Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the second installment of this blog!
I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy while you’re practicing social distancing at home. Even when social distancing isn’t going on, we at the UChicago Admissions Office actually have some good experience in this area—during our application reading season, we have some flexibility to review your applications from home (sometimes featuring special guest stars Dogs and Cats).
Working at home can be great, but like everything else in life, it does present its own set of unique challenges. Each one of us has our own set of rituals and tricks to keep ourselves focused during the day and to not go stir-crazy.
With that in mind, I thought it might be nice for me to share a list of 10 things I’ve found to be helpful when working from home:
- Keep a routine. Some of you may not have online classes set up yet, so it’s important to give yourself some type of routine. And even if you do have online classes, it’s also important to structure your time outside of “class.” When staying at home for an extended period of time, it can be easy to forget the basics: Shower! Eat breakfast! Put on clean clothes! Try to get up at the same time every day, keep a regular meal schedule, factor in time for physical activity (more on that below), spend some part of your day not in front of a screen, and go to bed on time. Days when I skip breakfast or go to bed super late are a lot harder to get through than other days. I am always more productive—and happier—when I give myself a routine.
- Keep your workspace separate from your resting space. This might seem hard to do since you’re literally having to do school in your home. But even having minimal separation between work and rest can be helpful. If possible, try not to work in your room (or your bed!). Instead, work at a desk or the kitchen table. Even working on the couch in the living room can be better. If you’re in your room, with your bed in view, it makes it much more difficult to focus on getting your work done and not the wonderful nap you wish you were taking.
- Get out of the house. You’ll obviously want to be responsible when you do this (stay six feet apart from others, avoid crowded spaces, etc.), but if you are able to do so, getting out of the house can make a huge difference. Even a quick walk around the block can be refreshing. There have been days when I was working from home when I didn't leave the house at all, and I felt a lot more drained by the time they were over.
- Exercise. I’ll admit that this is one of the hardest ones for me. I was a varsity athlete throughout my four years in college, and I find it really hard to get motivated to work out when there isn’t a team expecting me to be at practice. But I feel so much better and more productive when I actually take time to exercise. Again, you’ll want to be safe when you do this, but there are a lot of ways you can work out. You can go for a run, walk, or bike ride. If you want to stay inside, there are plenty of online videos on YouTube and Instagram with workout and stretching routines. (Many folks on our staff have been loving Yoga with Adriene, which is a free series of yoga workouts—from beginner to expert—on YouTube!) If you’re someone like me who likes to work out with others, try to get your parents, siblings, or friends to join you (even if it’s virtually).
- Set little goals. When you’re working from home all day, it can feel like you need to get all of your work done all at once. Again, online classes may help with dividing up your day. But if it ever feels like you’ve got too much to do, try breaking things up into more bite-size pieces. Whenever I focused on all of the applications I had to read throughout the entire day, I would end up feeling very overwhelmed. But if I set small goals for myself—say reading five applications before lunch—it made the workload seem less scary.
- Make time for fun. There have definitely been some days where all I did was work. That happens from time to time with everyone when things get really busy, but it shouldn’t be the norm. Make sure to schedule some time in your day to do something that’s fun for you. Read a book. Bake some cupcakes. Binge-watch Love Is Blind. Whatever floats your boat. Just make sure to give yourself something to do that isn’t work.
- Talk to people. Make sure to stay connected. It can be really easy to get so focused on your work that you barely spend time with your family members or friends. Work time into your routine to see them. Play a board game with your parents. Skype your friends. Call your grandparents if you haven’t in a while. Send a physical letter, even just to a friend down the street. No matter what you do, connecting with others will make it a lot easier when you have to focus in and get work done by yourself.
- Take breaks. This ties into a lot of things above, but make sure to give yourself breaks. Like I said when talking about goals, you shouldn’t be trying to power through everything you have to do all at once. Even though it might seem counterintuitive, taking breaks can actually make you more productive and efficient. Taking even just 15 minutes for myself makes it a lot easier to come back to work with renewed energy.
- Don’t stay in your pajamas all day. This can sometimes be really hard. If you’re not planning to go anywhere for the day, it can be really tempting to just chill out in more comfortable clothes. I’ve found that having pajamas on makes your brain think that it’s time to be relaxed, which makes it much harder to be productive. You don’t have to dress up as you normally would (I myself have greatly enjoyed not wearing makeup every day), but make sure to put on something that isn’t pajamas. This will tell your brain it’s time to work. On the flip side, when you do change into your pajamas at the end of the day, it will help signal to your brain that you’re done for the day and that it’s time to relax.
- Don’t be mad at yourself if you mess up. We’re all human and we make mistakes! If you don’t do everything you want to get done in a day, don’t beat yourself up about it. There will be days when you don’t exercise. There will be days when your pajamas just feel too comfy to take off. There will be days when you don’t get as much done as you would like. And that’s totally okay! The important thing is to do your best and to keep trying!
I hope you find this list helpful! I came up with this list from my own personal experience working from home—you might be a very different person from me, so it’s very possible that not everything on this list will work for you. Some of you may also have a lot more responsibility at home right now if you’re helping with siblings, have family members who have become ill, or are assisting parents working remotely. (We salute you!!) Working from home a few days a week by choice is very different than the situation many of us are in now, which may mean you need to adjust some things. The most important thing is to find what works for YOU and then to stick with it.
That brings us to the end of this second post. Thanks so much for reading! See you next week!