corona virus diaries: week 5

Five weeks ago yesterday, I shifted to primarily working from home. Spotting a coworker loading up monitors and other computer equipment from his office, I realized I could do the same. The prospect of working off of a laptop for weeks on end felt less onerous if it included the dock, dual monitors, full-size keyboard, and mouse. This was quickly set up on my dining table, and for the first time in 13 years, I have an office with a window.

I lasted one day sitting in one of the IKEA folding chairs that normally lives at my dining table. I lasted another two weeks using the office chair that normally lives at my home desk. Then on my brief weekly trip to campus, I snagged the chair from my office. Ahh… so much better. The ship date for the Steelcase office chair I splurged on (a much needed purchase long before now) is indefinite, so this will be my setup for the time being.

My work has settled down some since we got past the flurry of assisting faculty to transition their courses to remote instruction, and supplying access to ebooks and other resources for students who left their materials in their dorm rooms when they departed campus for Spring Break. For the first few weeks, it was all I could do to keep up with things, as email action items flew in as fast (or sometimes faster) than I could clear them out.

I was surprised-not-surprised to learn that my job really doesn’t require me to be in the building at all, for the most part. I think there will be things coming up throughout the year that would be easier to do if I were there, and some physical materials that will eventually need attention from me, but for now, I can quite easily work remotely. I kind of knew this before, but not having a good setup at home made the prospect less appealing in the past.

One of the things I worried about with working from home is not having a clear line between work and home. However, I have found that sticking to a schedule has kept that line fairly clear. I start work at 8, I finish at 4:30, and sometime around noon I take a lunch break. There are some exceptions, of course, if I’m trying to wrap something up and it’s nearing the end of the day. There’s always more that can be done, but there’s also always tomorrow and the next day.

Part of me wonders if I could continue this working from home thing even if we are able to open the building and return to our offices again? Part of me could get quite used to having a kitchen with snacks so close and a toilet all to myself. Part of me revels in not having to wear work clothes, and a commute that’s just a walk down the stairs.

Part of me worries that I will get too withdrawn and forget how to interact with coworkers in person. Part of me misses the casual interactions with colleagues that feels awkward over a digital connection. Part of me would really rather just go get lunch with friends at the dining hall today instead of thinking up yet another meal at home.

progress updates: January 2019

I didn’t make any resolutions or goals for 2019, per se, but I did have some lifestyle changes I want to make. Here’s how things went for the month of January.

Ragged Mountain Reservoir
Ragged Mountain Reservoir

In 2018, I didn’t use enough vacation leave and found myself in danger of losing days as my work anniversary month concluded. So, I crammed in some days off as my workload allowed. This is not ideal, and it is also an indication that something is off-kilter with my work/life balance. So, I decided that for 2019, I needed to plan some days off in advance so I’d actually use my vacation leave, since I rarely take actual vacations. So far, I haven’t used any of my leave time yet, but I have scheduled a long weekend in February and am taking Spring Break off in March, and have plans for May and July on the horizon. I’ll be looking ahead to other times of the year when I can take off a week or more without negatively impacting my workload.

snapshot of a Fitocracy month indicating workouts recorded

I tend to get really busy once the semester begins, because that’s when all my “extra-curricular” activities kick in. One thing that often gets de-prioritized is physical activity. So, for the month of January, I mapped out a workout schedule to fit around my regular obligations with a varied plan that would keep me from getting bored or using “recovery” as an excuse to not do anything. It’s worked, mostly, though it does require me to make some adjustments towards the end of the week if I haven’t also done a good job of getting to bed on time and sleeping enough. This process has been helpful for me to reach my goal of 219 workouts in 2019.

infographic for the YNAB principles

Midway through January, I decided to have a hard conversation with myself about my budget and long-term goals. This was in part due to a decision in early January to start seeing a therapist again, and the impact that would have on my budget. Despite making more money than I ever have or ever thought I could, I still manage to spend nearly all of it every month, living paycheck to paycheck. I had been trying to use Mint to make and stick to a budget in 2018, but that just wasn’t working. I’m giving the YNAB philosophy (and software) a try this time around, and it’s already helping me re-think how I budget and how I make spending decisions. If you decide to give it a try, too, I highly suggest reading the book and/or making use of the free webinars. On its own, the platform is okay, but it’s so much better if you understand the underlying system.

thankful for Thanksgiving

Banana boat tragedy by Robbie V
“Banana boat tragedy” by Robbie V

Next week is a two-day work week, and my schedule for those two days is almost completely wide open. This means, if all goes well, I might actually recover from being away for Charleston last week and being away two days this week for meetings. There are about 50 action items on my list, ranging from a few minutes attention to a few hours attention. And that’s just the “must deal with now” stuff. Forget doing any of my ongoing projects.

The blessing and curse of travel — you get to do cool things, see cool places, and meet cool people, but then you spend several days of work hell trying to atone for the sin of not being there.