Skills to Build While in Quarantine

During quarantine, many of us are going through a whirlwind of emotions, including boredom and the loss of purpose. For those that are laid off, feeling stagnant due to current work from home conditions, and those that were forced to leave their jobs due to unsafe work environments, now is the best time to take advantage of and up your game for when the job market opens back up. It’s also a time to develop skills that are not only useful but will help you out for a lifetime. This list isn’t comprehensive, but the way I see it, these are some of the most important in my opinion. A long list is fun to read, but not always easy to execute. Here are my picks for skills to learn while quarantined.

-Coding

This is the hottest skill for new and old hires right now. So many jobs are starting to need some skill in coding. If your field does not require it, it still looks great on a resume, showing your resourcefulness, that you work to continue learning and it can make you look accomplished. There are so many free or low-cost options to learning to code out there. I myself have dabbled in coding and would love to expand on my base during this time. Some of you out there might think, “I’m not smart enough to learn how to code”. But that’s far from the truth! Learning code is a skill like learning how to juggle. It may be tougher for us non-analytic types, but it’s still possible. Find materials that suite you and be easy on yourself. I highly recommend you give this a shot.

-Graphic Design

Maybe coding just doesn’t interest you but you’d still love to break into tech. Graphic design is a good place to start then. Like coding, there are tons of classes, books and tutorials out there to learn the basics of graphic design. You can also play and experiment in order to learn. There are many different avenues for you to go down such as user interface design, 3D modeling, online illustration, video graphics. Even if you don’t feel like you are artistically inclined, go for it! Like coding, it is a skill that must be built up. Most people can’t do a handstand right away, you need the muscle, balance, and coordination to do one. But you can work on these and eventually you will be able to do a handstand. The same is with tech.

-Baking and Cooking

Everyone should learn to cook to some degree at some point in their lives. I’m not saying you have to learn to make some complicated French dish or bake some intricate desert. Learning the basics is the first thing. From there, a whole world of possibilities opens up. You can cook dishes as complicated or simple as you like. Maybe you enjoy bread baking over all other types of baking and cooking, or you take a liking to recreating Japanese dishes you see online. The best cooking skill to learn right now, is to learn how to make delicious dishes with whatever you have lying around. It’ll give you the confidence you need to continue growing and learning to cook and bake. Whatever you find most interesting, try and build up your cooking skills while cooped up.

-Writing and Reading

Writing and reading aren’t for everyone, but they are important skills to every aspect of life in my opinion. Being able to write a grammatically correct and concise email is invaluable. Being able to put your words down on paper so they make sense when you read them back later is an amazing feeling. Something as simple as writing in a journal every day, whether you write out your feelings, take notes on your day, or use writing prompts, are great ways to start. I believe it’s a great skill to start working on and developing. There are so many parts of life that call for an ability to write. Reading, which I believe goes hand in hand with writing, is also invaluable. You can learn so much about yourself, others and the world, just by reading a couple books a year.  Look for books online, try everything if you just can’t seem to decide on something. Take five to ten minutes out of your day to read something and write something. Starting off with five to ten minutes allows you to not feel bogged down by the task, and permits you to continue on if you please.

-Investing and Budgeting

Learning to budget your money or keep track of your accounts will give you a great picture of your spending habits and your future that you may not have already thought about. There are free courses, books, and videos on the topic and are usually pretty accessible. Finding a budgeting system that works for you is part of the whole learning process. There are apps as well that track money, goals and teach you about spending all at the same time. But maybe you want to learn a bit more than just basic budgeting. For some, delving into the world of investing could not only help them in their life but also in their future. Finding courses on investing may be the best next step if you’re looking to go beyond budgeting. There are also apps and courses that are available online for you to take part in, all about investing for beginners.

-Foreign Language

This is another skill that looks great on a resume, adding a huge boost to your hireability depending on the language. And again, there are so many resources out there for you to use! Off and on since high school, I’ve tried learning German. I still remember a few words here and there, but I’ve always wanted to make it a true skill of mine. Finding music and tv shows to watch has been so much easier than it was when I was sixteen. Finding books, courses or apps online and jumping into a new language is great during this time. Immerse yourself if you can and put yourself through a language bootcamp. Or if you are living with someone, make it a group activity. Either way, take this time to start developing this new skill that you can easily take into the future.

-Crafty Skills

This is more a set of skills. Learning what I would call “crafty skills”, can be useful through out your life, much like cooking and baking. Repairing a rip in your favorite pair of pants, making some cheap durable dishcloths, canning your own salsa, theses are just a few of the things you could learn right now. How to install a light fixture, make candles or sew up a last-minute outfit are skills our parents and grandparents learned and now is a great time for you to learn as well. Search the internet for tutorials (again, lots out there), or call up those that have done these things for years and get your own personal lesson from family and friends.

I hope this list was helpful and got you thinking about developing some practical skills during this time. It’s also a great reminder of all the resources we have available at our fingertips. Utilize them to the best of your ability right now and learn as much as you can!

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Four Big Tips for Students During Quarantine

Many students were recently thrust into online classes due to the pandemic. And as someone who lives with a professor, I can you tell it’s not only disorienting for students, but also for your professors. Everyone’s trying to get their balance during these uncertain times. For some, at the time of this post, your semester is almost over. But for some, summer semester is right around the corner, which for many, will also be online. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered that will be huge for helping you stay centered and focused on your studies during this time.

-Schedule Your time

This is really important. Many of us don’t realize how much our daily routine rules our lives. For myself, without a routine, time slips away from me and I can spend hours on things that I shouldn’t be focused on. Without the regular schedule of getting up and going to work or class, we start to lose that internal clock and external pressure to get things done. Think of setting a schedule as setting meetings or dates with yourself. Obviously, some of you will have live video classes still, but some will have recorded lectures. Make a scheduled time to listen to these, like you would if you were attending an in-person class. Keeping a regular schedule will help you keep on top of all the things you have to do, especially when there isn’t the external pressure pushing you forward anymore. Remember to not be too hard on yourself, but try and keep yourself accountable for your classes and duties.

-Stay In Contact with Your Professors

This is more helpful now than ever. There are fewer opportunities to see your professor and ask questions. Sometimes online classes don’t offer the opportunity to get an immediate answer to your question. Email or schedule a time to video chat with your professor. This can help keep you oriented to the material, even if you can’t see the professor or visit them during regular class/office hours. Often times, the style of a video lecture or recorded lecture doesn’t provide the same context and information as an in-person lecture would, so it’s only going to help for you to shoot off an email to your professor asking any questions you may have. It also shows your interest in the course and materials. Showing interest is especially important for courses that are within your area of study. Taking this time to build a rapport with your professor could lead to a teaching assistant position, research position or letter of recommendation in the future.

-Seek Out Additional Info

Like I said in the previous tip, sometimes online lectures have less context than an in-person lecture. To make up for possible knowledge gaps during this transition process, seek out additional information. Ask your professor for more materials on the current topic, look for literature on the topic, or just do some general googling. Exploring on your own will enhance the material for you, making it easier for you to not only understand but remember. You could also stumble across information or a new topic area that you fall in love with and decide to pursue. There’re all sorts of media out there for whatever topic you are studying right now. Some are more esoteric than others, but with a bit of searching, you’ll be on your way to a better understanding of your study areas.

– To-Do List

Keep a big master list of all the things you need to do. Get your syllabi out or print out your new schedules from your professors and make some lists organized by class or date. Or put them on a calendar where you will see it every day. Put it in your google calendar with alerts. It’s most important now to keep on top of your course work and tests since professors aren’t reminding you in person every other day. By keeping a sorted list that you can visually see and cross off items as they are completed, you’ll be able to keep on top of everything you need to get done. Get creative and organize it by color if that helps you better visualize. Or post it next to your bed so you see it every morning and night. The main thing to remember about this tip, is being able to visualize or visually see what needs to be done and what has been done, as well as their due dates.

I hope you found these tips helpful and inspire you to think of more ways to stay on top of your studies. You can also transfer these tips to any online gigs you might have at the moment as well. Let me know below if you have any other tips or tricks that have been helping you stay productive and sane during this time.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Staying Productive During Quarantine

I don’t know about you but I’ve been having a bit of a rough time staying productive. I know I should allow myself time to relax and do things that keep my calm, but I also know that part of some of my anxiety are all the things that are piling up that I want to get done. Maybe you are feeling similar too. So below are some of the things I plan on doing while on quarantine in order to stay productive and stay on track with my goals. Feel free to check them out and hopefully they can help you a bit too.

-Pomodoro Technique

During the pandemic, I’ve noticed it’s so easy for me to become distracted. I am currently without regular work and have been trying to find gig work. But during these last few weeks, I’ve noticed that I easily become distracted by everything. Looking for a new show on Netflix to watch, checking if anyone’s uploaded an interesting video, looking at what’s on my social media. There’s an endless supply of things to take in and it makes it hard to focus on one task at a time. I’ve decided to go back to basics and do my pomodoro technique. You can use the regular pomodoro but I really enjoy and work better if I modify it to allow longer breaks, or longer work times. This way, I know that a break is coming but for the time being I’m going to work and focus on the task at hand.

-Reduction of Consumption

Related to my reintroduction of serious “pomodoroing” into my life, is to reduce the amount that I consume. I’m not talking food, although I’ve been watching that consumption as well. What I plan on reducing is the amount of media I consume. Right now, we’re all being overloaded with movies, tv shows, podcasts, audiobooks, and videos. I’ve always been someone who needs a bit of noise in the background, mostly for tasks like cleaning or cooking. But I’ve found myself drawn to listening to videos that I’ve either seen a million times already or don’t really have a real interest in watching. These videos make it really difficult for me to concentrate. I’m also finding myself just sitting and letting TV shows and Youtube videos just play one right after another. In order to combat this, I plan on listening to different soundscapes and ambient noise while I work. I will allow myself to continue listening while cleaning the floor and cooking a meal but while I write, study, or work, I plan on providing something soothing and calming in the background. This will help free up more of my mind to the task I want to complete.

-Learning to meditate

My significant other and I have taken to learning to meditate while in quarantine. I’ve meditated in various ways in my past while he has never meditated before. It’s a great time to start if you want to learn how to train you brain. I plan on using it not only for the mental health aspects of relaxing, reduction of anxiety and stress, but also to learn how to focus for longer periods of time. You can take this back to the use of the pomodoro method with me. I have a hard time concentrating on something for long periods of time if it’s not wholly engulfing to me. If it’s something like learning a new fun hobby or playing a fun new game, I can go on for hours. Transferring that skill to other more important aspects of my life, like getting work done, has been more difficult. Currently I am using an app to help guide me back into meditation, but I hope to get back into unguided movement meditation which are my favorite.

-Having a dedicated workspace(s)

You could call me a working nomad. Whenever I have had the opportunity to work and study from home, I’ve had a hard time staying in one spot. I usually like to drift from one place to another. I just enjoy mixing it up every now and then, even if it’s in my own house. This means I’ve never really had a dedicated work place in my home, ever. I’ve always kept my stuff packed up and just moved it along with me from room to room or spot to spot. Right now, I’m taking advantage of having the extra room to set up a work spot. My significant other surprised me while I was out a couple months ago and set up a cute little office space. I plan on utilizing this so that I start to associate a productive working mindset whenever I enter it. That way, it becomes more likely that I will work on things I need to get done, and not just hang out or drift from the room to another spot.

-Movement breaks

I’ve been working out while on quarantine, but I’ve noticed that even that does not seem like it is enough. When I was working outside the home, I was occasionally getting up and going to a meeting, walking from one place to another in order to talk with colleagues or drop off paperwork, and then the movement of going to and from work. Even with exercise, I feel myself getting stagnant throughout the day. I’ve been trying to take movement breaks and plan to do more structuring to those breaks in the coming days. Things like going for a walk, doing some yoga in another room, or just getting some cleaning done between tasks have so far been tremendously helpful in keeping my mind fresh and sanity in check.

-First things first

And funny enough, the last thing I plan to do, is try and get the most important, pressing or significant tasks done right away. I’ve let myself get slide out of my usual getting important things done right away in the morning slide to a more relaxed morning. But they keep me on a somewhat unmotivated, sluggish schedule where when I finally get my day started, it’s almost starting to wind down. I plan on jumping straight into important work and tasks as well as trying to exercise right away in the morning. I used to exercise straight away in the morning, but since moving have not had the schedule or the gusto to do so. The plan is hopefully to jump back into some semblance of those habits while the opportunity for change during this time exists.

This was my list of things I plan to do in order to stay productive during quarantine. I hope that you found it helpful. What are things you plan to do or are currently doing that help you stay productive? I would love to know.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Practical Quarantine Self-Care

These are unprecedented times. This is a phrase I’ve not only used multiple times, but have heard everywhere. Many of us have never gone through such an intensely scary and unsure time as this, and we may never again. But right now, so many of us need help trying to navigate stay at home and shelter in place orders. Our hours, days, and weeks have been and will be filled with worry, endless news cycles, and the never ending “What ifs?” and “What nows?”.

Some of us are quarantined with family or roommates, while some of us are alone. During this time, mental health will be one of the most important things, next to our physical health. In a world of aesthetic self-care and influencers showing off their lavish quarantine lifestyles, how do we regular people stay sane? I’ve compiled a list of things that my significant other and I are doing, as well as other practical ideas for taking care of yourself during this time. They’ve been helping us and hopefully they can help you and your loved ones during this time.

-No COVID/Pademic Hour(s)

We came up with this after noticing how focusing on trying to find the most recent news and rehashing what we thought of that news, was making our anxiety skyrocket. I’m not advocating for you the reader to quit the news all together and live in a bubble. Trust me, I tried this and it makes things ten times worse when something big happens. What we’ve done is decide once we start cooking supper we will stop looking at, reading, watching, or listening to any pandemic news and do this until we got to bed. Only if we see something major happens will we bring it up to the other person. For myself, I’ve found that this gives me a breather from the constant worry that is a constant in our lives now. We try and focus on something that will make us happy, even if it’s just sitting around talking.  Find a time that will work for you and your family. Maybe you’d rather spend the mornings quiet and away from COVID news.  Or have a nice quiet lunch with your kids. It’s whenever you want, however you want. Take time to breath.

-Accessible Hobbies

Finding accessible hobbies has been something I’ve focused on. What do I mean by accessible? I’m thinking of things you have lying around, things you meant to try at one time but never got around to, or things you can order online easily without putting anyone at risk. I had an electric piano from when I took piano lessons as a kid lying around, and decided to set that up. Sheet music is easy enough to find online, same with tutorials. I had yarn left over from when I was a teen and college student and I was into knitting and crocheting. I pulled those out and have started that back up again with the supplies I had available. Get creative! Maybe there’s a local plant nursery you can support and order some plants for drop off or pick up depending on your area’s current situation. Have extra notebooks lying around? Try writing poems or short stories. A sketchpad, some pens, and some free tutorials online and you can easily start drawing. Now is a great time to develop a stress relieving hobby to help pass the time.

-Learning a New Skill

Now is also a great time not only for hobbies but for skills. Some of are lucky enough to still be working, while others are sadly without work. While this is a stressful time, mentally and financially for those without work, a positive aspect one can look towards is to develop skills that can assist you after the pandemic. Not only does it show you are resourceful, but also determined. With the many free tutorials and classes that are out there, I encourage you to take a bit of time out of your day to try and learn a new skill. Excel, Access, web development, writing, graphic design, accounting and so much more are available to you online. During a time when so many people are worried and seeking hope for the future, this may be a great place to start.

-Move Any Way You Can

When everyone is cooped up at home, we all quickly become stagnant. And not only is movement good for you physically, it’s great for you state of mind. If possible, take walks outside, start running, do yoga or a bodyweight workout in your backyard. Any way you can move, do it. So many apps and exercise streaming services are offering free extended trials during this time. But obviously be safe and practice social distancing as well as all other recommendations made by health officials. Video call your friends and family and have a workout session together. Find some YouTube videos and try out a new workout. This will not only help you stay healthier during lockdown, but movement can help you clear your mind and improve your mood. Something we all need right now.

-Up Your Pantry Game

So many of us are trying to make due with what we have on hand with our meals. Utilize that pantry like you’ve never utilized it before. Try new spices, new combos or new ways of cooking. There are thousands of recipes out there for literally anything you can think of. Not only is cooking a skill that everyone should have, but it could also be a hobby you learn to love. If you live with people, cook with them, or take turns cooking something interesting for each other. Teach kids the basics of cooking. Giving them some control and autonomy during unsure times can help them feel more secure and less scared. Maybe cook with someone over video call. Try and make the same dish if possible and then take some time to have a virtual meal together.

-Disconnect or (Virtually) Connect

If you’re living with other people right now, be they family, friends or roommates, remember that it is okay for you to disconnect from them, even in the same house. Alone time is so important for those living with others, so remember to take some time by yourself. This is anything from a bath to a “super staycation”. If you can, separate yourselves from others and let them know you want to be on your own physically for X amount of time and to act as if you aren’t there during this time. For introverts like my significant other and me, this is super important. Being able to step away has been huge for our mental health. But for those that are alone right now, too much alone time can be depleting. We all need some variety in our contact with other humans. Try and connect virtually with others. Video chat, text, phone call, letters and emails. Not only will it help alleviate fears you may have for those you are disconnected from, but it will give you a sense of connection to them, even when being far away.

-Freedom To Do Nothing

And lastly, remember to give yourself the okay to do nothing. For some of us, we feel like we need to be productive all the time, and that during this time we should be working and doing more. But now more than ever, you need to be nice to yourself. If you wake up and do not have the energy to do anything other than what’s expected of you, that’s okay. Take some time to veg out, to take a nap. But please remember not to sit in this feeling. Don’t let this feeling linger for too long. If you find this feeling is persistent and difficult to shake, please try and seek professional help with a therapist, counselor or doctor who will talk to you via phone or secure video chat.  Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health right now.

I hope this list was helpful. I hope you will be able to take these ideas and use them to your advantage. I would love to hear what you and your loved ones are doing to take care of yourselves right now.

Stay safe and stay healthy.