Work From Home Strategies (6 months late)

I kind of hate working from home.

There are a variety of reasons why working from home has never been ideal for me: I’m an extrovert who thrives better in social environments, the external (if imagined) accountability of people around me keeps me too guilty to slack off, my home environment is full of tempting distractions like tidying and organization.

In simplest terms, being at home puts me in a home mindset, and personally, going to a physically different location for work helps immensely with putting me in a working headspace. Ever since I started working full time, I keep work and home very separate, very rarely touching work after leaving the office.

So the last 6 months have been, admittedly, a huge challenge. If you’re like me, they may have been a challenge for you, too. I have long understood that trying to be work-productive in the space I strictly reserve for my home-headspace is really difficult. But I’ve had to do the best that I can, given what I understand about myself. It’s been 6 months, so here’s hoping that we have learned a little bit about how we work from home, even if it’s just what doesn’t work well for us.

My personal strategy boils down to 3 main things:

  1. Getting in the work mindset
  2. Staying in the work mindset
  3. Leaving the work mindset

It seems straightforward but it’s hard, especially because I really don’t want to be in the work mindset at all when I’m in the comfort and safety of my home. I don’t hate my job at all but I don’t want it in my home. The hardest step of my strategy is step 2: saying in the work mindset. (I sometimes struggle to get properly or quickly settled into my work mindset even when I go into an office so the struggles I have at home are not new, and I shut myself off from work so strictly ordinarily that it comes more easily for me to do so at home.)

man in white sweater sitting on chair using Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Photo by Charles Etoroma

Note: Alice Goldfuss has written a really great guide to working from home during this pandemic, and she wrote it at a more helpful time at the beginning of the shutdown. Honestly, I recommend reading that before reading on here, but if you want to know more about what works for me, personally:

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Annual Work Summer Getaway

I’ve been at my new company for almost 3 months, and this weekend I was able to go to a resort weekend courtesy of my employer, where employees and their families could come out to just relax and unwind in each other’s company. We spent less than 24 hours at Airlie and had a grand old time. I don’t have any photos, if you’ll believe it, so I’ll try to just paint a picture of my weekend with my usual verbosity, aka words words words. (Feel free to check out the resort site for photos of their gorgeous estate, though! It’s a really popular wedding venue for good reason.)

The main Airlie house where we checked in/out and had our meals

Ben and I headed out on our less than one hour drive and were all checked in and ready to play by 3:30, which gave us about an hour to relax and enjoy the festivities that were set up for 1:30-4:30. (Check-in for our rooms didn’t start until 3PM, which is why we were only there for the tail end.) We enjoyed drinks, snacks, and some deeeeelicious ice cream that was so appreciated given how overwhelmingly humid it was, with storms in the forecast.

At promptly 4:30, Airlie staff started cleaning everything up, including bubble ball soccer! So we headed to the Whistling Swan Pub, where some of my coworkers started to spend the gift cards that our company really generously gave out, on getting a few drinks since the open bar had closed and would not reopen for 2 hours. (Honestly, I would’ve just waited, there was an open bar for nearly the entire day besides those 2 hours.) In the meantime, my teammates and I played a little foosball (I’m sort of terrible) and darts (I’m pretty terrible, but we all were and were a lot better by the end of our game!). I even got to ride the property’s bikes for a quick loop around the parking lot, just to feel the wind in my hair. (And whiz past Ben because sometimes, I am just a child.)Read More »

Small, but this time, Busy!

Yesterday’s list was a last-minute kind of blog, but it made me feel productive after an unspectacular day.

Today already felt productive because several of my tasks were back-to-back, which made me feel very busy. So, at the risk of ruining a good thing, I thought another bulleted list would help artificially inflate my sense of accomplishment!

  • Emailed a bunch of strangers to schedule meetings
  • Scheduled meetings with the ones who responded
    • Those also happened to be some of the more absurdly good-looking people at the company
  • Had a productive meeting with my manager
  • Ate lunch with a really old friend
  • Walked even FURTHER to eat lunch
  • Dialed into a conference call
  • Picked up a headset for that Britney Spears feel/so I can type and be on the phone
  • Made decent progress with an assignment I’ve been working on since Monday
  • Befriended the girls working around my new desk assignment
  • Got a telemarketing call on my work phone
  • Wore a Snow White hairbow without anyone commenting on it
  • Found the coathook in my cubicle so I don’t have to hang my coat on my chair anymore

Phew, now I feel better about hitting a productivity wall around 3:30 today and really only being busy for about 2 hours.

What small accomplishments are you celebrating today?

P.S. I made a joke about using 2 teabags yesterday despite not being at a rave. Some people didn’t get the reference, so here it is:

Small Accomplishments

I’m still in the training phase of my new job. It’s a wee bit nerve-wracking when you hear about people closing million-dollar contracts. Meanwhile, here is a list of my accomplishments from today:

  • Cleared my inbox
  • Color-coded my calendar
  • Used two teabags in one mug

    Two teabag tags side-by-side: "refresh mint" and "zen"
    The “zen” just wasn’t minty enough for me to feel refreshed
  • Slightly sassed my new manager (I’m not sure if this is an accomplishment yet, I don’t know if we have that kind of rapport just yet)
  • Moved my bag and snacks to my permanent desk (I did not, however, move my computer or phone)
  • Contacted two of my new managers
  • Confirmed lunch with an old friend who works at the company
  • Walked more than 10 feet away from my building to get lunch
  • Found my cell phone (after leaving it in a conference room)
  • Gave a coworker ibuprofen
  • Learned how to put the tricky headset over my ear

You know what, when I make a bulleted like this, I almost feel like I was quite productive today. 🙂

New Week, New Job

This was an exciting week because it was my first week at my new job. Whoo! I feel really lucky to have been hired, because I felt like I didn’t know even how to start finding a job. I worked at the research lab where I spent my whole undergraduate career for my first “semester” post-grad, so it felt almost like an extension of school. I was still going to campus every single day. I had been going to that lab for over 4 years already. Even though I was working, I knew that my lab job was just a security blanket, helping me delay entering the real world for just a smidge longer after making some really big life decisions the day after I graduated. So, not only was I still hoping to be a child forever, I was venturing into a completely new career path without a lot to really back me up for it. I applied to a bunch of places and couldn’t even get so much as a “Sorry, the position as been filled” email, let alone an interview. My family was starting to worry about me, which translates to a lot of unwanted (and sometimes unhelpful) advice. Luckily for me, I got a referral from a friend and that referral lead to an interview! I got the notice about my interview while I was in China, which was great because I could calm my family down a bit. I was super nervous about my interview, and while practicing, my boyfriend pointed out that I tended to ramble and got bitter talking about “past obstacles or difficulties and how I overcame them”. The morning of the interview, I was pretty panicked about those things, and then I panicked about parking because the parking garage was teeny and had almost no spots open. (Turns out I was in the wrong garage. Go figure.) My interview went really well, though, and I got my offer really soon afterwards! That was a few weeks ago. This week, I had to wake up at before 6 for the first time in months. UGH XD Waking up early has never been a strength of mine, but I have a pretty long commute, one of the many things that has made the DC metro region infamous. I’ve actually done this commute before, as I used to have a research internship at Georgetown and my new office is in the same area. My new commute consists of me  driving to a metro station and then taking that to DC, where I walk to the office. And then in reverse so that I can go home. BEFORE, I drove to the train station, took the train to DC, took the metro, and then walked to the office but with my hours being as strict as they are, the inflexible train schedule was wearing me very thing. Several people have asked me why I don’t just drive to work if I have to spend nearly 2 hours commuting each way, every day. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha lemme tell you why:

  1. With DC traffic being the crapstorm that it very reliably is, especially during the freakishly long rush hours, I would end up spending at least an hour and a half on the road each way.
  2. During that time, I wouldn’t be able to do what I can do on public transportation, like read, eat, write, or sleep!
  3. Driving in traffic — and especially DC traffic — stresses me out a lot. I have mild anxiety regarding driving during rush hour and, these days, regarding driving in DC as well. It’s a great city but the driving is such total poop because the roads are bad and the drivers are, too.

So, seeing as how I would only save maybe 15 minutes total every day by driving, and the cost for those 15 minutes would be no naps, no reading, and no snacking… I’m really happy with my decision to take the train XD Plus, I do just really like riding trains. (That Amtrak writers’ residency? Sounds like a dream.) Anyway, I’m a real-world working girl now! That’s so crazy to consider. I always thought that I’d be in school until I was close to 30 but here I am. Not in school. Working full-time. What in the what. There are a whole bunch of other grown-up things that I need to figure out now, like moving closer to DC so that I don’t need to spend 4 hours of my day commuting, and 401Ks, and health insurance… <groan> I’m also struggling with updating my professional wardrobe, as I usually only needed to be business casual a few times a semester, at most, and now I need to have enough options to switch it up for a daily basis. D: That stuff can be handled later. But for now, I feel like I can resume my life. I was in such a funk feeling like I wasn’t going anywhere in life and being an extrovert who spent nearly all of her time alone. It was killing me. Things are looking up a bit now, though! I’m even getting new business cards, this is real business, you guys. Do you have a nice commute or is the worst part of your day? If you went straight to work after graduating, what did you do? If not, where did you go instead?