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When I started my business over 7 years ago, I started it in my bedroom, on an adorable little antique writing desk that I had personally stripped, stained, and refinished. It was me, my iPad (didn’t even have a laptop yet), and my dreams.
Flash to now and I have one small studio space that I share with another designer, and I often still land into my work from my laptop at the kitchen table or from the comfort of our feathered sectional with the dog, Scout, keeping my toes nice and warm. Though now with my self-quarantine I am solely at home, which is like discovering new territory all over again.
What makes it even more unique is that my boyfriend has also been directed to work from home. This is new territory for both of us, sharing our small yet gorgeous city condo for all hours of the day. (insert panic emoji here)
Fear not, I am here to help you get through this! I have a few tricks up my sleeve that you might not have heard yet. And they don’t involve telling you to stick to your “normal routine.” Because let’s face it – there is nothing “normal” about this.
If you are single, or working from home alone for the first time, this might be really hard and lonely for you. So read on, because I am saving my best tip for last on that front.
Start your day FOR YOURSELF
Did your commute just get shorter, like a whole lot shorter? More time to sleep in? Sure, but do not let yourself fall victim to rolling out of bed and into your laptop. Perhaps you are required to still remotely clock in, in this case you can use that “commute time” to do something for yourself that will allow you to wake up and feel good. Cook breakfast, do some stretching, watch cartoons, read a book, doodle, color, play a round of cards with your kids or spouse… have some fun before you get to work!
If you are not required to log in, but simply meet deadlines (which is how my business runs), then I suggest devising a new morning routine. I believe in the idea of coming into myself before I work for my clients. I need to make sure I am taken care of so that I can provide the best level of service and ensure that I am ready for whatever is coming my way each day. I like to stay out of email until I am at my desk, avoid social media and the news first thing in the morning, and work in some self care like eating a healthy breakfast, stretching, and doing something fun like playing with the dog.
Clean up your act!
You must understand the importance of getting dressed everyday! Studies have shown that people will have a better demeanor and will conduct their business in a much more professional manor if they are dressed for the day. Take that to mean whatever you want it to mean. I myself always put on a fresh set of clothing each day, even if it is a new pair of Yoga Pants and a sweatshirt.
Rolling out of bed and working in your jammies or bathrobe will not only slowly bring your level of professionalism down, but it will start to wind you down into a mental slump. Dressing for the day is a big part of self care, and we all need to care for ourselves a bit more during stressful times.
“Go” to work.
Now you can start your work day as you normally might from your office. I personally don’t like to respond to email until I have completed my top most critical task. I take a peek to see if any clients have requests that are urgent, and if not I get out of there and get one thing done from my task list. Then I hop into email. Time blocking and scheduling your work is really important and there are several free cloud based apps that connect to your phone and the web to manage your to-do list. Find what works for you and start planning out your work in a way that allows you peace and time to do it. This is good advice for when you go back to work, but honestly I love checking off to-dos on my dashboard and watching them disappear. I know that when I have completed my tasks for the day my day is over, and that motivates me!
Where is “work?”
You need to find a designated location in your home or building that is your work space, and do not mix it with other things throughout the day. If you have a small space, you will need to get creative with ways you can create some “mind-space” for yourself.
I work from my kitchen table and sometimes my sofa because we live in a city condo and don’t have a home office right now. But what I don’t do is turn on the television when I am working on the sofa, or eat with my computer open, etc. I work. Mixing in “home” activities with work is a slippery slope.
Take breaks, take lunch, get out and throw the ball around with the dog or have a quick coloring session with the kids. Step away. It is really easy to get wrapped into work and forget about lunch if you don’t have coworkers to remind you. I time block my lunch onto my calendar so I get a reminder every day to eat and take a break.
Keep it 9-5
Just because you can work after business hours doesn’t mean you should. Keep your sanity and allow yourself time to decompress before you rest for the night. Use the time you would be commuting to do something special for yourself like play the piano, call a friend, listen to a podcast, or whatever helps you slide of out of work mode.
Help! I’m alone and I don’t know what to do!
Working from home alone is… lonely. Unless you intentionally find ways to connect. By this I do not mean Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Connect professionally however you can. Fear not, this tip is not about how to conduct a zoom meeting, its been a week and I trust you have already figured that out by now.
Find an accountability partner
This can be someone from your office, or this can be a friend that may be in the same boat as you and is in a different industry entirely. Either way, set up 15 minutes every day to talk about what you have on your plate and what top tasks you need to complete. Allow them time to share what they need to get done as well. The next day, you each are going to say “did you get your stuff done?” to one another, and cover what you are going to work on for the following day, etc.
This has been a game changer for me. My accountability partner is a fellow designer in Boulder, CO and it is a wonderful way to connect while staying on top of your work. If I have to tell her that I didn’t get that drawing done, or that I never made that follow up call it is going to feel pretty crummy, so it forces me to be accountable and I also get to connect with someone every day for advice both ways. #socialdistancingwin
You can do this and we are here to help!
If you are noticing that you need a little help with your new “work-from-home” space, reach out! We offer virtual design services to meet your needs.
All my best,
Principla | Associate IIDA