It's March 2020, Coronavirus / COVID-19 has hit, and the world has a pandemic on it's hands... It's a worrying time but we need only concern ourselves with what we can control.
There are thousands of memes and advice circulating on the internet and social media, but the main message now is to STAY HOME and stop the virus spreading. I saw a great post which I shared to my Instagram page, which said to act as if you have the virus, not just thinking about protecting yourself but thinking about protecting others. And that's exactly what we ALL have to do right now. Stop the spread.
As everyone stays home and workplaces adapt to their staff working from home, (abbreviated to WFH), this is nothing new to me! As a Freelancer, I work from my home office/studio most of the time, when I am not out contracted out to business and agencies who prefer me to be in their office (working from their servers for example). With such comfortable surroundings I rarely venture out to a local café to sit on my MacBook and do my design / business work, but in the future I really should! Something I am realising right now that I often took for granted.
There's lots of distractions to lure me away from my desk at home, but I've learnt to juggle house chores and distraction with home-working. Throwing the washing in the machine straight after breakfast knowing it will be done in an hour and a half means tasking myself with something relatively quick that I know I can achieve, before I dash down stairs and hang it - sort of feels like I'm killing 2 birds with 1 stone! I could of course leave all the house stuff to be done at the weekend, but that's no fun! I want to be out running, eating and drinking and socialising with my friends and family (usually!).
So if you're WFH at the moment while trying to entertain kids, I won't be much help I'm afraid (as I don't have children of my own) but there is tonnes of great ideas for keeping the kids entertained online. If you need some suggestions for being productive whilst not having a boss leering over you, here's a few tips...
Suggestions for proactively working from home:
Get up at a decent time - it doesn't have to be super-early if you're not an 'up with the sun' early riser, but I sure feel better for getting up, fed, showered and ready to start the day fresh, being in my office no later than 9am. After all, you don't now have a commute! And remember, the earlier you start the earlier you can clock off, which is all so much more tempting if you can reward yourself for a full days work with a nice walk or jog if you're that way inclined. TOP TIP - set your alarm for the same time each day. It will help give you some routine and help you sleep better too!
Have an attractive, comfortable work space - I've loved seeing my friends photos of their 'home offices' even if it's just a small space on their dining table. Having key things within reaching distance on your desk, a drink, your glasses, a pot/mug of pens and paper just gets you into the working frame of mind. If you can get the same amount of work done from your bed, then well done you - but I've tried it; it doesn't work for me and man it's uncomfortable after a while! TOP TIP - sit near a window if possible so you can always get some fresh air and sun (when it shines). Add a plant or your favourite candle if you're wanting to spruce the place up. I sometimes have a small fruit bowl on my desk so healthy snacks are always in reach.
Scheduling - It's tempting to write one massively long 'To Do' list, but I've learnt that you need to break this down into what is achievable for each day. Stay focused and know that this is the new norm. Being productive feels good, ticking off your list is even better, especially with a brightly coloured highlighter! Time bloicking and scheduling is even bvetter than just listing so consider that the next tim eyou write a super-human list of 20 things you need done - today! TOP TIP - big jobs can sometimes seem a little daunting. So you don't put them off, or feel like you're making slow progress, break these down into smaller, manageable tasks.
Take regular breaks - If you don't, you'll soon get sick of working and it's proven that productivity decreases. You need to rest your eyes, walk/stretch your legs, get some fresh air (lunch time walkies anyone?), and stay active. Why not take your tea break on the sofa for 15 minutes, or in a different room, or outside; a change of scenery will be good for your brain to separate break-time from work-time, not to mention getting a break from sitting on a dining chair. TOP TIP - set an alarm to tell yourself when to get back to your desk, it will (hopefully) prevent you from getting distracted for any longer than necessary.
Stay in touch - Keeping in touch with your colleagues and clients during this time is important. Regular emails and calls will keep you in the working frame of mind. TOP TIP - Use the technology available to you whether that be FaceTime / WhatsApp video call, Skype or Zoom (great for group calls!). At times like these it can be far more comforting to see a friendly face, especially if you miss the office banter.
Finish on time - This was hard for me at first... so much to do, customers waiting, paid work that needs done... but it cannot all be done in one day! We all have home-lives too, never feel guilty about that. If you're a workaholic like me (sorry husband) and you just want to get loose ends tied up before the day ends, it's hard to down-tools and call it a day. TOP TIP - I found a good way to leave the working day is to leave myself a post-it note on my desk with tomorrows first task. That way I hit the ground running with a job as soon as I get into the studio on a morning with out procrastinating or stressing about which job needs done first. It takes the thought process away from deciding what to do, a bit like getting your clothes out the night before!
Suggestions for finding things to do when you can't / (don't want to) work from home:
Read - for work or for leisure, the perfect time to be a bookworm!
Back up your work / music / photos - no one I know does this often enough! DO it.
Delete old photos from you phone / laptop / devices - we all need to do this! If you haven't already, get yourself a Gmail account and access unlimited cloud storage for all your photos!
Take a bath - and relax*! (*easier said than done if you're in responsibility of small humans)
Wash your coats - you won't be wearing them to leave the house (March 2020) so good opportunity to get them all nice and clean.
Spring clean - the perfect opportunity as the weather gets slightly warmer, open your windows and have a cleaning session.
De-clutter - make up a charity bag up of clothes you haven't worn in a while and things you haven't used, and you'll be ready to donate when the charity shops re-open.
Sort through and clean the kitchen cupboards - I found jelly sachets from 2016 - Oops!
Bake - ...and in those findings, I did actually find some in-date stuff I could make banana bread with, wahoo! CHECK OUT - My favourite local café in Whitley Bay Kith & Kin are sharing daily recipes on their Instagram page, go find them ASAP for fab cooking info and immediate food envy.
Shop ahead for birthday presents - We are all guilty of grabbing a bottle of booze from the supermarkets last minute .com(!) for a friends/family members birthday due to lack of time or simply forgetting because normal life is so busy. Why not buy from your local, small businesses? They need you right now! CHECK OUT - A fellow business owner and old school friend creates beautiful, handmade leather goods, check out Tori Lo Designs for unique gifts for men and women.
Write a list of restaurants and cafés you want to visit when this social ban is lifted - We always frequent to the same places, that's great when they're your favourites BUT to prevent yourself from getting tired/bored of them, it's a good idea to try new places too. This may also include a wish list of where you'd like to go on future holidays. CHECK OUT - If you haven't been already, make sure you add Cullercoats Coffee and The Boatyard for a great coffee and delicious cake or brunch! Oh, add High Tide and Sugar and Slice to your 'must-visit' list too. They're certainly on mine for when everything re-opens!
Stay connected - Call people! Reach out, have a chat, check in on loved ones (via video call would be even better), they'll appreciate your efforts and I'm sure it will cheer you up too.
Exercise - Walk/jog/run, practice yoga, there's tonnes of ideas on YouTube for you to copy from, with and without equipment. Get online at 9am and join Joe Wicks with his live streaming of PE With Joe, to get your heart rate up and body moving! If you are looking for something more bespoke, one of my clients is a Personal Trainer; check out Terrimarie's PT business Facebook page Fitness That Fits.
Be positive - Write a list of everything you're thankful for. Reach for it in times when you're feeling like you need a boost - guaranteed to put a smile on your face! :) I would highly recommend reading Dr Rebecca's LifeJoy books for ultimate gratitude-feels.
I really hope this had given you some ideas for working from home and not-working from home, too. And feel free to give me some more suggestions in the comments section below for when I have exhausted this list! Many thanks in advance :)
Stay positive, stay safe and stay home...