I was Told There Would Be a Light at the End of This Tunnel

I have written “content” for over 30 years now. A newsletter for music stores in Minnesota, one-sheets for welders, Social Media content for manufacturers, and more blog posts than I care to think about.

But this one has been the hardest ever to get online.

It’s not for lack of resources. I have cool online cartoons, great articles about “quaroutine” best practices, and ALL kinds of well-intentioned advice for working from home.

But here’s the simple truth – i’m trying to write a blog about making sure you’re in a good head space heading into a quarantine winter, while being stuck in a rut myself.

We’ve been working remotely since March here. And it’s actually been a huge boost to my overall productivity. We launched a new website, are offering an eBook on virtual events and streamlined our product offerings, among other things.

But summer became fall, and the last few weeks here in Ohio, the weather has been horrible. Grey, wet and windy. The leaves seem as confused as we are, with our neighbors’ trees almost bare, and ours yet to turn. 

And our once novel routine has become, well ROUTINE. My daughter is in “class” by 8. My wife averages 4-5 meetings a day. So we do a floor by floor, room by room shuffle of remote working. Someone’s in the dining room, so I take my Zoom call in the spare bedroom, while someone else is trying to make lunch and keep the dogs from barking at the 4th delivery vehicle of the day to roar down the street.

It’s all become a bit much.

So finding the inspiration for this article was both right in front of me, and a thousand miles away. But here goes;

Making Space for Yourself When You Work From Home

As Fall becomes Winter, and clocks “Fall Back” now is as good a time as any to look at your current work-from-home situation and see what tweaks you can make to benefit your productivity and mental health.

Working remotely is the perhaps the most normal part of the New Normal. But through the spring and summer we were helped by warm days, the ability to be outside and longer amounts of sun after we turned off the laptop and got off the couch.

But with cases increasing while days get shorter, now is the time to make sure you’re not in a rut. Here’s a few tips

  • Have (Two) Borders – The biggest issue for most people working from home is differentiating between the Work and the Home. It makes for an amusing commercial when the woman goes from watching TV at one end of the sofa to being on a group chat at the other end (she put on glasses! It must mean professional!). But the simple fact is you do need to draw a clear line between when it’s work time and when it’s not.

    Maybe it’s as simple as having a room or place in the house that’s the “Work Space”. When the door is closed, or the lamp is on, it’s a symbol to your family and yourself that you’re at work. I mean if you can’t put a shed in the back yard, it’s a good plan B

    But just as importantly – Have a clear break when you’re NOT working. Put work behind at 5, and don’t feel guilty about it. Make weekends weekends again! And take your vacation days!! Recent surveys mentioned in this excellent Washington Post article found that the pandemic has made the average work day 48 minutes longer, and that ⅔ of respondents to a LinkedIn survey didn’t plan on using accrued vacation days.

    It’s been six months or more; make sure you redefine Work & Home, and keep them separated, even in the same space. (Full Disclosure – I wrote part of this blog on a Sunday)
  • Keep the Routine from Being Routine – By now we’ve all developed a certain pattern to the day – get up, make coffee, check online, shower, start the work day.

    But take a minute to look at that routine to see if it’s helping. Are you over caffeinated? Are the news sources you’re checking in with informative or inflammatory? Is the routine happening 5 days a week or 7?

    Now is the perfect time to asses and make changes that will shake things up and offer a fresh perspective. My wife now takes daily walks, and an online Zumba class. My daughter is taking virtual tours and field trips on Fridays. Look at the links above or make doing research on finding ways to freshen up your routine part of your routine.
  • You’re Not Alone in Feeling Alone – So perhaps the biggest take-away from all my research for this post was one thing – EVERYONE feels like this right now. We all feel like we’re in a rut. And we’re all reacting to it in different ways, but that doesn’t lessen the underlying theme of us all being in this together (while separate).

    So use this time to hone your empathy. Realize that there’s a story like yours replicating itself, next door, on the next block, and pretty much everywhere right now. And see how you can reach out to your network to see how they’re doing, and how you can help each other mix things up and make the winter a little warmer and open.

Last thoughts – Just like at work, now is the perfect time to look at what you’ve been doing as a part of your personal quarantine response, and tweak the plan where it makes the most sense for your health, well-being and long-term success. Good luck and stay healthy!