By Denise Moody

Mornings look very different at my house during distance learning than they did before. Over the years my morning routine has been tweaked based on the age of my kids and my priorities in that season of life, but that finely-tuned routine was completely thrown out the window on March 18th when we went to distance learning. Our lives started to look completely different and as we have navigated working from home, figuring out distance learning for each of our children, internet issues, and all the cooking, each day has felt both extremely busy and yet oddly unproductive. Like many of you, I am feeling the stress of the blurred boundaries between work and home.

Creating some rituals and routines about waking up, starting your work day and ending your work day can help create some structure around your day that signals to your brain that your work day is done. When we were in school, there were some natural ways that happened, like turning off the lights, tidying your desk, shutting down your computer and leaving the building. It is important to think about how we can build some of that same structure into that pattern of our days while we are working from home.

Morning routine: In his book, The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod encourages 5 things that can be part of your morning routine and encourages you to start with just 2 minutes for each item. His six step process can be remembered with the acronym SAVERS standing for silence, affirmation, visualization, exercise, reading and scribing (or journaling). Build a routine that works for you and don’t overcomplicate it.

Start of work day routine: Creating a routine to start your work day signals to your brain to switch modes. These are simple actions that can be reversed at the end of the day to help you separate from your work.

  1. Work Clothing: Our attire has definitely changed in this time of distance learning, but have clothes that are specific for work, choose a sweater (just like Mr. Rogers) or different shoes (take off the Uggs and put on real shoes). Also that favorite hoodie or sweatpants are a great way to treat yourself at the end of the work day, so save them for those non-work hours.
  2. Prep your workspace: Have lights that you turn on only when you are working, start a diffuser or light a candle, “pack your lunch” by filling your water for the day and getting some snacks to put at your workstation or getting your computer out to set up.
  3. Write down your big 3 of the day: Determine what your three priorities are to accomplish that day. Write them down on something you will notice throughout the day. Bonus points if you choose to share them with your team. Don’t overcommit yourself to big projects, but a simple reminder of what you did accomplish can be helpful.

End of work day routine: These are actions that signify you are done with the work day. You have worked hard and are ready to shift your attention to other priorities.

  1. Review the big 3 of the Day: Look back at your big 3, cross off items that you got done and make notes for what might need to get done the next day
  2. Set your boundaries with emails and communicate them. Think about what your strategy is about communications with others based on your student’s needs and the needs of yourself and your families. Automatic replies to your email are your friend. They let others know that you are not working and when they should expect a response from you. If there are questions that you get asked frequently such as the code for the google classroom, when a big assignment is due, or how they schedule a meeting with you, develop an automatic reply that will address those frequently asked questions, along with parameters for when you will be reading and responding to emails. Turn it on and don’t check it. Let your team members know how to get a hold of you outside of those times.

I know there are many reasons you may need to reach a family or student outside of your regularly scheduled hours. Schedule a time that you are going to check your email or when you would be available for a quick video meeting and be intentional about keeping the rest of your evening work-free.

  1. Clean your workspace: Tidy your desk, blow out the candle, or turn off the diffuser Power  down your computer and tuck it somewhere out of sight.
  2. Work Clothing: Take off that piece of clothing that is used during work hours. Go put on the comfy clothes that are reserved for the part of the day that is focused on non-work activities.
  3. Physical act: Determine what physical act you can do to signify that your work day is done to you and your family. Shut the door to your workspace, turn off the light, close the blinds in that room, or even put a sheet over your desk.

Evening routine

You likely had a routine before distance learning that helped you to be prepared to get out the door in the morning whether it was packing lunches, running the dishwasher or setting out clothes. Now might be the time to reassess whether some of those same things might help make mornings go smoother even in distance learning. Also be sure to build in some time for something that is a treat to yourself. It might be spending 15 minutes watching some videos that make you laugh, or reading a chapter in a book, taking a bath, or writing in a journal.

I encourage all of you to think about how routines might help you regain a sense of control and order in your work life balance. Talk with others about how they are balancing the blur of boundaries between work and home. Create a plan to try for a few days to see if it makes a difference.