Life looks very different for all of us right now.
Just last week, I met with some friends at a new coffee shop in the neighborhood for coffee to work and chat. This week, I stopped by my local coffee shop and stood next to a chair that was exactly six feet from the person in front of me, in a process designed to minimize contact between the baristas and the customers.
I now have a home office (well, really a desk and a chair) to conduct telehealth sessions with my psychotherapy clients.
I’m now extremely aware of how many surfaces I touch whether it’s a door handle, an elevator button, or a surface that someone else might have already touched (such as shopping bags or food items).
When I go for a walk in the neighborhood, my neighbors and I all give each other a wide berth in the name of social distancing.
I couldn’t have even imagined this new reality just a week or two ago. Our daily lives are structured so differently now. Home has become not just our home base, but also our office, coffee shop, restaurant, and gym. It’s such a shift from the mobile life we’ve been used to living, and it can be a jarring change, even for the most introverted introvert or someone who already works from home. However, you can ease into living a full life from home by incorporating some of the following intentional practices.
Set an intentional schedule
Being intentional about how you schedule and structure your day is key when you are living and working from home. For those of you who work outside the home, leaving your work behind at the end of the day can no longer serve as a bookend to close your workday. For those of you who do already work from home, you likely (depending on where you live) no longer have the option to visit your local cafe for a change of scenery. Without a schedule, it’s easy to fall into two traps: 1) not getting anything done because your familiar schedule and structure is absent, or 2) feeling pressured to work all the time because you’re missing that familiar end-of-the-workday ritual.
To prevent either of these scenarios, put together a general schedule or structure for your day. A sample schedule could look like working for two hours, taking a break, working for two more, having lunch, working until 6 p.m., and then transitioning to focusing on your personal life. You might also consider creating a space in your home exclusively for work and then not using that area after your work hours are over. For example, my home office is off to the side in my living space so that when my workday is done I can simply move to my couch or kitchen table to focus on my personal life. Setting an intentional schedule and rituals to provide structure can help you maintain a sense of balance in your life even when work and home life are taking place in the same space.
Schedule social time
In addition to including time for work and personal life, your schedule should also include intentional times to connect with others. Because the typical avenues to connect with others aren’t an option right now, setting aside intentional time to connect with friends and family in your day is important. This could look like checking in with your friends by sending a quick text each morning or sharing an inspirational and supportive quote with them. One of my friends recently asked everyone to snap a picture of their “work from home” outfit for an impromptu fashion show. It was a fun way to connect with one another and be a part of everyone’s day. Intentional social time could also look like scheduling a Google Hangout time with your friends to play a game, challenging each other to trivia, or hosting an article or podcast discussion club. Share recipes or kids’ activities with one another from afar. This is a great time to be creative and to challenge yourself to think outside the box for ways to connect with friends.
We are so used to being busy and filling our lives with noise (I often work or read with music or a podcast on in the background) that the slower pace of life can feel a little bit uncomfortable at first. But there are so many advantages to becoming more comfortable with silence. It can be an opportunity to reflect, recharge, and to notice what comes to the surface in moments of silence.
If you live alone and feel like maybe your life is filled with too much silence, don’t be afraid to embrace the slower pace right now and see it as a time to recharge. Set aside time to journal in silence and notice what’s on your mind. If you’re feeling lonely or disconnected, try responding to those feelings by reaching out to a friend, going for a walk, or trying a new creative project like painting or drawing.
If your home is naturally one of busyness and noise, schedule time in your day to recharge from whatever it is you are doing, whether it is caring for your stir-crazy kids, sitting in on conference call after conference call, going cross-eyed from staring at spreadsheets all day, or juggling your life-of-the-party roommates. Even giving yourself just five minutes to take some cleansing breaths can help you feel recharged. Don’t be afraid to schedule time to sit in silence so you can journal or pray about whatever comes up for you. This can be an invaluable opportunity to notice and make connections you may have never noticed without the advantage the silence provides.
Above all, this is a time for focusing on being rather than doing. We are being invited to practice living life with intention rather than putting so much emphasis on doing and being productive. And, if you find that scheduling life has become more complicated with all of these changes, empower yourself by creating a schedule that makes space for moments to breathe and connect with others which will help you thrive in the midst of these challenges. Life at home may be challenging and frustrating at moments, but we can choose to live this unique time with love and intentionality.