Such a luxury, and oftentimes such a challenge! I love having the freedom to do my design work and run my business from my home. There are plenty of guides out there with tips on how to make working at home work for you. I’ve learned a few things along the way so I thought I’d share some of my game changers with you. This is how it works for me:
It may seem strikingly obvious but when working from home, having a designated office space is so important, both for practical reasons and psychologically. If you’re just starting out or you already know the ropes of working from home then you’ll understand the lures of laying on the couch, working in pyjamas. In front of the TV may sound tempting but in my experience you need a great space to create great results. How do I stay productive, and at the same time stay sane?
I give my business the respect it deserves and ensure that business is business, personal is personal and all information is organised in a way that helps build my business rather than hinder it. Even if essentially your laptop is the only office space available to you at this time, then you can still give it respect, keep things separate, folders, email accounts, social media etc.
My office space is in a separate room to my living space, starting out this is not always possible so create a space wherever it is and make it the best working environment that it can be. When I enter my office, I know consciously that I’m there to go to work. It changes my state of mind from “I’m at home” to “I’m at work”. My office, for me needs to be comfortable, inviting and practical with everything to hand. This gives a message to myself and others that I take my working time seriously.
My best buy for my office is a good comfy chair, definitely worth spending some money on. A tidy work space helps keep a tidy mind, which helps make my day more productive and a great habit is that I have water on my desk at all times to sip throughout the day (definitely helps to keep the hectic day headaches at bay).
Creating boundaries makes all the difference and it stops things getting into a shambles and my business running away from me. Here’s my default work mode:
I make my work space essentially off limits to those other than my team. This can be tricky but essential if you’re working from home and family members and others that you live with are sharing your space. If your door is always open, I think it represents that you’re available and they can pop in at any point for a chat!
I keep my business paperwork all in one place, filed neatly and far away from personal paperwork and bills of any kind.
I set my office hours (keeping some flexibility as that is the beauty of having your own business) so that I’m comfortable, realistic and serious at the same time. I have a weekly plan Monday to Friday, split into hourly slots for each day and choose what days I ultimately want to work on set projects and how many hours each day.
My Dress Code:
I love to start the day properly with a bit of a ritual and I don’t stay in pyjamas! I have breakfast, have a shower, get dressed and spend some time alone to sit and plan my day. I don’t necessarily pick out my best skirt suit and splash on a full face of make-up for a day in front of my laptop but I stick to my morning routine as I would for a day in the office and if I have meetings I’ll dress for success!
Before I start my working day, I like to know what I want to achieve by the end of it.
A lot of days are mapped out with projects and meetings and when it comes to having time without a set agenda, I ask myself “What is the most effective use of my time RIGHT NOW?” I have a short list of things that I HAVE to do during the day. Next I have a list of things I’d LIKE to get done, but aren’t essential and finally a short list of things that need to be done at some point - so if I finish off my HAVE and LIKE list I’m on a roll and can get to the other things.
I love a deadline! I like to be super organised and of course I have days where procrastination can get the better of me so I know that a deadline works perfectly to get me moving. To be super productive on my ‘things to do’ list I have a time frame for each task where relevant.
It works for me to group tasks together. So that I’m not in and out checking emails all day, distracting myself, I check e-mail for 1 hour every day at the beginning of my working day and at the end. When I have a lot of writing/designing/creating to do, I put this creative time in blocks together to take advantage of being in the flow. I’m not always accessible for chit chat and if I want to focus 100% I make myself ‘unavailable’ for a while. I turn off my mobile, email notifications, Skype etc. Everything should be a step in the direction of where you want to be.
I definitely take breaks as have previously worked through like a demon and I know that the quality of what I produce is improved a hundredfold when I take time out. I often get out for some fresh air and changing my environment definitely refreshes my mind and it’s great to get some exercise with a brisk walk.
Notepad or two:
I have a ‘spontaneous’ notepad for scribbling in quickly to capture creativity then I have another notepad to jot all the things that I want to keep and come back to time again. I love to get my ideas down on paper and frequently have an ‘ideas’ session for blog posts, projects, anything that springs to mind, I jot it all down. Post-Its are great for this too; have somewhere you can capture those ideas! Some of the best work I’ve ever done has come from random bits of inspiration.
Being savvy is about knowing what I’m good at and using my time in the best way. I delegate tasks that are not my forte or that I dislike. Giving me the freedom to do what I love.
Some days are satisfyingly more productive than I ever Imagined and others are not! That’s the nature of business. If I’m having a particularly tough day, when things aren’t happening as quickly as I’d like them to, I don’t stop just because it’s a hard day. Train yourself to do some work anyway as action is the way to progression. On the flip side I don’t often work 10 hour days. I’ll always work however many hours it takes to get something done with an imminent deadline but on a regular basis I keep to a 5 or 6-hour day. Outside of my office hours I resist temptation to turn on my computer for a quick email check or to do 1 little thing…. of course I have my sketch books for design inspiration pretty much 24/7!
I make time for people, I make sure I respond in some way to every email and read customers and readers’ comments on my Social Media and others who give the company mentions on their blogs. I make sure they know I’m grateful and thank them when I can!