The Home Office: Structure and Efficiency

What was once reserved for a small portion of the working world has now become the new norm for the majority of us. We're talking about the home office, or your glorified dinner table setup where you do your work these days.

Now most of us have already had periods of working at home before, usually during studies or when starting a new venture. However, when this form of working continues over an extended period of time, it has to become part of your lifestyle. And when it comes to lifestyle, it’s important to design it in such a way that keeps you most healthy and productive. How? We'll outline the basics for you in this article!

Routine! Routine! Routine!

Let’s begin with the obvious. Routine is important for a variety of reasons, including concentration, physical and mental health, stress levels, and productivity. Irrespective of deadlines or meetings, it is up to ourselves to self-motivate and take charge of our working day. Taking charge is one of the most important factors when working from home. We will look at some common and less common approaches that result in a healthy routine.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day

Evidence has shown that a regular sleep cycle supports our natural circadian rhythms. Living in line with our circadian rhythms, in turn, underpins the healthy functioning of our bio-regulatory functions. When we get these functions to run smoothly, we see a unilateral boost in productivity, concentration, and emotional stability.

Humans evolved innately with the rhythm of nature, which typically led to sleep rhythms aligning with the sun cycle. Regardless of having evolved for thousands of years and working in our own homes, our physical and mental functioning still depends largely on this structure. Thus, if you want to take this to your advantage, you have to acknowledge and that routine is inexorably hardwired into our biology. So, set your alarm for the week, plan when you have to go to bed, avoid snoozing your alarm in the morning, and don't deviate too far from your rhythm in the weekends – you'll happily thank yourself once you've got this established!

Take charge of your to-do list

Regardless of no one being able to look over your shoulder, you will still have to meet expectations and attain certain results. However, besides your mandatory meetings, at home you are in charge of how you organize your day.

You can choose when to have your breaks and in what order you wish to complete your tasks, so make sure to factor this into your strengths. Some people are late risers – and thus productive later in the day – while others are morning people and should therefore both start and finish earlier.

So, analyze your own energy and productivity levels throughout the day, and work these into your personal working routine.

Factor in some form of exercise

You don't have to go crazy every day, but exercise is invaluable to productivity, health, and a fulfilling day. Even if you are swamped with work, remember that a simple walk around the block can do wonders already. The positive benefits of exercise on work include improved concentration, a sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, lower stress, and enhanced creativity.

Remember that routines can factor time for spontaneity

This is particularly useful for those in sectors that rely on creative thinking. Remember that just because you have a routine, this doesn’t mean you need to do the same exact thing every day. For creativity, it’s important to vary the stimuli you take in, and to keep your environment fresh. The alternative? Stagnating, followed by a lack of unproductivity and an inexplicable feeling of unease.

So, for example, if walking is something you enjoy, try and walk in a different compass direction each time you go. Try to find a street you may not have walked down before. If it's cooking, switch up your meals – you get the idea! These small differences in your day-to-day experience help avoid boredom, and foster the innovative and stimulated thinking that we take in from new environments.

Mornings; get at least one task done before breakfast

Arise, have your morning drink – coffee, tea, a salt-and-lemon-cocktail, or just plain water – and begin working while your mind is still clear. Doing this makes starting work again easier after breakfast because you already have some momentum and you can carry on from the point that you started before breakfast. So, when making your to-do checklist, write down something you want to have completed before breakfast each day (doing sports, yoga or a meditation are also viable candidates by the way).

Establishing your personal routine

So, although most of us have been told that keeping to a routine is important for most of our lives already, very few tell you exactly how to do that. By working from home, most of us face being in charge of structuring our own routines all of a sudden.

But, this doesn't have to loom over us as a daunting prospect. Try to see it as your own science experiment, and make it an exciting optimization challenge for yourself. Start by analyzing how you can implement the in this article into your routine, and then personalize them according to your specific needs and desires.

Good luck!