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Blogging at Home? Fight Lethargy With a Solid Morning Routine

This guest post is by Chris Martucci of WhatBlag.com.

For those of you who work from home, lethargy can be your greatest adversary. It’s not always easy to get your head in the game when you’re sitting on your couch in your tighty-whities eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. But don’t be so quick to blame the Fruity Pebbles—Fruity Pebbles are delicious. The problem is something psychologists call Languid Attire Syndrome.

work from home

Copyright Andres Rodriguez - Fotolia.com

All right, I made that up. Jokes aside, the truth is that I can’t find any good research on the positive effects of wearing business attire (please let me know in the comments if you can hunt down some relevant studies). What I can give you is my own personal experience.

Get a routine

I recently graduated from college where I studied, among other things, pre-law. I currently spend most of my time writing for my blog and preparing for my Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). As you may have guessed, and you would be correct, I do all of this from the comfort of my home.

Sometimes, a little too comfortably.

I found that it was difficult to roll out of bed, flip on the tube, and hammer out some advanced linear logic games. So here’s my new and improved morning routine:

  1. Get up around 9am, grab my Macbook and scan RSS feeds. Send intriguing articles to Instapaper for later reading.
  2. Brew my morning coffee. Start making breakfast.
  3. Hit the gym for at least one hour
  4. Shower around noon and get dressed—that means button-up shirt, tucked in to jeans, sleeves rolled up, optional tie (half-Windsor).
  5. Sit at my enormous desk, and turn on some classical music: it’s business time.

Now of course, you must find a morning routine that works for you. What’s important is that you develop a routine and make it a habit. The same way that hitting the pillow signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep, making a habit of getting dressed in the morning, even when you’ve got no where to go, signals to your brain that it’s time to get serious.

I heard a story of a man who would get up every morning, put on a suit and tie, leave the house, get in his car, drive around the block, and come back home to “work.” When his day’s work was completed, he would pack up his things, get back in his car, drive around the block once again, and return “home.” Perhaps this is an extreme example of breaking up the day between work and play, however, it is not entirely absurd. Assuming that this man actually exists, he has found a routine that works well for his needs.

So try this. Get out a pad and paper and dash off a morning routine for yourself. Specify times for each task and stick to them as best you can.

Don’t overburden yourself—start small, otherwise you may never make a habit of such a daunting schedule. My routine consists merely of waking up, eating breakfast, going to the gym, and taking a shower. Easy stuff, but it makes all the difference. Oh, and it’s marvelously rewarding by the end of the day when I get to loosen my tie, unbutton my collar, kick back, and relax.

Fruity Pebbles, here I come.

Chris Martucci is the creator of WhatBlag.com, a weblog dedicated to the liberal arts, technology, and organization. He currently lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, where he recently graduated from college.

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Comments

  1. Hey Chris,

    These are great tips!

    I like to start my day/routine with my “Power Hour” where I:

    * meditate
    * have a heatly breakfast
    * read a few pages of a success or personal development book
    * jump on Problogger.net to read the latest news
    * get to work!

    A routine is essential in order to accomplish our goals as bloggers or in my case video blogger!

    Krizia
    Women Entrepreneurs HQ Show

    • Thanks. :) I used to stop and meditate more frequently than I do today. I’d like to get back into the habit. However, here’s a tip for anyone creeping around the comments section — I think you can meditate right from your desk. Stop what you’re doing, lean back in your chair, plant your feet firmly on the ground, and concentrate on your breathing. Two minutes might be all you need.

      Anyway, good luck with your video blog Krizia. I’m glad you enjoyed my article.

    • These are both great routines to share Chris and Krizia.

      I write for a few blogs and, oddly enough, do better writing at different times of day for each one. As a result, I have a split work day.

      My day starts with:

      ~Coffee
      ~Google Analytics review
      ~VERY quick review of 2 social media sites–messages to respond to, see what happened, etc
      ~write/work on my blog, Naked Girl in a Dress
      ~exercise/errands/etc
      ~pick up kids & family time
      ~write for another blog, Sprocket Ink

      For the blogs I write for occasionally, I always complete those articles on the weekends.
      Bigger projects to work on for my blog I do on the weekends too.

  2. Wow…I cannot believe, I am the first to comment about this article. Anyways, my routine matches a bit with yours(as my website suggests – http://www.dailymorningcoffee.com). I am a morning person too, and I love the time I get to myself with my hot cuppa coffee. Best time to blog your thoughts out. Keep writing and good luck for your LSAT.

    • well, by the time i posted my comment, i was the 2nd already :-(

      • Don’t you just hate when that happens?

        I used to think that I was a night person because I would stay up until 3am and wake up groggy in the morning. I’ve realized that I actually have much more energy in the morning, as long as I go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. And of course, coffee helps. ;)

        Thanks for reading.

        • Oh well…good I got your attention now :-) Being 2nd does matter i realized.

          Anyways, just subscribed to your feed at whatblag…Archives look interesting, let me take a look. Good luck!!

  3. Himanshu says:

    since blogging gives you the freedom to choose your work hours, this freedom should not be exploited at all. a daily routin is necessary. i really could connect with your post.

  4. I will be working at home for only 2 weeks from today. My office for bloggers will be open then.. Isn’t it good?

  5. Not a bad way to get going in the morning, I just got back from a good workout now I am checking my stats (seeing how much I made yesterday), toss on some tunes and get to work on some niche websites.

    I do find I get distracted very easily though and haven’t really found a way around getting distracted. I definitely like the idea of a list in the morning, when I actually do this it helps me get things done!

  6. Love this concept Chris! I used a similar routine to boost productivity when I was working at home. Darren Hardy (of Success Magazine) talks about this concept in his book The Compound Effect. He compares this routine to a pro golfer or MLB hitter pre-shot routine. The great ones use this routine not as superstition, but to center themselves and prepare themselves for the task they’re about to do.

  7. Graham Lutz says:

    1. Get out of bed to the sound of my three year old knocking on the door, letting my wife sleep in who dealt with the 6 week old all night – 8 am
    2. Play with trains and build tracks. – 8-8:30am
    3. Try to check Google reader while 3 year old tries to turn my face towards him – 8:30-9am
    4. Get 20 month old out of bed, give him milk and call him all his nicknames (quinny, quinnstitute, tooter, toots, tooter McGooter, McGooter, Toots McGoots) – 9-9:01

    I live in 1000 sq. ft. with 3 kids and a dog – nothing gets done unless I’m out of the house.

    • Laura says:

      I hear ya there. Nothing gets done unless I or my kids are out of the house (or sleeping).

  8. Most important rule: don’t get distracted by visiting sites like reddit or digg lol

  9. Pris says:

    Great post, Chris! I’ve recently passed the State Legal Exam (my country’s equivalent to the bar examination) for which I’ve been preparing for about four months, most of them spent at home (i.e. not having a regular 9-5 job). I can therefore relate to your situation and agree wholeheartedly that a well-worked out routine is essential for keeping the neccessary focus and stamina when working at home. I usually woke up a bit earlier than you, had a big breakfast and then hit the books at about 10 AM. I’ve divided my working day into two halves and had a long pause in-between.

  10. last semester I had class at 8am 3 days, so at home work schedule was really easy to fall into. Now I start class at 4pm which means my morning better be productive and it hasn’t been so easy. Perhaps I need to buy a suit and tie … and well a car for that matter … so that I can drive around the block.

  11. Constantine says:

    My first morning routine is read all the emails. During the day I will not feel the need to keep checking my email inbox unless it is very necessary.

  12. The story of the man driving around the block to “work” and “home” is hilarious. But it is true and something serious. Our brain must be prepared for “work” and indeed forget the fact that we are at home. We should intimate the brain that we have a business to do. Starting with a simple but gearing up morning routine and practicing it for a week, can easily make it a habit.

  13. Olivia says:

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve found specially useful to apply your number 4 “Hit the gym for at least one hour”.
    I used to work at all hours when I started freelancing but know I stop at the middle of the morning to exercise. It’s a great strategy to have more energy and focus during the day.

    Another thing that has helped me to work from home is to use a pomodoro to “fix” blocks of time for certain projects. Toggl is great for this too.
    Nice article!

    • Ooh, you use the pomodoro method? Thats really interesting. I think it definitely helps to break up tasks into smaller parts. For example, if I have to write a paper for college, a white blank page can be rather daunting. However, if I tell myself, “I only have to write for 25 minutes, and then I get to take a break,” the task seems much easier to tackle. You’ll be making progress before you even know it.

    • I hear you. I was able to stick to a daily routine for a reasonable period of time but I always fail in the exercising part even though I love to get in shape. Encouraging to know that many people are able to stick to their daily routine (exercising included).

  14. Maaike Quinn says:

    I have a morning routine that works for me. However, on days that I need the structure most, you know, the days that I have to do lots of hard work, I tend to sleep in and sleep in and then sleep some more :S

  15. It’s extra difficult to get into a work frame of mind with kids around. Running my business from home with kids really adds to the challenge of pushing for productive time. I’ve found that I work better in some rooms than others. Only problem is I can’t always work in my best space because my youngest kid is too young to have me leave her that close to alone, and if she follows me, so do the interruptions. But even if she’s sleeping, that’s a good work spot for me, so I use it when I can.

  16. I have just posted in my blog how I’m trying to make an habit of waking up very early in the morning, in order to have at least a couple of hours of work on my side-activities, before waking the whole family, have breakfast together, take the girls to school and finally reach my day job destination. I’m not a morning person, but this is the only way to have the time (and mental freshness) to do some good work without taking time from my family (until I keep my day job, of course, …).
    You’re right, what’s important is to make your routine a habit and stick to it!
    Stefano

  17. Lee Arnold says:

    I intentionally found a gig where I have to post in the early a.m., 7-days a week, just to get myself up and working on a daily basis. My productivity continues to rise and those wasted mornings watching Matlock from a sprawled-out position on the couch, balancing a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles on my chest, are in decline.

    It’s been a game changer.

  18. Andre Natta says:

    I’m realizing a lot of people don’t necessarily know how difficult it is to work virtually every day, so much so that I ended up writing a blog post about my daily routine last week.

    I realized that I actually needed to revamp the routine after seeing it written out because I knew I could be more productive and engage more. I’d argue that not only does having a standard routine recorded somewhere help you focus, it also helps you realize when you need to make a change to become even more productive (and sometimes less connected and more of a well-adjusted person).

  19. I am finding it difficult to get in “synch”, when home and trying to work on some content. The idea of driving around the block is not that far fetched to me. Thank you for the tips, although I myself am a cocoa puffs type :) . I will need to develop more of a strict routine, as I am sure it would make a difference. Perhaps khaki/polo is more me, but whatever the “signal” to go to work, I am sure it has to be done as a matter of habit.

  20. Steven W. says:

    are tighty-whities like … pajamas? ;)

  21. Samantha says:

    I just wake up and drink coffee all day and work in my jim-jams all day ;) Great routine though

  22. Dee says:

    I was just thinking about this when I came to this blog. I find my energy levels rise at night (perhaps I’m part domestic cat) so I’ll try to implement an evening routine. I’m not sure how I feel about putting on uncomfortable business clothes though, but who knows, maybe it’ll trigger some more productive energy. I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the post.

  23. gudka says:

    A great example of a man you have discussed to order things properly whether you are in home to work like as you work in office exceptional behavior of a man towards his work.
    On the other hand, i believe its all about habit that takes time so set and keep working on your plan.

  24. This post came at the perfect time for me. I’ve struggled with getting into a blogging routine, lately, only doing it when I’m inspired. Luckily, lately I’ve been more inspired. Not sure if I can keep up that pace for much longer. Blogging daily is exhausting. And you hit the gym for an hour every day? That’s a luxury – an hour. I’m lucky to get in a brisk 10 minute walk at lunchtime. Oh well. I will heed your advice, and not overburden myself—start small and work my way up. I’ll at least get some breakfast in (which is rare these days), do a little brainstorming, and I’d forgotten about Fruity Pebbles! Will have to go buy a box – fun! I’ll do my serious blogging at night though. That’s when my brain blogs the best. Great post, and a great reminder to to take blogging seriously.

  25. TheMoneyBog says:

    I really like this article. I don’t know how many times I have fought getting started on my daily tasks. This just helps me really see the importance of getting my butt out of the bed. Thanks for the read, and happy blogging!

  26. patrick says:

    Without a routine it can be very hard to focus on the tasks at hand. I know exactly how it feels to try and get work done only to stare at my computer screen for hours before finally closing the laptop in frustration. Signaling your brain to get ready for work by having a routine is a great way to overcome having a lack of focus. Thanks for the great article.

  27. Marie Noelle says:

    I don’t know what I would do without my morning routine… I think I would sleep until noon everyday…

    - I wake up every morning, I check my emails and make my to-do list for the day..
    - I eat breakfast
    - I write…

  28. barry says:

    great blog.. i have a a routine also, but it only takes one little mis step to throw it all off course

  29. I’d agree on the attire part of things. There’s just something about loungepants that don’t encourage a ‘get-down-to-business’ mindset. When I was still working at Xerox I can remember the little extra something in my mind that spoke ‘business’ when I was wearing something dressier than jeans/cottons. Very subjective, I know, but it did make a difference. Now I also ealize that a distinction needs to be made between work context, location, type, etc., but the point remains the same… There are things that affect our mindset when we write/work and dress is one of them.

  30. Monja Wessel says:

    Hi Chris,

    nice post with lots of great tips! I guess we all have to deal with this problem from time to time. We all have to kick ourselves in the butt and go back to work when we would prefer to hang out in front of the TV (or similar things). I caught myself getting up at 6 am, grabbing a breakfast, running to the computer and start working – I usually didn´t stop until 12 pm when I had to get dressed for my “real” job starting at 2 pm. It was quiet exhausting to feel “not ready” for the day because I was wearing my jogging. That´s when I decided that it´s time for a new routine. Now I still get up early but I have a shower first and breakfast before I run to the computer ;-)
    My tip would be: separate your work and home space – e.g. my office is upstairs while we live downstairs – that is a good for my mind as I know: no work downstairs ;-)
    Good luck everyone!

  31. LeAnh says:

    I am a person from Vietnam, I really enjoyed the article of ProBlogger. In Vietnam there is not much good blogger, I also wish to take a little breath of professional bloggers to everyone. Can you help me? :)

  32. Jacqueline says:

    Very sound piece of advice. It is very important to have structure and routine in your life. My problem is switching on TV and watching the news while I have my coffee. One headline, leads to another…just need to be diligent enough to not switch it on in the first place!

  33. Hi Chris, congrats on posting a (very interesting) guest post here! See you around in whatblag :)

  34. Chio says:

    Great post, I usually do:
    - Wake up, get breakfast
    - Stretch, go walk around 2km away to the basketball court and play it for 1h
    - Go home, start working
    - Anything else after that.

    Loving it, I’m free, have no boss, have no restrictions, I wish everyone could enjoy life more!

  35. Hazel Edmunds says:

    The Prudential Insurance Company in the UK had (I have no idea whether this still exists) a call centre which was actually outsourced to people working from their own homes. One of the rules was that you had to wear “office appropriate” clothes when you went to your office for your work stint whether that was two hours or the whole day. I can’t find any research but I’m sure there must be some from the early days of remote working.