Unless you've been out at a meditation retreat in the Mojave desert for the last two weeks, a la Jared Leto, you will already be aware of the situation that we are currently in re. the global pandemic and subsequent government advice that has prodded us indoors. For some, this has become a sort of isolated at-home holiday (due to the unprecedented closure of many sites of work) but for others, they have entered unwillingly into a manic period, the only differences between this and their normal, hectic work day being that they're wearing pyjamas and not a suit and they don't even get the benefits of the office nespresso machine. If you are not used to either of these routines, it can be difficult to reconvene, recollect and adjust to new schedules, especially when it comes to remaining motivated and on top of your research and education. We're here to help! Here are two quick guides to a) getting your head in the game when your normal routine has been removed and b) managing stress when WFH has become quite demanding.
A) CREATING ROUTINE
1) Waking up at a NORMAL time.
It can be quite tempting to get up at 12 in the afternoon after staying up until 4am that night watching cartoons, but it is best to stick to your normal wake up times to ensure that you feel adjusted enough to get your head in the game.
2) Set yourself work time/play time.
Write yourself out a mini schedule for each day, with concentrated hours of work and concentrated hours of relaxation. Try to get out at least once or twice for some fresh air, for as long as we are able!
3) Think positively!
This time can be used as an opportunity to really focus, hone your skills and to dedicate yourself to your research. In fact, the time and ability to completely concentrate on your education may never come around again, so think of it as a blessing in disguise.
4) Celebrate accomplishments
Keep a diary, either in a notebook or, more presciently, online/ via social media, to record your progress. It will keep you motivated to keep doing great things and will inspire others to do the same.
5) Share and catch up
Not many people will be unavailable/unplugged at the moment, so use this time to get in contact with those advisors/mentors/peers who you have always found it difficult to catch up with. They'll be appreciative of the opportunity to chat and may even be looking for something to do as a respite in these trying times!
B) MANAGING STRESS
1) Stick to NORMAL work hours
It is never good when your work/life balance is disturbed and with WFH, it is easy to forget about healthy boundaries. Only start working when you would normally work and SWITCH OFF when you would normally leave, only allowing emergency contact available if necessary. Be firm with your colleagues/management regarding this.
2) Create yourself a space for work
Speaking of healthy boundaries, WFH can leave you feeling a little invaded and your couch feeling less like a safe-space and more like a conference centre. Create a space within your home which will act as your new mini office and keep your work-life there - the rest of your house should not be the arena for your video-calls! When work is done, leave the space and don't return until the next day.
3) Balance out work with play
Don't let the demands of WFH interfere with also resting and relaxing - these are especially trying times and we all need the extra TLC. Call a friend, take a full lunch break, have a bubble bath etc.
4) Reach out
Keep up with colleagues but also friends and peers within your educational program. You're not alone and other people are definitely going through what you are! If you're getting all the work of the normal office day but none of the social interaction, you are missing a crucial element of work wellbeing and its important to try and maintain a healthy chatter, either on slack or via video chats.
5) Align work and education
Now is the perfect time to really balance out what could have been an uneven approach to work and your academic pursuits. With more time to concentrate and less putting out fires, plus the opportunity to reach out to mentors and ask for feedback via email, which can be less daunting than in person, its the best time to balance both sides of your job.