For much of the black hole that is 2020, I’ve woken up into the waking bad dream: oh, shit, this is still real. While quarantine restrictions have relaxed since the first wave of the coronavirus grounded half the planet, office life is very much TBD. The jury is still out on when we’ll get back into our ironclad daily schedules. And, to be honest, I’m not looking forward to that inevitable reversal.

Being forced to abandon my conventional schedule has given me the freedom to create a new, healthier one — a nice flow that starts from the moment I wake up. And as a result, I’ve started to see an overall change in my attitude towards workdays. Dare I say it? Ya boy is turning into a morning person.

I sometimes think back on my morning routine before the pandemic, particularly the role it played in my mindset. Weekdays would start by shining a light on my unhealthy relationship with my alarm clock. I’d set it for 7:30 a.m. knowing damn well I would mash the snooze button until 9 a.m. A low-energy playlist would help ease me into being awake and properly functional — Anderson .Paak, Solange, Masego, Will Smith’s chill beats stream. Those helped me out on my 45-minute, two-bus commute, too.

Then came the regulars. A quick good morning from the folks working the desk in the office lobby. The high-probability chance of sharing an elevator ride with a White executive who acts like they don’t remember who I am — and me mirroring that same amnesia. Pro tip: That’s what headphones are for, and they’d come in handy in drowning out my office surroundings until it was time to clock out and make the same public transit trip in the opposite direction.

When we first started working remotely, my job shaped the structure of my life. But being proactive and making my own — then figuring out how to get all of my shit done within that framework — has really improved most aspects of my day-to-day life.

All of that has changed. With my commute cut out, I enjoy getting up early now. I usually beat my alarm clock to the punch. I wash my face and do a quick morning skin care routine. I’ll mist and talk to my Chinese coin plant and money tree (I’m still a beginner plant dad). I’ll throw on a downtime playlist and do some meditation or freewriting when the thoughts are flowing. Rather than starting the day begrudgingly, the goal is to zen the fuck out, word to Big Sean.

I don’t normally hear a chorus of email pings until 9 a.m., which means I have an hour or two of notification-free quiet time. These days, the only rise and grind I know involves coffee beans. I’m on a French press kick — I’ll sit at my kitchen table and indulge in a fine roast or green tea (with my pinky in the air) before starting my work. Try it; it’ll change your life.

Being this relaxed before 10 a.m. really sets the tone for the rest of the day. For instance, I’ve been better about focusing on work and setting boundaries at home. Group chats can get distracting at times, so my phone’s Do Not Disturb mode has been getting some serious play. I try not to watch TV during working hours, but lately I’ve been treating myself to little breaks — a quick episode of Girlfriends or The Boondocks during lunch, or a few minutes of Lovecraft Country here and there. I’ve found that my work days are smoother and more efficient, with less spacing out or tumbling down random YouTube rabbit holes. Whereas the passive-aggressive gestures or cluelessness from my co-workers used to irk me, now they’re like water off a swan’s ass.

The afterwork follow-through is just as important: catching up with the homies, throwing something in the Crockpot for dinner, maybe a quick workout, chipping away at my latest read, prepping for the next day of work, then taking my ass to bed and doing it all over again. When we first started working remotely, my job shaped the structure of my life. But being proactive and making my own — then figuring out how to get all of my shit done within that framework — has really improved most aspects of my day-to-day life.

I won’t act like there aren’t occasionally days where I’ll roll out of the bed and straight into a Zoom meeting, unexfoliated. But starting the day with self-care is a formula for success that feels damn-near foolproof. Will I be able to keep up these new WFH habits once my office reopens, and I have to leave the confines of my safe space? It’s too soon to tell. But I know I’ll be well-rested and ready to cross that bridge when I get there.

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.

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