I can’t technically say that I am working from home, because I think that implies I am earning a salary. But, I am currently working from home (unpaid) as I work on a few projects that will hopefully allow me to work from home (paid) in the future! That makes perfect sense, right?
For the past couple of months, I have been trying to figure out a good work-from-home routine. And it has been challenging. But, after a lot of reading and listening and experimentation, there are a few things I have found to work for me so far. I am still doing a lot of tweaking. But it’s progress.
1) Listening to podcasts
I work better when I have other people around me to bounce ideas off with. While I enjoy solitude for certain types of work (editing, for example), other times I would prefer noise and voices around me. To counteract the silence of my home during the day, I started listening to podcasts. Specifically, podcasts about creativity, writing, and blogging. It is such a jump start for me and always gets ideas flowing in my brain. Two of my favorites right now are How They Blog and The Accidental Creative.
Listening to interviews with all kinds of people on all kinds of topics is helpful for me. Even if someone just says one thing that you can grab onto and glean inspiration from. It is helpful for me to feel like I am surrounded by chatty, creative people.
I also try to use the listening time to work on sketches for blog posts. Podcast time feels so productive! When my sisters and I were younger, we would sprawl out on the floor and draw for hours while listening to cassette tapes. It was so therapeutic, I wanted to incorporate it into my adult life. I find listening to pod casts the perfect time to sketch mindlessly. In fact, I drew the illustration above while listening to a podcast. There is something about listening and drawing that removes the pressure of perfection. I think listening helps remove the distractions of the left side of the brain (logic and reason) and allows creativity to flow freely.
2) Utilizing the time of day to my advantage
I am usually tempted to do easy work when I first open my laptop in the morning: final editing, responding to emails, or responding to blog comments. But some of the best advice I have read from people who work at home is to know when you are most creative, and use that knowledge to your advantage.
For me, I am a morning person, and do my best creative work first thing in the morning. I do my best editing in the afternoon/early evening. I am toast late at night. I know that about myself, so I fight the urge to reply to emails first thing in the morning (even though that feels so productive!), and save it for when I need a little bit of a mental break. I have learned that if I save my hardest creative work (writing, for example) for later in the day, I lose my momentum pretty early on.
3) Setting a timer
You have probably heard this tip: for the work that feels overwhelming, that you are dreading, set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can get done. Tell yourself that all you have to do is work for 15 minutes! That’s it!
Setting a timer is something I need to do more often. It is a perfect method for me. I tend to put off things that overwhelm me, because I just know they are going to take up so much of my precious time. That stupid 15 minute timer has proven to me that my internal thoughts are all lies. It’s pretty humbling, that stupid little timer. Do you know how much you can get done in 15 minutes? A lot. And do you know how much you can get done after the timer goes off, and you ride with the momentum? Even more.
If you have never tried it, I highly recommend it.
4) Making lists
In order to avoid getting lost in an internet rabbit hole of things that are most likely interesting but entirely irrelevant, I have to make lists to stay on task. Even if it is just a short, broad list of the main things I want to accomplish that day.
I keep a little moleskine notebook full of daily lists, so I can look back on my previous lists and remember that I do actually accomplish things. I also keep another notebook near by for writing down ideas that I don’t want to forget, but could potentially be distracting if I focused on them in that moment.
5) Taking breaks
I am really good at getting distracted, but not so good at deliberately taking breaks. I can easily work for four hours straight without realizing I haven’t eaten or moved my muscles. I try to take frequent breaks now, and have made it a habit to shut down all work when I feel burnt out. And if I am still going strong by the time Eric gets home, I make myself put it all away. I need those evening hours to reboot and get away from the screen.
So those are the five things I am learning right now. I am still getting the hang of everything, and there is room for improvement of course, but I think I am off to a good start.
What about you? Do you work from home? Or at least, set aside time for creative work outside of your “real” job? How do you stay productive and inspired? What works for you? What podcasts do you love? Please share!