Stuck at Home? 10 Rules to Survive & Thrive
While social restrictions are currently easing, for many it will still be some time before a return to the workforce is possible.
Since publishing 10 Rules for Successful Remote Working based on my own experience founding Pantera Press, I’ve been asked repeatedly if I have any advice for structuring the day for those who have been made redundant, furloughed or are just stuck at home.
The simple answer is yes. In fact, many of the effective WFH principles apply to everyday life at home.
Rule 1: Be Aware - Structure is King
Structure is critical.
When you don’t have firm plans in place, it’s really easy to fill your morning with mindless activities like scrolling social media or watching movies in bed and before you know it – it’s the late afternoon and you haven’t even had breakfast. This binge-watching “weekend” or “vacation” mindset can feel wonderful in the short-term. But without structure for the longer-term, it’s very easy to fall down a rabbit hole of helplessness where motivation, passion and energy disappears.
Focussing on the importance of structure is the first step to surviving and thriving.
Rule 2: Decide your Hours in Advance and Stick to Them
If you were going into work and your start time was 8.30am, you would work backwards factoring in your commute time and the time it takes you to get ready in the morning before deciding your wake-up time. And this wake-up time would in turn inform your bedtime for the night before.
When you don’t have the structure of a job, it’s important to create your own structure. One of the most important things you can do is set your wake-up time and bedtime, for weekdays. It’s important that you get up at the same time each day.
Now this isn’t to say that you can’t lounge around in bed of a morning – just that it needs to be part of your plan.
For example, if you decided that your new wake-up time was going to be 9.00am. You might set a wake-up alarm for 9am, and a follow-up alarm for 9.30am to signify that it’s now time to get out of bed and start the day.
Similarly, for an evening, knowing that your wake-up time is 9.00am you might set an alert for 10.30pm to signal it’s time to turn off the TV and hop into bed with the goal of going to sleep by 11.00pm.
Setting your waking hours is only half the battle, sticking to them is the other half. I suggest setting recurring alarms on your phone (with non-intrusive/gentle) tones to remind you when it’s time to get out of bed and when it’s time to return to bed.
Rule 3: Get Dressed
Create a morning routine that suits you, but don’t forget to get dressed. It’s totally fine if you want to get changed into ‘daytime pyjamas’, as long as it’s a fresh outfit. It is surprising how much a new outfit can elevate your mood and energy.
Rule 4: Use your ‘Commute Time’ Wisely
The time between waking up and starting your day is really important to mindset and energy. When you work in an office job you usually have a solid amount of time during your commute to work. It’s that brainless part of the day that helps build your energy on route to work, and allows you to decompress on your return home.
Don’t underestimate how important this time to energise/decompress truly is.
Factor some brainless downtime into your morning routine and your evening routine. Perhaps it’s listening to a podcast for 30 minutes or scrolling through social media. This activity is about creating a signalling moment to your body and mind that the productive part of your day is starting or coming to an end.
Rule 5: Be Social
When stuck at home it can be very easy to go a full 24 hours without speaking in real life to another human (aside from text/email). Social connection is really important for mental health and wellbeing.
Make sure you plan for at least one social activity every single day. This could include a planned video call with a friend or family member, a walk with a friend, or a class of some kind (fitness/educational) be it in person or via video conference.
Rule 6: Take Regular Breaks
It’s important to take regular breaks, something that we often forget to do in a working environment. For example, having a glass of water every hour and if you are doing something sedentary making sure you get up and stretch.
Plan these breaks in and set reminders or alarms for them.
Rule 7: Variation is Important
Varying your activities throughout the day will minimise boredom or procrastination and will also help maintain your energy levels.
The easiest approach is to identify when you usually have the most energy and brain capacity throughout the day, and plan to do the tasks that require deeper thinking or more attention during this time.
Then, try to schedule your non-sedentary activities or social activities for when your energy levels would normally start to fade, as this will provide a nice spike of adrenaline to keep you going.
Rule 8: Plan Out the Day
This rule is really the combination of all 7 prior rules
Create a plan for each day. As I shared earlier, structure is king. Below is an example of a structured plan. This is just one of many examples. Make your plan your own but be sure to include all of the previously mentioned elements. Remember to be realistic with timings –for example, if it only takes you 5 minutes to get ready of a morning don’t allow for 30 minutes in your plan.
· 8.00am – 8.30am Wake up and catch up on social media · 8.30am - 8.45am Get out of bed and put on active wear · 8.45am - 9.45am Go for a morning walk while listening to a podcast or audiobook · 9.45am - 10.45am Make breakfast and read the news · 10.45am - 11.15am Have a shower and get dressed for the day · 11.15am - 12.15pm Online learning/self-improvement: time for a free online course or module that could expand your skillset, or time to work on your resume/linkedin, connect with people outside of your network · 12.15pm -12.45pm Plan your dinner meals for the week and make a shopping list · 12.45pm - 1.45pm Head to the shops to buy your groceries for the week · 1.45pm - 2.30pm Have lunch via zoom with a friend · 2.30pm - 3.30pm General household cleaning · 3.30pm - 4.30pm Go for a Drive or an Adventure · 4.30pm - 5.30pm Dinner Prep · 5.30pm - 6.30pm Evening wine and social media catch up · 6:30pm -7.00pm Eat dinner · 7.00 - 10pm Watch TV · 10-10.30pm Get ready for bed (no social media or checking phone)
Rule 9: Don’t be too Available
Even if you're not currently that doesn’t mean you have to jump whenever a friend or family member asks you to do something or wants to chat.
Having a routine is important. Remember that what you do is on your terms, and you decide how (and if) you’d like to adjust your routine to fit others, and others requests, in.
Rule 10: Be Kind to Yourself
Be kind to yourself. These are stressful times. Try to be disciplined but recognise that these aren’t perfect conditions and you’ll do your best.
Bonus Rule: Read
A study out of the University of Sussex found that reading helps reduce stress by up to 68% which is more than having a cup of tea, going for a walk or listening to music. Reading as little as 6 minutes a day can reduce stress by up to two thirds.
 * Source: Lewis, D. (2009), Galaxy Stress Research, Mindlab International, Sussex University, UK