Work at Home Desk

Productivity in Crisis

I’m one of the lucky ones.

I can work from anywhere, including home, as long as I have my laptop and an internet connection. But just because I can work from home, doesn’t mean it is easy to work from home.

In February I left my corporate job in favor of freelancing. I moved my daily work to a cubicle at The Container Yard in Mobile, AL where I enjoyed water cooler talk with my cube neighbors and visits with other members in the kitchen. That first 4-6 weeks was magic. I had two projects which were big enough to keep me busy and focused. And the separation between work and home was a huge advantage to me. After having worked at home for 8 years, I was really enjoying NOT working at home.

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

This ^^^^^^ is not what my work from home setup looks like.

The reality: I’m working at home with my four dogs, two teenagers, and my husband. The kids have been out of in-person classes for FOUR weeks. And they are not going back to the classroom this academic year. So we are all home, all the time. And we are starting to get on each other’s nerves.

But honestly, it is better now than it was two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. The virus, the stay-at-home orders, the news. It was definitely a “how we will ever recover” from this moment. Throw in a few clients between my husband and I pausing work while also figuring this all out, and the financial uncertainty was layered on top of the global uncertainty.

The Washington Post posted an article “Don’t feel like ‘getting things done’? It’s okay not to be productive during a pandemic that seemed to speak to how I had been feeling (although it was after I managed to dig myself out). The article talks about the time and energy it takes to adjust to our new set of circumstances. My husband made the same point when on week two of our family isolation orders (we buckled down earlier than was mandated) I broke down and explained how I just didn’t want to do ANYTHING.

Work at Home Desk
My Actual Home Workstation

So here’s what I decided to do: give into it for a week. I gave myself a week to be underproductive. To watch too much of the news, to hit refresh on social media to see what everyone else was doing, to panic buy comfort foods that our family usually doesn’t eat. To let my mind wander and drift. And really just get through the work I had already committed to do.

When that week was up I sat down and thought about what I could do that would help me cope better with my emotions, my concerns, my stress about the situation. And I completely re-designed my daily schedule around this “new normal” since this is likely what we are going to be living with for at least another month, if not longer. And was hit with the realization that I just could not keep going without productivity for weeks upon weeks.

The first thing I did was decide I had to limit my media time…social and otherwise. All it did was spin me up. I’m already doing what I can by staying home. But I didn’t want to feel completely out of the loop. So my husband and I agreed we would both end our standard workday at 5:30 so we could sit and watch the national evening news then the local news together. Knowing that I had this plan has allowed me to stop visiting the news websites 100x a day (okay, that may be an exaggeration).

In addition, to reduce my concerns about money, we now have a bit of a “state of the budget” discussion each Friday to talk about our cash in the bank, credit, new projects, and projects that might be shutting down. This helps give a better overall picture of where we stand.

Then I set up my work blocks so I have time specifically set aside for writing my freelance proposals, set time for my existing project work, and then time for the little projects here and there. The work time is broken up with time for working out (moved to mid-day as a de-stressor and mood enhancer), and family dinner time before an evening work block.

Mobile Studio – Narrating Training Videos From My Car

Next, I had to consider there is going to be a little bit of “best you can do under the circumstances”. I’m in the midst of a big project creating software training videos, so I had to come up with a solution for narrating the videos that allowed me to minimize background noise, dogs barking, and kids yelling at each other. And desperation is sometimes the mother of invention…and so I turned my car (which I’m not driving anywhere right now) into my mobile recording studio. Between acoustic glass, soft surfaces, and some extra padding, it is actually working pretty well and allows me a little time to myself.

Mid-Day Walks Break Up the Day

The results? I’ve been super productive in the last two weeks. I’ve picked up 4 new small freelancing clients in the last two weeks which I’ve been able to feather in with my other work. I’m taking Saturdays completely off. And enjoying the podcasts I usually listen to during my commute as I’m out walking the dog. And best of all, I think I’ve found a sustainable approach that I can continue to use for the foreseeable future…but I am looking forward to the time I can get back to my desk at the office.

What are you doing to cope with the coronavirus?