If at anytime over the past 7 months you’ve been working from home, whether that’s alone, or with other family members around, you know how difficult it is to maintain balance when there’s no physical separation between the two.

Many of us have had to adapt to drastic changes in our daily routines, and without out typical morning commute, or even needing to change out of our pajama pants in the morning, it’s easy to lose any sense of structure. And yet, establishing a solid morning routine can ease our stress and help us feel more focused and calm as we start the day.

Earlier, I was invited to speak virtually to the leaders of the program heads at Sask Polytech last week on work life balance. Like so many of us, they’ve been working from home since March and will be for the foreseeable future. Whether you’re working from home or not, these tips will set a positive tone for your day. Here’s the first, and to me, the most important one to implement asap:

Start your day device free – I made the mistake of looking at my phone after I turned my alarm off the other morning. It was innocent enough. I normally have my DND (Do Not Disturb function) set from 9pm to 9am, but when I turned off my phone, I accidentally unlocked my screen and there is was all waiting for me. The bright red number above my mailbox told me there was a tonne of new emails, and I now I was curious. While I’m checking those out anyways, I might as well open up Instagram and Facebook for a minute and see what’s going on there too.

Not only did I waste 15 minutes laying in bed reading stuff that I wasn’t prepared to respond to or deal with, I now felt anxious with all the things I now felt I had to respond and deal with. Only minutes ago, I woke up happy and looking forward to the day, now I had this heavy cloud of foreboding and anxiety hanging over my head.

I felt hurried and stressed getting my son ready for school and didn’t feel as present and relaxed as I normally do in the morning despite having my morning run. I had allowed my mood, mindset, and day be hijacked by my device.

Prior to an iPhone I had a Blackberry. It had that damn anxiety inducing red flickering light which used to drive me crazy. It made me so crazy that I always had it turned face down or up on a shelf, so I wouldn’t have to look at it. I wanted to hide from its incessant demands. I was elated that iPhone had built in limitations that could be set so finally I could be in charge of when and how I used my device instead of the device constantly trying to use me.

When I stick to my routine and don’t look at my device it’s a completely different day. I’m present and enjoying my family as we chat at the counter eating breakfast, I’m inspired with new “downloads” (inspirations come to me in the shower as “downloads”) that I can’t wait to get started on, and I’m relaxed and unhurried. I feel hopeful and happy, like the day is mine for the making.

It’s a small tweak that makes a huge difference in our mood, mindset, and our day ahead. We all deserve uncontaminated time from our devices and from work, because our mornings have so much influence over us, boundaries are critical for us to show up as our best selves.

I’d love to hear from you now, do you start your day off with or without your device? Tell me in the comments below.