Isolated but Outside

We actually have sun today after weeks of rain, so this morning I sat on the patio to drink my second cup of tea and then took a walk.

My patio lizards are back, and it was nice to see them. I’m not yet to the point I’m naming them and sewing little outfits for them, but I enjoyed the company.

Plants are growing in the pots I left outside over the winter. Some look like they’re from the mix of seeds I planted last summer that are finally sprouting, some may be from seeds that fell from last year’s plants, and some are probably weeds. I’m leaving them as long as they’re pretty because going out to get seeds, potting soil, plants, etc. is a low priority right now. It will be an exciting surprise to see what happens.

Last week on the day I designated as a “wallow” day, with no expectations, I ended up being more productive than I was the rest of the week. So I’m easing up on myself. It’s hard to think and concentrate, so I’m doing the work I can do and not worrying about it. I’m also trying to take advantage of all the fun online classes and events going on right now. It’s a way to learn and have connection.

Today, since it’s nice, I plan to spend as much time as possible on the patio. I may be reading. I may be brainstorming. I may be researching. I might even be writing.

Life

Homebound

My county is now in “shelter in place” mode, so we’re only supposed to leave our homes for outdoor exercise (maintaining a six-foot distance from others), to buy food and other household supplies, and for medical treatment/medicines. All “non-essential” businesses are closed, and all elective medical procedures are cancelled. The main impact for me right now will be that the library is closed. They were allowing you to request books and pick them up at the drive-by window, but even that’s closed now. I have plenty of reading material, so I’ll be okay, but I’m limited to what I have on hand or can get online rather than being able to get what I want. I may actually burn through some of the to-be-read bookcase.

I was already doing this. I’ll have to venture out next week because I have a prescription that needs to be refilled, and by then I’ll need to restock on some food items. For now, I’ve got everything I need except for garlic. That was on my list last week, and the store was totally out of it. I’m down to two cloves, so I’m planning meals around that. I’m good for this week, so I hope they have some by the next time I leave the house.

I’m trying to limit my online time. That’s my main connection with the outside world right now, but at the same time, it’s easy to get sucked into zombie-like clicking around rather than actually doing stuff. I’ve set specific times to be online, and the rest of the time, I’m trying to do other things that are more productive and enjoyable.

I’m fortunate in that this doesn’t disrupt my life that much. My job was already working from home. I don’t know if people will be buying books right now. My sales seem to be more or less what they typically are, which isn’t great, but it’s still money coming in. I don’t know whether or not releasing new books later this year will help, but I’m lucky that I wasn’t trying to launch a book right now. I didn’t have to cancel any book events. I have money in savings that I can live on if things get really bad, or that can help pay for medical treatment if I get sick. I know that so many other people may lose everything. Small businesses are in big trouble. I wish there was more I could do to help. I eat out maybe once a month and never do takeout, but I may get some takeout from some of my favorite local restaurants, just to help them. I’ve seen the call for making masks, but I don’t have a good fabric stash, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone’s life at stake with my sewing skills. I may try making a mask for myself, just to see how it works and then so I’ll have one if it comes to that. I toyed with the idea of fostering a shelter pet so I wouldn’t be so alone, but I’m not sure how my allergies would cope with having an animal in the house. I know I come down with bronchitis when I spend a night in a house with a cat, and I don’t know how I’d deal with a dog. This is probably not a good time to stress my immune system or risk inflaming my asthma. I’m not an eligible blood donor (lived in the wrong part of Europe for too long at the wrong time, so I’m considered at risk for transmitting mad cow disease). So the best thing I can do to help is to stay home and entertain people. I’m looking at some ideas.

Everyone stay safe and healthy out there!

Day of Wallowing

I’ve been struggling with concentration all week, so maybe trying to edit wasn’t the best idea. Because of that, I’ve decided to lean into it today. It’s cold and rainy, so today is an official Day of Wallowing. I let myself sleep late (didn’t set an alarm, but I got up at about the same time I usually do), made waffles for breakfast, and have enjoyed a leisurely morning. The rest of the day will be devoted to work-related play. I’m going to watch documentaries and other things that relate to a project I’m brainstorming, do a little reading, and maybe some baking.

I’ve been cooking a lot this week, in part because I’m making sure I use my fresh ingredients before they go bad, in part because cooking is comforting, and in part because it might be a good idea to have some meals prepared and set by in case I do get sick but not enough to be in the hospital. Then I can just nuke things and be set. Or if the urge to cook wears off and I’ll just want to nuke something. So far this week I’ve made jambalaya and a vat of lentil soup, plus today’s waffles (the recipe makes five big waffles, and I can eat one, so the rest are set aside). I may bake a batch of pumpkin muffins this afternoon and put most of them up in the freezer. Tonight’s dinner will be chili, made using some cooked carne asada I found in the freezer.

I’ve also been trying to get back into my music. With no choir practice, I need to keep singing so I don’t lose my voice, and I’ve been playing the flute. I still have the fingerings down, since I have a habit of mentally playing my choir music as I sing. It’s my way of finding notes. If I do the flute fingering, I hear the note in my head. That means I’m rusty on notes that are outside the normal vocal range. I have to stop and figure out what the notes way above the staff are and remember the fingerings. My real problem is my lip. I get sore and tired after a few minutes of playing, and I don’t have a lot of control, since I’ve played only sporadically in the past thirty or so years. I hope with practice it will get better. Yesterday I found the music for my 8th grade chair test, and while I could still play it, I don’t think I’d be getting first chair right now.

Something I forgot to mention in my list of comforting things to watch:

Look for “Slow TV” online or on the Pluto app for Roku or other streaming devices. It’s from Norwegian television, and it’s mostly train rides. They put a camera on a train, and it goes for hours. No editing, no narration. Sometimes they show what’s happening on the train, but mostly it’s either out the front or side windows. You just watch the countryside go past. The “episodes” generally tell you the kind of weather and the season, like “rainy summer day.” When I can’t take anything else, I find this really restful to watch, to just sit and see the world go by. As a bonus, I’m thinking of modeling the kingdom I’m creating on this general landscape, so it kind of counts as work. It’s like watching Google Street View for getting a sense of the location.

Nature documentaries can also be good, if you can be sure you’re not watching something about animals attacking other animals. There was one on Amazon called something like “Beyond the Garden Gate,” in which a wildlife photographer focused on the wildlife around his village over the course of a year. Lots of hedgehogs, foxes, birds, and deer. It was lovely.

And now my sofa is calling me. Time to make a pot of tea and get my book. Next week maybe I’ll manage to get back to “normal.” For now, I’m in my fleece pajamas and fuzzy socks and treating the day like a holiday.

movies

Comfort Viewing

Earlier this week, I gave my list of comfort reads. Today, I’ll share some comfort viewing ideas. If you’re like me, right now concentrating is sometimes difficult, which makes reading harder. Curling up on the sofa and watching something reassuring may be what you need.

As with books, each person is going to have a different definition of comfort viewing or low-stress. I think repeat viewing also changes the equation. There are intense things that work as comfort viewing if you know the outcome and aren’t on the edge of your seat. For me, that includes things like the Star Wars movies. They’re actually pretty intense if you’ve never seen them before, but when you can recite the lines along with the characters, they can work as comfort viewing.

At the top of my list would probably be the movie version of Stardust. I love that movie so much. It’s funny and romantic, with a good dose of swashbuckling adventure.

The Princess Bride is also perfect for times like these. It even has the framing story of the grandfather telling the story and reassuring us when things get tense. If you’re holed up with other people, have a quote-along.

Movie musicals are great (and now I wish I had more on DVD). The Sound of Music has lovely scenery and good music everyone can sing along with (though I also rather like the recent British live TV version that was on PBS). Into the Woods is fun (I may actually prefer the stage version, which is available on DVD and to rent from Amazon, but the movie works, too). My Fair Lady is another favorite.

In a similar vein are all the Disney musicals and “princess” movies, either live-action or animated. Some of Pixar, but they tend to make me cry and I don’t need that right now.

I recommended the book Cold Comfort Farm, and the movie may actually be even better. The cast is utterly amazing. But be prepared to go around saying things like, “I saw something nasty in the woodshed” and “There’ll be no butter in hell” for days.

Less funny but still somewhat reassuring is I Capture the Castle, a lovely coming-of-age story set in the 30s. I think it got an R-rating in the US because there’s some non-sexual full nudity (a scene that’s in the book but that might have been a bad idea to include in the movie because it moved it out of the “family” category for ratings), but the rest of it is pretty safe. Another one with an amazing cast, including some young actors who are now much better-known. It was an early role for Romola Garai, and there’s a very young Henry Cavill. On the other extreme, the romantic hero is a very grown-up Henry Thomas (the little boy from ET).

And while we’re in the 30s, there’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. It can get a little heavy at times (since it’s set right before WWII) but is mostly funny and ultimately hopeful. It feels like the kind of screwball comedy they made in the 30s (it’s based on a book from that era and the movie is much better than the book). Another one with a brilliant cast. Just writing about it makes me want to watch it again.

For TV shows, in case you want to really binge, Pushing Daisies (which I believe is on Amazon Prime) is a sweet two-season show with musical numbers and a candy-colored reality.

I just discovered that Jim Henson’s The Storyteller is on Prime Video. This was a short-run series from the 80s in which the Henson creature shop is used to dramatize fairy tales, as told by a storyteller (played by John Hurt) and his dog (a Muppet). They seem to have done some remastering, as this is a widescreen version, which is unusual for things from that era. You’ll see a number of now-familiar faces in the cast. If you like fairy tales, you need to see this.

Of course, the One True Pride and Prejudice (the miniseries from the mid-90s) is a good option, as are most of the other Jane Austen adaptations. I’d probably avoid the most recent Mansfield Park. Look for the one with Jonny Lee Miller instead (that one’s on hoopla, if your library system offers it).

I keep rewatching the Once Upon a Time spinoff set in Wonderland, which is available for free streaming on the ABC web site and Roku app. It’s a short run, just 13 episodes (I believe, maybe 12?) that tells a complete story, and I find that the writing and pacing are much tighter than in the main show, which went totally off the rails.

Parks and Recreation is on Amazon Prime, and it’s a sweet comedy. The first season is a bit rocky, as they hadn’t yet found their groove, but it really takes off in season 2.

I don’t know where it’s currently streaming, but Galavant is sort of like if The Princess Bride was a musical and on in half-hour installments. The music is by the composer who’s done so many of the recent Disney movies.

That should keep you occupied for a few hours. Any other suggestions?

Life

Hunkering Down

I ventured out yesterday to get milk and a few groceries, and now I’m ready to hunker down for a couple of weeks. I think I’ve easily got enough meals I could make with what I have on hand to make it that far. I’m cooking some things I can freeze to have handy later in case I do get sick, whether it’s coronavirus, the flu, or just bad allergies and a case of the don’t wannas.

Theoretically, I should have a little extra free time, since all my activities have been canceled indefinitely, but things are really starting to happen online, so there’s actually more stuff to do, and more distractions. There’s a virtual convention happening on Facebook. Last night I went to a virtual Irish pub St. Patrick’s Day party with a live online concert by a Celtic band (the new endeavor involving a musician I used to follow at the local Renaissance festival). This afternoon, famous choreographer Debbie Allen is teaching a live online dance class. There are virtual museum tours, concerts, and classes.

This is a good time to explore new things and do those things you’ve always wanted to do — unless you’ve always worked at home and your life shouldn’t be all that different. Still, I find that it’s difficult to concentrate, and even though I’ve always been rather solitary, I’m craving connection. It shouldn’t make a difference whether I’m streaming a recording or a live event, but there’s something about knowing that I’m doing something with other people that helps. I like looking at the comments (for once, a comments section that doesn’t get toxic!).

I started re-reading my first mystery, making sure everything I’ve set up is consistent with the second book and hoping I get some title ideas. I’m really liking it so far.

I may also play with doing something just for fun that I can get out quickly and amuse people. I might even try doing some videos of readings.

Otherwise, I’m trying to do more things that I’ve been saying I wanted to do. I’ve been playing the flute, and I’m trying to keep up with singing since I don’t have choir practice. I’m creating a sense of “event” around some of my daily activities. When weather permits, I’m taking walks. Getting outdoors really does help.

Books

Comfort Reads

I posted some of this on Twitter over the weekend and thought I’d expand on it here. I’m a wimp under the best of circumstances. You could call me Wimp Empress of the Universe. I know that conflict is the heart of story, but I have a strong aversion to conflict. I have an overreactive sympathetic nervous system and have to take beta blockers to keep my heart rate and blood pressure at somewhat normal levels, and I’m rather empathetic, so I overidentify with other people’s emotions, even when they’re fictional.

Now, more than ever, we need some lower-stress entertainment. Some people may enjoy the catharsis of intense drama. But I think I’m not alone in wanting something comforting.

I’m sure everyone has their own stress triggers, but here’s what I consider a low-stress read:

  • Nothing really bad happens to main characters
  • Personal, rather than global, stakes
  • No emphasis on darkness or evil

I don’t think this has to be boring. Here’s a brief list of recommendations:

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis may be my all-time favorite book, and is a great comfort read. It’s a charming idyll in Victorian times. The goal is to find an ugly urn (and not break the space-time continuum). No villains or evil, but so much fun. The related books, The Doomsday Book and Blackout/All Clear, are a lot more intense, but if you want a sometimes funny and ultimately hopeful book about pandemics, read The Doomsday Book, but it will hit pretty close to home right now so may not be the best thing to read (it’s a time travel book in which a character lands in the middle of the Black Death, and meanwhile a virulent flu is sweeping through the area in the “present,” so no one’s up to getting her out of where she is).

Terry Pratchett is a go-to for comfort reads. Funny, insightful, and even if things come to the worst, Death is a decent guy, so it’s not too dire. Maybe not the Guards books because bad stuff tends to happen to Sam Vimes. I’d probably lean toward the Witches books now, with Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad. You feel like Granny Weatherwax has things totally under control, and that’s reassuring.

I’ve been rereading the 500 Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey. In these romantic fairytale fantasies, stories are magic, and knowing them gives you an advantage. Start with The Fairy Godmother, but after that they don’t require any particular order. They may be hard to find in print but seem to be available in e-books.

Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is a lovely fairytale fantasy of the sort that makes you sigh when you close the book after reading it. It’s much lighter than most of his other work.

Romances, especially romantic comedy, can be good at times like this, but one of my stress triggers is humiliation or embarrassment, and since a lot of the comedy comes from embarrassing things happening to the main character, sometimes those are too much for me. When I was a kid, I didn’t hide behind the sofa for scary monsters. It was sitcoms that sent me fleeing or hiding from secondhand embarrassment when the characters had humiliating things happen to them.

Jane Austen is a good bet. The writing style gives a bit of emotional distance, so it doesn’t trigger the intense empathy that makes the books painful to read. There’s humor and happy endings. Some of Georgette Heyer’s books work, but she tends to have plots involving gambling (another one of my odd stress triggers — I’m too cheap to gamble, and reading about people throwing money away bothers me), and she can get pretty racist.

One book that I think might work is Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. It’s a spoof of the “rustic romance” that was apparently popular in the early part of the 20th century. A sophisticated young woman goes to live with distant relatives on their farm, and she sets about tidying things up. There are helpful stars marking the most beautifully written passages. (The movie is also brilliant, but I’ll deal with movies later this week.)

Cozy mysteries might work, depending on how much peril the sleuth gets into and how much you worry about the victims. I like the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. I don’t recall being too terribly tense while reading them. Agatha Christie is also usually a good bet.

I think my books are generally good low-stress reads, though I’m sometimes pretty mean to poor Owen and Lord Henry. Still, it’s mostly light and fun. For contemporary fantasy, try Enchanted, Inc. For steampunk, Rebel Mechanics.

There were some responses by others on the Twitter thread. I don’t want to endorse something I haven’t read, but you can see the thread starting here.

The New Normal

Life has been pretty much put on hold around here. It feels kind of like a snow day, even though it doesn’t change things all that much for me. I was thinking about how much more I can get done, then realized that I’m gaining maybe about five hours a week.

This was going to be a busy weekend, with a get-together Saturday afternoon, a party Saturday night, the usual church service Sunday morning, and a choir rehearsal Sunday afternoon. The get-together was canceled. I bowed out of the party (the weather was nasty, plus I figured it everything else was being canceled, going to a party would be silly). The church went to an online-only service for Sunday morning, and choir rehearsal was canceled. This week, I don’t have the usual Wednesday-night stuff. Otherwise, it’s my ordinary work week. I need to get my act together and not treat it like a holiday, even though that’s the temptation.

I’m fortunate in that I already didn’t have any author events planned. I don’t have a book being launched. I’m just hunkering down and writing new books, though I’m finding that the mysteries are less appealing to work on right now. I want to play in a fantasy world.

Are you finding your reading interests changing right now? I’m trying to read the books on the Nebula ballot so I can vote, but a lot of them are darker or more intense than I’m up for at the moment—even the middle-grade books. I want fun, fluffy fantasy stuff right now. Science fiction, even space opera, isn’t doing it for me.

I will need to go out tomorrow because I need milk. I’m hoping the stores might have calmed down a bit by then. I’ve got plenty of food, and I even have some evaporated milk I could use with my tea, if I get desperate. In fact, I’ve probably overcooked already. I could get through the rest of the week just with the food I already have cooked. I made a batch of jambalaya yesterday, so that’s enough leftovers for a week. I may have to freeze some. I also have the sauce for cheese enchiladas. There may be soup later in the week. It’s going to be rainy all week, so I’ll probably be cooking even more.

Hang in there, everyone. We’ll get through this.

Rainy Weekend at Home

Most of my weekend plans have either been canceled, or I’m canceling them, which means I now have a rainy weekend at home. I have a lot of reading to do, so that will be my plan for the weekend.

Tonight’s movie night is going to be the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, mostly because I just read a book on the economic system of pirates back during the prime age of Caribbean piracy, so I’m in the mood. It was fascinating seeing how they operated as a constitutional democracy long before the Declaration of Independence, and they had profit sharing, healthcare, and disability pay long before that became a thing — not because they were wonderful people, but because that was what was most profitable. They were also really good at marketing, so they probably weren’t nearly as bloodthirsty as the stories make them sound. They made a point of spreading that reputation so that the crews of ships they captured would be quick to surrender and they didn’t have to risk their lives or their profits in a battle (since battle damage and payment for injuries suffered in battle were taken out of the prize before the profits were divided among the crew).

Anyway, that made me think about pirates, so that’s tonight’s movie. I scored some pizza crusts on the bakery overstock rack at the grocery store yesterday, which means pizza tonight without having to make a crust. The urge to “quarantine bake” is pretty strong, especially on a rainy day, and I’ve found a brownie recipe I want to try.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to read as much as possible from the Nebula Awards ballot so I can vote by the end of the month. I still have several books to read and a bunch of short stories, novellas, and novelettes.

And I’m trying to come up with titles for the books in the mystery series I’m working on, which means coming up with the pattern for titles, since those kinds of books tend to have some kind of pattern that ties the series together. I’m drawing a complete blank so far.

Pandemic Precautions

I ran my weekly errands this morning, and it does look like the panic shopping is a real thing. The shelves of things like toilet paper and dried beans were empty. Fortunately, I stocked up on toilet paper a couple of weeks ago, mostly because Target was having a sale and was giving a $15 gift card if you bought $50 worth of household items. But that means I’m set for a few months. I haven’t stocked up on dried beans, though I do have a couple of bags of lentils. I wonder how many of those panic-bought beans will ever be cooked.

I think I could survive two to three weeks without leaving the house, if I had to. I’ve figured out meals I could make with what’s in my pantry and freezer. It might be lighter on veggies than I usually go, since I eat a lot of fresh produce, and I might have to cut back on dairy. I have some shelf-stable and evaporated milk, but that’s mostly good for cooking or putting in tea.

I’m not too worried yet, though there has been a Covid-19 case in my city. If it ramps up, I may avoid people more than I usually do, mostly to reduce the risk of being a vector. I used to work with the epidemiology department when I worked at the medical school, and one thing I learned then was that something like this can spread exponentially. One person can spread it to multiple people, who can each spread it to multiple people. The cluster they have in New York now came from one guy. Each person you remove from that chain can drastically reduce the number of infections. Even if you’re not at high risk, you may spread to others who are. If you’re not infected, you can’t spread it.

It’s probably good that they’re canceling big public events. One of the things that allowed the 1918 flu to spread was a parade that wasn’t canceled. Anything that slows it down helps, and bringing hundreds of people together really amplifies all the vectors.

The big thing is washing hands with soap. That’s more effective with this kind of virus than alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before handling food, which I hope everyone is doing already. A new habit to make is washing your hands when you come home from being in the outside world, before you do anything else. I’ve also started intermediate cleaning measures, keeping a packet of wipes in my car (hidden in the console container so my car doesn’t get broken into), and when I come out of a store, I wipe off my hands and the surfaces on the car I touch, like the steering wheel, parking brake, gear shift, and door handle. Then I do a more thorough washing when I get home. Avoid touching your face, if at all possible (which is tough when you wear glasses that tend to slide down your nose and when you have wispy hair that likes to get tangled in your eyelashes). Fortunately, I’m set for soap for ages, thanks to gifts and hotel soaps. Dish soap is also quite effective because it’s designed to break down grease, and this virus has a lipid layer, so the best way to kill it is to basically de-grease it. Panic buying soap, to the point you have a year’s supply and you’re hoarding it, is silly. You need everyone around you to be able to wash their hands in order to protect you, and if you’ve got all the soap, you make it harder for them to do that. A couple of weeks ago, I was in line at Target behind a guy who had literally an entire shopping cart full of hand sanitizer. I hope he was buying for something like a school or office building. If he was just hoarding it or planning to profiteer, then he’s part of the problem.

Because of allergy season, I’ve already been using a saline nasal rinse when I come in from outdoors to get rid of pollen. I don’t know if that’s at all effective for getting rid of a virus, but I do know that keeping those tissues moist can help protect you, in general. That’s what they’re there for, to catch things before they get into the lungs.

Take care of yourself to maintain your health, in general. That means sleep, exercise, nutrition, and hydration.

We really are all of us in this together. This kind of thing can bring out the best and the worst in humanity. I really hope we see the best.

writing life

Working from Home

It looks like a lot of people are going to be working from home in the near future as we attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. I’ve been working from home for twenty years, first as a telecommuter and then as a freelancer, so here are some tips that may help you cope.

First, although it seems like one of the benefits of working from home is being able to work in pajamas, it really does help to get dressed in the morning before you start work. When you stay in the clothes you slept in, you don’t feel like the day has started. It’s like a really lazy weekend morning or a sick day. But here’s the fun thing: you can have “work” pajamas. The clothes you change into don’t have to be the kind of clothes you might wear to work. They just need to be different from the clothes you slept in. Of course, if you have a videoconference, you’ll want to put on a decent shirt and do something with your hair, but otherwise, wear something comfortable.

If you’re at all self-disciplined, you’ll probably get a lot more done when you’re working from home than you do in an office. When I started telecommuting, I found that I could get a full day’s work done in half a day. It’s amazing how much time is wasted in an office with other people around. This may not apply if you’ve got a micromanager boss who insists on daily conference calls or videoconferences while everyone’s working from home, but you may be able to multitask during a pointless conference call in a way that you can’t in a face-to-face meeting. Because of this increased productivity, don’t feel guilty about adjusting your working hours accordingly, especially if you have to keep time sheets. Log the time a task would have taken you in the office or else you’ll end up actually doing more work.

It’s also possible that you’ll go nuts with the freedom and do less work, especially if you’ve been really stressed or if you hate your job. No one will know if you’re playing online, watching a movie, or sleeping late. It’s easy to put off work, figuring you’ll just work later in the evening.

Whether you find yourself working more or less, sticking to a schedule really does help. Set an alarm and get to work at a regular time. Take a lunch break. End your day at a regular time. Try not to let work bleed into the rest of your life. Yeah, easier said than done, but it’s easier to hold the line with other people than it is with yourself. I used to have two different phone greetings I used, depending on whether I was at “work” or off-duty. If someone called me after hours, they got my casual “off-duty” greeting, which was a signal that they’d called me at “home” rather than at “work.” Now that I have caller-ID, it would be easier to distinguish between work calls and personal calls, but I think I’d still give a “home” greeting after hours. This also works in the opposite way for dealing with friends or family who call you when you’re at work but think you’re free to chat because you work at home.

Also, it’s a good idea to learn to always sound alert and with-it when you answer the phone for work, no matter what you happen to be doing. I got to the point that I could answer the phone in the middle of the night when awakened from a deep sleep and sound like I was at my desk. This was an issue because my main client was in Sweden, and when they were being weasels and doing something like canceling a launch we’d been working on, they’d try to be sneaky and call in the morning at their time, which was in the middle of the night our time, so they’d get voice mail. I think I scared them to death when I answered the phone. They quit the overnight phone calls. This skill is handy when you’re having a slow day and really need a nap, too.

Make a point of scheduling breaks. You don’t realize how often you get up and move around when you’re at the office. Working at home, because of that increased focus that allows more productivity, it’s easy to get in a zone and not get up to move. Try to give yourself at least a few minutes every half hour or so, even if it’s just to refill your water glass or coffee cup. Walk around a little and stretch a bit.

If you’re an introvert, you may find that you suddenly have a lot more energy. You’re not spending your social energy on the people at work, so you may find yourself wanting to socialize more than you usually do. Though that may be a problem if you’re supposed to be self-quarantining.

The really tough part will come when you have to go back to working in an office. Extroverts may be glad to go back. Introverts may be spoiled. We’ll have to see if employers learn from this experience to see that working from home makes some employees a lot more productive and if that leads to policy changes. I’m sure there are people who will be less productive because they need external accountability and supervision, but work situations shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all prospect. It seems silly to reduce the productivity of some workers because of the needs of a few other workers, but then that’s why I’ve worked for myself for so long.