At the moment, many of us are confined to our homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Often the whole family is stuck inside, and we are having to balance work life, home life and sometimes parenting, all in one space. We may be able to escape outdoors from time to time, but even that can be difficult now with social distancing guidelines.
While all this is absolutely essential if we are to address this pandemic, there’s no denying that these measures will take an emotional and psychological toll on all of us. The memes circulating online about the crisis are suggesting that in a few months’ time, we will have either a baby boom or a divorce boom! What we do know is that things will be drastically different as a result of coronavirus and we have little control over that and over the impact it will have on us.
However, while we can’t control the big things, we can do a lot to take control of our daily lives in these extraordinary circumstances. At M-Powered you might have noticed we are fans of lists! We believe that a checklist is a great place to start in following a schedule, prioritising, and setting boundaries and rules during these tumultuous times. It keeps you organised and helps you celebrate the little wins when you’ve completed an item on your list.
I first started developing a “Self-Isolation Checklist” for myself using online research to learn how to survive and keep balanced while I am working full time, taking care of two kids and cooped up with my entire family for the foreseeable future. I’ve since refined it with some practical experience over the last couple of weeks and wanted to share it with you in the hope that it might help you get through the day and stay motivated, active and balanced.
Surviving Self-Isolation Checklist – instructions
START OF THE DAY:
1. Wake up at the same time that you usually would for work or school
This allows me to keep the rhythm of a regular week, both for me and my whole family. After getting up, I do my usual tasks: make breakfast, get dressed, and – importantly – drink coffee. Then I wake up my kids.
2. Maintain your usual grooming habits
Well, maybe not to the extent that you would if you were leaving the house! Some people may like to wear a full professional outfit, but I like to wear a more comfortable version of my usual work attire. I make sure to shower, do my hair and sometimes even put on a little make-up. It’s easy to get complacent about this kind of thing when you’re stuck at home constantly, but I find this helps me feel refreshed and prepared for the day ahead. I also make sure that my kids don’t lounge around in pyjamas all day either!
3. Designate areas for work and school
In my modest apartment, we now have two new designated spaces: A corner of my room is now my office and a section of my sons’ room is now their school space. We keep work and school to these areas exclusively and the rest of the apartment is for everyday life and family time. We have tried, in as much as possible, to set the designated areas up to look like traditional working or learning environments to make them more conducive to concentration. We’ve even made some signs for those using the spaces, such as “Do Not Disturb” and “Please Knock” to ensure people are not constantly interrupted. By the way, my kids loved making these signs so it might help fill some self-isolation time for your kids too!
4. Check in
I have a ritual of “checking in” to the various activities in my day. These check ins are like metaphorical doors I go through that help me to organise my life into work, home, and other activities. My usual check in activity day-to-day is my commute to work. This is when I take some time to relax, maybe listen to music and mentally transition to work in the morning. For my kids, the school bell probably acts as their check in, helping them transition between school and home.
Self-isolation has robbed some of this structure from our daily lives. I recommend finding some other activity that you can do between the various activities of your day that might help you to check in: It could be a short meditation or, if possible, a walk. It can be personal to you but can make a huge difference in getting you into the headspace for work or home. For kids, it can be as simple as having your own school bell. Or, failing that, a saucepan and wooden spoon! However, a nicer option might be a song that they enjoy.
5. Follow the schedule you prepared yesterday
At the end of every working day, I prepare my schedule for the next day. I also get my kids to do the same. Luckily, they are old enough to take on this task alone with some help from me or my partner if necessary.
I schedule breaks for every hour and a half. Ninety minutes is approximately how long your brain can work effectively without a break. During these breaks, I try to get some movement in, as well as some fresh air. I have lunch and relax with my family. I try to avoid filling these times with household chores. This will distract me from “work mode”, but maybe you are a better multitasker than me!
If my kids need me to sit with them while they do schoolwork, I try to schedule any tasks that don’t require much concentration during this time and set aside time for more intensive tasks later, while they are relaxing. If you have a partner who you can share childminding duties with, consider drawing up a daily or weekly schedule to divide these responsibilities.
Try to have at least one video call every couple of days. It is really important to see and speak to other people on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be just about work. Preferably you would organise it with friends and family too. This alone can help you and your family feel socially connected during this difficult time.
7. Check out
Check out happens when you finish your work and leave your office space and your kids leave their school space. This process can include planning for the next day, tidying your space, and summarising what you achieved. Try to put work and school away at the end of the day: Pack away laptops and books. This will help you all feel that you have come home.
END OF THE DAY:
8. Prepare for the next day
Once you’ve finished your work, check-in with your usual household duties for the day and plan for the following day. I revise my kids’ schedule, look at what other priorities I have that week, and plan out meals for the following day. Meal prepping can be particularly handy, so we don’t end up using our work breaks to cook and prepare food.
9. Do what you usually do after work
Spend the rest of the day on your normal evening activities. If you enjoy fitness, do an at-home workout. You will find plenty of inspiration on YouTube. If you would usually go to the cinema every week, plan a movie night instead. This can also be a great time to get to all those chores you’ve been meaning to do: Clean out your wardrobe, repaint the bathroom, finally play that board game you bought two years ago! There are some opportunities to be had during these unusual times. It would be a shame to miss them.
And, last but not least, go to bed at your usual bedtime. Take care of your sleep hygiene. This also applies to kids. We all need to rest after a hard working day. Even if we did not leave the house.