As COVID 19 keeps most Americans at home for the foreseeable future, it’s vital to find a routine that is sustainable.  

Working from home can feel like freshman year of college all over again— it feels like nothing matters and you have to work, play, sleep, and eat, all within the same four walls. With 45 States following Stay At Home orders, many routines have been upended from parenting to fitness. There’s no structure. The freshman 15 has been replaced by the COVID-19. Here’s the thing– this is normal. It takes time to develop a routine that works. I’ve been working from home for years. It was a process to find a sustainable routine. Here are some best practices anyone can implement.

Set The Bar Low

Motivation can be dangerous. Maybe you watched a David Goggin’s video of him shouting. It fuels me. It’s made me want to run through walls and dominate the week ahead. However, unless you’re a mutant, an ambitious schedule can spell disaster. It’s not sustainable.

The objective of each day should be to act in a manner where you don’t feel like a total failure when the sun goes down. No need to be your own enemy. The real fuel, the kind that burns clean, are small wins. This can only happen when you set the bar low.

Here’s what works for me. Set aside a two-hour block of time for what Cal Newport calls “deep work.” This is uninterrupted time. The phone is in a drawer. The world is shut away. This is when you can crank on that project. Whether it’s an assignment from your boss or writing that novel about space kittens, it’s the time to work on a singular task. It’s a time-block that’ll benefit you. The goal is to emerge from those two hours and have already won the day. If the rest goes south…if you somehow blackout between Zoom calls and wake up with an empty box of Girl Scout cookies on your belly, the day is still a success.

Embrace The Benefits of Being Home With Caution

It’s okay to enjoy the comforts at home. That being said, you should dress like you would outside of your home. Many love the ultra-casual WFH outfit but how can you take yourself seriously when you don’t have pants on? Grow up and put on an oxford shirt.

That being said, I’ve outfitted my kitchen to have all the comforts of a San Franciscan café that makes $21 toast. That’s my indulgence. I have everything from a Chemex to a Bialetti Espresso maker, a scale, a grinder— it looks like a scene from Scarface but instead of cocaine it’s freshly roasted coffee beans. Every afternoon I make a warm macchiato, filling the home office with an earthy, chocolatey aroma. It’s the ultimate reason why I can’t go back to cubicle life.

Set A Clear Stop Time

I live in an apartment, which means my well stocked bar is in line of sight all day. There are days, especially Wednesdays, when work is dragging, and a bittersweet Negroni seems to be the only answer. After all, I have no boss, I can close up shop whenever I want. But I have a rule— Happy hour starts at 6pm, 5:30pm if there’s an emergency. Don’t allow that immediate gratification seep into your behaviors. It’s critical to set a clear time to stop work.

As more companies embrace work from home policies, the more likely they are to be abused. I had a boss who expected the team to have an “always-on” presence. I never understood why. We’re not SEAL Team Six. Most work can wait until the next morning. We should work to live not live to work. Protect your time, it’s the one non-renewable resource we have.

Keep A Schedule For Non-Work Tasks

In finance, there’s a “clean desk policy” employees must follow. This means no papers or documents should be left on the desk when you leave for the day. It was for security purposes. I’ve maintained this practice for my home office, and it makes a world of difference. What remains on my desk is a daily planner and my laptop. The daily planner contains non-work-related tasks. From specific times to work out, clean the apartment, have an existential crisis, the usual minutiae.

Once you develop a routine that’s achievable, your view about working from home will change. It’s a powerful opportunity. However, it’s a two-way blade, this freedom can open the doors for sloth and gluttony. Think back to freshman year, do you want to be the guy who dropped out because he focused too much on perfecting dragon-like bong hits? Or the one who graduated on time? The choice is yours.