We used to play a game as kids called, “Mother May I?”. The game went like this. One kid (“mother”) would stand about fifteen or twenty feet (six meters or so) from a horizontal line of kids. Each kid in the line would have the opportunity to ask the head person if they could move forward like this: “mother may I take three tiny steps forward?”Mother could say, ‘yes you may’ or ‘no you may not.” Mother might prefer to let her friends move forward but sooner or later, even a friend would get close enough to tag the head person. One strategy was to ask, “mother may I take one giant step?”Asking for only one step might trick the head person. If the answer was yes, then that kid would take the most giant step possible. That is my first hack on surviving working from home behind a desk.
- Whenever you get up to get a drink, use the bathroom, answer the door for the cat…take giant steps. Try it! There is something stress relieving about taking long steps. It’s almost as though, by taking strong action with my body, my psyche feels as though I’ve taken strong action against whatever frustration, harassment or powerlessness I might feel about how my day is going. Big surprise, I’m often experiencing one of those emotions. Even without those troubles however, taking giant steps feels great! Of course if there are others around, you’ll have to convince them to try it or else they’ll think you’re a little too far gone for help.
- Fit some cardio exercise in your day. Just do it. It’s the best thing you can do if your job requires mostly sedentary work. This is how I made it part of my normal life: I set up all the equipment I needed in a place I could easily get to first thing in the morning. My cardio is running, usually on the treadmill since I don’t do well in the heat. I have a basket with my running cloths, shoes, buds, sweat band, everything and I’m vigilant about returning it all to its place every day and that my friends is not typical behavior for me. I started slow, and not too long aka…don’t strive to prep for a 5k. Just get your mind and body cooperating with the idea. Even being able to say, “I did 10 minutes of yoga this morning” will do wonders to your sense of, ‘my job does not control me’. Plus you’ll be setting yourself up for your job to not cause an early demise. A little success breeds more success and soon enough that 5k idea won’t be a joke.
- Music – My job requires a lot of concentration and thinking. Sometimes absolute silence works the best. However, I find short interludes of music can refresh my brain and break up problem solving into segments.
- Almost the same as music, a few minutes of a diversion can recharge or reset my mind when it’s become entangled in…frustration, harassment or powerlessness…maybe I should add panic that I can’t possibly handle one more request. The diversion could be a quick walk around the house outside, watching a few minutes of a tv show, pulling a few weeds (always therapeutic) or playing a video game. Point is, it doesn’t take more than 120 seconds to produce a significant reset.
- Caffeine. Come on people you know it, sometimes just the ritual of making a cup of coffee, smelling that aroma, drinking that warm rich liquid, says, ‘all is well’. I find also that making tea has the same effect and green tea is particularly good at sending sharpness back to my brain. Yes, it’s basically drugging yourself and one day or another we’re told it’s bad for our health then good then bad. Life is life. If it works and it’s not illegal, drink the caffeine and live!
- Give someone a sincere boost, either from a compliment or by helping them have an easier day. Giving to others drives away that feeling of ‘my life force is being drained by this computer screen’. It’s really hard for negative feelings to rule when you’ve proven your worth by making someone else’s day better.
- Treats. Hey, it works for dogs. They do amazing tricks, learn how to have extreme self discipline all because their master has a few morsels of treat in their hand. The first time I learned that dogs do tricks because the moment they do something right, a treat is presented, I felt bad. Here’s this animal that is loyal, loving, smart but then introduce the treat and where’s her stubborn, ‘I’ve got you figured out human’ (that’s the cat’s line)attitude? I digress. A treat/snack plan can help the desk slave feel better. For example, I have carrots and a tasty yogurt and salsa dip prepped and ready for the four o’clock snack break. My motivation level and ability to focus and stay on task is buoyed by the anticipation of that snack. Yes, it’s true, I’m a dog performing for my treats, but I’m my own master and I’m controlling myself to enhance my stamina to stay on task.
- Most important to survive a stay at home work week, know when to quit for the day; hardest thing to enforce when work must remain undone, hiding between lines of email subjects, waiting to pounce with, “did you have the chance to…” . ‘Chance’ aka ‘time to’ can be twisted up and wrung out of humanity when if a person does not lift their butt from the chair, the work could go on and on and on. I work for a 24/7 operation. Emails and issues pile up 24/7. I must discipline myself and have personal rules and guilt free ends to the day. I must believe that time devoted to the people I live with is essential and healthy, not a problem pulling me away from my responsibilities. It’s so easy to diminish the importance of eating dinner with the family when a project is falling behind but those people are the ones who are there for me when the screen is off and real life is on.
So there you have it, my strategies for holding unto my physical and mental health while working from home attached to a desk. I hope to one day be doing this with my work being writing and marketing my novels. There’s the writing part of this post. Hope these hacks work for you.
Get behind that desk and write on!