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OTF (Un) Official Survival Guide: Productivity and Fun

The OTF staff takes on work and play in the age of covid.

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The staff at OTF understands we are all living through a unique and often trying period. Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and the new stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic cause major disruptions to the normal routines of life. Each of us at OTF has found unique ways to cope with the “new normal”, and we have compiled our experiences to create a completely Unofficial Survival Guide.

“Work consists of whatever a body is obligated to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” —Mark Twain

This viral season has affected nearly every aspect of people’s lives, including how folks work and how they play. Employees are learning how to work from home, businesses are changing the way they operate, students are virtual schooling, and schedules have been turned upside down. These aren’t little adjustments. Here are some things the OTF gang has learned so far about work and play.

Taking Care of Business

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” —Mark Twain

Portable Technology Photo Illustrations Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ann K.:

I’ve seen several social media posts insinuating that we all should be extra-productive right now since so many of the typical life distractions have been removed from our schedules. I’m here to say, go easy on yourself. This isn’t just a period of less activity, it is also a time with far more stress for most of the population. To balance grace under stress and productivity with opportunity, I have adopted the very short daily To Do list using these basic guidelines:

It is never longer than four or five items (outside of the “regular” daily things like feeding all. these. hungry. people. all. day. long.),

I make sure a few are easy and can be completed in fifteen minutes or less.

I always include one item on the “To Do” list that is fun. (For instance, on today’s list I have “finish puzzle”, yesterday I had “read for 30 minutes”.) It is difficult to find time for fun when life feels chaotic, so making a little fun has become a daily assignment.

Kate R.:

I’m disappointed but not surprised that there are people out there claiming that we all need to be being more productive. It’s not a vacation! Plenty of us are worried about our jobs, our homes and food supply, and our loved ones. It’s hard to be productive in a time of enormous stress, and if you’re struggling please understand that it’s not your fault.

That said, if you are looking to get some things done, a few things I’ve found:

  • I don’t like the “wear shoes when you’re working from home” advice because 1) I don’t like shoes and 2) I do like to sit with my legs crossed in my desk chair, and I don’t want my shoes on my desk chair. That said, do change out of your pajamas. Maybe change into different pajamas, but do something to signal your brain that you’re in Doing Things Mode now.
  • Like Ann, I’ve found to-do lists to be helpful, and managing my expectations to be a good key to getting things done without feeling overwhelmed by the length of the list. If you do have a bigger thing to do, try breaking it down into several bullet points on the list so you can cross more things off and see yourself making progress.
  • Remember to eat! I have often found my energy flagging around 2PM only to realize I haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Shaun:

Productivity-wise, I don’t know if I’m the best advice-giver. I’ve been told, at times, that I’m a bit lazy around the house. I’ll get up when the kids make me. We have made a list of things to get done around the house. Each person chose five things. Most of them are finished and it’s pretty nice. Some items were pretty small, but a few were fairly large.

The biggest thing for us is a lot like what Kate said: remember to eat. We get really hangry because we aren’t governed by a schedule. Oddly, it takes more than one of us getting snippy before we realize what’s wrong.

Sarah:

I really enjoy cooking and before the quarantine happened, I found myself resenting cooking because I’d worked all day and I was tired. I’m going to be honest with everyone: just because I love cooking doesn’t mean I want to do it every night. That’s come to a boiling point once or twice, but it is nice to go into my pantry to see what I can make — and that’s been one of my biggest projects is to use everything we’ve stock piled in the pantry. No waste! We’ve nearly completed that task with surprisingly good results.

I downloaded the NYT Crosswords app because crosswords are said to be good for your brain health. Totally worth it; they’re fun and challenging.

I also enjoy painting and drawing (I’ll occasionally share a finished piece with you on Twitter) and I’ve been brainstorming what I want my next creation to be.

Nick:

For the first couple of weeks, I sort of devolved into a state of lucid existence where time and carbohydrates didn’t matter. But eventually, I had to give myself a rule to preserve somewhat of a normal routine... The hours I normally work (which for me is 9 to 6) is my “productive time.” If there’s nothing on the to-do list for my job, I find some other way to be productive: tidy the house, start a home-improvement package, sit down to put my ClickList together, etc. I have to find some way to actually get my ish together.

Once my normal work hours end, that’s when my “quarantine fun time” begins. That’s when I’ll watch TV, play video games, read, or whatever I’d normally do at home or on the weekends.

I try to stay as close to my usual schedule as possible. On my normal lunch hour, I’ll sit down, grab a bite to eat, and relax for an hour. During times and days I normally have meetings, I’ll message my clients and see how they’re doing. When I normally take mini-breaks, I’ll go outside and take a quick walk. It’s enough to keep me from just becoming a lump on the couch.

Rachel:

Write it down and make lists. It’s good satisfaction checking items off lists.

Ain’t We Got Fun

“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.” —Mary Wilson Little

EL SALVADOR-HEALTH-VIRUS Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images

Ann K.:

We are big fans of games. Here are our top picks:

Rummikub — This is a numbered tile game played by up to four players. Super fun, but requires some thinking.

Drawful by Jackbox — This is online pictionary with a snarky twist and much hilarity ensues.

Dutch Blitz — Do not let the cute Amish folks on the packaging fool you—this is cut throat sport at its most dangerous. I was introduced to this game (similar to Phase 10 but on speed) in college and perhaps a little blood has been shed over the years. It made a brief appearance at my wedding reception where I broke a perfectly manicured nail playing my highly competitive college friends. My children still attempt to challenge my greatness with the green plows (bless their hearts), but they do so with a healthy fear.

Cornhole — To be honest, I had never heard of corn hole until we moved south, and it was not at all the game I was picturing based on its name. Despite that, we are now lovers of corn hole and have a Transformers-themed set we bust out on the warmer days of “shelter in place”.

Laura C.:

In the two years my library was in captivity (moving boxes which didn’t get unpacked in the rental), I fell out of the habit of reading. Now I am making sure that I read daily, even if is only a chapter. RIght now, I am reading (almost finished) “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

In place of our monthly trips to a hockey game (and more frequent trips to playoff games), my husband and I plan to have a game night. It will actually start in the afternoon, so it feels more like vacation time.

Shaun:

After we went on a cannonball run of watching the entirety of Friends before it left Netflix at the new year, we’ve hesitated to get back into another marathon of an old favorite. However, after much discussion, we realized that we each had large gaps in our viewing of “The Office”, so each night we “go to Scranton” and are somewhere in season 4 now. If we continue with this trend, we may visit Pawnee, Indiana when we’re finished. But I’d really like to convince my wife to take a detour to Slough, she’s never been before.

Kate R.:

I keep meaning to catch up on my to-watch list, but I haven’t managed it. I’m doing a lot of reading, at least.

My D&D group has always met online because we’re scattered all over the country, so that part hasn’t changed—if you do tabletop gaming and you’ve generally done it in person, Roll20 is the site we use and I hear rumors others exist. (Yeah, I know, I’m a nerd.)

Sarah:

I love games; card games, board games, you name them, I’ll play them. At my house, we’ve been playing Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Pai Gow Poker, and occasionally Rummy. We also like to play few rounds of Crash Bandicoot: Team Racing, which takes me back to my childhood. We don’t play ‘Chel much anymore because I’m competitive and will drop the gloves when I start losing, but I do always win the fight (insert winking emoji here).

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that we’ve taken this time to catch up on the shows people have recommended for years, but we’ve been ‘too busy’ to watch. Here’s a running list of what we’ve binged:

Tiger King: I hate myself for watching it. It is the dumbest, most entertaining piece of TV. Wow, is all I have to say, but all in good fun.

Schitt’s Creek: I now rotate between talking like Moira, Alexis, and David, so um you’re welcome. The show is amazing.

Stranger Things: I need more.

Ozark: I’m traumatized. It is so good, but I’m traumatized.

Nick:

I’m a nerd when it comes to video games. I’ve been on an Apex Legends kick for the past several weeks. But I also went into our storage closet and broke out my old Nintendos, and let me tell ya friend, those games were LIT. I’ve re-played Paper Mario, the old-school Tony Hawk Pro Skater Series, Super Smash Brothers, and Zelda. Nostalgia for days, yo.

Other than that, we’ve organized a few “virtual game nights” with friends and family (if you haven’t checked out JackBox, you’re missing out), and have gone head-to-head with a few board games.

Oh, and I’ve also fantasy-booked like twenty vacations. Once this is all over... the trigger will be pulled and Nick’s SkyMiles will be put to good use.

Rachel:

I play a lot of Xbox games too. I’ve also got some good use out of my Switch. Aside from reading, I’m making a dent in my “To Watch” list on Netflix/Hulu.