At this time in 2020, we are seeing masses of people starting to work from home in Michigan due to the worldwide pandemic known as Coronavirus. I don’t hesitate to say the name, because “fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” (I’ve got to be honest here, I thought that this was a quote from some famous ancient philosopher, but it’s actually from Albus Dumbledore. Still a famous philosopher in my book…and in J.K. Rowling’s books.) And while COVID-19 may be something that we should rightly fear as this forces us to take necessary precautions, there is a difference between healthy fear and panic. So besides social distancing, what more can we do from our homes to combat this fear? The answer is to work from home (and #stayhome) and to establish a healthy routine for ourselves. Some are doing online school from the comfort of their beds, some are working their normal jobs in a not-so-normal situation, and others have seen their job description change completely. Some have even found themselves out of work as a result of this curveball life has thrown at our world, but are still motivated to learn, grow, and prepare for their life once this crazy ball game is over. Regardless of the situation you find yourself in during this trying time, we need to plow forward not only for the good of the economy, but for the good of our mental health. As I’ve been working from home for a couple weeks now, I’ve started to become somewhat of a master at this work from home life- in fact, I think I was built for it. So my young padawan, come alongside me and I will train you in the ways of working successfully from our Detroit homes!  

Work From Home Tips for the
Motown Money Maker:

Establish a Dedicated Workspace

This may be one of the most cliche tips on this list, but it cannot be overstated enough. Being in a zone specifically dedicated to work puts YOU in the zone to work. Ideally, this space would be a desk, table, or other flat surface where you can easily and comfortably work with limited distractions. This should not be the dinner table, as the dinner table is a separate space for mindful eating. This should not be the living room couch, as that is a place for relaxing. And this should absolutely NOT be your bedroom, or heaven forbid your bed, as this a place for sleeping. (Not only will your work suffer, but your sleeping will suffer as well.) Now, not everyone has the luxury to have their own office in their house, but at the very least create a separate space for yourself to focus and put you in the hustling zone. And try to make it by a window- with that springtime sun starting to rear its head in Detroit, you’re going to want every burst of Vitamin D you can get to keep yourself motivated.

Make a To-Do List

One issue I’ve faced when working from home these last few weeks is a serious case of scatterbrain. I have all of these work items, side projects, household chores, and personal goals to complete- and they’re all swimming around my brain in this big foggy cloud. All of a sudden, I’ll remember one of these tasks, and I’ll instantly drop what I’m doing to start it (and then leave it unfinished later once again.) Writing all of these tasks down has done wonders to not only organize my mind, but organize my day. Separate all of your different tasks into different categories, and then prioritize the items in each category. For example, write a before, during, and after work to-do list. Or separate them into professional and personal goals. Make sure to separate these tasks so that they don’t re-jumble together; you need to make sure that you are working during work time and completing other goals during your non-work hours to ensure that all of your priorities will get done when they need to get done.

Set a Routine

Routine, routine, routine. Without routine, every day turns into a blur, and before you know it you don’t even know what day it is. You need to establish a daily schedule for yourself to keep your days in order. Whether that be making yourself a cup of Red Dot coffee to settle down for work at 8 a.m. or taking a morning walk to prepare yourself mentally for the day ahead, there needs to be a clear, dedicated time for each activity in your day. Without routine, you’ll find that your brain is scattered, to-do list or not: what do I work on when? Will I ever get to those emails piling up in my inbox? Did I even eat today? There needs to be an isolated time for each item in your to-do list to make sure they get to-done.

Wake Yourself Up

These cloudy, rainy Michigan Springs make for a very sleepy day. If you roll out of bed 5 minutes before you’re supposed to be online (guilty), you’re going to struggle throughout the whole morning to wake up and get to work. Andddd if you stay in your fuzzy robe and slippers for the whole morning, there’s no way you’re going to get any real work done (also guilty.) Whatever works to wake you up before the work day, do it. Wake up 60 minutes earlier than your scheduled work time. Change out of those Mickey Mouse jammies and dress for work. You don’t need to exactly put on a suit (although I hear it does wonders for those that want to put that much effort in), but changing out of your sleepwear switches your mindset from sleepytime to work mode. It’s a clear line that establishes the start to your day.

Exercise

Another way you can wake yourself up is through exercise! Exercising in the morning gets your blood pumping and releases your endorphins right before sitting down to smash out some work. Conquering one check mark on your to-do list so early in the day also inspires you to continue to tick those tasks off throughout the day- and each check mark is a little victory! To be the most productive you can be, you have to take care of both your mind and your body. I know our Planet Fitnesses, Lifetimes, and Powerhouses are all closed right now, but there are plenty of home workouts available for free all over YouTube, and most of them don’t require any equipment! Some of my favorite home workouts come from fitness YouTubers like Steve CookJeff Nippard, Whitney Simmons, Cassey Ho, and Cristina Capron– who might I add is a Michigan-native. You can kill two birds with one stone by supporting a fellow Michigander and getting swoll before the workday even begins! Exercising is also a great way to take a break from work in the middle of the day…which leads into my next tip. 

Take Breaks

Ever heard that working less actually helps you to accomplish more? This theory is the idea behind the Pomodoro Technique, where you break your workday up into 25 minute chunks followed by 5 minute breaks known as “pomodoros.” After 4 pomodoros, take a 15-20 minute break. These 25 minute chunks instill a sense of urgency in your work- you only have 25 minutes to finish as much as you can before your next break! The goal is to cut all of your dilly-dallying time in half by actually allowing you 5 minutes of dilly-dallying every chunk.

In addition to utilizing methods like the Pomodoro Technique, make sure to actually take your lunch hour to avoid burnout. Too many times, people work through lunch, forgetting to eat altogether and thereby not allowing their minds time to recuperate. Refueling your body is extremely important, as it raises your blood sugar to help you focus for the remainder of the afternoon. It also helps with mindful eating to avoid absent-minded snacking, which is something we’ve all been guilty of while cooped-up in our houses.

You should also take breaks every once in a while to get a change of scenery. As our Michigan weather starts to warm up and the sun starts to peep out from behind the clouds, make sure to go outside and get some fresh air. We’ve even had a couple 60 degree days here in Northville, which for a Michigan March is a total win! Bike to the nearest Leo’s Coney Island and grab some brain fuel (but remember, pick-up only.) Catch up on Survivor (trust me, it’s a great season) or hey, maybe read some Harry Potter! Take your mind off of work so that you can ultimately refocus with a fresh mind.

Use the Appropriate Tools

Make sure that you have all of the appropriate tools to ensure that you can have success from home. You’ll obviously need things like your laptop, charger, notebook, and pen, but explore other tools to make your work life easier from your house. Invest in a good pair of headphones to block out those unwanted distractions (*cough cough* kids) and ensure good audio quality for those Zoom meetings (man, really lost the opportunity to invest early in that one.) What you can invest in though is a second or even third monitor to increase productivity and decrease headaches- and make sure you have the right cables to connect them, because I’ve been waiting on my VGA to HDMI cable for a solid 2 weeks now (#ThanksCorona.) Pick up a pair of blue light glasses to combat actual headaches caused by the blue light emanating from your computer- you can pick up a really cheap pair from places like Amazon or Target, or order some new prescription glasses with the blue light filters built in. Use what you can to keep your work experience comfortable, but not too comfortable- remember, no beds or fuzzy robes!

Work Hard, Play Hard

Make sure you are sticking to your routine like we emphasized earlier- which means the end of your work day is the end of your work day. Know when to close that laptop and look up at our lovely Michigan sky. Well, maybe it’s still grey and dull right now with April showers, but still much better than continually gazing at your computer screen. Sure, everyone has those days where they need to put in a few extra hours, but for the majority of the time, you should really be sticking to your schedule. If your day normally ends at 5 p.m., make sure to finish at 5. You owe nothing more to your company than you otherwise were contracted to provide them, so do not feel as though working from home changes the numbers of hours you’ve agreed upon to work. You need that time after work to decompress and inhale after a whole day of exhaling. Do what makes you happy! Cook, read, binge Tiger King on Netflix, have a Lord of the Rings Extended Edition movie marathon (we’ve all got the time now folks.) Take some time to give back to the community: go out to Maybury State Park and pick up litter (while still maintaining that six-foot distance of course), shop local small businesses to support them, or brighten your sidewalks with beautiful chalk art masterpieces! While we all need to be as careful as we can protecting life, we cannot let this virus- or work- keep us from living our lives.