Our lives have changed quickly over the last few weeks. Our vocabulary has been enriched with new words such as :
- social distancing
- distance learning
- virtual gathering/ virtual seder/ virtual services
While we are trying to stay safe, occupy ourselves and our children, I have surfed around and collected tips to keep our lives together.
Set a schedule.
It is time to do this. Otherwise, work and home are totally blurred. Do you work late and see your kids earlier? You need to set some time parameters. Even if you are now homeschooling your kids, they need a schedule and so do you. Have a schedule for meals so everyone knows the plan. The good news is that now families are more likely to have meals together and get to spend some time together.
Set up/redecorate your workspace.
At first, we figured we could work anywhere around the house since it would only be for a few weeks. But, now that we know it will be longer, we have to find a “best place to work”. You may need to set up space for you, your partner/spouse, and your children for their classes. This has been one of the biggest adjustments for many families – how to effectively work around each other in a confined space. For you, using your standing desk might work out good, but if you find you are standing all day, that can cause back problems or other issues. Or maybe you are now sitting all day. Either way, come up with the best place to work that enables others in your household to also be able to get their work done. You may also need to invest in the right technology and office equipment (chairs, desks, etc.).
Designate a quiet space in your house and keep it uncluttered.
Having the news channel on in every room that has a TV could be bringing greater stress to family members. Having at least one quiet and uncluttered space enables anyone from the family to use that space to decompress and unwind.
Set work hours and communicate to your office when you are and are not available.
Otherwise, you might find yourself getting email at all hours and being invited to meetings all day long. This is especially important if you find that you now are caring for your children or homeschooling them during the day. Maybe you can’t be available during the typical workday. Whatever you are able to negotiate with your work office is important to stick to.
Close your workday out at the end of the day.
Make sure you “close the day out” when your work time is done. Just like you used to pack up your office, you may need to do the same thing here by packing up your work for the day. Close your laptop or leave your “office”.
Let your family members know when you are working and when you are accessible to them.
This is especially true for your children (if they are old enough to understand this). Seeing you at home for an extended period may make them think you are free to play all day long. Be clear about times and expectations. You might have to work in another room and put a note on the door when you are on a work call so that you are not disturbed.
Establish ground rules in the family for playing music, having the TV on, and any other distractions.
Maybe you have college kids back home who were used to playing loud music at all hours or staying up all night long. Depending on how your house is set up, you may need to establish new rules so that everyone can still get some sleep and get work done.
Start each part of your work portion of the day with the things you really dread doing.
Get them over with! The rest of the day will be a joy in comparison. Maybe you have been avoiding working on a specific project. By tackling it first thing, you don’t have to spend the rest of the day worrying about when you will get to it.
Get dressed in work attire for your meetings.
If you have a day filled with video meetings, then take the time to ensure you look like a professional for those calls. Psychologically, it also helps you to take the meetings more seriously.
Wearing nice clothes affects your mood in a positive way, moving from one PJ to the next might be great on a rainy day but for sure does not work 24/7.
Make sure you take breaks during the day.
You need a break from the screen and from standing or sitting all day. Get up and go outside if you can. This can be challenging for those who live in an apartment. If you have a balcony, sit outside and get fresh air. The key thing is to move around and take regular breaks. Even short breaks are helpful and can keep you motivated and thinking creatively throughout the day.
Get plenty of exercise.
Now that you are at home, you may not be walking as much as you normally did at work or school. Take more time to exercise and get your “steps in”. At least stretch during the day, especially if you are behind a computer for most of it.
There are plenty of free resources out there. If you need motivation, most exercise apps have goal settings or competitions with friends, check it out and choose what makes you tick.
Get plenty of sleep.
When you get some “snow days”, we often have the tendency to stay up later knowing we can sleep in the next day. While we all may have done that the first few days of this quarantine, we can’t keep doing it. It is now time to create a “new normal” so make sure you have some semblance of a schedule and are getting plenty of sleep.
Think about how you want to use your saved commuting time.
If you are working from home, you are saving some time commuting. So, what do you want to substitute for that time? Exercise, meditation, writing, yoga? Think about this and be purposeful about how you can now use that time.
Set specific work and home goals for each day.
Maybe you want to get certain projects done for work and also for home. Be realistic and clear about goals for each week and each day.
Plan social connections.
Plan when you will be able to reach out to friends via Facetime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. to stay socially connected. You might also want to plan when you will check in with work colleagues.
Build in some fun each day.
What’s the thing that you love doing that you can still do while practicing physical distancing from others? Walking your dogs, working in your garden, reading a book, painting, doing yoga, riding a bike, doing puzzles, cooking, etc. Build it into your schedule. This is especially important since the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear that we are all facing over this pandemic can be taking a toll on yourself that you are not even aware of. Laughter is more important than ever before.
Despite offering some tips for establishing a “new normal” during these difficult times, remember that there is nothing about this situation that is normal. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. This is new territory for all of us. We can try to establish a “new normal”, and we may try to muscle through. But we need to recognize that things might change again, so what is most critical is being adaptable and resilient.