As someone who lives with chronic illness, I work from home a lot and have been doing so for years. Although I’ve done the whole 9-to-5 thing before, I’m thankful that my profession as a journalist and editor allows me to (quite literally) work from anywhere. Working in a cubicle all day isn’t exactly ideal for someone with Endometriosis and Interstitial Cystitis—especially when I need to get up to use the restroom every 30 minutes or so.
Now that the world is on lockdown, my friends have been asking me “how do you do it?” So to help them out, I’ve compiled a shortlist of tips to make the transition from working shifts to working from home a little bit easier.
Take an actual lunch break.
Taking a lunch break may sound like simple and obvious advice, but hear me out: Taking quick trips throughout the day to stuff your face with whatever processed junk that’s sitting in your freezer, or skipping lunch entirely, isn’t doing you—or anyone on your team—any favors. How do I know? Because I (unintentionally) do this all the time.
I’ve found, however, that shutting down my laptop, getting out of whatever room I’m working in—if it’s nice out, I’ll work on my apartment balcony—and sitting down to eat a proper lunch (not crackers and cheese with a side of Oreos) gives me a little “pep in my step.” From there, I can power through the rest of the day without feeling sluggish.
A quick-and-easy lunch option I always have on hand is sweet potato fries. I love sweet potatoes topped with spicy corn, vegan cheese, and a homemade chipotle cream sauce—but when I don’t have the make a full-on meal, I pop sweet potato fries in the oven and quickly microwave Trader Joe’s fire-roasted corn.
Wear “normal” clothes.
Sure, being able to wear PJs while working is great, but getting into that habit may lead to lethargy. For example, if I stay in sweats all week, I get depressed or feel a decrease in my self-worth. Instead of throwing on a clean nightgown (or just going straight to work wearing whatever I slept in the night before), I start each day by getting ready as though I were going into the office. This includes showering, brushing my teeth, making a pot of coffee, and yes, putting on real clothes. If I’m in a suspiciously good mood, I’ll straighten my hair too.
Bonus: Looking moderately presentable from the get-go saves me from rushing to get ready for impromptu Zoom meetings. Another quick tip? Before any meeting, I make it a point to get up and do a few stretches and slap on some chapstick. This way, I don’t look like the sleep-deprived coffee addict that I am.
Set timers to stay productive.
I usually have a lot of different things going on at once—I’m definitely what you’d call a “serial multitasker.” To help me actually finish my projects, though, I have a few different to-do lists and I use a timer. (Think: Pomodoro Technique) So, if I know I need to edit at the beginning of the day, I’ll set a one-hour or two-hour timer—that way, when the alarm goes off, I can switch to the next thing.
The lists keep me organized and the timer helps me concentrate. Plus, whenever I cross out a task, I get a small surge of accomplishment that makes me ready for the next task.
“Clock out” at a reasonable time.
Anyone who knows me knows that I work 24/7. Whether that means I’m freelancing, editing, doing a bit of web design, or working on a brand-new project for one of my clients, I’m almost always working on something. But here’s the thing: Rest is the secret to success. It’s taken me years to figure that out, but now that I have, I feel like I’ve cracked some kind of invisible code.
Pro tip: I’m super conscious not to overbook myself. In other words, I don’t fill my list with unrealistic tasks. Instead, I’ll write out what I think is doable and then end the list with a “regroup.” If I’m up for more work by then, great. If not, I jot down a few notes and reminders for the next day.
Whenever I’m done working for my “normal” day job, I make it a point to close my laptop, turn off my phone, and do something that’s light and just for me—maybe I binge-watch a few episodes of “Bob’s Burgers” or go for a walk with my pup.
Tabitha Britt is a Journalist, Editor-in-Chief & Founder of Do You Endo (an online magazine) in hopes of helping those who have been affected by Endometriosis.