How to Develop a Coming Home Routine

Welcome to the typical American family on a weekday evening.

Honey, I’m home!

I just left the office 23 minutes ago, my boss was a total jerk today, traffic was a nightmare, I am two days behind on a project due next week, but I am home and all here, Honey.

Yeah, right. Give me a break.

Traffic Jam During Commute

If you don’t have a coming home routine, you are shortchanging your family. You need to develop a coming home routine. (Click to Tweet)

Sitting in my counselor’s office recently, the topic of coming home routines came up. I’d mentioned an event from the week prior that will have a lasting positive effect on my family.

The Birth of my Coming Home Routine

Between our garage and side door to our house is a breezeway. I caught myself coming home from awful day at work and when I closed the door to the garage and stood 12 feet from the next door, I made a decision…to smile and greet my family like I was excited to see them (because I was).

No drama.

No self-pity.

No “I’ve had such a rough day, so I’d like to disengage for the next four hours, please.”

I decided to put on my proverbial “dad/husband hat” and make them the center of my world for a few hours. And it was a great few hours.

Since then, that is part of my coming home routine. No matter how awful my day has been, that moment in the breezeway changes it. And I keep perspective, because I always have that to go home to. When I shared that with my counselor, we began an in-depth discussion of coming home routines.

You probably have a “going to work” routine. It starts when you wake up. You pray, meditate, workout, shave, shower, and generally get motivated for the day ahead at work. In the car on the way you think about what you have to do today, listen to sales tapes, or practice an upcoming speech.

In short, you transition to “work mode” and are ready to hit the ground running when you get to work. But few people do the opposite.

If you don’t, you are shortchanging your family. You need to develop a coming home routine.

How to Develop a Coming Home Routine:

  1. Choose a timeline. I didn’t say, “determine how long it takes you to get home.” I said, “choose a timeline.” That means if your commute is only 10 minutes but you need 25 to wind down, take 25. See #4 for what to do with the extra time.
  2. Develop a end-of-work trigger. Do something that signifies you are officially leaving work for now. For me, it’s turning off the computer. I am done at that point.
  3. Leave business calls at work. Unless there is a compelling reason not to, stay at work longer to take a business call rather than have the call on the road home.
  4. Disengage from work. Allow yourself some time (it varies depending on the person) to completely disengage. Listen to a favorite song, listen to silence, talk to your best friend, talk to no one, go to a coffee shop, do anything to completely disengage. My counselor said that one CEO she knows does just that. He goes to a coffee shop and enjoys his favorite coffee for 15 minutes in silence, then goes home. Every day after work. Allow yourself to breathe and be free for a moment.
  5. Prepare to engage. Just like you might listen to sales tapes on the way to work, plan your work day or practice your speech, this is the time to think about how your want your evening to go. Listen to podcasts or books on CD about marriage and family. Plan how you want to talk to your spouse about your day. Plan how you want to approach your son about how his day went.
  6. Take the long way home. If you need a few extra minutes and are able to take them, do so. I’ve driven past our house before just to have a few extra minutes to get ready for my family.
  7. Develop a I-am-home ritual. My counselor said that one guy always touches the same plant as he enters. Another always goes to check the mail. That touch and that walk are their rituals.
  8. Greet people like a dog. When you get home, reaffirm your decision to smile and be excited. This is an exciting time! Act like. (Read: Greet People Like a Dog)
  9. Try it for 30 days. Decide on a routine and try it for 30 days. Then tweak it from there.

Do you have a coming home routine? What has it done for you and your family?

Free Affiliate Training from Matt McWilliams
  • See? I told you there’s a point to a 90 minute commute. OK, so it’s not 90 minutes, because sometimes I get the kids at minute 80. Here’s the routine: I walk one big city block to get to the light rail, ride the rail for 8-10 mins, sit on the commuter train for another 15, ride that train for 25 and drive home or drive to daycare for another 25 minutes. Do I have time to decompress? You betcha! Do I always do it? Nope.

    I still want to come home to my husband and narrate step-by-step how my day went. He is a high D, so now I know better. He needs the Reader’s Digest version: Day went well, or not so well. Also, I tend to come home to check work email sometimes. I’m working hard on spending my first 20 mins at home playing with the kids, instead of rushing to get dinner done or throwing a load in the laundry. They just spent 11 hours at daycare; they want to spend time with their mom. I want that time to be a consistent part of my routine.

    Great post as usual, Matt!

    • What can you do to make a better use of that 90 minutes so you are all there when you get home?

      • It goes much better when I do an “unwinding” activity, such as crocheting or writing cards. If I engage in reading an interesting business book or keep doing work, or go over the to-do list for the next day it’s hard because I’m still in work mode. Maybe I could work on some kind of journaling activity that helps me leave the balance of the day on paper instead of carrying it around in my head. I’ll try out different things and report later :0)

        • Maybe you can do both?

          I’ve found that easing into it helps me. I didn’t really mention it above due to length, but the first step in my routine is to make my list for the next day. It takes about 5-8 minutes. But it’s key. It calms me for the evening to know everything I have is lined up. Then I go about the rest of the routine.

          Perhaps you could spend 10 minutes reviewing the day, 10 doing the next day’s list, 10 thinking about whatever, and the rest getting ready for home. Or some mix like that. With such a long one, you can get away with spending the first 45 minutes still thinking of work. As long as you have a cutoff point (like a certain stop or time).

  • David Mike

    Wow! Very convicting. Great action plan to make family / home a priority. I especially like the disengage point, it’s so easy to use family as debriefing tool. No ones ever winds in that scenario. Need to prepare to engage! Thanks.

    • Right. It’s great to share with your spouse. In fact, I struggle with not sharing enough about what goes right/wrong. But no one likes to be unloaded on every day. Split that role up amongst friends, family, and occasionally spouse.

  • it is so easy to just continue working in a new location (home) instead of letting it go at the office. I’m trying to get better at not checking work email and not dwelling on the day so much – there will be time to ramp up the next morning. What I tend to do at the end of the day is focus on what didn’t work, instead of figuring out solutions, which will make much more in the morning when I’m fresh. And yes, it is important to focus on your family and make that limited time with them memorable. Great post Matt!

    • Good point Carol: there will be time to ramp up the next morning.

      If all else fails, I can:

      Get a little work done later at night, after hours with family.
      Stay later at the office if need be so I am engaged when I get home.
      Get up earlier the next day.

      • Yes – and I always have to remind myself that work is not the end of it all – my family is way more important!

  • Nice. Great example of how you can change your outlook and feelings, but forcing yourself to change how you act.

  • This is great, Matt. Like so many areas in life, this is one more thing we win with if we’re deliberate about it.

  • Charly Priest

    That´s what I call being an adult with responsibilities. I´m 30 and love kids and woman. Problem being that I love them for short periods of time.(meaning I´m a great nanny for 4 hours, then they get on my nerves and have to smoke 4 cigarettes in 1 minute, and with woman… basically the same 4 months and It wears me down and smoke 4 cartoons in 1 day.) It makes my life easier though, and I know I sound very shallow.
    I respect that from a man,as a kid my father would be up in the wee hours of the morning at his job and come back late at night when I was already asleep. So basically my mom raised me, I can say I was raised by a single parent really although my father never ran away and he provided us with the best he could, since he grew up dirt poor, he didn´t want us(family) to experience the same. I remember my mom telling me to give him a hug, it didn´t come natural to me nor to him. I had a lot of resentment towards the man. But at the end of the day as I grew up, I saw that he is what he is, you can´t change him,I know he loves me although that only comes out of my mother´s mouth when she says “And he asked me the other day how did it go with you doing this or that”. I guess it´s when you mature that, even though there are people like me all over the world, either you accept your father and love him for what he is or you keep a resentment inside.Which is counterproductive.
    Maybe you try to put on the good dad hat, and the kid turns out hating your guts.It all depends on how that kid is going to mature, how he´ll develop his OWN personality. Just my two cents for what is worth, which ain´t much.

  • Great timing, Matt. My life is about to change significantly, and I need to lean forward, as they say, into new rituals and ways to be deliberately successful.
    I’m moving from southern Cal back home to Seattle, and will initially live with my brother in his home. He is father to my two nieces, who visit regularly. My sister and her husband are close by, as are my Mom and Dad. I’m going from a very solitary lifestyle (my cat and me) to a life filled with other people.
    This post will really set me on a path to be deliberate about the work I do and how I engage others. Thank you!

    • Wow Katherine. That is too cool.

      Thanks for the encouragement!