Building Winning Work Rituals

18.10.2020 |

Episode #3 of the course How to work from home: From surviving to thriving by Jordan Thibodeau and Joe Ternasky


“A winning effort begins with preparation.”—Joe Gibbs

In this lesson, we’ll go over one additional aspect of your work from the home schedule that will help make everything easier: the work from the home ritual.


What Is a Work From Home Ritual?

In general, we participate in many different rituals in our everyday lives. Locking our doors when we leave the house, checking to make sure we’ve turned off the stove once we’ve finished cooking or examining our zippers before leaving the restroom are all examples of everyday rituals in which we willingly participate on a regular basis. Just as rituals help us maintain better control of our lives, work from home rituals help us maintain better control of our work lives. Work from home rituals are essentially any actions that we, as work from home warriors, consistently take part in before, during, or after the completion of an average day’s work from home.

Examples of work from home rituals include gathering your equipment and tools, booting up your laptop, opening up your calendar, checking that your device is charged or charging, or adjusting the blinds so that you have the best light in the room. By their very nature, these rituals tend to be highly personal, so they are likely to be very different from those of your colleagues, friends, and neighbors.


Are Rituals Effective?

Yes, they are! You probably perform a number of rituals in your life without even being aware of them. Rituals give us a sense of being in control and impact our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Further, there’s evidence to suggest that rituals based on superstition (e.g. “I have to wear blue socks to bowl a 200”) work just as well as those based on reality (e.g. “I need to check the printer ink before I sit down to work”).


The Three Parts of the Work Ritual

There are three different parts of the work ritual: the pre-work ritual, the at-work ritual, and the after-work ritual. We will discuss all three.

The pre-work ritual. This ritual will prepare your mind for the job ahead. Some ideas for pre-work rituals include the very things you used to do when going to an actual workplace, which were extremely good at telling that it was time to go to work. So, do as you used to do: put on a nametag, a company shirt, or at least real clothes (no working in pajamas), grab a cup of coffee, and all the materials you will need to work on. Once at your desk, you might do things such as clear your workspace of unnecessary items, make a to-do list, and put privacy into effect. This preparation tells others, and most especially yourself, that it is time to go to work. You don’t have conspicuous, real-life signals such as a commute any longer; you’ve got to make your own. Get your headspace into the workspace!

The at-work ritual. Ideally, your at-work ritual should keep you comfortable, on-task, and content to keep chugging until the job is done. The Pomodoro Technique is a great ritual to break jobs down into manageable segments and keep your focus sharp. All you need is a timer with an alarm. Choose a work goal, set the timer for 25 minutes, and focus entirely on that task. When time’s up, take a 5-minute break. Stand, stretch, or practice your clog-dancing. Repeat! After four sessions, give yourself a half-hour break. You might want to experiment with session length, but remember that those mind-clearing pauses are part of the trick. Never underestimate the value of the clog-dancing break.

Did you know that Pomodoro is Italian for tomato? The man who developed this simple but effective work technique, Italian Francesco Cirillo, used a tomato-shaped timer!

If Signore Cirillo’s technique seems a bit tight for you, there are plenty of variations. These are other recommended timed work-break schedules.

1. The Ultradian Method: 90-minute work blocks with 20-minute rest periods between. This is believed to work with the body’s natural rhythms, for work that requires intense focus such as art.

2. 52-17. These precise little numbers have been scientifically shown to work well, and it’s exactly what you think. 52 minutes of work, 17 minutes of break time.

Hint: Consider using the final work segment of the day to summarize, report, and/or evaluate what you have done and prepare for next time. This can be the first step of your after-work ritual.

The after-work ritual. This is just as important as the pre-work ritual. The after-work ritual is an important practice in order to stay sane, healthy, and happy. Switch that train of thought! Try “undoing” your pre-work ritual. Close work email, shut off work chat…go nuts, and just turn the phone off. Put things away, open the door, announce that you’re “Home.” If thoughts of work cling to you, disengage your mind from the job by exercising, reading something enjoyable, or doing anything that is markedly different. After-work rituals focus on restoration, relaxation, and rest.


To Do

1. Download an app that helps you practice the Pomodoro Technique.

2. Select a work task and employ the Pomodoro technique.

3. Reflect on your experience with the pomodoro technique. Questions to ask yourself: Has the technique helped you remain focused on your priorities at hand? What could you do differently to make the technique more effective?

That’s a wrap for this lesson. We look forward to having you join us for our next lesson.

Jordan and Joe

Work From Home Teachers


Recommended book

The Home Office From Hell Cure: Transform Your Underperforming, Time-Sucking Homebased Business into A Runaway Success by Jeffrey A. Landers


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