I’ve been home from work since February 26th, when I had my shoulder surgery. At the time, I expected to be out on medical leave for about six weeks, then head back to campus. Then things went kablooey. The college sent students home before Spring Break in March, then went to essential staffing only. And that’s where we sit two months later.
As of April 22nd, I was released from medical leave and headed “back to work.” Well, back to work at home. I know I’m lucky. The husband is at work, the dogs sleep like cats, and the cats are…well…cats. I have a good computer and multiple desks. And, you know, a few pens, and enough notebooks to scrape by (hahahaha!). Working from home is kind of nice (very few distractions…ah, peace) but also weird (very few distractions…maybe it’s a little TOO quiet).
No wait. I’m wrong. There are distractions at home. They’re just different. Because of the medical leave, I got used to having very unstructured time at home. I fell back into the “stay up late/take my time getting up” habits of old. Gone was my well-honed early morning routine—coffee, journal, stretch, shower, dress, breakfast, drink 20 ounces of water, drive to work. I did most of those things but in a very loose lackadaisical way. When the mood hit, and my shoulder cooperated, I tackled some much-needed decluttering and dusting—chores that are never really done. The “craft room”—which honestly could use a match tossed into it—is still a disaster that needs fixing. I took Flapjack, our youngest dog, for long walks in the afternoon. The pantry and refrigerator became a perpetual draw for both procrastination and reward.
So I must admit that when the back-to-work switch flipped on, I floundered. I was still at home, but now I needed to get back on track. I needed to shift into work mode without leaving the house and all of those ever-present personal projects and snack options. I needed to—well, wanted to—regain the ground I’d lost with my morning routine and well-structured work habits. There is no shortage of work. Our department brainstormed a laundry list of back-burnered projects that we could finally tackle remotely. But it’s so strange to not do what you’ve done for 40+ years—drive to work, do your work, drive home from work. Suddenly work and home are in the same place, the lines are all blurred, and I’m having trouble remembering what day it is. Time is both long and short. Plus there’s that Covid-19 anxiety always lurking in the background—mostly for my dad, who’s in a nursing home.
What’s a formerly well-organized and diligent worker to do? How do I regain my footing?
One answer came from a recent William Hannah Instagram post that I blatantly stole. (Pretty sure that I admitted this to them when I commented on their post.)
I took their lead and charted out a very basic blueprint for my work days. Have I followed it to the letter? Well…no. But I like that I have this as a “north star”—something to glance at when I start drifting off course. The colors make me go “ahhhhhh” and the basic outline helps me regain my focus at a glance. (And isn’t that Levenger Vivacious Cross Dot paper the best? I’ll never understand why they discontinued it but I’m happy I had the foresight to load up on Circa refills and freeleaf notepads when they were on clearance.)
A tabbed junior Circa notebook (Levenger) continues to serve as the place where I collect my action, waiting, and maybe/someday lists for the main categories of my life—work, personal, parents, pens, Newsline (a professional publication that I edit). This notebook sits at hand as I process email and is a faithful companion for capturing anything that pops into my head. Sometimes I get lax about WRITING THINGS DOWN and this is always a mistake. This notebook continues to help me parse out the tasks and ideas that constantly run through my head.
Write Notepad’s Weekly Planner has been a lifesaver again. I was using it at work, then fell out of the habit. Who knows why. Working from home made me revive and appreciate this notebook all the more. The wide format gives me a great overview of the whole week. I use it this way:
- Work tasks at the top
- Personal tasks in the middle
- Appointments at the bottom (in a section that I created with a pencil and a ruler)
- In the official “Actions” section, I list my responsibilities and priorities, then make a check mark when I do something/anything related to that category. It’s a quick way to check in with myself to make sure that I’m spending time on the things that are important to me.
The tasks for the week are chosen from the master lists in the Circa notebook and scheduled in the Weekly Planner. I also pencil in my own checkboxes as that’s my MO. Nothing more satisfying then coloring in that tiny box. (I even write out my grocery lists this way.)
I do wish that the subtle dot grid in the “Actions” section extended throughout the whole spread, but that’s not a big deal. I’m managing fine as is.
My Hobonichi Techo has been a steady companion for the past four years and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I list my appointments here. Redundant, I know, but the Techo is the book I carry with me to appointments. The Weekly Planner isn’t handy in that way.
I also record quotes that resonant with me in my Hobonichi, and make a habit of recording a few good things from the day. These are little gems to reread and cherish when I need a mood-lifter. (I have to smile at that third bulleted item on this page from early February where I was so happy about “An actual whole evening at home.” Now we have nothing but.) Capturing things to be grateful for has always been important to me, but now these super short reflections save me. Even in this time of heightened anxiety and uncertainty there are blessings and joys. Jotting them down both for now and for later helps me to remember that—helps to calm the mental turbulence when my mind starts to flail.
Our long-neglected TV trays have become the perfect surface to stack work files, reference material, and notebooks. I work throughout the house, but make a concerted effort to clear counters and desks and tables at the end of the work day so that I can start fresh the next day. Clearing a space clears my mind.
I’m getting some good and focused work done here at home, thanks to my lists and notebooks and workday blueprint. Zoom meetings keep us connected, but boy, could I use some casual conversation, lunch with a friend, and some non-virtual hugs.
We will get there. Until then, stay healthy and at least somewhat productive. And have a little fun, too.
Note: There are no affiliate links in this post, and all items were purchased with my own funds.