In week 1 of a minimum 4 week lockdown in New Zealand, I talk about the challenges of continuing my work from home with my whole family here too; the positives to this crazy situation and what you can be doing as a business frozen in the lockdown.
- Khan Academy Kids (free)
- Reading Eggs (paid, but 2 weeks free)
- Epic reading app (first 30 days free)
- Netflix Kids
- Shut up and dance (dance classes)
- Anika Moa on Instagram
- NYC timescapes on Instagram
- Keith Urban‘s live at home Facebook performance
- Napoli ballet performance
Welcome to Episode 9! Today is a bit of a break from scheduled programming, because I want to talk about my reality of working from home with a child and husband here during this lockdown. I know the Corona virus is all we’re talking about, but last week I tried to stick to my normal schedule of topics, and this week I tried again but I just couldn’t. Because what’s been on my mind the most is adapting to life in the lockdown.
We have been in lockdown for almost a week here in New Zealand, so we’re all talking about this because we’re all trying to navigate it. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment, so I thought it would be a nice thing to do to give you a glimpse into my world and how I’m managing working from home with my husband and daughter here as well.
The current situation here in New Zealand (it’s the 30th March, 2020) with the pandemic is that we have over 500 cases, sadly we’ve had one death but over 50 people have recovered. We’re in day 5 of lockdown for the whole country and it’s due to last for a minimum of 4 weeks. What that means is that only essential businesses and their supply chains are able to operate. What that means in my world is that all businesses selling physical products or face to face services are closed. And that is obviously going to be quite devastating for some people. We’ve been told to stay home, work from home. You can get out to get some exercise, get your groceries or medical supplies, but really overall you have to stay at home and hang out at home.
At the moment it’s Autumn, it’s March so it’s the first month of Autumn. We’ve just had a pretty heinous storm with a lot of rain, very cold with a lot of wind. We’ve got more rain on the way and in between that it was really beautiful so we got outside when there was some sunshine yesterday and it was really nice. So that’s the current situation here in New Zealand at the moment.
I’ve already been working from home for quite some time. Life for me before the lockdown was that I worked from home, and then went into the office for my contract work. I go into the office when required for meetings and hui’s and stuff for the client I’m working with at the moment. But for all of my work on course development and my blogging and podcasting etc, I do that at home.
Particularly on a Monday – on a Monday is when I record my podcast and then other days I will go out to a café. I might do some exercise around 9am in the morning, but not in the last few months I’m going to be honest about that! I’ve been pretty slack, but I’d get out to those cafes after I’ve dropped my daughter off at kindy. She’s at kindy for 5 days a week. I’d be usually driving, drop her off and stop in at a café. Maybe on a Tuesday or maybe on a Friday. There’s some really nice cafes around here and they’re all quite worker friendly.
At both The Spruce Goose and Maranui you can actually go and sit at a big shared table with other people that are also working, which is quite nice. I really enjoy doing that because I get to have someone else make coffee for me, and sometimes breakfast.
Occasionally my husband and I will go to a café, get breakfast together and work together which is really nice. So it's a varied week. Sometimes I was at the office and sometimes I was at home. I’d move around the house as well.
It was kind of cool, I had it dialled in that I would time block my work. I really enjoyed being able to do that and having the certainty of knowing what I had to do this week and how I was going to achieve that. So I would time block those things.
I used to be really bad at sticking to my time blocks but I’ve become really good at it and disciplined with it now. It took a bit of work, but the time blocks that I would schedule might look like this: ‘This hour I am going to record my podcast’ or ‘I’m going to do the outline’ or whatever.
I time block according to the day of the week and the time of the day because energy ebbs and flows throughout the day and throughout the week.
Most weekdays I’m getting up at 4.30am, and I’m writing. If I feel like I need to journal, I will journal. If it’s Monday morning I’m always writing a podcast outline. By the time I get to Fridays sometimes I sleep in as I’m feeling a bit tired. But mostly I’m up at 4.30am, because there are no distractions. I know that generally from about 4.45am to 6am I can be writing with absolutely no distractions. It’s dark, there’s nothing to do, except write. So that’s really wonderful for me. And as I said, I always record my podcast episodes on Monday mornings which seems to work quite nicely.
My husband is usually working from the office (in town). He cycles in every day so he gets his exercise, and he works from the office, except for Wednesdays when he works from home. I let him have the office when he’s working from home, I give him the illusion of space!
That’s how we kind of rolled. Of course I would fit in my contracting hours when my daughter was at kindy. Blocking my time out, letting my client know when I was available. It was all quite nice and kind of flowing, I felt like I’d found my groove. We did our groceries on Saturday mornings – go to New World, go to Moore Wilsons – we had it dialled in and it was nice.
But along came this pandemic! Lucky for us, our Prime Minister, acted really fast. She observed what was going on in other countries. The rate of infection spread and how their health care systems were being overwhelmed as they didn’t act fast enough. So our Prime Minister acted really quickly and I feel really great about that.
So I don’t want to be flouting the lockdown rules, I’m going to do what I’m told. If I’m told to stay home, I’m going to stay home!
We’re adapting. Life now during lockdown – the kindy is closed as are all schools, my husband is working from home as is everyone else who is able to work from home, he’s working full time. I’m also working from home, I don’t go into my clients office anymore, we do Skype calls instead. I don’t go to the cafes because they’re not open. I don’t go to the gym, but I didn’t anyway as you know! And I don’t have the commute to drop my daughter off and pick her up from kindy.
We’ve got this new situation to adapt to which I’m sure all of you do as well.
We are lucky enough to have made one of the rooms in our house into an office. It’s a really nice space, it’s got a great view from both sides, it’s a quiet space unless the neighbour is doing DIY which thankfully it’s been raining so he hasn’t been! It’s a nice space and we can close the door, and generally there’s good boundaries around that closed door.
But there’s two of us working from home now, so thankfully I bought a couple of bar stools for our breakfast bar. It’s never been used as a breakfast bar because we’ve never had bar stools for it. It’s just been used as a junk collecting station where we just throw everything from fruit to car keys to phones to mail.
But with wonderful foresight – clearly my intuition was talking to me – I just recently bought a couple of bar stools. So now we can work from the breakfast bar and it’s quite nice. We’ve got access to the coffee, and (unfortunately) the fridge some days! It’s good.
So we’ve got a couple of different spaces we can work from now and if we really need privacy we can go into the main bedroom where it’s really quiet, we can close the door and this is the space where my daughter doesn’t know where we are – she thinks we’ve gone out, it’s very sneaky. So that’s what life is looking like now, we’re all sharing.
My daughter is an only child, so we are her only human entertainment. We have two cats (who basically sleep all day) so it’s just us for entertaining and educating her. So having some structure in the day is really important.
We schedule our time together, we schedule our time apart. We say we’re going to go out when the sun comes out and we’re going to go out for a walk together. I went for a walk by myself this morning because when we go on family walks I’m always stopping to take photos of things. Especially after it’s been raining it’s beautiful.
But that’s not a very popular move when you’re with the family because they want to keep moving. So I just go out by myself, take as many photos as I want, walk as fast as I want when I want, and it’s wonderful.
We also schedule office time. We talk about who needs the home office and at which times. Because sometimes you need to do deep work and to get into that deep work space, you’ve got to be able to concentrate for longer than 5 seconds (or however long you’re allowed to concentrate when you’re hanging out with your preschooler).
To get into that deep work space you’ve got to know that you’re not going to be interrupted. So having the office, having that time and saying “I’m going to record a podcast episode”…
I talked to my daughter about it and told her I’m only going to be doing my podcast for an hour and then I’ll come out and play and have a snack etc. So my daughter has expectations and she knows she needs to have quiet play for that time. If she’s really bouncing off the walls, there’s an indication she needs more exercise. But also, there is the option of giving her the iPad with some headphones. She’s got some really good Apps on there like Khan Academy Kids (free) which is absolutely wonderful. There’s Reading Eggs (paid, but 2 weeks free), and the Epic app (paid, but free for first 30 days) for reading. In the morning we don’t do Netflix or movies or anything like that. Just educational stuff that will keep her entertained if she really needs it so that if we really both need to work at the same time we can.
It’s actually surprisingly much easier to meet with my colleagues now that we’re in lockdown because they just schedule Skype meetings. I don’t have to drive in to see them, I don’t have to pay for parking, and I don’t have to lose however much time I spend driving. It’s pretty cool and I have to say that’s an absolute bonus. And I don’t have to be the only one to be attending on video, because we all are.
Groceries, how’s life now? Because of physical distancing, we’re required to stay 2 metres apart from people who are not in our bubble, and the bubble are the people that you’re living with basically. The supermarkets that are open have had to have a limit of how many people can go in at one time. So if we were to go to the supermarket at the normal times we go, say Saturday mornings, it will be really busy. On Saturday my husband found that out. It was raining and the toilets were closed as well so he had to wait in the queue for a very long time, and it wasn’t fun for him. So now we’re thinking we have to go at different times.
My husband is the only one we have decided will go to the grocery shop because I am at more risk if I do catch Corona virus because I have asthma. We’re working out how that runs more smoothly. But that’s just the thing, we're just adapting and everyone’s adapting and you don’t really want to complain. We try to think ‘what we will do differently this week?' and then work around it.
Some really nice stuff that I have experienced which I think is so important to remember – the nice things that happen in a time like this – the biggest thing for me has been the family time. We’re together all the time. I thought in the beginning that we would go a bit potty, and yes admittedly we are only on day 5 of the lockdown officially, but the family time has been really, really nice.
Both Tane and I are introverts, so having time in our bubble means we’re not yet suffering, but of course we do miss our friends and family.
We’re well set up to work from home. He has spent time at a start-up working from home a lot so in general, working from home isn’t a big change for us, so that has been really easy. We’re set up, we’ve got the office, we’ve got a decent broadband connection and all the devices we need. Speaking of devices, we don’t have a TV. And I’m not skite-y about that because it could change, especially if we have another lock down! We just have iPads and a laptop. So if we watch movies we watch it on a laptop.
But other nice stuff has been going out for these walks. Every single person I saw this morning said hello and smiled. That was wonderful. Even the bus driver who drove past me on this deserted street smiled at me and it was just wonderful. So I know that these people are my neighbours, maybe not the bus driver. The people walking around my neighbourhood should probably be neighbours because we’re only supposed to be within 2km of our homes, it’s really nice, seeking that connection with other people because you’re not getting out on a daily basis. It makes you think about things right? Another nice thing has been the time in the garden together.
I don’t know if this was foresight or not but about a year ago we cancelled our gardener who used to come and trim the lawns and tidy everything up. My husband ended up buying a lawn mower and a weed eater and he started doing it himself. So now we’re not stranded with not being able to buy a lawnmower at the moment because everything is shut and our gardener couldn’t come along either. So we’ve got a lawnmower which is just a wee push mower, and a weed eater in the basement, so we can sort that out. Spending time together in the garden as well – so, I’ll be doing weeding and Tane was washing the cars the other day and Mila was drawing on the concrete with chalk. It was really nice and it wasn’t rushed. Because there was nothing else to do. So many less decisions to be made.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of the term ‘decision fatigue?’ It’s really important to be aware of when you’re trying to achieve goals and trying to change habits, because when you get decision fatigue it means that you just default back to automatic behaviour instead of making a decision that’s probably better for you. I get decision fatigue at the end of the week, at the end of the day, when I’m hungry, when I’m tired, when I have PMS, whenever. And it’s because during the course of your day you have to make so many decisions depending on your lifestyle.
In life before lockdown we had the freedom to go to the shop whenever we wanted. We had the freedom to go to any shop, any bar, any café, any restaurant at any time we wanted. That seems liberating now but actually there were a lot of decisions we had to make. ‘Hey, do you want to go and get a coffee at Maranui?’ ‘Hey, shall we have breakfast at the Chocolate Fish this morning?’ ‘Hey, let’s go to Parrot Dog for a beer this afternoon.’ ‘Should we, should we not? Maybe we should go to Double Vision instead.’
These things, although liberating to have the freedom of choice, mean that you have to make so many decisions all the time. What both Tane and I noticed this week was that we didn’t have those decisions to make and it was quite peaceful. This is interesting, it’s like a big social experiment but we’re going to make the most of this, of not having to make those decisions. We’ve literally got no obligations.
Your obligations are to your workplace, or whoever you’re working for or whoever you’re serving, if they’re clients, and you’re still able to work and serve and deliver.
Your obligations are to your family, and being there for them and looking after them.
Your obligations are to yourself.
There’s very few obligations that you have which is really weird. Because I have seen more family in the last week than I have in the last year probably. Because we’ve been freely FaceTime-ing, Skype-ing and Zoom-ing each other. There hasn’t been ‘oh, I should go to that birthday party, oh I’m not going to be able to make it to that, oh I should go and visit this person.’ It’s completely acceptable just to get on FaceTime and say hello to them.
And that’s actually really wonderful without having obligations. We all are working from home, so we’re wondering if it’s a good time to talk, and if it’s not then we’ll do it another time. We’re not going anywhere. It’s really been quite interesting, no obligations but more family has been pretty cool to me.
This is the other super, super cool thing with basically half the world being in lock down is this: have you noticed that all the performers, musicians, actors, comedians and creatives are online! They’re going live all the time. It is so cool! There’s dance classes. We watched Anika Moa playing Songs for Bubbas live on Instagram yesterday. I watched the sun set in New York city with a guy that does New York City time scapes. He was on Instagram live playing his piano, playing a Phillip Glass number which was just amazing. And while his camera was focused on this sunset over Manhattan and there were lots of other people from all over the world jumping on, that was really cool. Because these people are at home. I watched Keith Urban play some tunes with Nicole Kidman running around getting different guitars and banjos for him to play. There are so many people who would normally be performing in person, and you have to go to their show to see them in person. Or maybe see a TV show or whatever. But they’re doing it live. They’re on Instagram live, they’re on Facebook live, they’re on YouTube streaming, it’s just wonderful.
Also a lot of the places like museums, theatres and things that have been closed down have been releasing their shows for people to watch. So last week I watched an opera by Richard Wagner, it was a German opera first performed in 1870 and it was amazing. I also watched a ballet called Napoli, wonderful, just wonderful.
I thought to myself all these things were really nice, and I was at home, I wasn’t having to travel anywhere to see these things, and it's really good to be knowing that we’re giving the earth such a break. We’re giving the earth a break from all our busy-ness and polluting. Because when you think about it, nobody is really driving anywhere unless you’re an essential service in New Zealand. Yes you can drive places, you can drive to the supermarket and to the park. But the police will pull you over if they think you’re ‘taking the mickey’ as we call it here in New Zealand, flouting the guidelines. So clearly there’s a lot less traffic on the roads. There is no peak hour traffic because people are not going to work in the same way. Production has stopped for suppliers of non-essential products.
All of this CO2 that we’ve been producing is not as bad, and we’re not using as much gas, natural resources etc. I know there’s probably other ways that we’re doing damage by all being at home but right now I’m feeling really good about giving the earth a bit of a break.
Also, because the shops are closed you’re forced to use what you have. There was a mad rush at Bunnings on the last day before lockdown, and I already had plans to build this little garden out the back, and I knew it was something that I could prepare for but I wasn’t quite ready and I didn’t want to get into the mad rush of things and possibly go and buy something I might have gotten wrong. I might have designed it wrong etc. Maybe that happens in the next lockdown and let’s be honest there might be another one. I’m just using what I have. I’ve been sticking herbs in the cat poo garden (if you’ve listened to an earlier podcast where I explained about the analogy of the garden. So we’re using what we have. And that includes inside and outside DIY, decluttering. You’re kind of stuck with what you’ve got so you’ve got to make the most of it right? What’s in the pantry as well. That is another way that we’re giving the earth a break.
There has been a lot of nice stuff and I wanted to spend a little bit of time rabbiting on about that because I want to remind you of the positives and it’s actually really important to sit down and really appreciate the good stuff that has come out of this situation. If you read too much news, you can get really dark. Trust me I know, I have been there. I have been to some dark places thinking about the bad stuff. I’ve read too much news at some points and thought I really need to stop this because it’s getting me down.
One day I got on this really down bender of thinking about other people and how everyone else is faring. There’s the job losses, there’s people living in unideal situations like in poverty, there’s homeless people, there’s people living in bad home situations, there’ll be families that are really stressed because they’re all forced into this one space and still trying to work. Maybe there’s job losses in that family, there’s businesses that have closed down, there’s elderly people that are lonely, there’s people that are sick. I got into this really down spiral thinking about these people and feeling helpless as to how to help them. And then I got into this funny thought about people who are having affairs. That would be a real bummer! Haha. Or people that are burglars, gosh you just got really stunted didn’t you, can’t really sneak into anyone’s house if they’re home! I found that kind of darkly humorous.
But then, there’s the weddings that have to be cancelled and the funerals that cannot be had yet – devastating. Births – and nobody can come and see the baby, breaks my heart. Birthdays, we had a 5th birthday to go to next week and we won’t be going to that obviously because everyone’s in lockdown.
These are things that can get to you but I think what helped me there was remembering what my circle of control was, what can I actually control about that? I can’t so there’s very little I can do to solve it by thinking about it. I can do things like, share my thoughts on a podcast, that’s about all I can do on that. Just looking out for other people. For me it’s calling my Dad most days. I might even give my landlord a call, seriously. He lives nearby and he is in his late 60’s and I know that his children don’t live in Wellington so I might even just give him a call and see how he’s going.
So, out of these challenges hopefully comes some good stuff. Another challenge is adapting to less personal space. I am used to having a lot of personal space during the day. I’ve become really used to that. When Tane is at work and Mila is at kindergarten, being able to go about my day and go ‘right, I’m going to sit there and think my head off if I need to, eat what I want, do what I want.’ I love doing what I want. Having to adapt to having less personal space and freedom, could be a real cause of frustration. But we talk about it as a family, and we adapt as we go.
Mila’s an only child so we’re the only people she’s going to see. She doesn’t want to see people arguing about not having enough space, she wants to be with people who are fun. I mean we can’t be fun all the time, but people who are not grumpy. It’s up to us to figure that out.
I think we might wrap this up a little bit now. Maybe I can give you some tips, because clearly I’ve got this thing dialled in, I mean obviously!
So my suggestion to you if you are feeling the struggle and not doing any of these things have a think about them. Set a family schedule. Get a whiteboard out or a big piece of paper, draw up the week, draw up the times then write in in. What are we expecting to happen? When do I need the office? When do I want to get out and exercise? When will we spend time together? Who’s going to cook dinner on which night? Having a schedule helps set expectations. Not just between you and the other adults in the household if there are any, but your kids as well.
And with those expectations you can set boundaries. Establish boundaries and never assume that other people know how to respect your boundaries. Never assume that. If you need peace and quiet for 15 minutes while you meditate, be sure to say you are going to meditate now and it would be great if… Don’t just assume that because you’ve gone into the bedroom that people are going to leave you alone. And that will allow you to schedule some time to do some deep work as well if that’s what you need to do for your work, for your business or for anything that you do, you’re able to schedule deep work.
I’ve been able to record this podcast with no breaks because I did my outline this morning at 4.30am when I was alone with no distractions, and that was a scheduled block of time. And now I’ve got this scheduled block of time in the office where both my husband and my daughter know that I’m recording so not to bang or scream at the door. I’ve set my environment up and set the boundaries so I can have a more successful time creating content.
Another thing you can do now is look at what’s happening with this lockdown and how you can prepare better if there is another one, we don’t know yet. Think about, if there is another lockdown, what do you want to be doing? For me I’ve actually sketched up and measured all of the wood I’m going to need for my little garden including exactly how much soil I’m going to need and I’m going to buy that. I made a list of the clothes we’re going to have to buy because we’re coming into winter. If we do have another lockdown, just having that prep so that gives me a sense of control as well.
And as a business, start engaging with your audience. Particularly if you’re a business that has had to shut down during this time, what do your audience need? What are they going to need, can you anticipate that? Will you be able to meet the demand if there is a big rush of demand from your people? Maybe it’s a good time to reach out to them and ask them to have a think about what they need from you. If there is a period where restrictions are lifted, how can you prepare for that? How can they help you prepare for that? I know that it’s really hard to prepare for anything when we’ve got so much uncertainty, but just have a think about how your business can help others in relation to this new way of living for this period of time that we’re going through this together. How can you help others? What can you ramp up production of? What can you focus on? Just get thinking.
So with that I’m going to wrap this episode up. I’m going to continue to make this podcast until the end of season 1, which episode 12 will be the final one. Gives me a sense of normality. And I really hope that it is helping you in some way. And I’d always love to hear from you. I hope you enjoyed this episode and thinking of you in lockdown. Enjoy your day.