Hi, I am Shreya and I write for a living.
You might know me from some of my popular articles on Medium. Or, you know me personally and I sent it to you 🙂
This guide is for me as much as it’s for you.
At this time of crisis, when there’s nothing much we can do apart from staying and working at home while thousands of people suffer and die, writing this has been my way of feeling useful. I’ve been told that I’ve good writing skills so I am putting them and my experience to use.
I hope that reading this provides you with a feeling of comfort and connection during this difficult time.
Why Am I Writing This?
This week took me by surprise.
Even though I’ve been working from home (or cafes) for almost over a year now, I found myself panicking over the idea of staying and working at home for at least the next 15 days or more.
I don’t know about you but for me, it’s my usual sense of routine that grounds me.
Even with my odd working hours, just sitting down in one of the Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters cafes and ordering a cup of coffee means the start of a work session for me. Like everyone else, I rely on some habits to kick start my mind.
Not being able to step out means no access to the community and the places that inspire me.
This time also coincided with the end of the lease of my apartment.
So, I thought it was wise to move back with my parents for a while as the next few weeks are crucial and it’s so important to stay put indoors.
So, yesterday, I was in a place where a lot of you are at the moment.
At home. Surrounded by family.
Trying to work with no dedicated workspace or workstation.
(I am actually typing this while sitting on my dining table.)
My work is mostly creative (I am a writer by profession) and I find it impossible to concentrate or get any work done if my environment is chaotic.
And heaven knows it’s chaotic and panicky right now!
The mounting death toll.
The uncertainty. The panic.
The upcoming doom and recession…
We’ve never experienced anything like this before. And, there’s only one way to get through this –
Find your calm and continue to work.
Why is it important to continue to work during this time?
1. To keep yourself sane
2. To help the economy
3. To inspire other people
Today, I attended live dance classes by my favorite instructors, read books released for free by my favourite writers, watched one of the best illustrated educational video about Coronavirus. And these things added so much value to my day. I was so grateful to the people behind them for continuing to work even at this time. They served as a huge inspiration for me.
So, here I am, trying to do my bit for the people.
What Makes Working From Home So Hard?
- No boundaries between work and life. Your schedule goes for a toss.
- Working in PJs seems comfy but eventually makes you feel like you are in a slump.
- Every time you watch the news, you’re left with an impending feeling of doom that’s hard to get rid of.
- If you are used to working alone, being around family members can be distracting.
- It’s so hard to stay focussed and not attend to the phone calls, message notifications, and a dozen other distractions.
- You almost always feel sleepy or tired and your bed isn’t all that far.
- You miss your usual routine life.
#1 Changing The Mindset
Working from home will work for you.
But it will require one thing – instead of viewing it as something you just have to get through, you’ll have to look at it as an opportunity.
I am sorry if that sounds preachy, but that’s what worked for me. The moment I started thinking in terms of opportunities, I was full of optimism and energy.
Yes, things are bad. But complaining or feeling sorry will only drain your energy.
To think of it – saving lives has never been easier. You’re not called out for war. All you’ve to do is sit at home.
So, before I delve into the specifics about working from home, I want to remind you of a few fun reasons why working from home is awesome.
Why Working From Home Is Fun?
- You have time to enjoy your showers.
- You can cook and eat three healthy meals.
- You can take an afternoon nap after your meal.
- You can sip on your favourite beverages while you work.
- You can take Netflix breaks.
- If you get your work done quickly, you actually have extra time for yourself.
- You save all the commute time!
- You can actually play your favorite music on your speakers while you work.
- You can even get up and dance a little. 😛
Feeling a sense of calm already? Yay!
Now, you’re ready for some specific tips to help you work from home. Let’s begin.
#2 Get Out Of Your Head
I spent the first day at home in a state of panic. All I did that day was read a whole lot of news about the virus, the associated death toll and overwhelm myself. And then I lay on the bed almost the entire day feeling hopeless, caught up in thoughts that only gave me a headache.
So, what did I do differently today?
I got out of my head. And consequently, out of my bed.
Though the day started with me feeling worried that my headache was caused by a fever (which was caused by the virus), instead of panicking, I simply checked my temperature (which turned out okay).
Next, I decided to actually get out and do something fun.
So, I baked choco-banana cake for my brother and we had it together with a cup of hot chocolate.
Then, I worked out for 30 minutes. And, just like that, my headache was gone.
Why I am boring you with my story?
To simply illustrate the importance of getting out of your head and doing something at the start of the day to put you in a good space mentally. For those of you who are used to working from the office, this is very important.
You probably never realised this, but there are so many tasks that you complete just in the process of reaching your office.
Reaching your office requires you to take actions like taking a shower, getting ready, grabbing a quick breakfast, driving, catching a metro or cab. All of these actions play an important role in simply getting you out of your head.
You don’t stay in bed reading the news and then feeling overwhelmed because you have these actions lined up for you.
But, what about when you’re working from home? What if there’s no call/meeting to attend? How do you stop thinking about everything going on and start working?
At a time like this, there’s no greater struggle to working than getting out of your head. There are different things that work for different people. Here are some tips that worked for me and I hope that you find them useful.
A) Focus on someone else
If you’re working at home with your family, it’s a wonderful opportunity to direct your attention to your family members and away from the panic/chaos in your head.
You can cook a meal for them, go for a walk with them, talk to them, have a cup of tea together or help them out with their work.
I recommend this especially at a time of panic like this one. There is nothing better than a few shared laughs to charge up your day and get you going.
B) Have short workout sessions
It’s never been easier to workout at home. I use Nike Training App and they have recently come up with a 7 minute Total Body Desk Detox which is great if you want to quickly energise yourself.
I use this app every day and I think you’ll enjoy the range of workouts that they have.
C) Write morning pages
Sometimes, the first thing I do after I get up in the morning is just open a fresh Google doc and write down everything going on in my head. It does not have to make sense. It’s sort of a dump of thoughts. And it really clears my mind and leaves me with one or two actions I can take right away.
My morning page from today looks something like this.
D) Be here now
Did you notice that a lot of things I wrote in my morning pages were simply describing mundane things that I did and things that were happening around me?
It’s a way to bring your awareness to the present moment. And it works just like meditation.
Most of the time, when you are feeling restless, you are either agitated about the past or future. Bringing your attention to the present moment and just paying attention to what you’re doing and what’s happening around you is helpful.
You can use the phrase ‘Be here now’. time and again to get yourself out of your head.
#3 Work At Night If That Works For You
Pulling all nighters isn’t healthy. Working at night isn’t healthy. But, I’ll be honest. It’s 5:38 AM and I’ve been writing all night because I write better when everything around me is quiet.
If working at night works for you, there are a few tips to help you in the coming days
A) Catch up on required sleep anyhow
If you live alone this isn’t a problem. But if you share your space, request your people to keep it low so that you can catch up on lost sleep in the morning otherwise it’ll mess up with your physical and mental health. Remember to draw your blinds and turn off the lights before you sleep.
B) Healthy snacks only
Working late and munching on chips isn’t going to work. If you want to keep working your most productive hours, replace junk with healthier options like fruits, salads, or a cup of milk.
C) Avoid caffeine and stay hydrated
Don’t torture your body to stay awake by increasing caffeine intake. Drink plenty of water and stay super hydrated to keep your mind alert and active.
D) Recharge by working out
Working out seems like the last thing you would want to do after getting up but it’ll help your body stay energised. It’ll also ensure that you sleep better.
#4 Dress Up, Please
Now that you’re home all the time, there’s no boundary between work and leisure. There’s no physical boundary between office and home. There are no weekends.
But please, do not spend all your days in your PJs and loungewear, Just don’t.
I strongly recommend dressing up for your work, for your workout session and then getting into your comfort clothes for sleeping. I even prefer putting a bit of makeup during the day.
Do this and you’ll set so much better intention for everything you do.
Tomorrow’s Sunday and I’ve asked my family members to dress up for dinner like we’re going out. Let’s see how that goes!
#5 More Time For Self Care
Feeling privileged at a time like this can also make you feel super guilty. I almost feel like I don’t deserve to have any fun when thousands of people are dying and suffering. And what are my problems? Being safely quarantined at home?
But, that’s exactly why I need to have fun. That’s exactly why you need to have fun. There’s nothing to feel guilty about having a good time. In fact, self-compassion is the way forward.
If you take care of yourself, you will function better and you’ll contribute to the society better through your work, through your thoughts, and through your intentions.
Self-care simply has to be a priority right now.
A) Playlists and Beverages
I approached my friend Prachi, founder of brand Tribal Paintings and she sent me the following survival tip.
“Caffeine gets me through everything, writers block, creative block, life block, self-depreciation block. But sipping on caffeine throughout the day ends up in a crash landing to your bed at night.
So I start my work day with caffeine but later I sip on some antioxidants, detox teas. I’ve a small table that acts like my tea bar where I keep my matcha, a pretty cup, tisanes and my favourite rooibos tea.
This coupled with a nice playlist (I call it my movie background sound) helps me feel not lonely and makes me believe that I am doing something marvelous. Music recommendations: Michelle phan’s live radio on youtube and anything jazz.”
B) Create Your Space
No matter how big or small, you’ll need to create a place for yourself. I recommend creating a place to work and a place to work out.
I didn’t have any place like that at my home, so I cleared out the desktop table and just put some basic stuff that makes it feel like a workspace – a pen pot, a few books, a prayer flag in the backdrop and a flower vase with essential oil. It’s very minimal but it helps me concentrate.
C) Get Creative
I know that things seem bleak right now. We all need high hopes and big dreams to survive this time. So, here’s an idea –
Create a Vision Board that reminds you of your dreams. Here’s a snapshot of Prachi’s Vision Board to inspire you!
Another creative friend of mine,
Aprajita said – “Put up memories from travels, pictures with your favorite people, several years old sketches, fortune cookie wisdom, heartfelt notes and art from friends- to make you smile and feel warmth at a time like this.
D) Create time to unwind
Make time for that skincare routine you always wanted to follow, have a movie marathon on weekends, read the books you always wanted to read, make time for your personal projects, FaceTime with your friends and eat good food.
E) Do not let work occupy your entire day
Cynyassy artist Shashank suggests having a strict start time and stop time. Even if you work independently as an artist, writer and entrepreneur, keep dedicated work hours.
It might feel good to stay occupied with work at this time, but remember to be kind to yourself and not exhaust yourself by over-working.
Here’s a final note that I leave you with –
Make time to smile, help your family members, and feel grateful to be alive at a time like this. We’ll get through this together.