Tips on Successfully Working From Home During COVID-19 and Beyond

On an Instagram Story post recently, I said this post would be the last thing I write about COVID-19. It turns out that I kinda lied. I mean I didn't know at the time but this post you are now reading will in fact be the last lol. Not really. I mean, who knows? I think this will be our reality for a while soooo let's see.

This post is on tips for working from home, which technically is not about COVID-19. However, the only reason I'm writing this is because of COVID-19. It looks like most people are struggling with being cooped up at home. So let's tackle one aspect of that, which is working from home since most organizations have issued a work-from-home (WFH) order. I work from home a LOT. It's probably one of the favorite parts of my life. Let's face it, I like being home a lot. So I'm like an expert on this, which is why it occurred to me to blog about it. Alright here are some tips with my own twists as usual:

1.) Be organized. Start everyday intentionally. What I mean by this is to realistically decide on what you need to achieve for the day. For this you can write a todo list for the day. This matters significantly. The sheer act of ticking things off as you achieve them is a type of high no drug can provide, I promise. But be realistic in constructing it because if you are like me, it becomes a huge blow when nothing gets done. So, do you need to exercise, shower, reply emails? Whatever you need to do, do it. Break tasks down into smaller pieces.  And then go from there. Now that you know what needs to be done. Get. It. Done.

2.)  Depending on you, you might need a dedicated workspace. People alway say make sure you get off your bed. Not for me. Some of my best works were done on my bed in my pajamas bottoms. What can I say? I love comfort. However, this takes insane discipline. Working from home requires discipline. So for you especially in the beginning stages of WFH, sure, get dressed and sit on a desk if you have one or on your dinning  table. You need to take care of your posture anyway. So find a dedicated space you can "resume" at everyday and sit upright whenever possible. The idea of "resuming" work at your space also helps with building routine.

3.) As part of building routine, set work hours. Working at home makes it so hard to set boundaries between work and home, and believe me when I say you need this. Work is just that: work. But working from home has meant I can pull out my laptop anywhere, when I say ANYWHERE, I mean it: I have worked at the airport, grocery store, doctor's office, inside the car, while shopping for clothes, at the corner of a Banana Republic (yes, people, I squatted in a corner), inside the mall, inside Target, if you can squat in a corner or worse sit down, I have worked there. This is not good. So set work hours and keep to them. At some point in the day, it should end.

4.) Choose a productivity technique. This makes it easier to be productive and actually work during your set hours. If you just say you will work for 8 or 12 hours, you probably won't. You may just scroll endlessly on Twitter and Instagram. There are too many distractions nowadays with everything going on. Therefore, you need a time management plan that allows you to break tasks into intervals. So take the pomodoro technique for instance: you work for twenty-five minutes and then take a five minute break. During this five minute break, you can do whatever you like: post on IG, scroll mindlessly on Twitter. But after five minutes, it's back to another installment of 25 minutes. With each 25 minutes you successfully complete without distractions, you can check off. Normally, if you get interrupted, you start all over. After four installments, you can take a longer break (15 - 30 minutes).  Then begin again. There are variations of this, of course. I know the actual Pomodoro technique comes with an app or so. But I'm a grown woman and I don't need all that. I just use timers on my phone and get it done. But you can look online for all the variations.

5.) Alternatively, you can assign each hour of the day to all tasks you have to complete from number 1 above. Such that even food time is allotted. So if you are wasting away at 2:15, you know that you are supposed to be running regressions on STATA not tweeting about your favorite scene from The Office or Grey's Anatomy. Yes, that was a self-read. If you do number 5 instead of a variation of number 4, then schedule breaks too. Please note that number 4 and 5 are not mutually exclusive; you can combine them.

6.) Have water by your side. Always sip water. I would say any liquid but we don't want to form dangerous habits *ahem*.  Two reasons for the advice on drinking water. First,  you are getting hydrated. But also, it ensures you are getting up to use the bathroom. So you are not just stuck in one place and you get some movement at least. It's so easy to get sucked into work.

That's all folks. I hope this was helpful. Remember that no matter how bleak it looks, this is all temporary. The data and scientists tell us that this WILL pass. Let's just all collectively behave, meaning STAY at home, social distancing, and not buying everything on the shelves. Do your best to contribute to FLATTENING the curve.  We can do this.



Friday Reflections

1.) Long time no Friday Reflections

2.) I recently completed a 100-day streak on Duolingo. I'm so proud of myself. But it also reiterates one of my mottos: consistency over perfection.

3.) Have you read this on coping with anxiety during these interesting times?

4.) If you have, have you shared it with your friends and family? If you haven't, why though?

5.) I hate to be those aspire to perspire people that call themselves motivational speaker, but is there one tiny, insignificant thing you can do towards the progress of your career? Something, even if it's just adding some connection on LinkedIn and sending them a message.

6.) Also, rest people. Rest.

7.) Five truths to outlast the COVID-19 outbreak.

8.) If you are bored, check out some books to read. Also check out Grace and Frankie on Netflix.

9.) I recently started watching The Office on Netflix and it's HILARIOUS.

Gaining Perspective: How to Cope With Anxiety During COVID-19

Hiya! How are y'all doing? This is a legit question. How are you doing?

If you want information (scientific and otherwise) about the Coronavirus otherwise known as COVID-19, please visit the CDC website. We are not here to dispense scientific advice. I repeat, this is NOT A PUBLIC HEALTH CAMPAIGN.

But after the past few days (or weeks, depending on what part of the world you are) of dealing with this unprecedented crises, I figured many of us need perspective. Many of us need something and maybe you are not even sure what you need, so I wanted to write something. And I am free-styling here; this is not planned post at all. So stay with me.

With everything going on, people are really fearful and uncertainty is rising. If there is one thing many human beings can't stand: it's uncertainty. If they are going to die, at least let them know how and preferably when. But now, we are all stuck at home (or at least we should be, SOCIAL DISTANCE, people!) with no inkling about when or how this ends and it's driving people crazy. Ergo, anxiety. Anxious about whether they or their families will get afflicted with COVID-19. Anxious that they could die. Anxious that we will never return to normal, at least not in the near future. Anxious about not having the healthcare they need. Anxious about not getting paid. Some of us are very used to anxiety, and for others, this is unfamiliar territory. Because of that, I want to tackle this first. If you are dealing with anxiety or you already have OCD, then read this. It's funny because as someone who is somewhat of a germaphobe, one of my fears used to be that there are germs on everythang. I hated touching the trashcan. I hated touching people. I hated touching handrails of any kind. I washed my hand every minute. I did not like public food. And to think I was a little right terrifies me. Which is why we have to be really careful. COVID-19 WILL go. But its effects will linger.

So what should you do? Well, first things first, focus on the facts. This is certainly a dangerous and alarming problem. Don't trivialize it, but don't make it more than it is. This also means not obsessing over the news. Newspeople, God bless them, have a job. You should definitely stay informed but control what you consume. I am actively staying away from Twitter (just for a brief while, of course) because everyday I logged on recently, I was sure the world was about to end any minute. Yet, I needed to know what was happening, so I read the news from relatively trusted sources. The thing with media like Twitter is it's a bunch of unqualified, uniformed people rattling off about their own worries. Don't do that to yourself. So choose one source for your scientific information. Mine is CDC. Yours should be whatever you are comfortable with. Now, since it is up to you to choose one source of CREDIBLE information, you must FOLLOW the guidelines. No seriously, FOLLOW the guidelines. Those guidelines provide the modicum of control that we have. This is your time to wield whatever power that control brings by following guidelines. Yes, it affects black people too. No, it's not a hoax created by Democrats to win the election.

Next, be okay with uncertainty. Believe me when I say this was hard for me to type. I am a control freak too. I want to know what will happen next year, next month, next week. I am learning, and you should too that there is a mystery to life  that you and I will NEVER comprehend. I understand the financial challenges many people have to go through now. My heart goes out to people who were already sick and maybe scheduled for surgery and now that's all been postponed. Or people whose files have been lost in the cracks. It's a terrible time for many people. I'm so sorry about this and wish there was something I could do to make it better. The rest of you though, whose main life problem is when next you can party need to have several seats. Learn to accept uncertainty.

And lastly for coping with anxiety, have faith. I can only explain this from a Christian point of view, sorry! But our eternal hope is in Christ. We know victory is ours because of Christ. He has not given us the spirit of fear. You have to believe that no evil will come near you. If this all sounds like BS to you, good for you. It is my own faith and it has empowered me to deal. Yes, I am afraid sometimes too, but that fear can coexist with faith and God is fine with it. Even if you are not a person of any faith or religion, still have faith. I can't really explain why you should in your case, but know that faith overpowers fear all the time.

Also learn to inject a little bit of humor into it. I know, I know. People have died and people are terribly ill. But we have to deal somehow, no? We have to continue our normal somehow. Work like you normally would; let work distract you. Eat well. Exercise. Watch T.V. Donate to food banks or help your community somehow. If the one act of kindness you practice is to not buy all the freaking food at the grocery story, that would be awesome. Do not let fear and anxiety get to you before COVID-19 does.

Now, finally on this extremely long post, take a deep breath, folks. There is a balance between taking precautions and inciting fear. The latter is comparing this (terrible as it is) to World War or the Civil Rights movement. I also see a lot of people saying 2020 is so bad, they want to go back to the 1960s. No. Just no. I will give you some perspective if you did not read your history books or talk to your parents/grandparents. COVID-19 is bad. No, it's terrible even. But it is NOT World War.  If this happened in the 50s and 60s, it would completely destroy us. We are so blessed, so fortunate to live in an era with technological advances to help us. Besides COVID-19, I know 2020 has been hard on individual folks, but you guys, as a society we are making much more progress than our ancestors ever did. We are much less savage and much more compassionate than our ancestors. We are better than they were. No matter how bad this year has been and my heart goes to everyone that has suffered tremendous loss this year, but 2020 is not cancelled. People will have babies this year that they will  cherish forever. People will marry the loves of their lives. Some are already achieving milestones they never even imagined. As for me, I don't want to go back to the 1960s where women were treated like garbage. Don't get me started on how bad black people had it in that era. Again, the scientific discovery and technological advances we have now supersedes what they dreamed of.

I don't know when or how. But I know we will be fine

In the meantime, go forth and isolate, distance, quarantine, and CHILL. And Pray.



International Women's Day 2020

I don't know how I committed to always writing a post on International Women's Day: see 2015, 20162017, 2018, 2019. But with the current state of the world, it feels even more important. So here I am on a Sunday evening, tired but happy from my birthday celebrations this weekend (birthday was yesterday) and a very busy last week, but making sure that come hell or high water, I write on this blog today.

A whole lot has been said on social media today and mostly great things. We are not going to talk about the morons that want to make this about them by asking stupid questions like, when is international men's day. UGH. The freaking irony.  Two overarching things to talk about. First, I want to draw from Elizabeth Warren's political campaign. I don't care what your political views are, and I am hoping you are making sure you are on the right side of history. But ideological differences aside, no one can deny how astute, brilliant, and phenomenal Elizabeth Warren is. The woman is humble, she listens, she pays attention to policy, she's extremely brilliant, and most of all she never trivializes the experiences of marginalized populations. She is exactly the kind of person you would want leading you. Yet, this woman just did not get the broad support she needed to get that nomination. I know there are a multitude of factors responsible for this. But we can all agree that her media coverage was piss poor and there was a clear bias against her because of her gender. It is what infuriated me and many others the most; that this clearly qualified person lost the shot largely because of that Y chromosome.

As women, many of us can relate to Warren's trajectory. Sometimes you work incredibly hard, crawl your way up and once you get to the peak there is a man there waiting to take all the credit. Warren worked hard, and whomever wins on the democratic side would probably just tap her and all her ideas. I realized America is even more sexist than homophobic. So why are people going around telling their daughters they can grow up to be anything? They can't. At least not in America.  And this is the first thing I am hoping we think about this International Women's Day. Because we are not truly equal until people stop relegating women, until you stop leaving us behind, and until you recognize our strength, brilliance, and formidable power. Check your prejudice. No matter what, I am proud of Elizabeth Warren and the campaign she ran. I am proud, because, NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED. She showed us how to fight for our plans and dreams no matter the obstacles and hostilities around us. In her words, "the fight goes on".

The second thing is for women specifically. I am here to tell you that you don't have to be "strong". You know, when people describe women as "strong", it is often only after enduring the worst form of abuse and  after doing all the emotional and physical labor. You don't have to be extraordinary too. Somehow, women have to be extraordinary. And I'm not here for it. It's okay to not want to be badass. It's ok to be mediocre. To be content. To not want to be that powerful boss. It is okay to want a slow, simple life in a world that constantly demands you to hustle, strive, build, compete,  have this immense impact on the world, save the world, and always want more. I am here to remind you that bigger is not always better. It is okay to not have the energy and stamina to keep up with this crazy world.   It is okay to be whatever you want. As long as you fulfill God's purpose for your life, which is not always in the grand way people think. As long as you live out loud. As long as you never apologize for who you are. And as long as you never ever silence yourself.

Happy International Women's Day to all the women in my life. They are fierce, brilliant, and resilient. Importantly, they know it is absolutely okay to be ordinary. Let us keep smashing the patriarchy y'all.

The fight definitely goes on.



What Exactly Happens During Fieldwork and/or Field Research Pt. 1

I did not forget about this at all. I don't have a reason for why I'm just writing lol. But expect more posts on fieldwork in coming weeks or months or years ha! Okay so I have since been back from fieldwork and actually writing up the research now. It is NOT fun. Okay, I should not completely say that. Some parts are actually fun, others are tedious. But that's life.

So after having defined fieldwork, field research, and the variants, and even how to prepare for it, the next question is what happens when you are in the field. You may be asking this because you are planning field research and you are worried, anxious and curious about what to do when you get to your destination. You may just want to read about this because you are curious. Everyone is welcome.

Whenever someone sends me an email now saying someone else told them to reach out to me for advice on fieldwork either generally, or in Nigeria, I'm always sooo giddy to help. I love receiving those emails and I always make sure to respond fast! I was once that person shooting out cold emails asking for help from strangers, so I have promised to pay it forward as much as I can. Part of that is writing this post. As I write this, I will try to retrace my own steps. And this is very important because before I left, I was also really looking for information and found none. It's weird because excellence is expected of you but no one really tells you the how. So it matters to me to share something about this. I will say though, that, time has passed, life has happened and I may miss some things. For experts reading this, feel free to jump in the comments to fill in the gaps.

Out and about - in Ibadan

Now, you have successfully defended your proposal, maybe you are even lucky enough to get funding, then set a date. Yes, set a timeline for field research. It is possible that you will get to the field and realize that you need more time, in which case you will extend it. No matter what, be focused enough to set a time to end. So basically, be focused and disciplined, but don't be too rigid.

Next, get ready for where you are headed. This means know the climate and temperature, and pack accordingly. This means, mosquito repellant (if necessary), comfortable clothings, hats, sunscreen, protective gears (if you will literally work in fields or something), toiletries you absolutely need and will not be able to get in Timbuktu. Pack enough to last you for  a while. This all sounds very basic but just keep them in mind. Remember that you should have figured out logistics like housing and transportation BEFORE you even leave your home country.

If you have planned well, you have already have a tentative calendar to work with. So I will skip that. Ultimately, what happens during your fieldwork depends a lot on the discipline you're getting your degree in. But to give some perspective, I will use myself as an example. For me, before I even left the states, I already had some interviews scheduled. So as soon as I arrived, that set the ball rolling. I believe I got into the country on a Thursday or perhaps Friday. Either way, that weekend, I caught up with my friends and on Monday I began work. First, I went to another state entirely to meet with academics and other researchers. This way I could ground my research in theory and also situate it properly within the field by having conversations with people who live it.

It's one thing to do research about people of a country or region (in the Social Sciences), it's another to actually go to the place you are studying and get a real feel for it. So interviews, interviews, interviews; talk to people who live and breathe this, who have been doing this for a while, and who know the people. So yes, interviews. For an extreme introvert, I will confess that this part got really old quickly. I made the mistake of scheduling several interviews in a day and I got burnt out really quickly. I was always so drained after conversations that I could barely think and my productivity suffered a lot, so think through this and pace yourself accordingly. Perhaps you are a social butterfly and this makes you come alive. Perhaps not.

Out and about - Otto in Lagos

Please, be sure to follow every necessary protocol. I haven't mentioned this in any of these posts but I assume you know this: you need IRB approvals before launching ANY research on human subjects. It protects you, but more importantly, you need to protect your research subjects too. Anyway,  apart from interviews and talking with people (politicians, data people, people in the civil society space, academics, local leaders, stakeholders, regular people etc.), I also administered a fairly large survey for quantitative data which cost time and money. We can talk about this some other time, but that also consumed a lot of time during field work. Specifically, I had to code and extensively revise survey questions using a software,  I had to train my enumerators, and I literally would go to the field to make sure they followed the strict measures. Man, fieldwork was tough lol. Apart from these, I  also did a lot of participant observation, which like the name sounds is basically observing people and interactions; ethnographic work basically.

The above paragraph is a good overview.  Because it is now an extremely long post, I will break this into two parts and continue in a subsequent post. In part 2 of this, I will give a description of typical day in the field. And I promise I won't wait weeks to post it hahaha.

Welcome to March, people!