Lauren Li, Interior Designer
It helps to have a nice area to spend time in, but above all, your working from home set up needs to be practical! We don’t have a lot of space, so I don’t keep things on my desk that I don’t need. I’d recommend grabbing a basket or plastic bag and just fill it with the things that aren’t work-related, and just sort it out later. I do like to have a nice leather mouse pad and some colourful storage accessories (Hay do some great stuff!) on my desk. I also like to burn a candle or use an oil diffuser or have some fresh flowers or foliage, just to keep the spirits up.
Another important element for your working from home setup is to have a comfortable but cute chair, I love the ‘About A Chair’ by Hay. It’s critical to have a desk as the designated space to work, rather than using your laptop on your sofa, or worse your bed! Even setting up on the dining table works, as long as you make sure you’re sitting upright in said comfortable chair.
I also need a good quality set of headphones for the conference calls that we’re taking with our clients and colleagues. When I’m actually trying to get some work done I find it helpful to have some background noise, so the radio or a familiar playlist in the background helps me. Although there is no lack of noise with kids around all the time these days!
Check out Lauren’s online interior designer classes here!
Alice Oehr, Freelance Illustrator
Working from home as an illustrator is something I’ve done on and off for many years now – and there is an art to it. I’ve found there are some habits that help to minimise cabin fever and get things done.
Always get dressed in the morning: preferably not in trackies (obviously sometimes you are going to break this rule. Live it up!). The fact is, wearing real clothes brings you a level of dignity that moccasins and polar fleece will simply never be able to. Before I admonished it, I did once do a whole work-from-home winter in the one (matching) tracksuit and I did not, at any point, feel like a real member of society.
If you ditch the tracksuit and uggs, no surprise human contact – analogue or digital – will catch you unawares. I’ve both a) taken a video call with a whole panel and b) answered the door to a sharply-suited Jehova’s witness while dressed in a hoodie and fluffy pink slippers, fresh out of bed. I wish to repeat neither experience.
Also, try to maintain very disciplined work hours: eg 9–6 with a lunch break, then clock off completely at the end. This revolutionised my ability to actually pursue freelance full time. Before setting proper work hours, I’d regularly muck around all week then find myself having to work all night and all weekend – and that just ain’t right… for me anyway.
Lisa Marie Corso, Freelance Writer
Honestly, I think my TEDTalk theme would be “Working from Home” because I have A LOT of opinions about it. I’ve been working from my home office for three years, and in that time I have developed a few rituals essential to my daily routine and productivity.
I split my day into before work, at work, and after work. We all know we shouldn’t be working in pyjamas, I especially know this because by 11am you’ll smell something gross and be shocked to discover it’s actually YOU. You’ll then have a shower and do your hair in the middle of the day and throw your whole day out of whack. So before 9.30am, I get up, make myself look decent and clean, eat breakfast and try and go for a walk.
In the ‘at work’ period of 8 hours I make a list of ACHIEVABLE daily tasks. There’s nothing worse than an overwhelming list! On this list I also put in lunch, my favourite part of the day, and an afternoon walk. Sometimes the walk doesn’t happen but I am more likely to do it if it’s on the list. Never underestimate the power and thrill of being able to cross something off a list. Some days will be super productive, some less so, just like if you were sitting in your work office.
Fiona Killackey, Small Business Coach
Creating blocks of time in your week for specific things (ie meetings, marketing, emails, analytics etc) helps keep you focused on just one task or area at a time. It’s so easy, particularly for people working from home for the first time, to get pulled in a variety of directions – doing Zoom meetings one minute, then responding to emails, then trying to get some marketing done then working on the eCommerce backend etc. This can be exhausting, inefficient and ineffective. When you set boundaries and chunk your work (time blocking), you’re more likely to focus and get real traction happening in that area, then you can move onto the next. Use this free weekly planner to map what a week might look like, then consider which tasks you could “chunk” into time blocks i.e. doing all of your marketing/admin 12-3pm Mondays.
Depending on your personality, working from home can be a paradise or a prison sentence. Regardless of your attitude towards it, having people to turn to can do wonders for mindset and mental health. From sharing funny stories and things that made you smile, through to venting your frustrations or working through problems, having a regular time to chat with friends in a similar boat can help. This may be fellow small biz owner friends, past colleagues or friends in a similar industry. Figure out a frequency (ie weekly) and communication medium (Skype, FaceTime, phone) and create a scheduled time to check in with one another. I have been doing this for years with three of my fave biz friends and it has been invaluable for keeping me motivated, personally and professionally.
Check out Fiona’s offline and online courses for small business owners, over at My Daily Business Coach.
Ben Law, Freelance Writer
One of the biggest learning curves is learning how much you can do, and how much time it actually takes.
To begin, you’ll probably overestimate how much you can fit into a day – a dangerous mind-frame that even has a name: time-optimism. You’ll need to adjust your expectations and schedule what can and can’t realistically fit into your time.
Also: be self-aware. If you’re easily distracted or get slack, discipline yourself by scheduling your entire day in advance, down to the hour, including breaks. And if you tend to work yourself into the ground … do the same thing! Enforce your breaks in advance. Know when to stop!