Are you going stir-crazy already? Maybe your eyes wander across your windows now and then, wondering when you'll be allowed to resume your normal life and leave. Maybe you feel the drag of loneliness and depression tugging at you more and more insistently with every passing day.
It feels like while half of the people are going in overdrive, killing themselves in their jobs as nurses, doctors, salespeople and more (and APPLAUSE to those!!), others have been literally benched from their day-to-day activities. Those hit hardest may have lost their job altogether, while others frantically try to get career, children and household all together at the same time.
I guess it is easy to agree that these times are challenging for everybody and needed adjustment to some extent. As a freelance writer, I feel I am among those who actually had to change very little to my everyday lifestyle, and yet I feel the isolation insistently knocking at my mental door. And maybe BECAUSE I am used to working from home.
Being a freelancer and working from home almost all the time means that my social engagements matter to me very much. Set day and evening meetings with various people were what kept me from going fully stir-crazy and becoming a weird hermit that never gets out of the pyjamas. With that cut off for the foreseeable future, it is not difficult to see how people working from home - and others - feel the strain after these past weeks.
Working from home has taught me that iron discipline and a positive mindset are crucial if you want to succeed. There is no boss, no fellow coworkers or the fear of getting fired that kicks you out of bed at 7 am sharp, nor is there a dire need to do your hair or put on makeup. At first, that may sound heavenly, but with time it becomes quite demotivating, at least it did for me. To maintain a mental health state, most humans - among them myself - need a stable routine and structure which give the day purpose. A life without purpose, I have found, is your straight line to anxiety, depression and lack of motivation.
So what can we do to keep up the spirits and gear into a sort of work mode during these trying times - regardless whether you're used to it or newly acquainted with the concept of working from home? On LinkedIn I have already published a short piece with 4 Incredibly Important Hacks When Working From Home, and on Honeybook.com I encountered a wonderful article titled 3 Tips All Creatives Need to Know About Working From Home by Lindsey Nickel that ties in nicely, so I will sum up my findings and provide new insights to get your started. Are these tips brand-new and original? No, because in the end most people figure out similar strategies to keep motivated. But it is always worth realigning your attitude and remembering the methods that may help you do it.
1. Get up at a reasonable time
When your mood sinks and you feel there is no purpose to your day, it is even more important to get up in the morning. Over the past weeks, I and my husband have lapsed into the terrible routine of getting up later and later until we reached a teenage-esque 10 am. When you get up so late, your day feels like a half-eaten cake and when you finally get into gear, it's inching towards bedtime already. Whenever I managed to make myself get up with or shortly after my husband (when he works he usually gets up around 6:30 am), I was far more productive, happier and ended the day feeling good. It may take a little inner convincing to crawl out of the bed if there are no pressing matters to deal with, but once up, it definitely lifts the mood and you can always take a short afternoon nap if needed.
What can help getting up in the morning is putting a call or meeting, or urgent task right at the front of your day. I often schedule my therapy sessions in the morning to get up, leave one or two articles with a tight deadline to go over once more to kick me out of the sheets, or write a minute day list with time frames to motivate myself.
2. Make yourself halfway decent for outside
Especially during coronavirus times, this point is tricky to achieve - at least for me. When you're commanded to stay at home and socially distance yourself from everyone, why bother wasting good makeup? For the cat? I thought so too at first (though I don't have a cat), but realised I felt more like myself and productive if I looked at least halfway decent. In my article posted on LinkedIn, I already shared the rule: You should look so that you can go to the supermarket without feeling like the most disgusting person there. What that means for you is, of course, up to you, but for me it means at least leggings and a clean shirt and the bare minimum of concealer and mascara.
One trick to make yourself get a face wash in the morning could be to make a short Insta-Story or social media pic. This way, there is at least some motivation to get sorted in the morning.
3. When you work, work; When you relax, relax
This point is also featured in Nickel's article 3 Tips All Creatives Need to Know About Working from Home on Honeybook.com, which she titles, "Set Boundaries with Household Tasks When Working From Home". In short, even when you work from home, take your work seriously. In coronavirus times that can also be true for a project you pursue, if you don't have any work as of now.
Write a daily schedule with your goals and when what to achieve (maybe you have video conferences that give your day some structure) and try to stick with your pre-given times. When you work from home, it is incredibly easy to get distracted, especially when you throw pets and/or children into the mix. However, work still means work. For me that was very hard in the beginning and still sometimes is. However, I noticed when I do not separate the two and allocate specific time frames, I feel distracted regardless what I do. When I work and click on YouTube links, do the laundry or mop up the floor, it makes me feel unfocused and unproductive. However, when I then take a break, watch an episode of a TV show or read, I feel guilty for "wasting" time I should be working.
The best schedule that works mostly for me is to get up, work two or three hours straight with short little breaks (like making a cup of tea, getting water, doing a short stretch) and then take a longer break that I feel is deserved. Nickel describes a pointed incident from her work life where her husband walked into her office space and asked her to write a check for the taxes and when she refused - because it was during her business hours - he got upset because she was right there and it would only have taken a few minutes. But fact is, work is work, and home time is home time. Taking it as seriously as "official office hours" gives your day a purpose and structure.
4. Create a designated work space
I know of freelancers who prefer to keep it mobile and who also work from the sofa or bed, but I deem this to be predominantly counter-intuitive. Relating to point 3 and backed up by Nickel's observations in her tip "Create A Designated Office Space", a work space and prepared environment are key to keep your work time and home time separate. Having grown up as a Montessori child, a prepared environment is everything to me. I could never work in an untidy and messy work space, and having one place in my flat that is dedicated to work only helps me distinguish between my two spheres: work and home. Tidying my work space shortly before work, or ideally at the end of a work day, means I can solely focus at the tasks at hand and distractions are reduced to a minimum, too.
Ideally, a work space would consist of a room dedicated to the purpose, but a little work niche does the trick, too. In our old apartment, my work desk was in the bedroom because it wouldn't fit anywhere else, and it worked out as well. In our new flat I am momentarily occupying the baby-room-to-be and can shut the door when I need the privacy, which is fantastic. Now, when I leave the "office", I can shut the door and leave all work-related stuff in there to enjoy leisure time in the rest of my flat with my husband.
A good equipped office space means having your computer set up so you only have to press POWER Ideally, you have a printer (if needed), office paper and supplies, as well as quietness. For me, a good work atmosphere also means putting my phone away (unless I need it for work), as permanent WhatsApp family updates are distracting.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.