Search Close Search
Search Close Search
Page Menu

How to Create & (Actually) Follow a Schedule: Learning and Working from Home with a Mental Health Condition

Posted on: 4/14/23
Posted by: Maggie

cartoon of black woman on couch with laptop and dogHello from the Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research! This time we’re diving deep into creating structure, particularly related to learning and working from home when living with a mental health condition. An increasing number of college students are opting to live at home. Many people are also continuing to work from home (WFH). I’m still WFH and to be honest, I’m living my best life! Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages, such as less structure. Since I want to keep living my best life (who wouldn’t?), I’ve developed a more structured WFH life. Doing this can be especially challenging because it involves integrating our school and/or work life into our home environment. The settings can blend together—I don’t know about you, but my couch is 15 feet from my workstation, so it can be easy to forget when it’s time to start and stop working! And don’t even get me started on the fact that I can see my kitchen by simply turning my head—that can be a recipe for disaster! The single most helpful strategy I’ve used is following a schedule, so I’ve included tips below on how to create an effective one. Different things will work for different people, so I’ve included what helps me and recommendations from others.

Tips for Creating a Schedule:

  1. List all recurring tasks and events.
    • Ask yourself, “what activities, tasks, and events are consistent and reliable in my day?”
      1. Write down your answers. It doesn’t have to be in chronological order.
      2. I jot down items such as recurring appointments, classes, team meetings, supervision, medication delivery times, and grocery shopping.
  2. List unscheduled tasks that can be switched to a recurring time.
    • Ask yourself, “do I have any tasks that I can assign to a specific time and day?”
      1. Write down those tasks. Include the recurring time slot for each task.
      2. For instance, despite a flexible work schedule, I try to work at similar times throughout the week, which I’ve added to my list. I’ve also written down a weekly workout class, a day for laundry, and a regular sleep schedule.
  3. Block out the day with a planner.planner icon
    • Congratulations on getting this far! Time to treat yo’ self to a new electronic or paper planner.
    • Finished shopping? Next, insert the tasks and events you jotted down from #1 and #2 into their appropriate time slots in the planner.
  4. Amp up the planning on tough days.
    • On tough days, when I’m easily distracted and anxious, I block out my entire day in 15-minute intervals.
      1. This includes time for the majority of the day’s tasks, such as taking my medication, treatments, showering, work projects, calling a friend, errands, and self-care.
      2. This helps me stay on track, be productive, and keep my mental health in check.

Tips to motivate yourself to stick with it:

  1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!
    • I attack the tasks I’m dreading first. That way, I don’t have anything looming over me. I find this very helpful in mitigating depression and anxiety symptoms.
  2. Pomodoro Technique:
    • The Pomodoro Technique is essentially working in 25-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks. It boosts productivity, concentration, and general well-being, among other things. This technique also happens to be one of my top tools for working with brain fog. I use my phone alarm, but you can also download a Pomodoro app or buy a Pomodoro timer.
  3. Minimize distractions:
    • I use the “Focus Status” on my iPhone while working to prevent getting distracted. I turn off all notifications, except for my phone’s alarm (needed for the Pomodoro technique).
  4. Treat yo’ self:cartoon of frozen coffee drink
    • On days that I’m going stir-crazy WFH, I treat myself to tea from a nearby coffee shop. I opt for ordering in advance, so I’m quick and don’t get distracted.
  5. Make fun plans for after work or school:
    • This motivates me to get my work done, puts me in a good mood, and ensures that I end work at a reasonable time.
  6. Gratitude:
    • I list in my head why I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to WFH. For example, I’m grateful that I don’t have to commute to work. I’m able to use that extra time to engage in fun activities, exercise, volunteer, and see friends and family.

cartoon of calendarCreating structure when learning or working from home with a mental health condition is challenging at first. But if you stick with it, it will soon become second nature, though. I thrive on routine and over time, I’ve found my rhythm by using the above method of creating a schedule. Remember that there will be an adjustment period, just like I experienced, so be kind to yourself and stick with it!

If you liked this blog, be sure to check out our S.T.A.Y. Podcast Ep. 7 "Is anybody out there? The isolation of adulthood."