How to start a morning routine when you work from home

If you were to ask a group of people “What’s the biggest appeal of working from home?” I’d bet most will tell you it all boils down to one thing: the flexibility to set your own schedule.

Sure, the lack of commute is great and everyone can appreciate the perks of location independence, but the real win for most people - especially Millennials - comes from breaking free of the standard nine-to-five and instead, working at times of optimal focus and productivity77 percent of Millennials say flexible work hours would make them more productive and as a result, more and more companies now offer some sort of flexible work arrangement.

But even though flexible schedules can be an incredible way for people to create a better work-life balance and be more productive in their work, it’s important not to mistake “flexibility” with a complete lack of routine.

In fact, establishing a solid routine, especially in the morning, is key to your success as a remote worker. Not only do routines help reduce mental fatigue, they also make you happier and more productive. But setting a routine can be hard to do - especially when no one is pressuring you to get out of bed.

So, that’s why I’ve put together this post: to help remote workers like you establish a morning routine that gets your day started on a positive note and ensures you’re on a successful path from the get-go.

create a morning routine when working from home

but before we get into it, let’s make one thing clear from the start: morning routines are important for everyone, even 'night owls'

Setting a morning routine doesn’t necessarily mean popping out of bed at 6:30am each day. Though studies do show that the early bird really does often get the worm. Instead, it’s just about what you choose to do with the first 60 to 90 minutes you’re awake each day. It doesn’t matter if that’s 5:00am or noon, establishing a routine makes sense for you.

Listen to any episode of Tim Ferriss’s podcast and you’ll find plenty of hugely successful people who wake up late.

But you’ll rarely find any who don’t have an established morning routine.    

okay, so what makes a great morning routine?

Look, the truth is that there’s no perfect recipe for an optimal morning - everyone is different. That said, patterns exist in the morning routines of successful people. So, if you’re looking for a framework to make the most of your time before starting work, here’s what you should consider incorporating into your routine.

1. wake up at the same time every day

Well...around the same time every day. One of the biggest perks of remote work is your ability to ditch the alarm clock and wake up naturally - you should take advantage! But make no mistake: establishing a solid sleep schedule still matters. 

That’s because going to bed around the same time each night and waking up around the same time each morning helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or your “internal clock” that tells you when to go to bed and wake up each day. And following your circadian rhythm isn’t just about avoiding waking up to a screeching alarm clock each day; your internal clock also affects everything from mood to diet to heart function.

So getting on track with your natural sleep schedule helps set the tone for the day and positively influences just about every aspect of your personal and work life.

2. exercise (even when you really don’t want to)

I’m sure I don’t need to spend time spouting off the benefits of a good workout routineBut choosing when you exercise can have a dramatic impact on your success both in and out of the gym, too.

Working out in the morning is more habit-forming (no friends pressuring you to go to happy hour at 7:30am) and kicks your metabolism into high gear (meaning you’ll burn more calories throughout the day). But for remote workers, there’s another big benefit to a morning workout routine: exercise increases your productivity.

That means when you sit down at your laptop to get started on your work day, you’re operating at peak productivity from the start.

3. no email until the workday begins

We all have that habit of rolling over in bed and just immediately reaching for our phones to check Twitter or Facebook and start digging into the day’s emails. Most of the time you’re clearing out a bunch of junk mail from the night before (c’mon, ANOTHER Nordstrom’s email!?), but I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this: there’s nothing worse than reading some stress-inducing email from your boss or a client two minutes after waking up.

And that’s why I keep my phone out of my bedroom and stay clear of emails until I sit down to work for the day. It might not feel like it sometimes, but the truth is, nothing bad is going to happen if you don’t check your emails for an hour or two.

Here’s the general principle I choose to live by: if there was some catastrophic issue with work, someone would call me.

Generally speaking, email is an inefficient means of communication in an emergency. (Think about it, would you email the fire department if your kitchen was on fire? I hope not.) So, I justify avoiding my phone in the morning by assuming anything in my inbox can wait until my work day officially starts.

And you know what? I’ve yet to have a problem.

4. do something for you before starting work

I’ll admit, I’m not one of those people who love working out. And I don’t think I’ll ever wake up excited to get out of bed.

So in a lot of ways, my morning routine feels a lot like more work: something I need to do that gives me the opportunity to do what I want to do. That’s why I’ve recently made an effort to start reading a book for 15 minutes each morning.

I’m a big reader, but until now I’ve generally reserved books as a before-bed activity. But by granting myself some time in the morning to do one of my favourite things, I made my morning routine more enjoyable instead of just a list of chore-like tasks. And I’d advocate you do the same - it doesn’t have to be reading, though. Maybe it’s checking Facebook or watching a couple sports segments.

We all have our own interests. The point isn’t what you do, it’s just that you do something for yourself before starting the workday.

And finally…

Take the time to map out your day. Technically, this is the very first thing I do when I sit down at my desk to kick-off the work day, but I still count it as part of my morning routine. By making a prioritized list of what I want to accomplish each day, I’m able to better budget my time while making a commitment to daily goals.

about the author

Zack Andersen - Freelance Content Writer

After three years in recruiting and two with LinkedIn, I recently embarked on a new adventure with my wife and one-year-old son to travel the world while building my content creation business, ZackWrites.com. I'm excited to share my journey and the insights I learn along the way with the Randstad community.

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