If you’re able to work from home during this pandemic, then you should definitely do so.
I’ll share with you some things that I’ve been doing at home in the hope that it will give you more of your own ideas for making it a joy for you to stay in, even if you don’t like working from home.
Original Morning Ritual
Let me give you a bit of context. I’ve been working on optimizing my routines for years and most of my morning routines are done outside of my apartment. They happen outside because I noticed I feel better when I leave the apartment as early as possible.
I love having morning rituals. They enable me to have maximum energy throughout the day and as a by-product, they also allow me to be highly productive.
Since I want to do my part and not let the coronavirus spread any further, that means creating a new routine to adjust for the current condition.
So the questions I asked myself is, What’s The Best Routine I Can Adopt Given The Circumstances That Will Maintain My Peak Energy and Focus?
The essentials of my morning rules were:
- Ensure I Get Enough Sleep
- Get Out Of The House Immediately
- Exercise in the Gym + Sauna in the Gym + Cold shower
- Eat Light
- Stimulating Read at a Cafe
If you’re interested, you can get more details here.
Now that I’m staying home, this will eliminate Steps 2–5 of the morning rules since they all happen outside.
Making The Home Environment Work For You
The deeper I thought about the question of the best home routine to adopt, another question popped up: How Can I Use Being Confined to Home Work for Me?
Optimizing the Home Environment
I like to consider the home environment as if it’s a variable to play with.
It’s also one of the most important factor since you’ll be spending so much time at home.
The most obvious thing you can do is to ensure that your home is clean and tidy since it will play a major role in making you feel good about being there. If you think having a messy home works for you, just imagine going into a messy Starbucks or Costa. There’s a reason why it doesn’t seem appealing. Plus the simple act of taking care of your home gives you a feeling of ownership and pride.
Declutter the Konmari Way
Take the extra time you have at home to declutter. The main things are:
- Visualize your ideal home environment.
- Gather all of your things into one category at a time.
- Ask yourself, Does this item cause a spark of joy? If not, get rid of it.
The Art of the Hygge
I thought a bit about Scandinavia. They get long and harsh winters and yet they consistently rank highest on the Happiness Reports.
There’s a word Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) that originates in the Norwegian word meaning well-being. The word Hygge first appeared in Danish in the 19th century and now plays a much more central part of Danish culture than Norwegian. It’s come to mean coziness, togetherness, well-being and contentment. Whether you’re forced indoors by shitty weather or a pandemic, we can all benefit greatly from Hygge.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Prepare hot drinks. Coffee, hot chocolate, tea.
- Take pleasure in the little things. Enjoy each sip. Be present. Be mindful. Be here.
- Stay warm and cozy with sweaters, wool socks, scarf and a blanket.
- Be surrounded by things that makes you feel happy and relaxed.
- Bring nature indoors with plants, wooden furniture pieces, natural light.
- Use lots and lots of candles. And maybe lamps. Avoid very bright or fluorescent lighting generally and especially in the evenings. It kills the ambience and prevents you from sleeping properly.
- Love yourself. Allow yourself to relax. Take a bath. Put on some relaxing music. Read.
A few tips for making the home office work:
- Create a dedicated workspace. If you have a separate room that you can dedicate for working use that. Don’t work from the bedroom. If you don’t have a separate room, use the kitchen. Try not to mix the area you relax with the area you work. It makes it harder to disconnect. The key thing to keep in mind is going for the maximum work/non-work separation.
- Keep your working space clean. I personally prefer to do this in the evening before I finish up work. That way when I start the next morning, the work space feels inviting. You want the space to feel generally like it’s an environment where you want to spend a lot of time.
- Don’t wear the same clothes you slept in. Wear your “work” clothes or anything different to create a mental message about your shift in activity. By getting dressed up for work, you’re sending a subtle but powerful message to your unconscious that, I’m getting ready for work. You can take it a step further and change out of your work clothes once you’re done.
- Eliminate distractions. Because you’re at home, it’s easy to load up Netflix or YouTube, kick back with some snacks and suddenly you don’t feel like working at all for the rest of the day. To prevent that from happening, consciously plan ahead and prevent yourself from such activities until after your work day has ended.
- Program breaks. The longer you’re working, the more important it is to ensure that you have breaks programmed into your day. You can use your break time to do the laundry, do the dishes, prepare food, eat, workout, meditate, etc. Take walks in the park, around the block, to the supermarket. Consider using the Pomodoro Technique for doing work in chunks of time.
- Use remote working tools. Here’s one list to get you started. A few popular communication tools: Slack, Zoom, TeamViewer, Google Hangouts, Skype.
- Communication. If you live with someone, set expectations. Make it clear that if, for instance, the doors are closed or you have earphones on, then it means that you’re not to be disturbed. Interruptions kill your flow. When communicating with your team, intentionally over-communicate. There are a lot of non-verbal cues that get lost when you move away from face to face interactions and the risk is always in under-communicating, not over-communicating. Use lots of emojis too 👨💻😁🔥
- Find the right music. Determine the activity that you’re doing and then you can experiment with different types of music to see what fits it the most. If I’m doing creative work for example, then I’ll listen to binaural beats or classical music.
Family and Friends
There’s a high probability now that most of your friends and family are at home and available. What a great opportunity to catch up with them over Messenger, FaceTime, WhatsApp if you haven’t done so already.
Have a think about all the people that are important in your life and make it a point to catch up with them. Let them know you’re thinking of them.
Think about the people that you’ve lost touch with that you’d like to reconnect with.
Look through old photos. Reminisce.
Cooking and Pour Over Coffee with Mindfulness
I rarely cook and have taken this opportunity to go through YouTube cooking channels to prepare some tasty home-made dishes.
Some of the channels include:
- Jamie Oliver
- Gordan Ramsey
- Binging with Babish
Given the current evolving situation, I don’t anticipate to have all ingredients available to me at all times so I’ll be making do with whatever is available.
I love pour over coffee but have always been too lazy to make it myself. Now I’ve dusted off my V60 and engaged in the art of making the perfect pour over coffee, writing my tasting notes in a journal for all of the beans I’ve accumulated but not touched over the past 2 years.
I’ve discovered joy in this simple process of grinding the beans to drinking the coffee itself. This is a way for me to remember to be mindful.
You can bring mindfulness to any of your daily activities. It’s a great way to have more awareness and consciousness in your everyday living.
The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own — Epictetus
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed studying Stoicism and putting it into practice.
During times like these, it feels especially rewarding to remember the wise words of the ancient Greek philosophers. The Stoics taught us to focus on what’s within our control (our home environment, staying healthy by working out and eating well) and ignoring what’s not within our control, giving us more peace of mind.
If you’re just getting started, I recommend starting with these books:
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
- Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus
- Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
Some additional free resources include:
These are great places to discuss Stoic ideas generally and you can also join or start your own Virtual Stoa. In the Virtual Stoa that I’m a part of, we use the book, A Handbook for New Stoics, which I would also recommend.
With restaurants, cafes, and bars closed, I find it much easier than ever to fast. You no longer have to say to your friends, Oh I’m fasting today so no food for me… then proceed to watch them wolf down a delicious burger and fries. Ouch.
Wait, but why fast?
- It improves your immune system
- It improves brain function
- It speeds up your metabolism
- It may help you live longer
Once the work day is over, here are some ideas to keep you busy:
- Sex (where possible)
- Take a bath
- A glass of wine or your alcohol of choice
- Play online games
- Read a book
- Take an online course or develop a skill
- Research something you’ve been thinking about
- Write a blog post, a book, a poem, a thoughtful note
- Reflect on the big questions
- Virtual poker
- Attend online events
- Create your own Zoom event
- Go cloud clubbing
- Meet random people online
Establish Your Own Home Rules and Rituals
I hope you now have a few more ideas to play with at home and make working from home a better experience as a result.
I’m still tweaking but this is my updated morning routine:
- Ensure I get enough rest by following evening ritual
- Make bed
- Work out using one of the options I’ve listed above
- Drink a lot of water
- Gratitude journaling
- Meditate using Headspace
- Read something stimulating
- Prepare pour over coffee
- Plan the Day
As you try out different routines, you can note them down in a journal or log to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Think about these questions as you write:
- Is there a meaningful impact on my energy levels?
- Is it worth the time spent? (some activities might take too long to do like taking a 2 hour bath, for example)
- Is there any downside? (e.g. taking certain supplements can impact your health or too many coffees can lead to sleepless nights)
Going through this exercise will help you identify the activities that make dramatic differences for you in mental wellbeing and overall energy levels. Keep note of those activities so that you can add them to your daily routine.
Stay safe and healthy!