Working From Home: Routine

[Related – “Working From Home: Workspace“]

The difference between working from home becoming a distracted, lazy waste of time and becoming the most productive way you’ve ever worked is often routine. It’s easy to fall into a habit of procrastinating or flipping between unfinished tasks without getting any closer to finishing them. A routine can stop that before it even begins. In the same way you need a good physical workspace to get to work in, you need a good mental headspace for work.

The most basic aspect of a routine is times. Set aside a fixed amount of time every day for work, and don’t do anything unrelated to work in that time. If it’s as short as an hour, set a timer and give yourself a small reward afterwards; do it before lunch and have your lunch as a reward, or mid-afternoon and then play videogames when you’re finished.

If you’re working all day, for example starting at nine am and finishing at five pm, give yourself set breaks to stretch your legs and rest your mind. If you’re working at the computer, the recommended screen/break balance is an hour on the computer then 15 minute doing something else. It’s a good time balance for many things, as it’s not healthy to sit all day if you can avoid it. Remember to have meal breaks!

If you have trouble feeling focussed, a tighter or stricter routine might be helpful. Just as offices and work environments have dress codes, it can help to get dressed in a work-appropriate outfit before sitting down to work. It doesn’t have to be a full suit if you don’t want to, but rolling from bed to work in your pyjamas is not a motivating set up. Getting washed and dressed and putting on a polo shirt can be a big part of feeling motivated and ‘at work’.

The real secret to working at home successfully is finding your own balance – some articles will tell you that you must recreate a typical office environment as closely as physically possible, but the main appeal of working from home is the comfort and ease of working in your pyjamas on the sofa. Only you can find the balance between the two that works for you. Maybe you need to allocate tasks to a timetable and work to a strict list on the clock, but you can sit around in your onesie and eat snacks. Maybe you can come and go on work and don’t need reminders, but only if you wake up and put on a shirt and trousers. Maybe you need a little of each.

Once you’ve got some sort of routine down, working will become habit. You won’t have to focus on going along with your routine when you’re used to it, and you won’t have any trouble getting down to work and being productive when you’re in the habit of working and being motivated. Without the time taken up by a commute and with the fine balance you’ve worked out, you might even be far more productive and create far better finished products at home than you ever did before.

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Working From Home: Workspace

[Related – “Working From Home: Routine“]

Setting up a good workspace is a vital part of working from home. For one thing, having a dedicated workspace that you avoid doing non-work activities in helps you feel like you’re at work and be focused when you want to get work done. It doesn’t have to be an entire room or a fancy set up. In fact, you can easily set up a great home workspace without spending a penny!

Choose a table space you can spare in a room that won’t be distracting. A desk in your bedroom or a table in your living room are good places, as is a corner of the kitchen/dining room table if you can spare it. Try to choose a table at a good height for working. You don’t want to be bent over, so make sure you can rest your arms on the table and have your back straight comfortably. There should also be plenty of room for your computer and/or other equipment, a drink in case you need one, and space around the table for you to move easily.

Most people find it easier to work sitting on a chair, but it can be good for your posture and productivity to work standing up. If you prefer this or just like the idea, you’ll need a higher desk and might have to buy or make one specially. On the other hand, you won’t have to worry about a chair!

An office chair is the best option, because they’re designed to be good chairs to sit in while you work, but if you don’t have one you don’t need one. As long as your chair means you’re sitting at the right height for the table and doesn’t make you slouch it’s a good enough chair. If possible, get a chair that you find comfortable to sit on with your feet under it somewhat, as this leg position makes sitting up straight easier.

Really, the table and chair, and that the room isn’t distracting is most of a good workspace. A distracting room is one where there are things that might distract you, obviously. If you need quiet, choose a quiet room, if you prefer to listen to music, choose a room you can play music in, and don’t pick the kitchen if you snack to put work off. Try to choose a place you’ll be alone in, or at least where the other people won’t affect you.

All that’s left is the actual table space. The typical advice of avoiding clutter applies, but it can be good to have things you often need.

The top of a computer screen should be level with your eyes, and everything you need such as a mouse should be within easy reach without moving your shoulders. A mouse is preferable to a mousepad if you have one, and all kinds of keyboard with various degrees of ergonomics exist if you want to splash out.

Art or craft tables should have a clear space in the middle big enough for a typical piece of work, and at least enough space for both your hands to comfortably rest. A nice little desk organiser, or even old mugs, should be within reach so you can easily find and use things.

With an appropriate table and (possibly) chair, and a neat space on it, you’re finished; that’s all you need for a working at home workspace. Get to work!

Why Reusable Menstrual Pads are The Best Option and Not “Icky”

The logic of what is and isn’t socially acceptable can be odd; reusable cloth nappies are an admirable choice when you have a baby and ‘moon cups’, reusable plastic menstrual cups, are gaining popularity. Despite those two things being socially acceptable, reusable cloth menstrual pads just aren’t something people have positive reactions to hearing about.

While ‘moon cups’ are written about and shown off as THE reusable menstrual item, their insertable nature means they are only really comparable to tampons. For people who use pads for whatever reason they do, reusable pads are the alternative to disposable pads. After all, some people just don’t trust insertables not to leak, find them too invasive and upsetting, find them uncomfortable, or just don’t like the idea. Plus, it’s reusable pads that don’t get the praise they deserve.

All three products have the same main drawback. You have to clean them. Cleaning plastic cups only means a quick rinse, but cloth does has to be washed. Washing cloth pads isn’t too hands-on or laborious, as after a soak they’re fine to put in the washing machine. One little waterproof bin with a lid in the bathroom and it’s a small chore. Pouring the dirty water away and chucking the pads in the washing machine is far less unpleasant than cleaning the poop from socially acceptable cloth nappies!

There are many benefits to cloth pads, from the eco-friendliness of reusing them to the trans pleasure of them being infinitely less gendered a product. They work out much, much cheaper in the long run than disposable pads, too. While a full set can cost around £80, depending on what thickness you need, a month’s supply of disposable pads can be as much as £4. It doesn’t seem like much, but it soon adds up. £4 a month is over £200 a year! Even if you only spend £1.50 a month, it’s only a year before you’re saving money with cloth pads. If you’re handy with a sewing machine you could even make your own, meaning they’d only cost as much as the fabric itself.

The fact that they’re reusable is why they’re eco-friendly, too. Instead of binning at three or more pads a day for an average of five days a month, filling landfills with at least 180 pads a year, you could avoid that altogether. That’s the main appeal of cloth nappies too, and in this era of global warming and realisation that we can’t keep just binning everything, environmental choices are admirable. If you sort your recycling and buy products with less packaging, this should be just your cup of tea. Metaphorically speaking. Make sure your pads have some peace signs and flowers on them, you hippy, you’re helping to save the Earth.

Yes, peace signs and flowers. Cloth pads aren’t plain white with sticky backs, they’re coloured fabric with pop button wings. The lack of glue is fantastic for someone like me, as I have a skin allergy to glue. If you’re prone to sweat, itching or discomfort, the breathable fabric is a wonder. The colour choices take menstrual pads from function object you hide away to item of clothing. You can choose light fabrics to see how heavy your flow is being or dark colours to hide any staining, you can have them all in your favourite colour or match different colour pads to different colour pants, and you can choose patterns like flowers, skulls and cross bones or birds. You’ll want to hang them to dry in your living room so people can see how nice they are. You’ll want to store them in full view, and flash your pants at people when you are wearing them.

Those pretty and funky patterns are just the tip of the iceberg of how different an idea the people making cloth pads and the companies making disposable pads have of their products of menstruation itself. Far less ashamed of natural bodily functions, the product descriptions on Etsy don’t avoid saying what they actually are and use words like menstrual and blood. Feminist and hippy words like ‘moon’ for ‘period’ come up, too, but the euphemisms are positive instead of embarrassed.

For trans men and other non-women who menstruate, the lack of words like “feminine hygiene product” are great in that reusable pads are often completely ungendered. Some shops go on about womanliness, but many are gender neutral and some cater towards trans people. Those colours and patterns are good on this point, too, as you can completely avoid the pinks and purples and the soft girly packet patterns most menstrual products have, and opt for whatever makes you feel manly or genderless about your period. Having dark pads hides the blood, too, so is fantastic for anyone who feels dysphoric or just squicked out by seeing it.

One benefit that won’t cross your mind until you actually use them is the comfort. Allergies aside, wearing disposable menstrual pads aren’t as comfortable as not wearing them. They might rub or make you sweat, but they just aren’t made of soft fabric. Cloth pads, being cloth, are. The initial chill you might feel of the metal pop-clip on your leg aside, having pads made of fabric won’t feel any different to regular underwear. All those discrete and unnoticeable disposable pads have nothing on pads that feel like any other fabric. For people with heavy periods, the rustle of a heavy or night pad as you move makes it feel more like a nappy than the secret it claims to be. You know what doesn’t have a plastic-y rustle? Fabric.

Here’s hoping these wonders get more socially acceptable, and more people get to experience them. The downsides are few and the upsides are abundant; if you’re using disposables it’s the perfect time to switch!

Seven Fun Things to Call Your Period

“I’m on my period.” Boring! Liven up your calendar and conversation with these far more fun things to call your period. Rather than being ranked, as they’re all pretty great, they’re in alphabetical order.

Communism:

This is just a crass reference to the use of red symbolism in communism and the redness of blood. It’s fun to use whether you’re pro- or anti-communist, though, as drawing a hammer and sickle on the calendar or saying that the communists are in power aren’t positive or negative in themselves.

Dishonourable Discharge from the Uterine Navy

It’s a bit of a sentence, but it makes what is literally happening sound like being fired from the military. You can drop the ‘dishonourable’ part if you’d prefer, and draw boats on the calendar.

Laying an Egg

As well as uterine lining, a period if disposing of that months unfertilised egg. Saying you’re laying an egg is tenuously true, even if it’s not laying as such and there’s only an egg if you’re currently fertile, and brings up the image of you as a giant chicken. Win-win.

MANstruation:

A great pun for trans men, as it’s not just the ladies who menstruate, this reinforces your gender and un-feminises your period. Other silly transmasculine puns include “duderus” and “brovaries”, and all require you to smirk a bit when you say them.

Moon:

A bit of a hippy one, to be fair. A moon cycle is around 28 days, just like the average menstrual cycle, and there’s some incomplete evidence that the moon can effect mood and menstruation just as its gravity effects the tides.

Pants Week:

Depending on what menstrual products you use, your period means you can’t go commando or wear boxers, thongs or other underwear bottoms without the right shape. Call them pants, briefs or knickers, this is the week you have to wear them.

Shark Week:

Like the Discovery channel’s week of special programmes, you mark off on your calendar for the blood and panic. Alternatively, a diagram of a shark’s brain is coincidently the same basic shape as a diagram of vagina, uterus and ovaries. Make of that what you will.

Changing Your Name by Deed Poll

It’s common practice for trans people to change our names to ones more fitting of our genders, but people change their names when they get married or separate, to make a hard to spell or pronounce name simpler, or just to have a more commonly used nickname as an official name on documents.

Whatever your reasons, it can seem daunting. Advice online can be confusing, with sites claiming to be easiest and cheapest, old fashioned transgender advice and vague government pages. What’s most misleading are the services you pay for a deed poll. They carefully word things to make you think you have to pay, so finding the cheapest or most official company is your best option, but you don’t have to pay. It’s worth repeating – you don’t have to pay for a deed poll! It’s easy and equally valid to do your own deed poll.

There are some restrictions on what you can choose as a name; you can’t have a title like Princess or Lord as a first name and you aren’t allowed to have an overtly offensive name such as Adolf Hitler or a string of swearwords. You need a first name and a surname at least, for most place to accept it, and then you’re ready to make your deed poll.

The Deed Poll

All you need to change your name by deed poll is two witnesses who aren’t related to you, but other than that can be anyone (you can ask strangers if you want!) and an official looking piece of paper with this printed on it:

Deed Poll on Change of Name

This change of name deed made this [date] day of [month, year]

By me the undersigned [full new name] of [street address] in the County of [county] now or lately known as [full old name] a British Citizen under section 37(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981

Witnesses and it is hereby declared as follows:-

  • I absolutely and entirely renounce relinquish and abandon the use of my said former name of [full old name] and assume adopt and determine to take and use from the date hereof the name of [full new name] in substitution of my former name [full old name]
  • I shall at all times hereafter in all records deeds documents and other writings and in all actions and proceedings as well as in all dealings and transactions and on all occasions whatsoever use and subscribe the said name of [full new name] as my name in substitution for my former name of [full old name] so relinquished as aforesaid to the intent that I may hereafter be called known or distinguished not by the former name of [full old name] but by [full new name] only,
  • I authorise and require all persons at all times to designate describe and address me by the adopted name of [full new name].

In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my adopted and substituted name of [new full name] and also my said former name of [old full name] and have set my hand the day and year first above written.

Signed as a deed by the above-named

[old and new signatures]

[full new name], formerly known as [full old name]

In the presence of

[witness 1 signature]

[witness 1 first and surname] of [street address] in [county] [postcode]

[witness 2 signature]

[witness 2 first and surname] of [street address] in [county] [postcode]

Technically you can write “I [old name] hereby change my name to [new name]” on the back on an envelope, but by having an official looking document it is a lot easier to get your other documents changed to your new name.

Who to Tell

Now you have a deed poll, your name is official! However, you still have to inform every company for them to change your records, and that can be a lot to remember.

DVLA – if you have a driving license, you MUST inform the DVLA as soon as possible, as using your old licence is considered fraudulent and you can face a fine of up to £1000!

Electoral Registration – you must inform the council for your electoral registration to be updated, as this is often used to check your details by other companies.

Passport – you need to get a new passport, but changing your picture is optional.

HMRC – your National Insurance will need to be updated

Banks and Building Societies – remember to inform every bank and building society you have an account with!

Employers and Education – any employer you have needs to know and updated records and payment details, and any school, college or university you’re enrolled in needs to know too.

Bills and Loans – your landlord and or mortgage company will need to know, as will any company you pay bills towards such as mobile phone, gas and electric, and things like club memberships. If you have any loans, including Student Loans, those companies will need to know too.

Doctor, Dentist etc – your medical records and any billing information will need updating. Private companies such as the opticians will all need informing, and it might be quicker to tell all NHS departments such as your GP and various specialist separately rather than wait for the first to inform all the others.

Benefits Departments – if you receive benefits, you will need to tell the department that deals with them, such as Work and Pensions for JSA.

Anywhere else you use your legal name – your deed poll is a promise to stop using your old name and start using your new name in its place, so tell any organisation you have your name listed as you go along. There’s no rush with this, but the whole point of changing your name is using a different name.

Friends, family, acquaintances – most likely two of your good friends were your witnesses, and you excitedly told other friends and family members. If it wasn’t an expected change, like your surname when you got married, or you didn’t make a big announcement to everyone, make sure you don’t forget anyone.