20 March 2020

“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.”

This Week

My friends, times are tough. I hope you are all staying as safe and secure as you can. I’m fortunate to be able to work from home and trust my teenager more or less manage herself now that she’s home from school—although I have to say that the relative lack of fundamental shift in my daily life has made me realize I am more of a shut-in than I thought I was. Turns out I’m actually really good at staying at home, especially during winter. I tend to get up early and go to bed early and work from home and then read or watch movies. All this time, I’ve unknowingly been in training for a pandemic, when I just thought I was boring.

In any case, my lengthy experience in being boring has yielded some learned lessons. A few tips I picked up over the years about how to effective manage work and life from home that might be useful to others:

  • Timeblock. I have got better at this, but I used to have to literally create a schedule for myself and assign certain times for tasks and breaks. Otherwise, everything blurred together and it was difficult to bring anything to completion or get any sort of restful distance.

  • Designate work spaces and rest spaces. I’m not going to lie and I say I’ve never worked from the couch with Mystery Science Theater 3000 playing in the background. I have and I might again. But, as a regular rule, I bring myself to my desk in the morning and I leave my desk at the end of the day. It’s also helpful to get dressed in the morning and changed into comfy clothes in the evening. Anything to reinforce boundaries.

  • Limit social media. I’ve written a lot lately about how I’ve been working on stopping myself from spending too much time on Twitter. That goes double when the situation at large is precarious and depressing. It’s a fine line between keeping internet connections open as a necessary social link and getting overwhelmed with a flood of information. I started using Cold Turkey, a free browser extension that allows me to completely block Twitter for periods of time. It’s helped me break the habit of reflexively checking social media after it’s passed the point of doing me good.

  • Take a walk. This is a good thing to do around lunchtime, to make sure you aren’t working right through midday and doing things like forgetting to eat. I am particularly prone to that, and it has resulted in many a hangry afternoon. Related to this, stay hydrated and don’t drink coffee all the way through the day.

  • Be proactive about communication, even nonessential communication. Ask questions, check in, chat, set up quick video calls even if it doesn’t seem necessary. This is where my pro-meeting stance comes into play. I would rather schedule a meeting and get to have at least a few minutes of human contact while we determine there’s nothing else to address rather than rely entirely on email or Slack. In the long run, those bits of interaction build up to relationships, and that makes communication and work easier.

My thoughts are with everyone trying to juggle work at home with young children or other caretaking responsibilities, and even more so with those who are not able to work from home or who have lost work. It’s a strange, difficult time. I can’t do a lot, but if I can help anyone with getting better at working from home or looking for remote work opportunities, please reach out. I’ll do what I can. We can email, Slack or set up a video call and discuss options and strategies, or just commiserate. Whatever helps. You can reach me at hello@jenmyers.net.

If you would like to take advantage of the time at home to do some writing and would like some beautiful implements to do so, maybe even test out a fountain pen or two: my favorite supply store, Atlas Stationers (operating in Chicago since 1939) just launched a lovely new online store featuring their fountain pens, ink and notebooks, plus they have a 10% off promo right to celebrate the launch. Give it look.

Also! Paid subscribers, the monthly essay will return next week! It will likely have something to do with *gestures around generally.* If you would like to become a paid subscriber and get a brand-new essay from me, sign up before next Friday.

From NASA, here’s a reminder to look outside your window today.


Links

“The most isolating thing most of us has ever done is, ironically, almost surely the most collective experience we’ve ever had in our lifetimes.” The American public’s response to the coronavirus will stand as a remarkable moment of national mobilization.

Predictions of mass panic in a pandemic don’t give our brains enough credit.

“Ultimately, this is not about trains and buses. This is about a political system uninterested in reform, a system unconcerned with fixing what’s broken. If we can understand how politics failed American transportation systems, perhaps we can make the solution part of broader reform that must occur if American government is to start addressing the needs of the people in all aspects of life, from health care to criminal justice to housing to employment law to digital privacy to climate change.” Why the US sucks at building public transit.

How can we save giraffes from extinction?

A guide to virtual museum resources.

Karina Longworth released a special podcast episode about the effect the influenza of 1918 had on the movie industry. (You can also, if you are so inclined, support her Patreon and future You Must Remember This episodes.)

100 years ago the world’s biggest action star was a woman named Pearl.

The lost art of deep listening.

How Patti Smith saved rock n’ roll.

Trailer for season two of What We Do in the Shadows.

Go for a walk. You’re allowed. It will help.


Reading/Watching/Listening

  • Kingdom Season 2 (Netflix): I’ve been eagerly awaiting this. If zombie plagues aren’t really your dish, now or ever, you’ll want to skip this. But, otherwise, this is a rich, epic, Korean historical drama worth watching. With zombies. The show has zombies, I mean, don’t watch it with zombies next to you on the couch. Unless they’re really good friends.

  • Better Call Saul, Season 4 (Netflix): I’ve talked about my love for this show before. I personally like it better than Breaking Bad, probably because I’m more invested in Jimmy as protagonist than I ever was in Walter (I never liked him much! Sorry!). By any measure, however, Better Call Saul is an excellent show, even as it works its way to its sad, inevitable end.

  • The Pale Horse (Amazon Prime): Look, you either are going to rush to watch a vaguely supernatural witch-filled Agatha Christie adaptation starring Rufus Sewell or you’re not. If you’re in the former camp, I approve of and encourage you.

  • Been listening to a lot of Craig Finn lately. I mean, I usually am, but it is a fitting end-of-winter, still-stuck-inside, lonely-but-fostering-hope kind of vibe.

  • I’ve also been listening to a lot of Patti Smith. Never a bad thing.


Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.

Love,

Jen


Connections

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This week’s quote is from Albert Camus.