Throughout my career I have maintained a home office. Some years it was a full-time situation and others for focus and solitude. After spending many hours working from home, I learned a few things. For instance, clear every possible snacking item from the house and cut your television cable. Literally. With scissors. It’s harder to fix. So once that was done and the snacks tossed from my third floor balcony, much to the delight of the birds and squirrels, I had to address something else. Working from home can take its toll and I found myself becoming anxious. It began to affect my work both in quality and quantity. Why? This was supposed to be my sanctuary. My retreat, like Thoreau’s Walden or Hemingway’s… well, bar. What I was missing was routine. I was floating. Like a kid locked in a candy store overnight, I was overwhelmed with opportunity and options. I ate all the candy and got sick.

Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, many of us will be working from home for an extended period of time. For those of you who are new to this, I have compiled a list of things that business blogs and tech posts won’t tell you. How to not lose your mind.

Set your alarm as you normally would

This is not a vacation! It is not an opportunity to sleep in, eat fruit loops and watch cartoons. You are going to work just like every other day. The location has just changed.

Make your bed

For real! This may seem insignificant but it’s important. So much so that there is a book written about it.

Have a proper breakfast

Your body needs to fuel up for your work day just like any other day. Mental health starts with the gut. (imagine that last sentence being said by an angry Gordon Ramsey).

Have a shower and get dressed

This is NOT a pajama party! The cliché of working from home in your PJs sounds great but the novelty, and fresh scent, doesn’t last. “Dressing for work” puts you in the mindset for focused work. And brush your teeth.

Pack a lunch

This may seem ridiculous but hear me out. You need to remind yourself, even subliminally, that you are at work. You also want to limit your trips to the kitchen. Delicious = Distraction.

Finish at 5

… or whatever time you usually finish. This gives you something to look forward to and it mentally gives your home back to you.

Wait! I do this everyday? Exactly! Replicate your workday routines. I discovered that when I worked from home for an extended period of time my anxiety came from a lack of routine. I need the structure, and so will you.

Finally

Limit your news watching. In times like this it’s easy to become obsessed with the news. My suggestion is to watch, read or listen to the news at peak times only. That is when the key stories will be reported. You will be adequately informed.

Self-isolation does not mean seclusion. You have not been sent to solitary confinement. Get up, get dressed and throw away the fruit loops. They are delicious but distracting!

What tips and tricks do you have for working from home?

Read How to work remotely and not lose your mind Part 2: After Work Aftermath.