I can't say that I ever expected things to get this bad so quickly. It felt like yesterday I was just hearing of this potentially fatal virus on Reddit and immediately dismissing it. Come on, it's just going to be this week's outrage that's making its way through the channels, nothing to be obsessed about.
Wow, did I grow a lot as a person this month. It's almost like a movie where you get ten minutes of prologue that ends with a patient zero...
1 month later....
I live in Hoboken, NJ and if you've been in the area lately or if you've turned on the news in the last few weeks, you may have heard of my little city by the city. Hoboken was one of the first towns in the country to shut down and brace for an unpleasant Spring. I remember the restaurants and bars being forced to close while there were still people in my circle doubting the virus is that serious at all. I desperately wanted to believe that myself but fortunately I'm surrounded by cautious and informed people that expressed to me early on that this was no ordinary flu. This was going to change us as a people during and afterward. I'll check back in in a few months but I'm willing to bet that we're in for one hell of a fight and nothing will be the same afterward.
Nevertheless, here we are. At home (hopefully) with nothing but ourselves and our laptops to keep us entertained. That, and the millions and millions of movies, books, and video games we have readily available at any time. And then you get what I (now) call "content fatigue" where you can watch all the movies and shows you want but you can't help shake this overbearing boredom feeling.
So what do you do? If you're anything like the people I follow on Instagram, then you create these dares and challenges in order to pass the time. Some of them involve dogs and some of them involve pushups.
Still, that doesn't fill the day entirely, and we (likely) have many more days to come before we can meet the sun again so I would like to explore opportunities that allow us to use our days of forced relaxation to our advantage. After all, you can only walk your dog and organize your room so much.
A little bit of structure will give you stability.
Personally, I've never been one to enjoy following a routine. It doesn't take much to fall into a mundane routine where you are just going through the motions every day. However, I can't deny that it has its benefits. A routine allows you to block up your days in manageable segments in order to better organize your days/weeks/months. Time to find a happy medium and see what works for you.
What better time than now to develop a foundation of routine in your life? Especially since we can pretty much cut out commuting out of our schedules and if you are privileged enough to be able to work from home, as I do, developing a level of routine and normalcy is even easier.
First thing is to keep whatever you can from your "normal schedule" a month ago. For me, that means doing any sort of skincare and getting dressed in the morning.
If you have a morning ritual, don't lose it. As I said, try to keep everything as normal as possible. Whatever normal is to you. It's like that one episode of Lost where (spoiler alert) that guy in the Hatch asked Desmond why he still shaved every morning. He's been stuck in there for three years with no one to impress so why still waste time shaving? When all you have is time, it's best to do whatever you can to stay as sane as possible. So yeah, keep your morning rituals.
Personally, I find it hard to start getting productive in my work, both professional and personal, if I'm not dressed. No reason to put on a coat and tie to walk from the bedroom to the living room but something near to what I would wear to my office job plus some level of comfort lets my brain know that I am ready to work and not fall back asleep.
Work is work, not much else to say about that. What can be said is how working from home as opposed to the office affects your productivity.
For me, I find it difficult sometimes to stay productive at my own desk in my apartment. It's so damn close to my bed, books, other computers, etc. I'm surrounded by distractions on all sides so how could I possibly stay on top of my tasks for the day?
Take breaks. Move around. Listen to some music.
When you're in the office, your brain is engaged with many things at once. While you are occupied with whatever is on your screen, you are also interacting with your colleagues and having a conversation. It's easier to get into a flow when you're physically in the office because you have the ability to be social. I would take a page out of a veteran remote employee's book and try to integrate human interaction as much as possible. Have a virtual lunch with the coworker you usually get lunch with (👋Hey Victoria!) or call a friend while you are doing something a little more mundane than usual. Any chance you get to see how someone is doing or to talk about something as trivial as the weather during this apocalypse can do amazing things for your sanity.
Everyone has their ways of staying productive. Whether it is working out during lunch or the Pomodoro technique (check it out), there's no better time to find what works for you than during a state-wide quarantine. Try everything!
For me? I have to move from desk to couch....to bed....and back to the desk in order to avoid zoning out in between builds. Oh, and get enough sleep. Just because your commute is whatever the distance between your bed and your desk is, doesn't mean you should add those extra saved minutes to your curfew.
Now if I can only practice what I preach...
If taking frequent breaks during work is your thing, use those preserved commute minutes in order to read a couple of pages of your book or watch a video from your Watch Later list. When the weather is nice/when we weren't in quarantine, I would take walks around the piers in downtown Hoboken for a while. At the time of writing this we are still allowed to walk around so take advantage of that if you need it.
If necessary, stretch your workday out by an extra thirty minutes - one hour if you need to take breaks during the day.
Not like you're going anywhere I guess.
Important: Make sure you set appropriate boundaries. Just because the world is ending doesn't mean you should let your company take advantage of your workaholic nature and stay by the screen longer than you would at the office.
And not just habits, but hobbies as well.
Now that we've cut commuting times and there is no social pressure to go out and enjoy the weather or something, there's no excuse to avoid or forget those hobbies that you try to find minutes out of your week to start doing.
That can be learning to cook, reading that book, or in my case, writing this post 😭.
Whatever your escape is, get on it.
If you're like me then there is a non-zero chance that you spend too much time deciding what to do instead of actually picking something and doing it. This can be caused by work fatigue or lack of motivation. It might be too daunting to start where you left of at something because you are afraid that by the time you're back in the groove at THAT thing, it's time to make dinner/go to sleep/walk the dog, etc.
Good news, you've got time. Start now and decide later if you want to keep spending time on it.
Some ideas that I'm pursuing that may inspire you:
Start/continue that book
Create a cleaning schedule
Organize your closet/room
Build that app/site
Set up your bodyweight workout routines (I've been using FitBod)
Catch up on your shows (If you couldn't tell from before, I'm hooked on Lost)
Learn a new language (Peut-etre que je parle...mieux le francais...oui?)
Whatever it may be, being productive outside of work can do wonders for your mental health during all of this. Making sure no day goes to waste will make our time at home pass by much quicker than we think.
This is probably the most important thing to us considering we are humans. Humans are naturally very social and with our technological capabilities, it has never been more convenient and simple to keep up with those in your circle.
If your family is anything like my family, you probably receive a call or two every couple of hours. Especially if you're in a Covid-19 hotspot away from the rest of your family.
If that's the case, you're probably all set in the family department. Just keep in mind how important it is for them to constantly hear that you are fine because that's probably the only way to fend off any negative thoughts. In times like this, it's super important to stay optimistic.
As I mentioned before, with the absence of colleagues and friends it is easy to fall into a slump and start feeling incredibly isolated. Again, we are humans and humans typically crave attention and engagement. Start making virtual interaction an essential part of your daily routine. I've been learning now, more than ever, that I took all of that for granted less than a month ago.
Those "pointless" morning meetings seem just about good right now, yes?
Since all of my meetings these days exist on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, I try to utilize my camera as much as possible. By doing this, I've slowly started to notice my weekly routine meeting attendees have started to use their cameras more too. In doing this often, it will become normal very soon and you will be able to maintain that connection with your workplace as much as possible. Of course, only do this at your comfort level.
This also justifies my point earlier about getting dressed (or at least somewhat dressed) even if you are working from home. And if you are turning on your camera, you are probably making yourself and your surroundings presentable so, chain effect tidying == win-win?
Lastly, don't forget to call your friends. Texts are cool and all but a quick FaceTime during lunch or after work will prove to be much more worth it.
Let's turn this unfortunate event into an opportunity to bring us closer.
So yeah, read that book, marathon-watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy (twice), and call everyone once in a while. Pretty soon we'll be back to our previous pace and hopefully, we will all come out of this with an incentive to be and do better.
👏👏👏Healthcare workers 👏👏👏Postal Employees 👏👏👏Essential Workers 👏👏👏