It’s 7 a.m., and you’re dressed to head into the office and have your coffee in a travel mug. You sit down and zone out listening to your favorite podcast or gear up for your workday with your planner and pen in hand.
Then, after 30 minutes or so, you walk across your home to your designated work-from-home space.
This is an approximation of a “fake commute.” And yes, it may sound a bit strange, at first. After all, why would you waste time going through the motions when you can just roll out of bed and work in your pajamas?
The reality is, morning routines are often the bedrock of a successful day. The sudden shift to remote work in early 2020 robbed a lot of professionals of the precious downtime built into their morning and evening commutes. Whether they listened to music to keep themselves centered during the chaos of the early hours, or used the transitional time to map out their work responsibilities, many professionals found themselves missing the benefits of commute taking place before and after work hours.
You might think it’s silly to do a fake commute, especially if you often wake up to a slew of emails and chat notifications from coworkers about tasks that need to be addressed, ASAP. You might think it’s even sillier to do a “commute” home when the kids are bouncing off the walls and you still need to get dinner ready to go.
Take my advice though and just try adding a “commute” back to your day. Sit down at the kitchen table or on the couch for 30 minutes and do all those commuting activities—whether it’s simply zoning out to some music or brainstorming bigger-picture tasks—before you sit down at your desk and open your laptop. Then, take 30 minutes at the end of your workday to reflect on your accomplishments, prep for tomorrow, and decompress before you tackle your personal and family obligations.
Do this for a week and see if you experience these three valuable benefits of a fake commute.
It gives you time to plan
Busy professionals often feel like they’re spinning out if they don’t have a plan. Having one can create efficiency in your day, and by using a fake commute, you give yourself a regularly-scheduled time to pull together what you need to accomplish the day ahead.
Further, think about what tasks are “need-to-do’s” and what tasks don’t need to be done right away. That way, you can prioritize tasks you must take care of immediately. During your “fake commute,” take some time to write a quick to-do list so you know what to anticipate and can mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead rather than jumping right into your work.
It provides focus with guardrails
Plans change all the time, which has become the new normal— nothing is set in stone in today’s WFH culture. By using your commute time to plan for the day ahead, you may find you’re better able to maintain focus in a world high with distractions. When you spend a little regimented time organizing for the day, you have one less thing to worry about and can be in a better headspace to address these issues.
Using your fake commute to map out your to-dos can be a great way to focus your attention on what needs to get done once you clock in, so you’re not distracted all day and working late. At the end of the day, you can use your fake commute as a stopping point, so you can transition out of “work mode” before diving into time with your family, pursuing hobbies, and taking care of personal responsibilities.
It gets you into a routine
A fake commute can become an integral part of your daily routine. Most people start their day going into auto mode, jumping right into work without taking a breather or a moment to prepare. Instead of enforcing this behavior, you can follow a routine of spending time with your family, working out, taking the dog for a walk, or whatever is important to you before organizing your tasks and slowly transitioning into your day ahead.
If you’re considering integrating a fake commute into your day, you’ll have a more structured routine that allows you to slowly transition into and unwind from your workday. This routine can not only help you be more productive at work, but also help reinforce positive habits, like spending quality time with loved ones and taking a breather to center yourself before tackling your work.
Matt Silliman is a senior vice president and head of production at Trade School.