Make your work space nice.
It seems kind of basic, but it makes a huge difference. This doesn’t mean you need to create a dedicated home office or buy a bunch of fancy notepads and paper clips. I just mean take a few moments before you sit down to work to nest a little. Here’s what that entails for me:
- Tidy up the space if needed. Move used coffee cups to the kitchen, put scattered pens in their designated holder, stack those miscellaneous papers into a neat pile. Boom, that’s it. Don’t actually WASH that used mug or start sorting papers—that’s a recipe for procrastination. Just neaten up a bit so you start your day a little more organized.
- Accumulate the necessary work comforts. In order to actually get anything done, I need a mug of coffee and a glass of water by my side at all times. I tend to like having my phone nearby, but that’s debateable in its helpfulness. And I need my headphones within arm’s reach in case the neighbor kids start screaming.
- Create the right ambiance. Take a minute to sit at your workspace and assess your current mood. Then figure out what kind of atmosphere you need to create in order to make it a successful work day. Feeling sleepy? Cue up the Lizzo playlist to give yourself a boost. Stressing about the work ahead of you? Light a scented candle and put on your comfiest leggings. Starting to feel stir crazy? Open all the windows and blinds in your space, or even consider working outside if you can.
See? Not complicated or time consuming, but SO much better than plopping down in front of your computer amidst a mess of papers and needing to interrupt yourself every 5 minutes to grab coffee, then find a snack, then go down a rabbit hole searching for the right playlist.
I feel oddly normal for how weird things are in the world right now.
My life as a from-home worker hasn’t really changed much. I’m still working from my couch, still wearing my daily uniform of leggings and hoodies, still spending my free moments with my usual hobbies of cooking and reading, still taking care of my health with yoga and walks around the block.
I even think my anxiety levels have lowered. Most of the items on my list of Things I Should Be Doing have been erased for me. No mundane errands, no social events to stress about and cancel at the last minute, no family get-togethers that I’d really rather not attend.
I am worried about family and friends. I am worried about the huge numbers of people who will get sick and die. I am worried about everyone who works at grocery stores and restaurants and small businesses. I am worried about everyone who is facing dire financial circumstances. But it all feels so big and out of my control that it’s not worth spending the energy to actively worry about it, so instead, I go about my regular day.
I’m focused on the very simple things that I can do. Stay home. Check in with my friends and family. Support my favorite local businesses when I can. Take care of my own health and wellbeing.
I’m even a little hopeful that just maybe, the chaos of these moments will push us toward something better. We’re all experiencing how horrible a capitalist system is at dealing with this problem. And we’re seeing how we actually can have nice things like paid sick leave, work from home days, and universal basic income.
I truly hope we don’t go back to business as usual once this is all over. I’d much rather create a new normal.
Are you willing to embrace that truly slight inconvenience — and maybe pay a few dollars more — so that a person’s job is significantly less shitty? Think about in practice: are you willing to wait five more minutes for an Uber so that, when you get in, you know that your drive has health insurance and is making a living wage? Are you willing to pay $4 more for your yoga class (YOUR YOGA CLASS!) so that your teacher, who you likely venerate, can have some semblance of the stability/peace you yourself are attempting to find BY GOING TO YOGA??? Are you willing to have slightly less so that others can have significantly more? Or, as I like to think about it, do you actually care about other people?
Lately, lots of us are thinking and talking about burnout. How our work and daily routines are making us tired and sucking the joy out of our lives. We’re starting to think about what actions we can take to alleviate the feeling of burnout in our own lives. But this article asks us to think about how our actions can create burnout in other people.
In a small sense, that means respecting the boundaries of our colleagues, friends and family in a golden rule type fashion (do unto others…etc). But in a larger sense, that means buying into systems that respect those boundaries and allow us feel like real humans instead of meaningless cogs in the capitalist machine. And maybe MAYBE making a small, slightly uncomfortable impact on our own lives in an effort to make a much larger, game-changing impact on someone else’s life.
I think this idea is so important and one we don’t often think about. Don’t we all just want everything cheaper, faster, bigger? If it comes at the expense of another person’s wellbeing and financial stability, personally I’d rather have it a little more expensive, slower and smaller.
I found this article courtesy of Jocelyn K. Glei‘s newsletter which always has really great links about work, creativity, and making your life more enjoyable.
Everyone does goals differently. We approach them annually on January 1st or around back to school time. We fix them as permanent staples in our year or revisit and revise every few months. We have a long list of 20 aspirational to-dos or simply one big dream. I always like seeing the different ways people work on getting what they want out of life, so here’s how I do it.
I package my goals according to four major themes: work, life, learning and health (and yes, you better believe I color code them in all my list making).
Work goals encompass anything related to what I do to make money. Things like client projects, admin/billing, or working on aspirational projects I hope will someday contribute to my income.
My current work goals include:
- Maintaining all my regularly scheduled work duties.
- Holding myself to scheduled work blocks instead of just working when I feel like it (hello to the challenges of being your own boss and working from home!!!)
- Exploring a few new avenues for making money and being more creative.
Life goals are things I do to maintain day to day functionality, including chores, errands, and home projects.
My current life goals include:
- Cleaning unwanted stuff out of the house and donating or recycling it (this one is ALWAYS on my list—how do I have this much stuff??)
- Sticking to a chore schedule so I’m not constantly frazzled by a messy house.
- Giving a little DIY update to a few pieces of furniture I’m not totally in love with.
Learning goals include anything I’m interested in learning. That might be brushing up on skills I need for work or investigating something I might want to pursue.
My current learning goals include:
- Doing one Creative Live course per month to keep my ideas fresh and my mind interested. Anyone else use this site? It has so much useful info for free—I love it!
- Reading a few chapters a week from this book to brush up some skills I need for work.
- Learning about managing my money and investing. This is one I’ve been putting off for a long time because it’s intimidating as hell.
Health goals are my favorite because this is where I prioritize my mental and physical health. Anything that keeps me happy and healthy goes into this category, like planning trips, trying a new recipe, scheduling exercise, or making doctor appointments.
My current health goals include:
- Trying a new recipe once a month to keep things interesting in the kitchen. My favorite spots to find new recipes are Joy the Baker, The Kitchn, and Love & Lemons.
- Doing fun outside fall activities like visiting the cider mill, apple picking, and going on hikes.
- Keeping up with a weekly exercise routine that my boyfriend and I have recently embarked on together.
How do you do goals? What are you working on right now?
I did a lot yesterday to prepare myself for today. I kept the house clean and made lists. I did laundry and gave my skin a face mask. I went to bed at a reasonable time and set an alarm to wake up similarly.
The lists are the most important and enjoyable preparation I do. In a yellow, college ruled spiral notebook, something leftover from when I had classes to take notes in, I wrote down every goal or to-do thing that has been living in my mental space. Everything that snagged at my anxiety as I looked around my house and my mental landscape.
I came up with 32 things. And then I organized them by category—life, work, health, learning. And then I organized them by time and energy they’d take. And then I organized them by deadline. I picked a chunk of 12 of those things that felt important and realistic to do this month, with a mixture from each category and level of time commitment, and I split them evenly and organized them neatly into three boxes—one for each week left this month. I took the tasks from the first box and split those tasks evenly across each day this week, placing them carefully on days when I could foresee my future self actually, probably, hopefully wanting to do them.
Now is the hard part. I need to follow those instructions. This is where I always fail. I think of other ways to spend my time, things that don’t check any boxes or move me forward or bring me any actual joy. I need to be more robotic and go through the list step by step. I don’t need to get distracted by the weather or my feelings or a miscellaneous thought.
It’s too early to claim any real victories, but I’ve already checked two things—the easy morning time things that I can do before I’ve brushed my teeth and had my second cup of coffee—off my first list: 1) worked on knitting a scarf that has been sitting incomplete around my house for the past three years and 2) wrote something (this).