It’s unnerving, having your usual way of life (working from home, being generally distant and anti-social) officially sanctioned by the government as a method of global pandemic-protection.
(Fellow introverts the world over are rejoicing at the opportunity to stay at home with no excuses. But now I’m being told to stay inside, I suddenly don’t want to. The rebel in me wants to organise a rash of illicit social gatherings, and I’m trying to resist an annoying urge to go and set up my laptop in a coffee shop).
It’s also unnerving when you’re on a phone call with a client, you take a sip of water, it goes down the wrong hole, and you cough.
First there’s an awkward pause, followed by a concerned sounding, “Oh God… are you OK?”
For the record, I’m absolutely fine.
Physically, at least.
Mentally… well, I’m a bit wobbly, to be honest. You know something’s not right when you switch on BBC Breakfast of a morning, only to find yourself welling up at the – suddenly overwhelmingly reassuring – sight of Dan Walker and Louise Minchin on the sofa.
Meanwhile, the media – social and otherwise – aren’t helping.
Pictures of ravaged supermarkets, and grim tales of “wartime conditions” (seriously?), go hand-in-hand with weirdly optimistic advice and empty-headed opinions, to create a snarling, spitting monster nobody can ignore.
But while we can’t ignore it, we can have a go at reasoning with it.
For me, this means staying calm and clear-headed. Living and working on my own, I’m – thankfully – pretty low-risk.
My priorities, therefore, begin with staying well, continuing to use other people’s businesses and services wherever I can, and not being a drain on resources higher-risk people need more than me (online shopping, doctor’s appointments, etc.)
(They also involve not moaning on social media about not being able to get any loo roll. Because the moment you start doing that, you create panicky hunter-gatherer thoughts like, “OK, I’ve already got 1,236 rolls, but I’ll go out and grab a few more, just in case!”)
As a seasoned home-worker, I’ve got a couple of tips for those who are just beginning to dip their toes into this way of life.
The first – and I would argue, the most important – is to not take things too personally.
I’ve found that there’s something visceral about introducing work into your home, so it helps to do it gently, and on your terms.
A snotty client email, when read in the impersonal, contextual surroundings of work, can be easily dealt with, then forgotten. But reading the same email at home can feel as though that client is attacking you, in your safe space.
To avoid this horrible feeling, I recommend only reading work emails while you’re sitting at your designated workspace. Don’t be tempted to check through them on the sofa, or worse, in bed.
The second is not to heed advice about “getting ready in the morning as if you were going out to work!” if you don’t want to.
Working from home means you get to do things your way, and if that means wearing your PJs with pride, fine. Why waste brain space feeling guilty about not primping yourself for the office, when you’re not actually working in one?
Business as usual?
I can’t be the only person who’s sick and tired of the ‘c’ word in every last piece of communication, and of the weirdly formal messages from company CEOs telling us that “the health and wellbeing of our staff is our highest priority” (this should be a given, surely?)
Blatant advertising may feel insensitive at a time like this, but within reason, I think we have to resist that feeling (I recorded a video to promote my new book this week, and I don’t feel guilty about doing it).
There’s something reassuring about businesses carrying on as ‘normally’ as they can, and I still want to know about products and services that might be useful to me – now, and when all this chaos is finally over.
The same goes for starting a new project, or thinking about changing your life or career. Now could, in fact, be the best time to start reflecting on exactly where you want to be, and crafting a plan to get you there.
As for how to cope generally with our impending doom, I read some fantastic advice from Cal Newport about choosing a high-quality local and national news source, checking in with them once every morning, then absorbing yourself in purposeful, positive actions for the rest of the day.
So far, this simple approach has been working for me. I hope you find one that works for you, as we sit and wait out this incredible storm together.
I'm a friendly and professional writer, reviewer and editor who works with warmth, humour and flexibility.
Creative ideas are like ghosts...Read more
Strategies to beat your writing monster into submissionRead more
How to take the pressure off... and just enjoy being creative.Read more
What's in it for me?Read more
How not to drown in other people's opinions.Read more
What are the events, loves, or random quirks of character that really make you, you?Read more
Nobody else can tell a story in quite the same way you can.Read more
In these unprecedented times, words count.Read more
Create like nobody's watching... so that when they are, you're ready.Read more
Explaining what’s blatantly obvious to you, could turn out to be advertising gold.Read more
A creative approach could work wonders for your career.Read more
"...it’s detail that will make you stand out, and most people aren’t mind readers."Read more
"You can’t be on somebody’s side, if you don’t know what they think or how they feel".Read more
...they were learning how to express their true feelings in words, and the results were honest, uplifting, and totally magnetic.Read more
"If you really want to change your career, you have to be determined, and you have to be selfish."Read more
This is a blog post unlike any other.Read more
As a freelance writer, taking a break is always a challenge. But I push on through the guilt, and here's why.Read more
Don't write for search engines, write for people.Read more
How do you eat yours?Read more
It's Universal Letter Writing Week - how will you celebrate?Read more
I’ve gathered together some of my most-read blog posts, tips and tools to help you get writing.Read more
When you give people a piece of yourself, you will naturally engage them.Read more
"If you like someone, you might be tempted to look for excuses to work with them, even if their particular skills aren’t what you need."Read more
My advice to freelancers: never lose sight of what freelancing is all about!Read more
Recruitment moves so fast, and so stressfully, that I think we forget how it feels to be treated like we matter.Read more
Keep your summer content fresh and updated to be remembered all year long.Read more
November means #NaNoWriMo - so whatever you're working on, it's time to get it done!Read more
Ironically, it's when you're writing about yourself that you will sound least like you. Hiring a writer to do it for you can bring a whole host of benefits.Read more
Learn how to live happily ever after through the power of storytellingRead more
Writing books is big business - or at least it can be, if you get it right. For starters, this means not rushing the process!Read more
Do you edit your work before you publish it?Read more
Creating a schedule can be a difficult task, especially when you're planning for work you're not being paid for - or that nobody is expecting! Here's how to get started on crafting a time plan that will work for you.Read more
If you know someone who already has everything, give them something truly unique - special words.Read more
With a new year on the horizon, why not make a resolution to tell your life story? Committing your personal tales to paper can be a rich and rewarding experience for you to write and others to read...for generations to come. Here's how to get started.Read more
Are you often left with the feeling that you don't quite know enough about all the online tools you can use to promote your business? How about website analytics...shouldn't you be checking them every five minutes just like the experts say? Relax - here's how to take advantage of all the advice available online, by defining exactly what YOU want to know.Read more
Is time getting the better of you? With a growing business, several passion projects on the go, books to read and friends I'd quite like to see, I was starting to feel overwhelmed...until I decided to take a closer look at planning my time more effectively. Here's how you can do the same.Read more
BOO! Like a ripe pumpkin Hallowe'en has rolled around yet again, so what better time to extol the benefits of ghostwriting, definitely not just the province of bargain-bin bound celebrities.Read more
An encounter with a corporate headhunter made me question my career - why was I still doing something I didn't love? Here's how I formulated my corporate escape plan and found a career I truly enjoy.Read more
Going it alone, releasing yourself from the shackles of a traditional nine-to-five, is exhilarating. It's also incredibly scary! To celebrate my first quarter-year in business, here are some of the most important lessons I've learned from the front line.Read more
Regular blog posts - especially if you run a business - can drastically increase your following, as well as helping you beat the competition by describing how you do things your way. Read on for a few more great reasons why you should join the blogging revolution!Read more