We are hoping this article is finding our readers safe, healthy and indoors! It’s been weeks since the Austrian authorities imposed unprecedented measures Austria-wide and in Vienna, in order to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
At this time, people are starting to feel the effects of one week of isolation and might feel inclined to break the rules and go out or just to while away the time in their homes, glued to social media and the TV. As it is difficult to foresee the actual date when the isolation will end, we would not want our readers and audiences to succumb to boredom and become one with the couch. And we especially would wish anyone interested to feel positive, calm, uplifted and productive.
If you are staying at home, whether you are a student, an employee working remotely, a freelancer, unemployed, we have compiled a list of suggestions to help you stay structured and to maintain your physical and emotional well-being, so here is our list of top things you can do at home for your productivity and well-being during isolation.
Tuning into home office
First and foremost, let us thank all those companies that took the responsible decision of switching their employees to a home office regimen and to their employees, who are making, in some cases, radical adjustments to work from home.
We are confident that in most cases, working from home was a entirely new experience to a large section of the population, who was used to the 9 to 5 hustle, commuting sometimes from a nearby village in order to get to work, putting them in a new position of organizing themselves without the fear of a supervisor breathing down their necks. Some found extraordinary inner resources to organize and stay disciplined, while some could benefit from a few suggestions. Here is what we learned so far.
Treat it like work, not a vacation. Your office may have shifted to the living room, but that does not mean you can walk in there yawning with a cup of coffee in your hands and pajamas still on by the time your colleagues have started working on tasks. You can dissociate temporarily the idea of home as office from home as an oasis of rest, by doing some of the following things.
- Do not change your wake up time and resist the urge to hit the snooze button, set your alarm at the time you would normally wake up and leave the phone in a different corner of the room, so that you actually get out of bed.
- Keep your grooming habits, including wearing fragrance or makeup, just as you would before a normal day in the office and switch into comfortable clothes, just as you would for casual Friday or go ahead and put on that power suit or power dress, if it instills a sense of confidence and efficiency in you.
- Do a ritual to signal to yourself that you are ready to start work and be focused on that. Take a cup of coffee and sit down to read the emails, ring up or message your work BFF (best friend forever), walk out the door and come in again, say bye to your partner, spouse or roommate… it can be anything as mundane as this or feel free to flavor this part with more interesting idiosyncrasies.
- Ensure you have an organized workspace, with laptop or desktop, phone, agenda, sticky notes etc. – basically everything you know you use to best perform your job . If you do not have an actual desk and that privilege has to be shared with the dining table, mark a part of it and bring your work stationery there a few minutes before you plan to start your work.
- Clock out or sign off after the regular working times and stick to it, if your contract allows it and you are not under the pressure of exceptional deadlines.
- Create a winding down routine. Since the commute is not a concern, take this time to have a relaxing cup of tea, to listen to music or a podcast you enjoy, to browse social media, to catch up with a friend or family member, or play a video game. Power naps are also great if you had a particularly fatiguing day and you still have something you need focus for in the evening.
Keep yourself accountable
It is really not your job to speculate what your coworkers are doing in their home in those minutes that you are waiting for a reply to an urgent email. Assume that everyone is doing their best with the means they have and be sure to arrange a means of group communication on mobile, such as WhatsApp or schedule daily or weekly meetings on Zoom (or similar platforms). Write down your tasks, priorities and goals for the day and be sure to list your accomplishments, it will boost your own morale, or at the very least, let you take charge of your own tasks and act responsibly.
Please refrain from sharing cat pictures or alarmist media posts in the work chat group, because you think it might be funny. If you are not in the habit of doing this with your group of colleagues already, now is not the time to start. The casual setting of your home may make you feel more comfortable, but you should keep a professional attitude, as you normally would.
Communicate clearly and transparently with your colleagues, update your team on what you are working on, if you do not have a task tracking software already to monitor your progress and what the rest are working on. This is especially important to avoid double work.
Take breaks. You are not glued to that chair, take a few minutes away from the screen and walk around to clear your head, go out to the window and take a breath of fresh air, listen to a song. Anything you would otherwise feel comfortable doing, that would let you return to your tasks refreshed.
A personal well-being plan
Your mental and physical health run the risk of getting affected during a period of isolation. A completely sedentary life and poor choices in nutrition can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system and weaken your immune system. To counter this, we encourage you to create your personal well-being plan, in which you consider indoor physical activity to counter the negative effects of this sedentary period, appropriate nutrition, maintain contact with loved ones, communication with the other members of your household, easing anxiety and keeping a positive frame of mind, and hobbies or new pursuits. This will lessen the effects of feeling all cooped up over the course of the next few weeks.
The importance of being active is known to us and we would normally be encouraged to move to curtail the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, which includes a host of ailments and mobility issues in the long run. With the required isolation, you would think there is no way to keep fit, but you would be surprised by the possibilities, including making adjustments to your everyday tasks. If you were not practicing sports or going to the gym, cardiovascular activities should be added now, simply to elevate your heart rate and help the circulation.
Cardio activities such as jogging, walking, cycling are possible indoors if you have a treadmill or stationary bike, but in the absence of equipment you can opt for dancing, running or marching in place, various forms of interval training, jumping jacks, skipping rope, and of course, vigorous cleaning. If you have children, be sure to plan games with them that involve plenty of romp so you can all stay active together.
On the other hand, if this period interferes with your goal of getting in shape for the summer, we have great news for you: there are numerous free-of-charge videos online that will offer you workout routines or just sets of exercises to train specific groups of muscles with no equipment at all. If you are a complete novice determined to get in shape for the summer and some advice and support would be needed, contact any coach that offers their services remotely. If working out with minimal or no equipment seems too daunting or you just want to maintain peace of mind and keep a bit in shape, try some of the many yoga, Pilates or dance classes available online, including on YouTube and on mobile apps.
Use this opportunity to shop smartly, sit down for a plan, account for the lack of activity and downscale your portions or skip the bread and put down the chips and cookies. If you were planning to fast or detox (mind you, not the fad diets), this is an opportunity to ditch the added sugars, the unhealthy snacks, alcohol and trans fats. Make sure that the adjustments are gradual, that you do your cardio activity of choice every day for at least 20 minutes and that you do not eat out of boredom.
Introduce meal-prepping, create a menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner for yourself and your family, considering also snacks. Prepare big batches of food to last for a number of days (usually until the next week) and store them in the fridge or freezer, ready to be popped out and reheated. You can try to keep as few of other, possibly not so healthy or nutritious items, in the fridge, as to avoid the temptation to reach out for the quick, calorie-bomb snack.
Stress-snacking could also be a cause for concern for many, who are feeling uneasy, irritated or anxious, but making unhealthy food choices will, in the long run, reflect in the number on the scale and your mood will not be any better. Swap in gradually the urge to eat with a healthy substitute. Remove any unhealthy snack from view, make sure to put a healthy option within reach (slices of carrots, apples or bell peppers) or simply water. If you feel that this is not a nutrition matter alone, check below the healthy habits to adjust in line with your needs.
Just when you think physical activity and the right nutrition are the only healthy habits that matter, consider other things you can do for yourself, to set yourself up for a positive mindset.
As tensions and irritability could run high, particularly with members of the same household, we encourage you to improve your communication skills and practice empathy and consideration. Consider filling your time with activities that are meaningful to you and that take you out of the lethargy of binge-watching TV shows or playing video games on a loop. Trust us, it will get old after a few days.
Practice mindfulness, make it a habit to practice gratitude (challenge: list every day 5 things in your life you are grateful for, that should not repeat themselves throughout the isolation period). Try meditation, tune out of everything and just be with yourself, even if just for 5 minutes. Play some relaxing music or even club music and dance to your heart’s content. Pamper yourself with bubble or aromatic baths or at home cosmetic treatments, like peels and scrubs. Try to tap into your creativity, try self-development, try expanding your skills. And of course, social contact is vital, so make it a point to catch up every day with the people you care for most.
If you feel depressed or feel that you are not yourself anymore, please reach out to a specialist, the isolation may affect some very deeply. Do the same for a loved one if you notice isolation is taking a dangerous toll on them.
Staying active outdoors
While not recommended, if you absolutely cannot skip your regular walks, jogs or cycling, please be mindful of the suggested distance to protect yourself and others.
Fun tip: We’re in this together – Check out the free broadcasts of the Vienna Opera and participate in the Isolation Nation party on Saturday 28 March – this is about as much as is allowed to be part of large gatherings, provided they are online.
Expand your business or monetize your skills
Do you have a business that sells their services online? That is brilliant, because now is the time to reach out to a wide audience that stays connected only online and to increase your visibility, possibly even to expand in time.
If you have been considering the possibility of becoming your own boss, either by offering consultancy services or opening up your own business, why not use this time to, first and foremost, strategize how to go about it? Think of a business plan, some of you have already written them for your own companies. Why not market this skill of writing business plans to others? See where this is going?
Consider the valuable skills, knowledge and know-how you possess and how it remains untapped into, because you might feel at times stifled or suppressed, due to outdated company policies or rigid reporting hierarchies. Market a skill – it need not be consulting, it can be tutoring, writing resumes or cover letters, editing and proofreading text of specialized fields, doing professional product reviews, creating an e-course or writing an e-book to tell a wider audience more about the topic you are an expert in.
If you are gifted with any handicraft and you create beautiful, unique pieces, look into the opportunity to sell your art, jewelry, sculptures or textiles on Etsy and similar platforms.
There is a category of freelancers, who have been particularly hard-hit where their livelihood and income is concerned, such as physical therapists of sort, cosmeticians, hairdressers, sports or dance instructors, chefs and so on. The situation is difficult and we have all faith that your livelihood and housing will not be threatened indefinitely. As in the case of other freelancers, find means to sell your skill online, hold a webinar for your regular clients, film a tutorial showing your craft, and develop a short class. There are numerous web platforms, which can support these types of activities. Or you can join online courses and perfect your skills. Think of all those business ideas you had, but you kept putting off on account of lack of time. Nothing on TV or Netflix? Perfect, turn them off, take a pen and paper and get started with your ideas. Remember, as long as you still have an Internet subscription, you can work wonders for yourself. Join platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Patreon or Fivver and share your knowledge in the forms of tutorials. Remember to focus and be sure to check our productivity tips above if you need help staying structured.
Expand your skills and knowledge
If you have read the above point and realized your skills are not marketable outside your day job or your field of expertise, do a little research on what the current job market expects and see if there are online courses that match your interests and join. Bonus if they provide you with a certification.
Life skill: learn a new language, read a book, finish the books piled on your nightstand. Learn how to cook and meal-prep, how to organize, how to practice self-care. More interesting life skills. You have already acquired the above? Learn etiquette, learn the basics of styling your clothes, learn how to give yourself haircuts or a manicure.
Handicraft: learn pottery, knitting, sewing or embroidery, how to make soap, how to make beauty products with natural ingredients, origami, jewelry.
Artistic skills: learn the basics of creative writing or how to draw. Or paint – according to Bob Ross, anyone can do it.
Finances: Learn about managing your finances optimally, learn how to produce streams of income and how to invest, learn about accounting, learn about economics in general.
IT skills: learn a programming language, learn graphic design, learn how to create a mobile app.
Green fingers: Do you have a garden? Learn some basic gardening tricks, like what to plant in your garden, what goes in the sun, what thrives in the shade, learn about pest control, watering, spotting disease on plants and trees. Or for your terrace, learn how to better care for your potted plants. At least this will give you the opportunity to be out in the fresh air.
One of the most beneficial things you can do around the home, which has the added bonus of helping you ease anxiety, ease irritation, and distract your mind, is deep-cleaning. We do not mean vacuuming the fibers out of your carpet – although vacuuming, mopping and dusting should start this exercise off – we actually mean a proper home reorganization. Matter of fact, whenever you feel the urge to eat out of boredom and chill in front of Netflix for hours, challenge yourself to tidy up a room from top to bottom. Start with the kitchen. When was the last time you looked in the pantry and in the drawers you barely open? Take everything out to clean the shelves and take stock of the food and non-food items you have. Want to be a little extra? Sort food items by expiration date. Clean out your fridge and remove any item you left there out of laziness or nostalgia or because you are afraid that it’s been there so long, it has a life of its own. Whatever is old and way past its expiration day is hazardous to your health and it has no business in your fridge. And, of course, give every surface a proper scrub, including the extractor hood.
Wardrobe: Throw out anything that looks like rags, is old and cannot be donated – you most definitely do not need those ripped T-shirts to sleep in, wear something nice and comfortable. If there are clothes you have not worn in a long time, set them aside for charity. Sort your clothes by season or by purpose (home, street or office, for example), set aside the ones you want to take to the dry cleaner’s (after the prescribed isolation period, unless you have a cleaner that does home deliveries) or tailor for modifications or repairs – or learn to use a sowing machine, they can be ordered online. Do the same with your shoes. If you do go out, it is recommended to never walk into your living space with the street shoes and disinfect the soles on entry.
Once done with the wardrobe, start with your other chests of drawers in your home. Superfluous items, paid bills, pens, pencils, that scrunchie you have not seen in years… keep what you intend to use and organize all items into special containers you can get online or use boxes you already have in the house to place all those objects. Involve all members of the household in this task so that a week from now, you don’t get asked where the scissors are.
Ladies, take this time to clean your cosmetics and makeup box, get rid of everything that is outside of its usage date and clean your brushes. Organize the jewelry box and clean silver items – if you do not have a special solution for cleaning silverware, clean them with toothpaste (either with a small brush or an old cloth).
Lastly, if you share the household, try rearranging the furniture around and get your partner or roommate involved to help. Bonus: this counts as physical activity.
Tap into your creativity, by trying your hands at a new recipe, try out new hairstyles or a make-up look – don’t just look at those tutorials to while away the minutes; plan something fun for the summer or your next vacation, do a vision board, draw, paint or sculpt if you have the materials or you can get them delivered.
How about sowing, knitting or embroidering if it is something you enjoy and can do? Even fashion design if you have a background in it.
Write poems, short stories, jokes or script and act out comedic sketches.
Edit those photos in your galleries and start that photo blog you have been putting off. Try to create digital art with Photoshop. Not a fan of the digital world? Try scrapbooking.
Start by narrowing down the area of interest and think of what would enable you to get creative with it – and the tools for which would be available online and for home delivery.
Prayer and meditation are known to help in times of panic and anxiety. Seek solace in your beliefs, join online church services, organize an online prayer group and engage other persons who share your faith, to maintain the sense of belonging to a community.
If organized religion is not really your thing, many other spiritual teachers have turned to vlogging to send out their message, so if you find solace in esoterism, there are numerous people on YouTube and Vimeo you can listen to, just make sure their philosophy is a healthy one.
If you prefer a rational approach, then connect to yourself, to your inner world and through controlled breathing, learn how to ease anxiety. Here is a guided meditation with motivational speaker and best-selling author, Marisa Peer.
This is a message that you have probably been assailed with in the past days, for good reasons. You should keep a positive mindset. Instead of focusing on doomsday scenarios that can naturally happen if your income was affected, keep a positive mindset, you are not alone in this experience and you can challenge yourself to do new things or to simply rest, then tackle whatever challenges come your way. Remember, where there is a will, there is always a way.
Limit your exposure to sensationalist media, whether it is emanating from the radio, from your TV or your phone screen. If you wish to keep informed about the situation surrounding the pandemic, you can read the bulletin of the World Health Organization, updated on a daily basis. Choose things that inspire you, give you hope and put a smile on your face. This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to your friends and family and create a positive atmosphere around yourself, maybe skip the calls from that negative friend or coworker, who even before this time was sending sensationalist news to everyone.
We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and indebtedness to all the workers keeping shops and other needful businesses operational, to deliver people who bring goods to our doorstep, to the police and emergency services, to pharmacists and medical professionals who keep life going for everyone else. And of course, a big thank you goes out to everyone of our readers who chose to stay home and abide by the measures. We hope you will find value in the suggestions in this article.
Let us know in the comment section if you got inspired to do something from this list, let us know what you are doing to cope with the isolation period. Share with us any tips and tricks we may have overlooked. Wishing you good health and safety!