How to develop a productive daily routine (work from home, house, self)
October 5, 2022 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Due to wfh and a move in the pandemic, I've lost a strong daily routine.

My wfh day is bracketed by dropping off kids to school/activities and picking them up. This gets me going.

But, other than returning home and poking away at my paid work, I am not doing nearly as much as I could. I could produce more work and take more initiative. Yet ever since the pandemic, work is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about deadlines as we are absurdly short-staffed. It turns out that deadlines and my relationships with colleagues are a big motivator for me.

I cook and pack real meals for my kids, but for myself I tend to eat snacks instead of healthy assembled meals. My husband is irritable and depressed and (as a result) ludicrously critical about anyone's cooking other than his own, so we don't eat together.

And personally, I rarely go to the efforts that I should for my appearance. I wear the same jeans several days in a row, and often don't shower until it's time to pick up the kids.

Back in 2020, I really didn't have the time for more productivity, better meals, and better appearance, but I now have large amounts of unstructured time. I just rarely have the deadlines or structure to get it going.

Before the pandemic, I'd commute to work and the need to go to the office led me to take pride in my appearance. Work was also far more goal-driven and deadline driven. I sometimes fell into snacks for meals, but was more likely to plan for myself.

Do you have any suggestions for how to turn this around? I would agree that I am mildly depressed, partly as my husband has been quite depressed. Yet I know that I truly have it in me to do more/do better.
posted by dog-eared paperback to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Since your kids are taken care of, you need to look after yourself. What do you want? What would make you feel incrementally more cared-for and nourished? It might be clean clothes and balanced meals, it might be breaks to take a walk or cuddle a pet, it can be a different thing every day if that's what you want to do. It might be candy bars and too much coffee, and that's okay for now, too.

Being extra productive at work and looking good are nice-to-haves, it sounds like you, personally, need a little extra care right now and you're the only one who is likely to give it to you. Wanting to do the other stuff will happen once you're taking better care of yourself and doing some things you actually want to do and don't just feel like you should do.

A friend had this column on the subject framed in her house, and I reread the link when I need to.
posted by momus_window at 2:56 PM on October 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

For me, kid dropoff and pickup is the frame of my structure. My wife starts working at 7am, which is shortly after I wake up, so rather than sitting the kids in front of the TV while I shower, I drop them off at daycare so they can can play with friends. Obviously, this won’t be replicable if you don’t have flexibility about when you drop them off, but if you do have some flexibility, the benefit is that I have plenty of time to shower and get dressed without feeling rushed. Then I start work, broken up by an early lunch around 11:30 where I’ll at least go downstairs or out on the porch if I don’t go out. Then I’ll usually have meetings in the afternoon to serve as milestones. Then it’s pickup, and I start cooking dinner when I get home. I don’t make any claims that I’m thriving or anything, but it’s enough structure that I usually don’t sit around wondering what I should be doing.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:32 PM on October 5, 2022

Best answer: I like Leo Babauta's Zen Habits for advice on this, I feel like I first heard about "habit stacking" from their site, and here's the post on positive feedback.

At any rate, since you do have the regularity of pick up and drop off, is there something you can do immediately after drop off (take a walk around the block, literally just the block in the beginning) that nourishes your sense of "I can do things!"

And as someone who doesn't change their jeans / wears the same "outside" outfit for multiple days in a row, I think being kind to yourself and thinking "hey, this is really a common experience since the beginning of the pandemic... and I'm not some morally bankrupt person for showering at 2pm" might be helpful.

My therapist during grad school told me something along the lines of "you can feel crappy, but don't feel bad about having had a crappy day. don't wrap a negative experience in an extra layer of judgment and shame or hopelessness."
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:30 PM on October 5, 2022 [11 favorites]

Oh! And totally bribe yourself when starting a new habit, altering your routine (or lack thereof). I allow myself daytime Animal Crossing Pocket Camp if I'm taking a walk.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:35 PM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Work sounds incredibly blah for you right now. Can you wiggle your way into a different set of projects at work? Different group? Or a new job? Or at least go into the office once a week?

How about some volunteer work? I stumbled into a very substantive volunteer gig and it’s really been energizing. It involves neighborhood politics so I get to talk to a lot of people and enjoy stupid antics.

Or can you start a supper club with friends?
posted by haptic_avenger at 5:49 PM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I allow myself daytime Animal Crossing Pocket Camp if I'm taking a walk.

Heck, I think OP should develop a full-on Animal Crossing addiction. She needs more fun in her life! I’m not actually sure she needs any more habits or productivity.
posted by haptic_avenger at 5:51 PM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

During the “pandemic phase of the pandemic” I made it a point to have lunches with colleagues over Zoom from time to time. I wonder if that might help here with a couple things: motivation to shower in the morning and fix a real lunch, social connection with coworkers bringing your soul back into the work a little bit.

I also work from home full time now and it’s definitely changed a lot about how I run my day. Some of those changes I’ve settled into as basically acceptable; I’m getting enough done, the how is just different. But other things still aren’t the best. It’s a process.

In general I understand anyone who has young kids in 2022 as having recently lived through something very hard, a trauma with an ambiguous end. I personally am still feeling the effects in some ways and I hope you’re able to be kind to yourself about all this.
posted by eirias at 6:07 PM on October 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

I found that some short fitness classes or fitness routine during the WFHworkday provided that structure for me (gotta knock out that work memo so I can get to the gym on time, or gotta make some progress on that Couch 2 5K program), and provided concrete fitness progress for me (I can lift +x more weight this week than last).

I will also echo others in saying that it's also okay to be kind to yourself and accept a new acceptable level of productivty - surviving a WFH transition, on top of COVID with kids, has been incredibly stressful these last few years for all parents.

Lastly, I will say that I've recently read Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management For Mortals, which really changed my perspective on productivity and trying to manage time for its own sake - I'm much less anxious about trying to min/max my efficiency and productivity every day.
posted by WedgedPiano at 8:12 PM on October 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Really minor point, but surely wearing jeans several days in a row is the whole point of jeans? If they're very obviously filthy after a day, they can go in the wash, or if you're never wearing underpants or something. But generally speaking, I feel like I'm doing well if I remember to wash mine weekly. Please let yourself off the hook for this one at least.
posted by penguin pie at 10:45 AM on October 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A couple things that have helped me in a similar conundrum:

Scheduling 1:1 meetings with my supervisor to discuss the status of projects. My supervisor doesn't need or care for that level of check in but it forces me to plan and be accountable for progress.

Schedule video calls when possible as this forces you to look presentable.

Listen to music during boring admin work.

Walk around during phone meetings when possible. Outside if possible.

I also have a treadmill that goes under my desk. A brisk walk during admin tasks gets my blood flowing, helps me concentrate and improves my general motivation.
posted by crunchy potato at 11:20 AM on October 9, 2022

« Older Rock your body to the left - That's candlepin!   |   Navigating conflicting crisis styles in a family Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments