into contact with people, not in your household.
I can relate. Quarantining at my parents for the last six months was nice. Especially since I got to spend quality time with Max, our family dog. Every day, we’d sit outside for 15 minutes (or until we started sweating). I’d even take my shoes off and walk on our driveway on days when I needed to feel grounded. As my mom always says when she can tell I’m feeling down, “Go get some sun on your face.” Now, I’m encouraging you to do the same.
4. Put on something I love
Truthfully, I miss getting dressed. Sweats have been my go-to lately. While I love how comfortable I feel, I miss my denim and boots. One day I missed them so much, I put on my favorite pair of jeans and my new silver boots to go to the grocery store and to bug my mom. She says boots aren’t for summer, and she’s probably right. But, I say boots are for whenever I feel like wearing them, especially if they’re silver.
I’m not suggesting you draw attention to yourself in the way I did. But pull out those signature pieces you miss wearing. Throw them on for a Zoom call or on a day when you’re in the mood to get a little flashy. Oh, and put on your favorite beauty product for good measure. My beauty favorite of choice these days is Glossier’s Cloud Paint.
5. Set a time to end your day
Boundaries are important in all aspects of life. You have to give yourself a time each day to stop working without wavering. This practice has gotten a little tricky for me during the quarantine. The boundaries I’m encouraging you to set, I have had trouble implementing myself. It is always easier to tell someone to do something than it is to put it into practice.
Give yourself some grace. There will be days you work beyond you set a boundary, but having a time set makes it easier for you to stick to it. Each morning I make a to-do list of items I have to get done. I also make a follow-up list at the end of my day of the things I didn’t get to that I plan to roll over into the next day. Organization and boundaries are your best friends when working from home. You’ll find your grove if you work at it. I promise.