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The M Dash

Live with purpose.


How I Create Structure in My Work-From-Home Life

Because deadlines, boundaries, and real clothes are a good thing.

By Caitlin Abber

It is my most Capricorn trait, but I love a list. A list of to-do’s, agenda items, groceries, places I want to travel in the future—it’s all fair game. When in doubt, or when I am feeling particularly scatterbrained (pretty frequently, these days—I have a six-month-old baby and just moved into a new house), I take out a notepad and write down a list. Recently, my lists have been pretty focused on the right now—what needs to get done that day, the essentials I need to order for the week. Having the list helps me stay on task, but also, in this topsy-turvy work-from-home life, it provides some much needed structure. 

One list that has been particularly helpful as of late is a list of outfits to wear during the week. We all know that clothes set a powerful tone. Some clothes are meant for lounging, while others are meant for getting down to business. Knowing this—and that I want (and to be honest, need) more structure—I’ve been making a list of outfits that will inspire me to get to work. I’m talking tailored pieces that are themselves well structured, and therefore, well suited to take on my to-do lists. When I combine them with some of my other favorite productivity hacks, I’m basically unstoppable. Here’s how I’m adding structure to my life right now.


Dedicating Spaces

Confession: I am writing this story from bed. That said, I usually sit at a desk (we just still haven’t unpacked it from our move—that’s on my to-do list for this weekend). Having a dedicated work space means that when I’m in that zone, I’m in that zone. It’s not where I sleep, not where I eat, and not where I watch TV. Even if it’s just a small table in the corner of a room, it makes a huge difference. 

The same goes for having clothes that feel, in their own way, dedicated to a certain task. While the Wesley lounger can be worn for lounging (and I often wear them that way), they look like they have a touch of formality. Paired with the matching Moreland blazer and the Axam turtleneck, this outfit feels work-ready at all times—just like that cute new desk I swear I’m going to unpack this weekend. 

Setting Timers

It’s hard not to feel like my work and home lives are blended together right now. I’ve folded laundry while waiting for emails, made lunch while on a conference call, and procrastinated by doing chores when I should’ve been doing work (and vice versa). But staying on task is important, which is why I like to set timers and focus on one thing at a time. For example, I might set a timer for an hour, and for that hour, I can only reply to work emails—no social media or tiny household tasks allowed. But when that timer is up (ding!), I can switch gears and focus on something else. 

I call this “rigid flexibility,” and it requires an outfit that can move from one type of task to another with ease. The Paige T-shirt, tucked into a pair of Milos (better than jeans, in my opinion) and worn with the Koio sneakers, is a great chore-friendly base. Then I throw on the oversized (and very chic) O’Hara blazer and the statement-making Briar earrings when it’s time for work tasks. Ding.

Take Lunches

Taking a lunch break was something I was pretty bad at when I worked in an office. But breaks are important, so I’ve really been trying to get good at it now that I’m working from home. On top of providing a much-needed respite from work (and sustenance), lunch is also a great time to take stock of what I’ve already accomplished that day, exhale for a moment, and set reasonable expectations for the rest of the afternoon. And since my daughter is getting very interested in solid food, it’s also a good time for an outfit change, if need be. 

The machine-washable Sharon top is a favorite because it’s easy-breezy—plus, the sleeves fold up and button, so I can dig in. I also love the versatility—it seems formal on camera, but it feels like a sweatshirt (because it basically is). It even looks just as cool over pants as it does over skirts

Go Outside

Nothing beats an afternoon walk to break up the day. Remember in normal times, when you’d step out around 3:30 and grab a latte? There’s no reason you can’t still do that. I’ve been taking the baby on a little stroll in the afternoon, and it’s a great way for both of us to get some fresh air and step away from all the lists for a minute. It’s something to look forward to when things are hectic and a nice reminder that I’m two-thirds of the way done with the day. 

It’s almost fall in New England (where I’m living these days), and I’m feeling festive about the change in scenery. I’ve been wearing the Dawn top and the Mejia pants, both in garnet, because the color reminds me of the deepest foliage (plus, there’s something playfully witchy about the cut of the Dawn, if you’re into that). Paired with the Rowan flats in prosecco and my favorite Claressa earrings, this outfit is practical and whimsical all at the same time.

Clock Out

This one tends to be the hardest, especially if the work day hasn’t felt as productive as I wanted it to. But seriously? Clocking out is life changing. Setting a time to shut the laptop and switch gears—even if it’s 8pm—is essential. Having a real dinner, listening to music, and feeling the weight of another day lift off my shoulders is a gift I try to give myself as often as I can. As anyone with kids knows, the time between putting them to bed and going to sleep yourself can feel like the shortest three hours of your life, so I really try to savor it. 

And sometimes this calls for an outfit change. In the before-baby-and-pandemic times, I might have met my husband in the city for dinner and spruced up a little bit in the office bathroom beforehand. The sexy (hello, thigh slit!) but practical (hello, stretchy fabric) Joanna dress, paired with the Zelda boot (in the new burgundy shade) and the Talia earrings, makes the night feel like a totally separate event than the day. Plus, the Joanna is machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant, so if I need to jump in and change a dirty diaper, I can fearlessly do that, too. 

Caitlin Abber

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and OprahMag.com.

See more of Caitlin's articles

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