When virtual teaching was about to kick off for this year, the Fella and I made some very important decisions about how working from home was going to look. For the first part of lockdown, we had sat at “his and her” TV trays in the study and it largely worked out.
As things have evolved, however, and life has started getting back to normal with an emphasis on business meetings and synchronous lessons, we realized our strategies were going to have to evolve as well. We were going to have to retreat to our corners in order for this to work. The Fella got a new desk for his study, so that he could set up a real workspace, as he is planning on switching to working remotely on a permanent basis. I moved into my studio.
From a practical standpoint, this is worked very well. From an emotional standpoint, it hasn’t been great. This is definitely a me thing. I thrive when I compartmentalize things with clearly defined boundaries. When I can say “this is home” and “this is work” or “this is my creative space” and “this is the sleeping space” I am an all together happier human. From a psychological standpoint, I could never have a TV in my bedroom. TV is for entertainment, bedroom is a refuge from electronic bombardment. Having those clearly defined boundaries allows me to prepare psychologically for the task intended to happen in that area.
Working from home has blown away all of my boundaries. There is no clear line of demarcation between work and home. I try to arbitrarily create my own boundaries, but the pressures of deadlines that come with the beginning of the school make those lines in the sand so easy to erase and move again and again, until you wonder why you drew them in the first place. This obviously a problem everyone is facing right now, I know I’m not unique in the struggles I am facing.
So what do we do? My solutions are uniquely my own, because they are tied specifically to my situation. However, they might be adapted to fit yours.
Make certain times of your day or week non-negotiable: For me, dinner time is sacred. Eating together as a family was always something we did in my house growing up. It was our time to talk about our days, share food, and process what is happening in our worlds. Another non-negotiable is my weekly guitar lesson. It’s my chance to work on growing as person, which believe happens when you learn to do new things.
Take time to maintain your environment: I did a whole post about this a couple of weeks ago, but it remains true. Your environment plays an enormous role in your psychological well being. Having clean sheets and a dish free sink is a great moral booster. The Fella and I have been remarkably successful at following through with our cleaning strategy, and as a result, my weekends are not spent frantically cleaning the house. This is a huge victory, compared to past years.
Take time for the things that make you, you: This has been really difficult for me, because as I told a friend: right now, I could literally work non-stop and still have things left to do. Okay, maybe if I didn’t sleep I would finish, but then I wouldn’t be able to teach. I’m one of those people that has a really hard time working on “fun things” when work needs to be done. It’s especially hard right now, because the place where I work and the place where I make stuff and create have melded, albeit temporarily, into the same place. I have turned to my garden instead; I try to take time to visit my chickens, Wendell, and walk my garden every day. Some days are more difficult than others, but sometimes writing it down holds you more accountable.
Make time for the ones you love: When I say make time, I mean QUALITY TIME and not QUANTITY TIME. Frequently we think just being around the same people, watching a movie, or whatever is enough; for some people it is. I call this quantity time. It’s just being in the same room with the people and communing through osmosis. That kind of community can be wonderful. Sometimes, however, it’s not enough. For me, quality time is mindful and fully engaged and participatory. It is interactions with minimal distractions. Sometimes, what I need is to just go on a walk or a drive with the Fella, where we plan for the future; something that is really beneficial during times like this because it reminds you that eventually life will return to some sort of normal. Sometimes I need to call Mom and my friends, and just find out how they are doing. It’s about maintaining those connections that keep you going, because those connections are the first to remind you that maybe you need to take time for you.
Take time for yourself: I’m not going to start talking about self-care, because so frequently self-care is reduced to drinking enough water, bubble baths, and manicures. And while these are helpful, they don’t do enough to get to the crux of the issue which is overwhelming sensory and mental bombardment. Set aside time with your thoughts and yourself, self care should be as much about your mind as your body. You need to process what is going on in your mind, reflect on how you are feeling, what is going well, and what isn’t. I try to encourage my students to do this, but like most things in my life it is time to take my own advice.
It’s okay to say no: One of my major issues is that I want to be there for the people in my life, my family, my friends, and my students. Sometimes, however, I find I have to shut off the Teams application, the email, the text messages, and take a nap. That’s okay. In fact, do whatever it takes to make the time when you do work more productive, and you’ll be better off than if you were working distracted and tired.
This is not going to happen overnight. I know for me, I will have to work very hard to find the kind of balance I am craving, but like with anything, even small steps going in the right direction is better than no movement at all.
Take care of yourselves out there, readers.