HOW TO WORK FROM HOME!
Designer and Business Owner Emily Brooks shares her tips on how to stay motivated whilst working from home!
1. HAVE LONG TERM VISION, BUT SET YOUR GOALS ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS.
Everyone is always telling you to make your year plan, to lay out what you need to do by the end of this month, and make HUGE financial and practical goals. While it's important to have a general direction and vision in sight, when you work from home, nothing is as important as just getting through what you can manage, TODAY. If you work remotely with marketing teams or long-lead deadlines, it's key that you're aware of longer term plans and work collaboratively towards them, but when the business staying alive relies on YOU staying motivated not achieving your BIG weekly goals can deflate you, knock your confidence and slow your momentum. Instead, start each day where you are, check in with what you need to prioritise for that day and start there. Items on your to-do list that you don't do that day, roll over to the next. It's literally one step in front of the other until you look back and see how far you've come.
2. DON'T FAFF
I tend to faff about. By that I mean doing lots of things to 'set up, get ready, clear up, make nice and get me inspired' before I actually DO anything. Ever re-written a to-do list 3 times because another notepad just looks that bit prettier?
However much it IS important to occasionally make a mood board, tidy your working area or browse Instagram for inspiration... nothing beats just getting on with it, just STARTING.
Yes, put up a picture that keeps you motivated, but you don't need fifteen, laminated, sprayed with perfume and wall mounted before you can reply to THAT email. I say this, because I'm a procrastinator. I speak from dire, time-wasting experience. And this comes back to not needing lots of long term goals. A lot of people spend a long time planning what they're going to do today, tomorrow and for the rest of the year and never actually start. It's rooted in fear of failure, just like procrastination and perfectionism are. You have to actively fight these things and JUST START with where you're at, what you have now and what you're able to face, today. The achievements will come if you apply yourself with whatever is in front of you, now.
3. SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES IN YOUR SPACE, TIME & MONEY.
You've heard this before, but it's never been more true and relevant. The trick to me still loving my job, is I can compartmentalise. Boundaries will, inevitably, cross and life and work WILL mix stressfully sometimes, so give yourself grace, but it's important to put boundaries in place where you can to limit this 'mixing' as much as possible, and to feel a sense that you're in control of your day rather than the day is in control of you.
Set up a work space, if possible, that is not in the heart of where, just a few hours later, you will be having dinner/canoodling with your partner during Game of Thrones. Work in a spot where you won't be staring at a pile of dirty dishes. Chances are you'll be cleaning them within minutes, and would you be washing pots and pans if you were in an office in Soho right now? No.
For ages I tried to work at our kitchen table, but on the days my husband was home, I realised it was hard to write a press release whilst a man in a dressing gown fried sausages, chatted to his mates on Houseparty and asked where the nail clippers were. It's also not fair on him, he needs that chill time without some girl-boss-type prancing about, telling him to be quiet.
If your partner/kid/dog comes into your 'working space' wanting food/money/a chat about life... LAY IT ON EM THICK. Tell them you're busy. You're working. Tell them when you WILL be available and that you'll be free to chat then. If your kids are old enough to play alone but they come in saying they need you or they're bored, let them be bored. As long as when you DO finish work you spend quality time with them and give them your full attention, it's valuable that they learn that your work is important to you and it's worth their respect. This goes for relationships too. Resentment comes when we don't create clear boundaries for what we value.
Set clear work/not work hours. Again, set these for each individual day so you are adapting to the world around you, right now. That way if they get all messed up because a baby won't nap (frustrating!), or more work comes in and you have to work through dinner time (feeling guilty much?), you can adapt and be flexible to that particular day. Don't beat yourself (or anyone else!) up, when things haven't gone to plan, but re-assign the boundaries again in your head: 'Ok, that two hours of work I had planned isn't possible now, instead I will just let my employer know I will work on it this evening.' Or 'I had a much busier week this week and work took over family time. I'm going to spend some one-on-one time with each of my kids this weekend to make up for it.'
When you work from home your working hours can become blurred very quickly. Building a structure that everyone in the house is aware of and sticks to (including you!) will save your sanity, your relationships and your salary. I keep my work hours to the daytime (when my kids are in nursery/school) and when the kids are home in the evenings I don't work at all. During holiday time or, you know, COVID-19 isolation (!), I have set aside the mornings for my work and the afternoons for the kids so that I'm not trying to do all things, all at once. If work is busier, I plan for more hours in the evening when the kids are in bed. Whatever your living situation is, it's best to give your work life your undivided attention when you're working, and your home life your undivided attention when you're not, despite being in the same location for both. If you live alone the tendency can be to just continue to work into the evening and never have any 'you' time. Or to have a total lack of motivation and just get stuck watching Friends, again. Find the times of day when you feel more motivated and make those your work hours. If the morning is when you feel lazy and the evening is when you feel productive, build your routine around that to prevent unnecessary feelings of guilt around how you spend your day.
Turn off email notifications during family or evening relaxation time unless absolutely necessary and then when you are working, you'll be surprised how efficient and fast you are at dealing with what you need to attend to. I am WAY more productive during my limited work hours because they're boundaried.
Also... make sure you have your finances sorted so you know which expenses you're putting on the business card and what you're paying for out of pocket. That shizzle can get complicated. So get it sorted.
4. JUST SAY IT OUT LOUD
For the rare times when work does spill outside of my boundaried 'time slot', and it absolutely cannot wait (really ask yourself this first...can it wait?)...I created the 'say it out loud first' rule.
I discovered (the hard way) that answering an unexpected, urgent email in the middle of a conversation with my husband or trying to film (suddenly inspired!) Instagram content with kids yapping at my heels caused muchos arguments and stress. For everyone.
There was ONE SIMPLE THING that made a huge difference with this. If I'm just looking at my phone, my partner or child just sees me disconnecting with them. How are they supposed to know that what I'm doing is actually important and that sometimes work does need my immediate attention, even if it's outside of my usual work hours. So I say out loud, quickly and simply what I'm looking at, the importance of what I need to do and that I'll be back to what I'm doing with them soon. I don't wildly guess that I’ll be '5 minutes' or 'just 1 second', I just say that I'll deal with this and then will be back. Communication is respectful and clear, and helps your loved ones feel that they're still valued despite the disruption. And most of the time...it CAN wait.
5. REVEL IN THE GOOD
Take stock of the beauties of working from home: no commute, playing your own music, not having to listen to Bob in IT rant about another new road closure, for the majority of your working day. Having your loved ones close by, being flexible enough to do the school run or having a coffee break in your garden. If you can go out for walks, do, if you can't, sit by the window. Listen to what inspires/relaxes you. Celebrate small victories and communicate them with the people around you.
6. CONNECT WITH OTHERS, WHERE POSSIBLE
During work-at-home hours, you can feel isolated and your mental health can suffer dramatically when you work alone, especially if you carry a lot of business responsibility on your shoulders. Find ways to work alongside other freelancers or co-workers if possible to feel connected. Find business mentors and contemporaries that you check in with regularly who encourage you. During your 'home' hours, socialise often, with people who lift you up and enthuse you. You will find that you'll need this more when you don't work in a team environment, even if it's via WhatsApp, Facetime or Houseparty when you can't get out in the evening. Social interaction when you work from home is VITAL for your mental health.
7. GET DRESSED
Yes, one of the benefits of working from home is that you don't neeeeed to put on make-up, get dressed or even brush your teeth (!) for your work day. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't. If you feel at least presentable you're more likely to organize online meetings, your voice will sound different on the phone (yup!) and you might even film an Instagram story or two. If you've got a sudden, genius idea and want to just start writing it down, don't stop to put on lipstick.... but if you're having a low day and not feeling motivated, it can do wonders for your productivity and confidence if you put on an outfit that you would wear to present a pitch or to an important meeting. What we wear can dramatically affect our beliefs about ourselves.
Finally, with all of this in mind, you have to let go of any self-punitive voice that tells you that you haven't done enough, aren't enough or that your home/laptop/notebook isn't big/snazzy enough. We are far more vulnerable to comparisons, low self-esteem and to falling short of time, motivation or resources when we work from home. We can push ourselves to be the absolute best we can be and to unlock our potential, but we have to be kind to ourselves, and pursue things that champion us and spur us on.
That's one of the real highlights of working from home, with no colleagues to distract you...you have control of how you use your work time and it could be for something totally, uniquely brilliant.
Find about more about Emily’s brand new ranges at: emilybrooks.uk And for uplifting social content follow her on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook: @emilybrooksuk