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.


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 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!

When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

When you’re home all day, it can be very easy to let the stress get to you. Your workload is all over the place, your schedule has been turned on its head – and on top of it you can’t go anywhere!

So what do you do when you’re one conference call away from snapping? As someone who’s been working remotely for some years now, here are some tricks I’ve found to prove helpful.

Take a long shower or bath

This one might sound simple, but it really does do wonders! Take some time to fill the tub with warm water and bubbles, listen some music and be sure to have a plate of chocolates nearby. Even if it’s just ten or fifteen minutes, your mind will thank you for choosing to prioritize relaxation for once.

And if you have little ones around the house, you might want to save the bath for early in the morning or late at night, when everyone is in bed and you don’t have to worry about work just yet.

Give yourself a makeover

Sometimes a bit of change is all we need. With everyone home it’s easy to let your appearance go. You shouldn’t do that! If you’re able to make the time for it, give yourself a new hairstyle, dye your hair or shave if you haven’t in some time. Resuming a simple bit of grooming that you neglected after the quarantines can help you feel refreshed.

Call out sick

If you’re able to, taking a day off for mental health purposes is just as valid as taking a day off for physical sickness. Even if you’re working from home, you can still feel overwhelmed by your workload, which has undoubtedly been aggravated by the changes that the virus has brought on.

A single day of sleeping in, snacking while watching Netflix and texting friends can do wonders for your state of mind.

Have something playing as you work

Working in silence can be very weird. The background noise that your co-workers’ voices, the phones and vending machines provided are all gone, and you might be left working in total quiet.

The best cure for this problem is to make your own background noise. That can be music, podcasts, TV shows, or even a movie. Having some sound going will help you feel less alone, and keep your mind from wandering into stressful directions.


As I mentioned in a previous post, there are plenty of YouTube channels out there that give exercise and yoga tutorials. Taking some time to stretch your body, clear your mind and focus on you is a great stress reducer, and allows you to begin or end your day with a healthy, optimistic mindset.

Taking a few minutes to sit and meditate can help as well. Sitting on your bed and praying, or choosing to begin the day with the intention of being calm can help you deal with the day’s stress in a more relaxed fashion. Sometimes all you need to do is tell yourself to not sweat the small stuff.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sane!

Quick, Filling Meals for Busy Days

Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you aren’t busy! And as with any job, some days your completely swamped, and you just want a meal that’s quick, easy to make and still filling. Here are four easy recipes from Tasty.co that take less than half an hour to make and use three to seven ingredients!

Zucchini noodles

This vegan dish takes about ten minutes to make, and only uses seven simple ingredients. All you need is a zucchini, peanut butter, sriracha, lime juice, green onions, salt and water – and of course you can add or take away ingredients as needed. Making the noodles is simple: just use a veggie peeler to cut the zucchini into ribbons. The peanut butter, sriracha, lime juice and water come together to form a spicy peanut sauce, and the onions and salt are added last.

BBQ Chicken Tenders

These tenders only use three ingredients! A chicken breast, some seasoned bread crumbs and barbecue sauce are all that’s required. The chicken breast needs to be baked for fifteen minutes after being coated in sauce and bread crumbs, and then again for 10 minutes after the second coating of sauce.

Teriyaki chicken

Another three-ingredient recipe, this dish only needs chicken thighs, soy sauce and brown sugar. The chicken needs to be seared in a pan before the sugar and sauce are added, and then you just have to stir until the mix has boiled, reduced and coated the chicken. Goes great with buttered noodles or veggies!

Chili-glazed salmon

This meal only needs a few fillets of salmon, chili sauce and scallions. Take a minute to cover the salmon in the sauce and scallions, then bake for twelve to fifteen minutes. You can even make some garlic bread or rice while the fish bakes!

Thanks again to Tasty.co for the recipes! Be sure to visit their site for easy-to-follow videos on how to make each of these dishes.

Ways to Work Out Without a Home Gym

If you have the equipment at home already – great! Frequent exercise is important now more than ever, with everyone still at home. Not moving around enough can lead to serious health problems – and exercise is especially important for teens and growing kids, who are missing out on their daily gym class and sports practices.

But in case your family doesn’t have a Peloton at home, here are some ways you and your loved ones can keep in shape without leaving the house.

Exercise videos on YouTube

There are countless channels on YouTube where gyms and independent instructors share their expertise with viewers. They guide you through each exercise, oftentimes giving words of encouragement as you follow along. These videos can be anything from warm-up yoga routines to specialized workouts meant to strengthen a particular group of muscles.

And if you have kids home from school, there are even channels aimed at kids! Fellow kids and teens have their own channels where they guide viewers through age-appropriate exercise routines so that kids don’t miss a day of gym class.

Five-minute exercises

It’s suggested that office workers move around once every hour for their health. This is important to your overall health, as it helps prevent clotting and heart disease. It doesn’t even have to be a full workout; a few minutes of exercise throughout the day makes a huge difference.

These simple, quick exercises can be anything from desk push-ups to using a pair of small dumbbells to doing a set of sit-ups, squats or arm pulses. And of course, there are more comprehensive lists on the Washington Post and other sites.

Living room sports

If you have little ones around the room, a game of soccer or baseball with furniture-safe fabric balls is another way to get everyone moving. It’s a great way to get everyone moving and hungry for dinner as well, and helps keep your family from getting bored during the quarantines!

Exercise video games

Game systems such as the Wii and system accessories such as the PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect are all great ways to get moving in your living room. From dancing games like the “Just Dance” series to the wide collection of sports simulation games out there, you’ll be able to find a game that gives you and your loved ones a tolerable family workout.

Bonus tip: if you still have your old Dance Dance Revolution mat for your PlayStation 2, you can also use that as a controller for any PS2 game!

4 Must-Have Accessories for Your Home Office

When you started working from home, chances are you just set up shop wherever and got to work. Now that you’ve been working from home for a while, you’re probably still struggling to accept this as the new normal. If that’s the case, one surefire way to get more comfortable with your work sitch is to make your home office feel more like, well, an office! Here are a few must-have accessories to get you started.

A Laptop Stand

A laptop stand is an absolute necessity for remote work! Despite the name, keeping your laptop in your lap all day is guaranteed to give you a sore neck. And putting a pillow on your lap might help for a while, but not for eight-hour days, five days a week.

Laptop stands, whether ordered online or made from stacks of books, will keep your computer at eye level and save you the discomfort of having a stiff neck for 1/3 of the day.

Back Pillows

You likely don’t have a fancy, fully-furnished home office; you’re just making do with what you have. And I’m willing to bet that your back is already bothering you from your awkward sitting positions and makeshift desks.

That’s where back pillows come in. They can be throw pillows from your living room, pillows from your bed or even a rolled-up blanket. They might not replace your ergonomically-designed desk chair from your office, but it’ll give you a bit of support and help with the slouch you’ve likely developed.

A wireless Mouse, Keyboard and Mousepad

These accessories just help with productivity. You’ll get more done faster if you use a mouse instead of a touchpad, and a wireless keyboard will definitely be easier on your wrists if you have your laptop on a stand. And if you’re working on a plastic-covered dining room table or gritty kitchen counter, chances are your mouse isn’t gliding that smoothly – that’s were the mousepad comes in.

Not only will these accessories make you 100x more productive and comfortable, but they’ll help you begin to truly see your makeshift desk as a real home office instead of a temporary workspace. That shift in mindset is crucial to keeping the remote work stir craziness at bay.

A Small Plant

No, I’m not joking. A small plant – whether it’s a succulent, a cactus or one of those tillandsia air plants – will make your home office feel more like a real office. And the pop of color will help, too!

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a plant. You could have a pencil mug your kids painted, a photo of your parents, or you could even go the Michael Scott route and have toys! The point is that your workspace has some decorations to give it life and personality.

Good luck, and stay healthy!

The Perks of Isolation

With so many people cursing social distancing and doing their best to keep the stir craziness away, it’s easy to see the COVID-19 lockdowns as a negative. But there are some upsides to being home all day!

More Family Time

If you’re like me, you’re a workaholic! Many of us are juggling school, work and side hustles, and unfortunately family time falls by the wayside. Now with everyone home, you can take the opportunity to spend quality time with your loved ones.

Board games, movie nights and talks over dinners are just some ways you can reconnected with relatives you haven’t had a chance to really talk to lately. If you have withdrawn family members who are particularly hard to get through to, fun party games like “Would You Rather?” or relaxing spa days might be what gets them to open up. Mix it up and see what everyone likes! You have the time, after all.

More Time to Think

While a lot of us might be isolating with partners, some of us are isolating away from our significant others. By not seeing your partner anymore, you can analyze your relationship from a distance and see if it’s going in the direction you’d like. If it is, you can make plans to help move the relationship forward; if not, you can start working toward fixing the problem, or just step away altogether.

A lot of people – especially introverts – communicate better over text and over the phone, so with everyone forced to forgo face-to-face contact, you can tell your partner how you’re really feeling while still keeping a comfortable distance.

The same goes for friendships and relatives! You won’t get a better time to cut off toxic friends, reach out to cousins you haven’t seen in some time, or finally send that friend request to your high school buddy. If there are people you don’t want in your life any more, or people you want to add to your life, now’s the perfect time to make some changes.

More Time to Be Creative/Learn a Skill

You know that book you were planning on writing? Or that language you were planning on learning? Now that you don’t have commutes to work or date nights anymore, now’s the perfect time to start those projects! This might take some scheduling if you have kids to homeschool or relatives to look after, but if you really want to make the most of your quarantine, then take time to pursue those side projects. You’ll be thanking yourself once you have the finished product.

Best Video Games to Unwind With

You worked hard all day. Maybe you even worked an extra half hour because hey, no more commuting! Then you checked the kids’ homework, set them up with fun crafts for the afternoon, then made dinner.

Now the kids are in bed. Your partner is unwinding with a beer and on their phone. How do you relax before heading to bed and doing it all over again?

Well, call me a geek, but I’ll never say no to a good video game! I’m a lifelong gamer, and my (embarrassingly large) collection contains quite a few relaxing games that help me de-stress. These are a few you should try to help you take it easy.

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Courtesy Nintendo
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62712014

Having launched right when the quarantines started going into effect, the latest Animal Crossing has become the new outside for people social distancing. People have already had date nights, birthday parties and even weddings on the game, using the real-time and social connection features to stay close to loved ones and pass the time.

Being a social simulation game, this isn’t a game where you’ll be fighting monsters. This is a game where you’ll be building a happy community of animals – it’s a great escape from the real world and is perfect for all ages.

2. Slime Rancher

Courtesy Monomi Park
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49348477

This game owned my life for the entire month of January! You play as Beatrix LeBeau, a young woman who travels to a lawless planet full of adorable slimes. The object of the game is to just build the best farm for you, whether that means having one of each slime, making tons of money, or just finding using breed combinations.

And if you’re looking for a little story, Bea occasionally will receive Starmails from an old friend named Casey…

3. Tekken 7

Courtesy Bandai Namco
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49348477

For those among you who really need to blow off steam, a fighting game might be best for you. Although 5 is my personal favorite, Tekken 7 has a decent roster and tons of customization options. Some unique characters like Eliza from Tekken Revolution are available for purchase, along with guest characters like Geese from Fatal Fury, Noctis from Final Fantasy XV and Akuma from Street Fighter.

The story format is a bit of a deviation from older Tekken games; a la Tekken 6, 7 follows the perspective of an “outside” character and ultimately relates it back to the Mishima family.

4. Persona 5

Courtesy Atlus
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50436296

RPGs allow for dungeon crawling that provides an endless stream of monster fights, and Persona has a dungeon you can visit time and time again throughout the game. If your Phantom Thieves are leveled up enough, you could wander through Mementos for hours and work toward filling up the compendium. You could also pursue the many sidequests the game has to offer, or try to max out your Confidants. I don’t know about you, but working toward such a level of completion is a pretty fun way to relax at the end of the day.

Stay safe, stay sane and game on!

Best Background Music for Working From Home

Put away that Beyoncé playlist! You might have the greatest mix on the planet, but that might be working to your disadvantage.

Working from home comes with perks, but it also comes with more distractions. You now have your TV, your partner/kids/pets, video games, books and your bed! Staying focused is probably a bigger challenge than when you just had your phone by you at the office. Listening to upbeat music is going to tempt you into singing along; and if you have your playlist going, you’re going to have catchy song after catchy song playing. Talk about a time sink!

Bossa nova and jazz

We all know what jazz is, but what’s bossa nova, you ask? It’s an offshoot of jazz originating from Brazil. These songs typically don’t have lyrics, which makes for excellent background noise while you’re working.

Bossa nova and jazz playlists are pretty easy to find on YouTube, and channels such as Cafe Music BGM Channel constantly host live radio streams of lyric-free background music. No matter what you pick, you’re guaranteed to feel like you’re working in a nice little coffee shop.

Classical music

Who says classical music is just for piano players and middle-school music programs? Sometimes songs that you’ve heard a hundred times are just what you need to get into a work mindset. Whether it’s slow, somber compositions such as “Moonlight Sonata”, upbeat tunes like “Für Elise”, or fast-paced arrangements such as “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”, you’re sure to find a song that fits your mood for the day.

The best part is that because these songs have been around for so long, that it’s easy to find arrangements on multiple instruments! If you feel like hearing “Canon in D” on the guitar, you can. If you want to hear “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the flute, you can.

Video game music

This might sound like a weird one, but hear me out: video game music is already composed to blend into the background. It’s meant to be heard, but not focused upon while you play, and modern VG music is a far cry from the cheerful chiptune from the arcade games of the 80s. Orchestras, electronic instruments and more are used to make the music more sophisticated and pleasant to listen to.

Relaxing songs like those found on the Slime Rancher and Rain soundtracks are good places to start. But if you’re a gamer (or want to be), you’ll definitely find something that suits your tastes.

Regardless of your preference, make sure that your background music helps – and doesn’t hinder – your focus!

To Dress or Not to Dress: Should You Dress Up for Remote Work?

The crowds are divided when it comes to dressing up for remote work. Some enjoy the sense of normalcy that putting on a full outfit and doing their hair gives them, while some are loving the idea of earning money in their pjs. Others still enjoy being comfortable, but still have to worry about video conferences and being seen by their colleagues.

Dressing for working remotely really boils down to personal preference. For some, changing into work clothes gets them into a working mindset, and helps them focus on their duties. They also know they’ll be prepared for any meetings or impromptu video calls. That mental shift is necessary for some to get motivated to work, and allows them to stay focused throughout the day.

On the other hand, some people enjoy working in their comfies. Having a break from wearing ties and makeup and heels is welcome for many, and the adjustment to working in non-work clothes is easy and welcomed. Being dressed like this also makes it easy to switch from working to homeschooling or housework. Once the day is done, you can move right on to the next task without having to stop and change. Your laundry load is also lessened.

If neither option seems right for you, some people also opt for “hybrid” looks: where they’re dressed and presentable from the waist up, but opt for yoga pants or pajamas and socks for the bottom half. This look is perfect for people who have video calls to do, or have a few interviews planned, but still want to stay comfortable.

So do what works for you! The key is to remember that it’s not just about the clothes; it’s about your state of mind as well. If you need to look the part to help you get the job done, make time to get dressed! If being in comfy clothes helps you be even more productive, then throw your hair up into a messy bun and open your laptop. Just remember to mute the TV before answering the phone. 😉

Adjusting to Working From Home

COVID-19 has a lot of us working from home – and going from having a proper desk and office to working from your coffee table can be a rough adjustment, especially when you have kids to homeschool and relatives to care for.

With all this new stress, the last thing you need is to feel uncomfortable while trying to get your work done! Here are some ways to adjust to your new schedule as easy as possible.

Remember to take breaks

As someone who has been working from home for some years now, I can tell you that it can be very tempting to camp in front of the computer for your entire shift. You minimize bathroom breaks, and meals are eaten with one hand while you move your mouse with the other. Since you’re not present in the office, you want to prove you’re still working by putting out constant results.

While this may be fine and dandy for your boss, who’s happy to see you aren’t slacking, this really takes a toll on your mental and physical health! Sitting for long periods of time can be deeply unhealthy, and stresses you out from feeling chained to your computer.

Make it a point to step away from your computer once every hour. Do wall-push ups, watch a music video, or grab a snack. It’s

Have a decent makeshift desk

Hunching over your coffee table or leaving your hot laptop on your lap might work for the first couple of days, but you’re going to start feeling that in your back before the week is over. Laying on your stomach and working on your bed is going to give you some serious carpal tunnel, too.

If you don’t have a real desk at home to use, don’t be afraid to take the dining room or kitchen table. If your kids or partner are using it to get their own work done, rotate the seats. Have your partner move to the living room for a while, or give your kids a hands-on project that they can do elsewhere.

Kitchen counters let you work while standing as well, if you’re missing your desk converter. Laptop stands also help keep your computer at eye level, although stacked books or DVDs make for a good alternative.

If all else fails, use a foldable TV dinner tray. You might have limited desk space, but it gets the job done!

Learn to love being at home

The adjustment to remote work can’t just be physical; it has to be mental, too. I’m sure many of you love the idea of working from home, until you had to actually do it. Working from home can be isolating, uncomfortable and downright stressful – but it’s important to remember the upsides…

For starters, you don’t have to deal with any desk or officemates that bothered you. You have to still correspond with them, but at least you won’t be hearing them take personal calls or swear at their computer when it starts acting slow.

And how many people can say they can work while having their cat lay in their lap? Your furbabies are probably thrilled that you’re home all day to cuddle with them.

You can also blast your music! I’m much more productive with some tunes or even an Office rerun playing in the background. If your family is willing to deal with some noise, you’ll be able to jam out while you work without having to wear earbuds.

Times may be tough now, but the last thing you need adding to your stress is a crummy home office!