The Working From Home Challenge

I usually blog about my weekends. Because weekends are fun. And last weekend was particularly fun! I guess it helped that I sort of started the weekend already well rested.

Because of the whole Brussels situation, I had to work from home for a week. As you might know from my previous posts, I’m ridiculously bad at working from home. But this week was slightly different. The boyfriend is currently in between jobs, and he wants to change careers. So, he’s at home learning how to program through the CS50 MOOC offered by Harvard. And if he’s being such a good boy, working his ass off trying to learn new things, and I am actually being paid to do exactly that, I felt bad letting myself get distracted. So as the week progressed, I actually worked more and more. I still didn’t do as much as your average PhD student, but I did loads more than I usually do and I’m quite proud really.

So I figured, why don’t I share with you my three new tips and tricks for working from home? Some of you work from home like a boss, I know, so this post is merely for likeminded easily distracted and not so motivated workers. To the bosses out there, you’re welcome to include extra tips in the comments!

  • Firstly, it helps if there are people around you. You feel bad quite easily having your mom or partner give you the (subtle or not) eye for watching another episode of the series you like to binge watch at 10pm or for being on Facebook all afternoon. But if you don’t have anyone around, strangers do the trick as well. Head down to a coffee shop or a library, a place you know work is being done, and you’ll feel equally bad about watching funny cat videos while you should be working. A stranger’s stink eye can be just as effective.
  • Secondly, don’t feel bad when you do decide to take a break. Otherwise you’ll end up frustrated and angry at yourself and you’ll get nowhere. Take for example that new work experiment they’re doing in Sweden: 6-hour workdays for the same pay! The idea is that by having to work less long, you’ll be more efficient. So rather than sighing and moaning and grumping and checking the news website every 5 minutes and sighing again trying to get back to work, just take a break. Watch some telly for an hour, go buy that pair of new shoes you can’t stop thinking about, cook an awesome meal. Don’t be afraid to spend more time on it and enjoy it without worrying about work, it’ll make you so much more efficient afterwards.
  • Thirdly, there is no such thing as work hours. Work when you feel you will be efficient, and do your other stuff when the timing is ideal. Do your grocery shopping at 2pm when there is no one in the shop, and work around 5pm when you would be commuting back home otherwise. Rather than setting designated times to work, just give yourself an aim: at the end of the day, you need to finish this. No matter how long (or short) you spend on it. Oh, and make sure you have daily deadlines, not weekly ones. Otherwise you’ll end up doing nothing Monday to Thursday, being angry at yourself, to then be even angrier on Friday.

Today, I am back at the office and already missing the home working. I think I should try it more often, maybe I was just so bad at it because I didn’t get enough practise! I felt so much more relaxed, not having to worry about the chores to do when you get home as you do them during the day, not having to bother with that horrendous commute, and of course it helps to be around the boyfriend all day. He’s pretty good company!

An Inspiring Christmas Story!

I just watched the sweetest movie. It’s called It’s a Wonderful Life, a black and white movie from 1946. I love that kind of old stuff this time of year. It’s very Christmassy. With that I mean it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. The acting is hilarious, the characters so naive, and the stories so cliche, but the message is so beautiful and somehow in between all the cliches and laughter, it felt very sincere.

The movie was about a guy that dreamt big, but due to circumstances he never really got a chance to make his dreams come true. Instead, he managed to make so many other people’s dreams come true, without even realising it. So when he’s starting to lose his way, an angel comes down from heaven (oh yeah, these movies can be very soppy too) and shows him what the town would’ve been like if he would’ve never been born. Which is of course awful. Of course afterwards, things go back to normal but he’s still left with the same problem: money went missing at his company and he’s about to be arrested. But his wife has told all the people he helped in the past, and they all turned up (on Christmas Eve, of course) to drop him some cash. Merry Christmas!

Oh my goodness you should watch it, it was beautiful. I felt so warm inside! People helping each other like that! People just trying to make each other happy because that’s just what they do. Got me a little teary eyed even!

And that made me think about what I posted before. How so many bad things are happening but somehow I want to help. So I started googling a little bit and I’m gonna ask around. I really want to do some charity work around this time of year. For me, the Christmas period is that time of year that is all about warmth. Fuzzy blankets and slippers, cosy little lights all around town, but mostly the wonderful company and love of family and friends. But not everyone is that lucky. And I feel like I could maybe help.

I’ll keep you posted on my charity plans. I put it down on the web so now there’s no going back. If you have tips for me about charity work, or like to share your charity experiences, I’d love to hear!

Worries Without a Title

I’m working from home today. Why? Because my work is in Brussels. And Brussels is closed.

I don’t like posting my opinion about the problems of the world on social media. So many people have such strong opinions on things they don’t know anything about. And then people respond with awful short sighted and mean comments, knowing even less, or just not being understanding of different opinions. I stay away from it on purpose. When shit goes down, I go AWOL on social media. Not that I don’t care, far from it. I just don’t feel it is anyone’s business how much I care and how I chose to care.

And that’s the question that bothers me the most. How do I chose to care? The refugee crisis: on the one hand you had the warm welcome some people gave the refugees, wanting to make them feel safe and tell them it’s gonna be okay. On the other hand, you had the people being scared for how this might change our society, sticking to our laws and policies and pointing out how we should fix the problem they are running from so that they don’t have to run anymore. What did I do? Nothing. I wanted to help. But I didn’t know how.

And then there was Paris. And all the French flags on Facebook. France declaring war on IS. Holy Fuck. Facebook was going apeshit. On my feed, it was mostly people saying how their thoughts and prayers were with the victims and their families, and how we should not blame all Muslims just like you wouldn’t blame all the Norwegians for Anders Breivik. I agree and felt comforted by the likemindedness of the people on my feed. But I noticed how on the train, no matter how busy it was during rush hour, the seats next to women with headscarves were the last to be filled. And how no one at work really spoke about how their thoughts were with the French like they did on Facebook.

And now there is this whole situation in Brussels. My colleagues who actually live in Brussels (not me, I am a commuter) are laughing with the whole thing. The streets in Brussels aren’t as empty as the photos in the press would make you believe. People go out for a pint just to make a statement, we are not scared of you. I am though. Is that stupid? I don’t want to go into Brussels until all of this clears up. I do have trust in our government and the army, don’t get me wrong. I am sure they are doing everything they can to fix this whole mess and are putting our safety first. So, I guess that does mean it’s stupid of me being scared?

And you know the worst part? This never happened to me before. So many people would think this situation Brussels is in right now, is a walk in the park. They have to deal with constant threats and have been since as long as they can remember. For me, I’m just not going into work for a few days and I feel freaked out. To be honest, I feel like I don’t have the right to feel freaked out. Which is, again, another reason why I usually keep these thoughts to myself and stay away from social media. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say really, it’s not like I’m going anywhere with this post. Except that I feel stupid for feeling worried and that I wish I could help people who have all the right to be worried, but probably gave up on being worried a long time ago because that’s just what life is like for them.

But what can I do to help? Honestly, I don’t know. All these opinionated people have it all figured out, things you have to demonstrate against and petitions you have to sign and organisations you can support and pictures you have to make your profile picture on Facebook. All I do is sit at home and worry in the confines of my own mind. Can I just help without having an opinion? Can we agree that this is awful and that the world could be a better place?

And now I should probably say something about, I don’t know what about, this blog needs an ending, but I’m afraid my thoughts don’t have one.

Bye Bye Wonderful Weekend

Coming Monday, I would’ve probably written a massive post about all the fun stuff we would’ve done over the weekend. Ow boy, have I been looking forward to this weekend! Some of the boyfriend’s mates were coming to visit, spend the weekend at ours. They’re a lovely couple that like to sight see, play board games, and I bet of course they would’ve loved the Belgian beer and food we would’ve stuffed them with.

We were supposed to pick them up from the airport last night. I had arranged that I could start work slightly later today, so I could set up their first Belgian breakfast: chocolate spread, gingerbread, all sorts of yummy sweet stuff. Then I would show them how to get to the town centre and leave them to explore for a day while the boyfriend and I would be working. And tonight, we would’ve cooked for them and played some board games. Tomorrow, we would’ve taken the train to Bruges, by far the most amazing city in Belgium. It’s got history, it’s got beauty, and it’s got amazingly cute cafes and restaurants, again, with delicious food and beer. I was so happy I could go show off my cute little country again! Sunday of course we would do a big Sunday breakfast, and maybe go for a walk in one of the parks close by, or go to the Christmas Markets.

It would’ve been a weekend filled with nice food and drinks, a good dose of sight seeing, getting into the Christmas spirit, and wonderful company. Especially for the boyfriend, who has been missing his friends ever since he moved over here for me.

But yeah, none of that this weekend. Our visitors couldn’t find their passports. Bugger!

The Art of Mother Nature on the Job

I set up this fun thing on my laptop (as much as fun things go at work): every day I have a new wallpaper. Selected by my laptop himself out of my folder of my favourite Australia photos. It even makes me excited to go to work in the morning, to switch on my laptop and check what we have today. Today’s one is definitely a star one. So I felt like I should share it with you.

I took this photo at Uluru in Australia. The Red Centre looks a lot more red in real life, but I love this photo nevertheless. I can almost feel the sizzling heat of the sun when I look at it. Mother Nature sure knows how to do art.

DSCN2577

A Little Thought Experiment: Dreaming of an Escape

Do you ever dream of something impossible? I’m not talking coming across an insane amount of money or becoming famous, I really mean impossible. Well, sometimes I wish everything around me would disappear. Or just turn into wildernis. So basically, all left standing would be my apartment and my boyfriend. But when we look out of our window, there are no more apartments, no cars, no people. Just fields and forest as far as you can look. So that we can disappear. Just us two against the world. Can you imagine the peace and quiet? Not having to go anywhere, no people you have to go and see. You could do whatever you wanted to do. Take a long walk in unexplored territory right in front of your doorstep? Go ahead. Don’t feel like sleeping in your own bed? Why not build yourself a treehouse! And if you really don’t know what else to do, just go sit under a tree and watch the animals all day long. It’s not like anyone will disturb you. Or on a rainy day, watch series and movies all day in your pyjamas with a hot chocolate. No one will call or email or swing by. It’ll be just you.

I know it might be weird and everyone probably thinks you wouldn’t want this forever and the disadvantages are massive (like the whole survival aspect of it and all), but once in a while I really dream of being all alone (with the boyfriend though, we do make a good team) in this world. The endless possibilities I’d have. No obligations towards anything or anyone. Think about it. Doesn’t it sound like paradise?

Sometimes, all I want to do is escape. For no good reason. Just for me.

My Guilty Pleasure

Today I was going to tell you about my Guilty Pleasure. Because yesterday, I was supposed to have indulged in that said Guilty Pleasure more than ever before. What Guilty Pleasure is that? Oh, believe you me, it is very guilty indeed.

You know those things you like as a teenager, and everyone slightly older around you seems to hate it but you have not yet figured out why. And you make a pact with a friend about your love for this given thing. Well, when I was about 13, me and a friend really really liked this one band. We could sing along to all of their songs and even tried playing some of them ourselves on the guitar. Everyone we knew, however, was radically against this band. It was as if no one they knew was allowed to listen to this music, let alone enjoy it. Our love for the band did indeed fade away as everyone had predicted, but our promise didn’t. We promised each other that if they would ever come to Belgium, we would go see them perform. For sure.

12 years later, we heard that they were finally touring Europe and also playing in Belgium. However, 12 years later, our knowledge of the lyrics had faded and we didn’t know any of their new stuff. Should we? You see, I never really go to concerts. The massive crowds used to freak me out. They don’t scare me as much anymore now, but still I just never do those kind of things. So, should we? Ah what the hack, why not. A promise is a promise, right? We marked the date in our calenders and bought our tickets. Wednesday the 11th of November, we were going to watch good ol’ Nickelback!

Imagine our disappointment when we found out only yesterday that they had cancelled their full European tour! Oh well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Better find a new Guilty Pleasure then, although I’m quite sure nothing will beat the guiltiness of this one.