THE Creativity Chronicles
Since Coronavirus hit us with the biggest curve ball of the century, lots more people are working from home and will continue to for the near future. I’ve been working from home for the past five years but before that I worked in a bustling office in a busy building where we had a shared café and around fifty creative businesses housed under one roof so it was a bit of a culture shock to say the least to suddenly be at home alone.
Here are some tips for working from home if you’ve never done it before (or even if you have – I’m still working on getting these right):
Get up, get dressed. Do not be tempted to wear pyjamas because nobody sees you – when I started my first business over ten years ago I fell into this trap, I once even invited the postman in as I was so lonely and bored (poor bloke ran a mile!) After that, I got up and dressed every morning and walked to work – eg walked around the block and back to my front door. A strange yet incredibly powerful psychological trick to set me up for the day.
Follow a Routine
Establish some kind of routine like you would in an office. Never start a day wondering what you should work on. Have a clear plan and designated break times all marked out before you even begin.
A lot of my friends initially thought me working from home meant just chilling out and wanting a gossip. Be strict about the fact it’s a work day and make sure your Mum knows just because you’re at home, you don’t have time for a two hour chinwag at 11am, save it for after 6pm or a quick coffee on lunch break (make it a timed coffee otherwise the next thing you know you’ll have wasted an entire afternoon at the beach, eating fries and skinny dipping with your best mate – speaking from experience)
Work to Your Rhythm
This is the perfect opportunity to work to your rhythm, there’s no need to work from 9-5 (unless your boss is asking that of you – but even then, if you can prove you are more efficient working to a different timescale, don’t be afraid to broach that topic). For instance, I’m at my most creative from 7am – 11am then 2pm-4pm I’m at my least creative (this is my time for admin, emails or client calls or even a late lunch and a sea swim to perk me up for part two of my day when I get a second wave of inspiration)
Try to get out occasionally – whether it’s for a daily walk or a change of scenery. I always try (or tried, pre-coronavirus) to get out to a café at least once a week and I usually visit the beach every single working day as it’s where I’m most creative).
Create a dedicated Work Space
Even if it’s just one corner of a room, somewhere you go for work and you leave at the end of the day. If you start working in your dining room, your lounge and your bed your work and your life start to blur into one.
Connect With Others
Working from home can sometimes get lonely, you end up asking your dog his opinion on your latest tagline (he’s so vague, I can never tell if he likes it or not). Make sure you connect with other creatives – either by arranging (a socially distanced) work date in a hotel or café, meeting a friend on lunch break or even connecting with other creatives on social media: it’s not quite the same as face to face but I’ve made some amazing relationships with creatives on the other side of the world via social media. It’s important to talk to someone that isn’t a pet every now and again.
Stay Hydrated and Make Sure You Eat
Sometimes I’ve been so immersed in the job that I’ve gone the entire day without food. Take regular breaks, eat well and often and keep your water intake up, don’t push yourself to breaking point. No matter how big the deadline, stop for fuel!
It’s so easy to fall down the rabbit hole of social media and internet surfing or obsessively checking emails (this feels productive but it usually isn’t). Spend some time at the beginning of the day setting your objectives and knowing what you want to achieve then allow set times for using apps. A client has recently introduced me to the Forest app which helps you grow virtual trees by staying off social media. If you check social media when you shouldn’t then you accidentally kill a tree – even better, you can pair up with a friend on this app then if you sneakily slip into your DMs during work time you kill THEIR tree – nobody wants a dead tree – do the right thing and stay focused.
Lastly, Keep Some Variety
Don’t make every day the same or you’ll dread each day. I’m lucky because I’m constantly writing for new projects so the subject matter changes but if you’re working for the same company day in and day out, look at how you can add variety to your working week. For instance, client calls on Tuesday, content creation on Wednesday, report writing on Thursday, social media scheduling on Friday and put some nice treats in there as well (reward yourself with something lovely once you hit a word count target or a certain work related goal).
Working at home often goes wrong because people either end up in their pyjamas all day watching Netflix and eating ice cream or because they go the other way and strive so hard to be efficient that they burn out, don’t take breaks and end up not having a home life any more because their work consumes every inch of their lives. The ultimate tip is always about balance – balancing work and life, the mundane and the amazing and maintaining laser focus yet knowing when to call it a day (rest makes you more powerful for tomorrow).
I love to hear from other work-from-home types, please come and say hello on Instagram where I love to pro-crastinate (I mean “connect with”) fellow creatives in the freelance community.