Hello everyone! Today I am going to write about something very different from my usual book reviews. With the COVID-19 lock-downs in full swing, I’ve been seeing a lot of people on social media who are asking for tips on how to be productive while working at home. I’ve also seen some posts from people who are struggling with their mental health and the isolation caused by quarantine.
For me, working at home has been a hugely positive change in my life, but it does come with its own set of challenges and adjustments. Today I want to share some strategies with you that I have found helpful while I have been working at home. These span the gamut from how to focus and increase productivity to keeping your spirits up and fighting depression and anxiety when there is no one around to distract you. I hope you find these helpful:
Set a Routine and Stick to It
This is so important. My husband works crazy hours and often has his weekends on weekdays. It is tempting for me to just take the day off with him, but I’ve found that if I stick to my work-at-home schedule regardless of what he’s doing, I am much more productive and have less anxiety.
I choose to work in the morning because I have found that prioritizing things that must get done is the best way for me to fight procrastination. Getting up at the crack of dawn isn’t for me, but I get to work by 9 on a good day and by 10:30 on days when I’m struggling. I also have an ‘end’ time for my workday. This is just as important as having a start time so that you know when you are free to focus on other areas of your life without feeling like you are shirking your work responsibilities.
If you have been laid off and are struggling to fill your days, consider a routine of hobbies mixed with chores and other things you have to do. If you don’t have a hobby, there’s never been a better time to start one, just go online and look up videos on whatever you are interested in. Having interesting and healthy activities to do every day will also help to take your mind off of financial worries. Most people find that they feel safer and have less anxiety with even a loose routine than they do with none at all.
Get a Room of Your Own
If you are fighting the double battle of having to adjust to working at home while other family members are also in the house, I strongly urge you to find your own space to work in. When I first started working at home I would sit on my couch with my laptop, but after a couple of months of that I realized that I really needed a space of my own where my thoughts could flow without distractions.
I now work in a spare bedroom that I’ve converted to an office space. Not only does this keep me from being distracted by other people, but I also can’t look around and see dishes that need washed or other household things that are waiting for me. This goes a long way toward helping me stick to the task at hand. If you have young children at home, this might not be an option, but the point is that you need to minimize distractions as much as possible.
Put Your Face On Everyday ( Even if You’re the Only One Who Sees It)
This is a strategy that I’ve been working on, it’s still a bit hit and miss for me, but I find I feel better on days when I really ‘get ready’ in the morning. My grandmother, who would be 100 years old this year, lived through a lot– diphtheria epidemics in the 1920s, the Great Depression, WW2, and she endured all that while also fighting depression and anxiety. Every morning for as long as I knew her, even when she was very elderly and not going out anywhere, she would get up in the morning and put her makeup on. I’m talking full face makeup; foundation, blush, lipstick, everything. As I’ve gotten older and begun to think more about coping mechanisms and healthy habits, I’ve realized that this morning routine was an important part of my grandmother’s fight against depression.
So even on days when I am going nowhere, and only my immediate family is going to see me, I try to look good. I’ve noticed that even just a few swipes of mascara and some cover-up make me feel better about myself and more confident to face the day. I feel more productive and more like a ‘real person’ if you know what I mean. I also try to get dressed, even if “dressed” means leggings and a t-shirt, but even on pajama days, that little extra attention to my make up helps me feel better.
If you are a man or someone who’s just not into makeup, then I guess this advice translates as, “just make yourself feel good about how you look in the morning.” Go to a little extra effort after your basic morning hygiene. You won’t regret it.
One of the best things about working from home is the time it gives you to take care of yourself. Even if your job requires you to be chained to your laptop for eight hours, you are still gaining time that you would have spent commuting. Right now, going to the gym isn’t an option. For people like my brother who go to the gym every day (but don’t even lift) this can be hard to adapt to. I’ve always been a workout- at- home person, and I’ve recently found some ways to spice up my workout routine.
I’d been off the workout wagon for a while, and this past January, I decided I needed to get my rear in gear. I found an app called “Johnson and Johnson Seven Minute Workout,” and downloaded it for free. It’s honestly the best thing I’ve ever done for an at-home fitness routine. The name is deceiving; it’s not just a seven-minute workout. I’ve been using the “smart workout” option that allows you to customize a workout to your fitness level. I love this feature because I’ve been able to work my way up to being in better shape. It goes all the way to super hard fitness-nut levels, so anyone can use it. The seven-minute feature is also nice for days when you just can’t, but you’d rather do something than nothing. I’ve also heard that the Nike fitness app is good, but I haven’t personally tried that one.
There are a lot of options out there for streaming a workout at home, and once you’ve found the one you like, you need to commit to doing it a certain number of times per week. This is where having a schedule comes in again, if you know when you are working; it’s easy to know what times would be best for working out. Whenever I get out of a fitness routine I have a hard time getting into one again, but once I do, I’m always mad that it took me so long because I really do feel so much better. Especially if you are struggling with your mental health right now, physical activity is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and hey, seven minutes does count as a workout.
As an introvert, I often have to remind myself to be social, but I love hanging out with my friends, and the quarantine situation is becoming tiresome. My friends and I have been trying to make up for the lack of face-to-face contact by talking on the phone more often. Skype or Facetime are also great options. The chances are that many of your friends are sitting at home being bored right now too, so you don’t have to worry about timing your call around their work schedules.
I’m also looking at this as an opportunity to spend more time with the family that I live with. We have been enjoying activities that we don’t have time for when we are out running around, like playing games and baking or cooking together. If you live alone and have a pet, do fun, silly stuff with them and make some memories. (Please also share videos).
Find the Joy in Life
This is something that I always strive to do ( sometimes more successfully than others). Right now, it’s really hard to look around and see goodness, but it is there. People are going out of their way to accommodate those who have been hit the hardest by this crisis. Outside of that, it’s also spring and the days are getting more and more beautiful. I’ve been taking allergy pills and trying to get outside more often. I think that connecting with nature is one of the best ways to improve your mental health and see the good in the world. I’m also trying to see the bright sides of the situation, like the possibility of cheap plane tickets later in the year.
I’ve found that taking time away from the news and allowing myself to escape into enjoyable movies, podcasts, or activities has been an important part of reducing stress during the last few weeks. At the end of the day, I think it’s also important to go easy on yourself, this is a trying time for everyone, and most people are going to have days when they struggle to cope. It’s also important to give yourself credit- you’re still here, you’re reading this article because you want to do your best at handling this situation, and that counts for a lot.