Hi everyone, I am Saida, the marketing and communications intern at Roots. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to leave South Africa a lot earlier and continue my internship from home in Germany as a remote, virtual internship. I had never done “home office” properly before.

I am the person who studies in the university library instead of home or would go to the coffee shop around the corner. But sitting alone at home was never really my cup of tea; first, I am a social person and I like to have people around me, second, I am good at procrastinating. As you might have read in my last blog post, my internship is going more than well. I am as productive as I was in the office in Cape Town. However, it wouldn’t be possible for me to make my internship work without some little hacks that I want to share with you.

Waking up early

It really is a game-changer. Waking up as early as you would when going to the office adds a sense of normality and routine. Moreover, your brain starts working as usual and you get done more earlier in the day which gives you a feeling of accomplishment and success. I start my day with coffee, which of course not is for everyone, but I am absolutely addicted to caffeine and need it as a productivity booster. I love the feeling of having gotten a lot done before lunchtime so in the afternoon I have enough time left to plan my next work day and enjoy my evening without being stressed and thinking about what I didn’t finish.

Video calls and mails

Having check-ins with my supervisors is absolutely crucial for me to get my work done properly. Every Monday morning and sometimes another time during the week we have a virtual meeting. In those meetings, we get back on track, update each other about our work, discuss new tasks and by the end of the call we find each other on the same page. It’s definitely necessary to keep the motivation level up, agree to each other, avoid misunderstandings and set mutual goals. Despite this, we are daily in email contact and let each other know what we’re on all the time. This approach gives me a feeling of “working with one another next to each other”, even though we are almost 10.000 km apart. I really start appreciating the digitalization and see the benefits.

To-do-list and deadlines

To get myself going, I need a list. Or two. I write down my daily tasks, always with a pen on paper because the feeling of crossing out a point on the list is too satisfying. On another list I write down what I want to achieve in the near future. That one I do on my laptop, because priorities can always change and new small tasks can be added everyday. On that one, I add deadlines. Some are given by my supervisors and others I set myself to be more productive and avoid procrastination. I strongly believe that achievable goals for the day or the next two days are of great importance. I mean, procrastination occurs when we have too much time to start our tasks. Or why do we learn most of the material one day before our examination? Diamonds are made under pressure. That’s how I motivate myself.

Save the best for last

Another approach of mine is this one – let’s say my supervisor gives me the following two tasks for the day: Edit the website and write an article about environmentally-friendly internships. Of course, the second task is a lot more fun (for me at least, I don’t know about you). And old-me would start writing the blog right away. But I did learn how to avoid procrastination and that means start with your least favourite task, get it off your plate and leave your favourite for after. Starting the task you were looking forward to kind of feels like a little reward.

Breaks and fresh air

Focusing on what I am doing includes putting my phone away and not having tabs open on my laptop that don’t include work-related content. However, it’s key for me to reward myself with breaks. As soon as I can’ concentrate anymore, I realise that my brain says that I need a little break. In my small breaks, I either stretch a little and have a snack or I have a coffee in the sun on the balcony (yes, my quarantine isn’t that bad). In longer breaks, I always go for a walk or run in the park near my house. It’s definitely not a myth that fresh air boosts concentration and relaxation. Running and other workouts reduce stress. So running as well as doing home workouts for sure make the home office easier and more successful!

Music

Here comes a very special tip from me that won’t serve everyone. Some people work best when it’s totally quiet, others like office or coffee shop noise around them, some like music and some are not able to work when there is music around them. My brain works well with music most of the time. I’ve heard from many people about using classical music when it comes to having to concentrate either for their studies or work. This includes myself.

Rewarding myself

To keep in a good mental space, I reward myself. For example, I make myself a big fresh juice after having finished that social media post or I call a friend that I am not allowed to hang out with after having published a blog post. When I feel that I was very productive in the morning, I take some time to cook a big, healthy lunch that makes me happy.

Sticking to these “rules” is easy and very rewarding. In these weird times of my (or everyone’s) life it’s a blessing to be healthy, productive and to have something to focus on and put energy into. I can only recommend starting a remote internship to make this isolated time somehow meaningful.