Are you a creative working from home for the first time? Try out these best practices for staying focused, inspired, and connected.
As someone who’s worked from home both for herself and as part of a larger organization, I’d like to think I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to individual self-motivation. In the past few weeks, many companies have extended work-from-home policies for employees who may be at risk of being exposed to coronavirus (covid-19). But beyond that, working from home is actually on the rise for many creative industries, not just freelancers.
Working from home vs. working in an office
For creatives, there are benefits to both working from home and working in an office. When you work in a creative office, you get to collaborate and brainstorm easily. But, when you work at home you have to look for other sources of inspiration when you reach a creative rut.
For those of us just getting started in working from home, I thought I’d outline some best practices that have kept me motivated and on-track when producing creative work. These tips for working from home are just a few that I’ve found helpful when transitioning from an office environment to an at-home environment as someone in a creative industry.
Tip #1: Resist the urge to start to work the moment you wake up
When you sleep next to a phone that connects you directly to an office thanks to communication apps such as Slack or Google Hangouts, it can be tempting to dive right into work the moment you wake up. But that’s not the most effective way to start your day. Not only do you not give yourself a moment to breathe and wake-up, but you go straight from a mindset of rest to a mindset of performance. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t spark my creativity.
Instead, set your alarm the same way you would if you were commuting to an office for work. A best practice for working from home that’s always worked from me is to create a morning routine before I sit down at my desk.
To start my routine of getting ready, I change out of my sleepwear into professional clothing and make a coffee downstairs. Then I read a book for a while, maybe do a bit of yoga, and then slowly make the transition back to my desk to start the day. Do whatever works for you, but develop a routine that starts your day and puts you into a creative mindset before jumping straight into work.
Tip #2: Dress like you’re going to an office
When I first started working from home, I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. That often meant starting work in my bed, with the same sleepwear on that I wore to go to bed. But I struggled to feel connected professionally to what I was doing. I didn’t get into a mindset of “work” and instead, the work I was creating felt as lazy as I probably looked.
That all changed when I decided to dress how I would dress if I was in office. It doesn’t have to be much, but putting together a clean shirt, comfortable slacks, and getting ready for the day makes a world of difference. Not only does it feel like you’ve stepped out of your home and into an office, but your colleagues will thank you when you hop on an on-screen meeting looking professional and ready to get to work. Pop on your favorite pair of earrings, your cherished sweater, something that gets your creative juices flowing.
Tip #3: Clear the email inbox and get rid of any notifications
Before I start getting to work, I take a moment to clear my email inbox. Sometimes when you work from home, you’ll work with clients and colleagues from around the world who may have started their day well before you get to work. Take a moment to catch up, star, archive, and delete any emails that came from the day before.
The same goes for any notifications your phone or any desktop application you use at work. This helps you clear your plate so you can start thinking creatively and work on new or existing projects without worrying about anything that needs your immediate attention.
For more tips on making deadlines and staying organized, check out this article.
Tip #4: Set up a professional workspace
When you work from home, it can be tempting to work from the comfiest spot in your house. Often that’s your couch, and trust me when I say this: your back will thank you if you avoid the couch at all costs.
Create a workspace that feels like you’ve stepped out of your everyday home life, and into work. It’s understandable that you may not have an office space available in your home, or even a room that you can close the door and lock. But, you may have a favorite space that’s inspiring to you.
For me, I’ve set up a small desk in my room. That space has a diffuser with my favorite scents, a huge bottle of water to help keep me hydrated, a plant to add a bit of oxygen to the air, and my favorite notepad and pen. That space might look entirely different to you, and that’s okay. Find a space where you feel focused and comfortable, that feels professional and brings you into work mode instead of home mode.
This is especially pivotal for creatives who are working from home. You’re probably not going to be inspired by a blank wall. Tape up a few images to create a mood board that inspires you when you’re at your desk. And equally important? Have something professional behind you for when you jump on video chats with colleagues, whether that’s a plain-colored wall or a wall of books. You don’t want a messy bed in the background when you’re pitching your latest project.
Tip #5: Office perks? Welcome to at-home perks
The office “FOMO” can be real when you work from home. Fear of missing out on those team gatherings, the office lunches, or the ping pong table may be real. But working from home has it’s perks too. One of those perks is you time. Instead of taking a dedicated hour-long break during the day, you might have time to take a few fifteen minute mini-breaks instead to creatively reset in between meetings.
If you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a creative rut, it may help reset you to take a minute to yourself. Do a 60-second meditation, a five-minute yoga routine, or walk the dog around the block. Escape from your work mindset for just a moment to refocus yourself on the tasks you need to complete. While you may not be able to partake in-office events, working from home can have its benefits too.
Tip #6: Write down your intentions for the day
One of the best practices for working from home that’s worked for me is to start my day by offloading everything that I need to accomplish into a list of tasks.
Working from home means being self-motivated. It might be hours before you speak to a colleague. Or, maybe you work completely independently. One thing that helps me stay focused and motivated is to make a list and then number it in priority of which tasks I need to do. You can even take that list and separate into critical tasks, should do tasks, and if you have time tasks.
A task list is a great way for you to check off what you do and motivate yourself to keep going. Often, we forget just how much work we do in a day when we work from home. Don’t be afraid to keep a checklist of all the things you accomplish in a day. I guarantee it’s probably more than you think.
Tip #7: Communicate online with colleagues and fellow freelancers
One thing that you’ll experience when you work from home is that you won’t really have anyone to banter with or take breaks in your day to catch up with the way you would in the office.
If you’re creating a work from home environment, set up a way to communicate with colleagues. Use office communication apps like Slack or Basecamp to stay connected with the people you work with. Don’t be afraid to send a funny meme or two to develop relationships, even remote relationships, with your colleagues abroad.
If you’re a freelancer and don’t have a dedicated team, do some searches for freelancer groups that you can be a part of in your creative industry. Often, there are clubs and resources set up for freelancers to meet and share tips on staying motivated, connected, and building a business. This is also a great way to build a network of people who are just as passionate about freelancing as you are, and want to help you spark creative ideas.
Tip #8: If you’re struggling to focus, reach out for help
You may be reading this because you are temporarily required to work from home, potentially because of coronavirus (COVID-19). If that’s the case, this is a whole new experience you’re about to embark on and it can be nerve-wracking.
If you’re struggling to stay connected to your organization or colleagues, reach out to your human resources team or fellow colleagues for helpful advice and tips. Although this list of best practices for working from home may be helpful for some of you, everyone works differently and it’s important for you to explore and discover what works best for you.
Top Image by nadyabadya.
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