Nice to Meet You!

Hi!

I’ve been blogging for a few months now, and I don’t think I’ve ever properly introduced myself!

My name is Briana Hernandez. I’m an entrepreneur, author, poet, lifestyle blogger and game designer. I’m currently working on two sci-fi novels and a fantasy short story, and have been published by The Ice Colony, Nail Polish Stories, and the 2019 and 2020 editions of Breakwater Literary Magazine – the student-run journal at Albertus Magnus College.

I work as a copywriter and social media manager. I take on some projects via Upwork, but I mainly work through my business, Briana Hernandez Copywriting. It’s fun being my own boss, and I get to work wherever there’s internet! It can be pretty demanding work, but it’s worth it.

I launched TV Tray Desk as a way to cope with losing my job after the lockdowns began. I had my business, sure, but it wasn’t making as much as I’d like. That loss of financial security, coupled with wrapping up my Master’s program around the same time was deeply upsetting. I needed… something to do. I had to somehow turn that negative into a positive.

Thus TV Tray Desk was born! I’ve been working remotely for a few years now, so creating a brand around the WFH/remote work lifestyle seemed like the natural topic to go for. The name pays homage to the fact that I’m usually working in my living room with a TV tray as my desk. It can be murder on the shoulder, let me tell you!

It’s fun to write about things that have affected my everyday life as a remote worker, like whether to have natural lighting or not, or ways to keep entertained after work is done. Suffice to say I’m just writing as topics come to me without a long-term goal in mind. For now I see this blog being a crash-course for those new to remote working or still struggling to adjust to working from home. With the pandemic still rampaging, a lot of us won’t be returning to in-person work for a long time. If I can just help one other remote worker with my writing, then this blog will have been worth it!

So, with much delay, nice to meet you! 🙂

Gig Work – Yay or Nay?

As someone who’s been working remotely in the gig industry for a few years now, I can definitely say that it has its pros and its cons. There are long, busy days and weeks where you get hardly any income. It’s a nonstop grind just so you can cut yourself the tiniest of paychecks. Yet having only yourself to answer to is an amazing, freeing feeling like no other.

Yet I bet that with so many still at home, people are wondering if the upsides of working gigs outweigh the downsides.

By no means do I have decades of experience, but as a younger Millennial with a few years of remote entrepreneurship under her belt, I have been able to see quite a few differences between gig work and 9-to-5 jobs. Here’s what I’ve learned so far!

It’s great to have a side business

If you’re not happy with the money you’re getting from your day job, starting a side business from home can help add to your monthly income.

Being able to make money from home is also highly desirable, with the world still locked down and social distancing. The pandemic is affecting everyone differently – some have to work in dangerous environments, others cut their hours, while still others have lost their jobs altogether. Having money coming on the side can give some peace of mind, and can even flourish into a business that you can work on full-time.

Work/life balance is almost nonexistent

One downside is that, as with any entrepreneurship, you’re busy all the time. Searching for clients, chatting with investors, marketing the business, bookkeeping… you must wear many hats as a business owner, and your job is never done.

It will likely be years before you can make a livable income off your business and have a regular schedule. Until then, you’ll have days that fluctuate between being incredibly slow and incredibly fast-paced and busy. You’ll have to roll with the punches and simply understand that your work will take up a giant chunk of your day.

Perfect for people stuck at home

If you’re on layoff or have even been let go, working a side hustle from home is an excellent supplement to unemployment income. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, every extra penny can help.

If you’re a stay-at-home spouse looking to make some side money, working gigs while the kids are napping or after chores are done can keep you feeling productive.

Money is tight

Don’t expect to be able to quit your day job any time soon. As I mention above, you’ll be making peanuts for a long while. You’ll most likely have to land a few big, long-term clients before you can make a living wage off your business – which won’t happen without getting years of experience and building up your portfolio.

All in all, being a business owner is amazing. Becoming your own boss and calling all the shots while being able to work where you please is something most people don’t ever get to experience. But the journey to become fully established is hard – I’m not even there yet! There are cons with gig work and remote entrepreneurship, but the end goal is worth it.

Pros and Cons of Natural Lighting in Your Home Office

It seems that a home office never hits that level of comfort that a real office has. The lights are too bright or too dim, you either have to work on a big dining room table or on a low coffee table.

You see your living room window. You office could use some natural lighting, couldn’t it? Or will it just throw off the delicate rhythm you’ve found?

As small a question as it may seem, the slightest thing can throw you off your game and affect productivity, including lighting. And with many of us still working from home, we’re all dealing with different forms of lighting. You might be tempted to throw the window open and let in some sunlight – but should you?

Pro: You get fresh air

There is nothing worse than breathing in the same heavy, recycled air that’s been in your house all day. Getting a steady breeze coming in from outside will keep you refreshed and cool. This is especially great if your home office doesn’t have a fan or air conditioning!

Con: You won’t be able to take video calls

Unfortunately, with the sun coming in, you’ll get such a glare on your camera that anyone who calls won’t be able to see you. While you can always leave your camera off, if you’re giving a presentation, a webinar or anything that requires you to show your face, you’ll need to move your computer elsewhere or draw the blinds.

Pros: You’ll get more natural light in your office

The most obvious pro is that you’ll have natural lighting! Studies and articles show that natural lighting (albeit filtered) is great for eye health, whereas florescent lights are more harmful. That natural lighting will be a nice change of pace for your eyes, so used to backlit computer and phone screens.

Of course, if eye health is the goal, it’s also important to take frequent breaks away from any screens. That could be spent reading a book, listening to music or a podcast with your eyes closed, or going for a walk.

Con: It’ll be much harder to see your own screen

Devices like laptops and cell phones are backlit, which means they produce their own light. That means that they’re best viewed under other artificial lights. If you’ve ever tried to answer a text while outside, you probably noticed that it was harder to see. Now imagine that difficulty, but while you’re trying to work. Your productivity will tank!

Pro: You’ll hear more sounds of nature

Checking your email and sipping your morning coffee while birds sing sounds like something out of feel-good movie. It’s a relaxing way to ease into work, and it sure beats the sound of morning traffic. This is especially nice if you don’t live in an urban area. Don’t forget to refill your feeders and empty the birdbaths!

Con: You’ll also get more sounds not of nature

Is there a construction zone nearby? Or maybe you have noisy neighbors? Opening a window or two is going to let in more noise pollution along with the outdoorsy sounds. While you may be one of the few that can shut out the outside world and be laser-focused while working, it’ll still be hard to concentrate with all that sound. You might want to invest in some headphones.

So with all that in mind, it’s up to you to decide if natural lighting is worth it, or if you’d rather stick with the overhead lights – for better or for worse.

How to Keep Grinding During a Pandemic

Keeping the motivation to work can be hard already. Keeping the motivation to work during a pandemic can sometimes feel impossible. Between Zoom fatigue, finding time to forget about the craziness happening in the world and possibly caring for kids or relatives, our productivity can easily tank.


But there are ways to stay motivated while working from home; ways to stay relaxed so that you don’t burn out and fall behind.


Yoga and meditation

Yoga is excellent for relaxation. There are plenty of YouTube channels that men and women can visit to do quick routines between meetings or at the end of the day. Lots of yoga instructors also curate routines so that they help promote relaxation and deep breathing.

Some instructors also put together routines that you can do in bed or at your desk; brief routines that exercise the shoulders, back and arms, meant to give you a pick-me-up for the rest of the day or help you wind down.


Scheduled breaks

When you’re in an office, it’s easy to take breaks. Trip to the restroom, visiting co-workers at their desk, grabbing snacks from the vending machine… those are all little ways we would break up the day. When you’re at home, those little interruptions don’t help take you out of the work mindset as much.

This is where scheduled breaks come into play. Taking ten or fifteen minutes each hour or two would do wonders. You can take this time to watch some videos, do some exercise, enjoy the weather, or really anything that helps you relax for a while. Be sure not think about work as you’re relaxing, that’s a common mistake we all make!


Background noise

Some kind of background noise can help keep you from getting too overwhelmed by work. Whether it’s music, a TV show or a podcast, anything that keeps you working in complete silence will save you from getting too caught up in your job that it’s hard to stop for the day. It’s important to have a balance even as you’re working; working from home makes it much easier for your work life to bleed into your personal life, so you have to work to keep yourself from slipping to deeply into a work mindset.

Staying motivated after months of working from home can be hard, but it can be done! So long as you strike that healthy balance, you’re sure to avoid burnout.

Quick Hairstyles for Video Calls

You’re still in your pajamas, hair is a mess, and you get an email notification. Your boss wants to meet in fifteen minutes with the rest of the team, and you know they hate the messy bun look.

Getting dressed is easy enough. You have a few blouses and blazers at the front of your closet. But the hair…

Have no fear! As someone with frizzy, waist-length hair who’s had dozens of impromptu video calls, I know a thing or two about throwing your hair into a quick hairstyle so you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed.

Ponytails

Nothing beats the classic ponytail! A bit of hair gel, a plain elastic and a brush are all you need to fix up your hair. And if you have lots of small baby hairs like I do, a few snap clips or bobby pins will keep everything in place until the meeting is over. A nice layer of hairspray after your ponytail is up will be sure to keep the flyaways away!

Hair clip pinch

Longer hair is a must for this look, but whether you have curly, straight or wavy hair, pinning your hair back with a cute clip is more than enough to get your ready for a meeting. Just enough hair is pulled back that your hair isn’t completely loose, and by pinning some of it back, you’re going to hide some frizz and tame your hair a bit. Some gel will keep everything in place for the duration of your meeting.

French braid

A braid has never failed to tame a head of hair. My hair is extremely frizzy, and a French braid is my go-to for when I need it to behave for long periods of time. It’s also a great professional look and casual look; I’ve word a single braid to meetings and conferences, and twin braids to fairs and festivals.

Headbands

You’re never too old for the girl-next-door look! A simple black headband with teeth on loose hair can easily help give you a cleaned-up look.

Gel headbands work extremely well, especially with fine and straight hair, and stiff headbands with teeth work well for curly and thicker hair. Once your headband is on, all you need is some hairspray, mousse or hair gel to help with flyaways and/or to tame your frizz.

Good luck and happy styling!

4 Cheap Activities to Keep Kids Busy

When you’re working, keeping the kids busy is important. Yet you also want to make sure that they’re doing enriching activities that help them learn, foster their creativity and/or help them bond with their siblings.

It can be a hard balance to strike, and giving them the TV remote or a game controller can seem pretty appealing. But trust me, there are solutions to this problem! Here are some simple, inexpensive ways to keep the little ones entertained while you work.

1. Tangrams

Tangrams are old Chinese puzzle sets where you must create different shapes and designs using the seven pieces given. There are thousands upon thousands of different things you can do with tangrams, and can serve as a great tool for learning math.

2. Educational sites

From school-approved websites like Khan Academy, CoolMathGames and Funbrain to kid-friendly gaming sites like Poptropica and Webkinz, there are plenty of safe places online for kids to learn and play. Although most parents wouldn’t want their kids spending the entire day online, these sites will keep them busy while you wrap up all your meetings.

3. Creating paper dolls

Creating paper dolls was my obsession as a child. Designing them on a sheet of notebook paper, coloring them in, then carefully cutting them out was such a fun process! I’d create whole families with ages and names written on the back, and I’d design new clothes with tabs when I wanted to change their outfits.

Encourage your kids (even the older, middle school-aged ones) to really tap into their creativity and build a community of paper dolls – perhaps even with cardboard box houses! It’s a fun time-killer, and your kids will have new toys to play with that didn’t cost a thing.

4. Card games

Perhaps this is my inner geek speaking, but I’m always a sucker for a good card game. Whether it’s a fantasy strategy game like Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic: The Gathering, or regular card games played on fun or educational decks, I could spend hours playing cards. Strategy card games offer thousands of cards for kids to choose from, and sitting down for a game or two promotes logic and critical thinking, as well as gives siblings quality time together!

Hope these tips help! And remember that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month; don’t forget to take some time just for yourself to relax and recharge!

Does Journaling Help with Isolation?

It’s no secret that expressing your feelings in writing is a great way to relieve stress while still maintaining your privacy. Journals are where you store your memories, secrets and feelings, knowing that you’ll suffer no judgment from the pages.

If you’re considering taking up journaling to help cope with the stress of COVID-19 and self-quarantining, good for you! There are many ways to go about it, and at the end of this you’ll have a record of your time in isolation – or even some inspiration for your next blog post or creative piece!

Don’t put rules on yourself

It’s your journal. This means that you can do whatever you want with it. Write down good memories, record bad events, scribble down some poems, whatever! Journals are private, which means the only person you have to satisfy is you.

And even then, you don’t always need to be happy with the results. If you’re anything like me, you want everything to come out perfect on the first try. This doesn’t need to be the case with journaling! It’s self-expression first and foremost, so getting out feelings and memories is the main priority. You’ll feel more and more satisfied with your entries if you just aim for clearing the clutter in your mind instead of publish-worthy pieces of writing.

Don’t feel pressured to share

I said it once in the previous section and I’ll say it again: it’s YOUR journal. Yours and no one else’s. You don’t need to share with anyone what you’re writing, no matter who asks. A journal is private – it acts as a window to your mind, and whether you choose to let others read it, share it through a blog or keep it locked and hidden under your bed is your choice.

If you especially value your privacy, writing at night is ideal. Everyone will be asleep or busy prepping for bed, and the events of the day will still be fresh in your mind.

Get a journal with pre-written sections

I’ve done this! There are plenty of books out there that ask questions and offer prompts to get the journaling juices flowing. These books typically have you write down the basics (date of birth, family tree, etc.), and then ask more in-depth questions that cover the span of your life (first love, college major, wedding day, birth of grandkids…). These books are meant to be kept for a lifetime, updated frequently and acting as a record for your life when you’re gone.

Even if you start another journal as time goes on, journals with pre-written sections are great for those new to the practice.

Stay safe, and keep writing! And thanks to Bustle for some of the tips!

3 Must-Listen Podcasts for Your Inner Writer

Podcasts are perfect background noise. You can listen to them while you’re eating, cleaning, working or exercising. Their flexibility gives you the ability to learn wherever and whenever.

But finding the right podcast for you can be hard! How do you know that the material will interest you? And what about having to sift through dozens of podcasts on the same subject?

Lucky for you I’ve narrowed it down a bit! Being a fiction writer, I always value a podcast that promotes creativity or gives one the tools to put out the best work possible. Here are a few I’ve found to be really useful.

Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty, Inc.

Though this doesn’t focus too much on the creative aspect of writing, having proper grammar and an excellent grasp of the English language are absolute necessities for writers, poets and playwrights. Episode topics range from semicolons to the history of the ‘XOXO’ abbreviation. I subscribed not too long ago, and I’ve been loving it!

The Good Place: The Podcast by NBC Entertainment

Hosted by the actor who plays Shawn the demon, this podcast provides behind-the-scenes insights on the creating of NBC’s hit sitcom “The Good Place”. The show’s been a personal favorite of mine for years, and the podcast will fascinate anyone who loved the show, who is interested in the process of making a TV show, or who wants some sweet writing tips. Everyone from actors to writers to Mike Schur, show creator himself, was interviewed.

Writing Excuses by Dragonsteel Entertainment

This podcast focuses on the novel-writing experience, and has been going strong for 15 seasons. Common episode topics include chapter creation, worldbuilding, author branding and picking your literary agent. The hosts also delve deep into fan-proposed writing questions; you’re sure to have many of your writing questions answered!

Good luck, and never stop writing!

3 Conference Alternatives That Aren’t Zoom

Zoom has become the go-to chat program, but with the site becoming the subject of recent ‘Zoom bombing’ controversies, some are now wary to use it. And with Skype and FaceTime trailing not too far behind in terms of usage, there are people jonesing for a safe alternative with less traffic. Here are a few alternatives you can use to communicate with co-workers, students, family and friends.

BlueJeans

BlueJeans is a conference software that’s great for schools and businesses. Depending on your plan, it can handle up to 100 participants and has subscriptions starting at $9.99 per month. Presenters can share their screen with ease, and people can mute their audio and video like many other conference programs. As someone who’s used it already for digital lectures, I can say that it works great!

Google Duo

If you’re an Android user who wants to chat with iOS users – or vice versa – Google Duo is a great neutral alternative to some of the more popular programs. Since it’s linked to your Google account, you’re automatically given access to Duo the second you set up a Gmail. All you have to do is log in, go to the Duo website/app, connect your cell number, and you’re good too go!

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Credit – Nintendo
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62712014

Just hear me out! With all the network features in the game, people have been hosting all sorts of events on the platform for weeks now. From birthday parties to dates to even weddings, Animal Crossing has become a very popular social platform. And if you’re not in the mood to see anyone, it’s still a great game (and quite the time suck, if we’re being honest) to play.

Stay connected and stay sane!

4 Productive Pastimes

Looking for a fun hobby that isn’t Netflix or YouTube? Look no further! As a mild workaholic who is always looking for ways to fill up the day, I have found more than a few hobbies that are both fun and great for the mind.

Origami

This may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think “productive pastime”, but origami is excellent brain exercise! A Psychology Today article writes that origami is a good way to practice calmness and let go of perfectionism and harsh self-judgments. In addition, kids that practice origami have been found to have above-average spatial visualization and math skills. On top of it, you have a pretty, finished paper decoration that you can display in a shadow box or give to the young ones to play with.

Online classes

Sites like Udemy and MasterClass are great ways for adults to learn. These platforms have classes covering everything from cooking to digital marketing to interior design. The instructors on these sites are experienced in their field and offer high-quality content. Need to learn more about copywriting? You can find courses by former Wall Street Journal writers or tutors from Cambridge University. Need to learn more about the film and TV industry? Huge names like Martin Scorsese and Jodie Foster have lectures available.

If there were something you wanted to learn or a skill you wanted to perfect, now’s the time to do it!

Creative projects

Whether it’s writing poetry, composing music, drawing, jewelry making or something else, now is the perfect time to get your creative juices flowing.

And if you don’t think you’re a creative person, think again! We all have a creative streak in us, and now is the perfect time to find it. Outdoor walks, reading books and appreciating art online are some ways to find inspiration and

Sudoku

Sudoku was an addition of mine in middle school, and I’m excited to be picking it up again. Just like crosswords and other written puzzles, sudoku is both fun and productive. LifeHack.org points out that solving sudoku puzzles exercises your memory, your concentration and even reduces your chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

So get to writing, get to learning, get to puzzling and get to folding!