As the entire world grapples with life under COVID-19, we’re all adapting to a new normal. Stay-at-home orders and strict measures of social distancing have us confined to our homes, all to curb the devastation of the virus. In our combined efforts, a lot of workers are attempting to master how to work from home.

On the surface, it all seemed easy enough. Stay in the comfort of your home, work in your sweats, and take a leisurely lunch break with your favorite TV show. Well, we all found out that attempting to work from home—with all its lures and perks—has its share of distractions. 

Those cracking the code advise treating the day as if you were going to the office: wake up at a usual hour, shower and dress, and adhere to a schedule. All that’s easier said than done when you can hit the snooze, Netflix beckons, and—oh, yeah—we’re still dealing with a pandemic. But this advice does ring true—setting a schedule is the secret to productivity and efficiency in the time of COVID-19. 

So let’s take a look at how to set a schedule when working from home. 

 

Remember Your Old Routine

Most US states and countries have been under lockdown orders for at least a few weeks. As the novelty starts to wear off, consider what your routine was like before COVID-19. What time did you wake up? Did you bathe at night or in the morning? When did you exercise? Did you have a designated time for lunch? All these questions will help you craft an outline of your new routine. And if you can keep some of the measures the same, you’ll be more productive.

Using your old routine to help you build a new schedule is strategic. You want to mentally create a space that allows you to work from home at your highest potential, one that mimics your old office life. For example, even though you don’t have a commute anymore, it still helps to wake up at the same time. This strategy accommodates your day mentally when you can’t carry out your old routine physically.

 

Consider New Limitations

Implementing old routines is critical, but the reality is this: your new COVID-19, work-from-home schedule isn’t going to be precisely the same as it was in the office. The fact is that you’re not physically in your office—you’re in your home, and that’s different. There’s also a pandemic happening, and it’s worrisome. So now that you have your outline, you’ll need to adjust it for any limitations. 

For many, the stress of life with COVID-19 is distracting and anxiety-inducing. Therefore, to work at your fullest potential, you need to schedule several moments throughout the day to destress and relax. These breaks could include a breathing exercise, an afternoon walk, a daily cup of tea, or an actual break to scream into a pillow. Whatever coping mechanism you choose, be sure to add it to your schedule. 

 

What Barriers Require Change?

Not all of us can seamlessly transition from office to home, and our schedules must change. Struggling parents can relate—how do you work from home while caring for your children? You need to acknowledge your circumstances, building a schedule that allows for work while considering any barriers. These challenges include caring for kids, teaching your children, or minding a family member or neighbor.

What other barriers do you have? Do you need to walk the dog a few times a day? Are you preparing meals for yourself and others? When will you schedule your trips to the grocery store or other essential errands? You’ll need to add any necessary duties to your routine.

 

Crafting Your Schedule

Now that you’ve built an outline based on your old routine, and considered any limitations and barriers, you’re ready to craft your schedule

First, choose start and end times that reflect your old schedule. These are your anchors, so only alter them if limitations or barriers require it. Next, schedule a lunch hour and take it! Don’t skip it for the sake of work, and don’t extend it too long for Netflix. Add in any necessary breaks you need for self-care—time outside, cups of tea, a quick yoga session. 

Lastly, consider your barriers and start to make any changes. If you need to prepare your kids for remote learning, alter your start time. If you need to drop off lunch to your elderly neighbor, extend your lunch hour by an extra 15 minutes. Do you walk the dog three times a day? Schedule it in.

And once you have built your schedule, remember that it’s okay if things change. Your kids might need you more one day, or you may need to go to the grocery store. As long as you have a general schedule to work from home, you’ll stay productive, focused, and as efficient as possible during this unprecedented time of COVID-19. 

 

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