I am standing here looking at the space that is very soon to become my new workshop. It is just a wall’s thickness away from the rest of my life – away from down time, sleep time, shower time. I am going back to something that I know well, but something that became my worst enemy not so many years ago. I need to be very mindful this does not happen again. But how do I manage to balance work and home whilst working from home, and still keep the differences clearly defined?
When I took on my studio space in Manchester in January 2015 it was the first time since I had started my business that I had been able to create a genuine commute to work routine and de-work my homelife. It was the first time I could shut the door, leave the building and come back another time.
I would say it has been useful in that respect, but in others, perhaps not. I have been invariably creative in that space but I don’t think I was doing it necessarily the right way and I also don’t think I was in the right frame of mind to really feel the benefits of the situation in which I found myself. There were huge chunks of time where nothing was done at all or I used the space for other types of creativity that weren’t clothing related and used that as a procrastination tool. I have panicked over all the hours I have spent there not making dresses or generating income. I was trapped in a cycle of trying to be creative in a 9-5, and that will only be broken because I will no longer be in that space.
I believe I have moved on enough to make this work for me now. I am sure I have the tools to face it. I am very much aware of the pit falls. I know how easy it is to slip into the pattern of not leaving the house for days at a time, for letting work seep into the other rooms of the house, so that eventually the entire place becomes work and there is no shut down at all. For not shutting down and walking away and taking time off.
There are a number of things I want to implement to keep things on an even balance. I’ve had online help although I knew the bare bones of it already. They are mostly tips I have picked up from podcasts and blogs and people I have met who have inspired me into other ways of living. I have white space to consider now. These are new but important methods for surviving the working from home challenge:
Leave the house every day. This should not be difficult. I like to run – I am on a fitness mission – so that should be easy as I try to do a few miles every day. Now though, I can go further afield. I can break the routine of what time I run, but I also need to break up the routes or I will become bored.
Work a four hour day. I heard about this on the Hurry Slowly podcast and I am inclined to believe it. I would try to do the full 9-5 in my studio because I had taken the time to drive there and had paid for the space and because YOU MUST WORK A FULL DAY. Yet I would spend most of it procrastinating over Twitter or Instagram. I wasn’t working, but I wasn’t shutting off from it as I should have done. I felt guilty and that didn’t make me more creative. I just worried about it more.
Take admin elsewhere. If I take my laptop to a coffee shop in town twice a week for half a day and do my admin and blog writing from there, that’s a good thing right? I love sitting in public spaces, watching the world go by as I dither over subject material or update my Etsy store. I love to people watch. And this is a concerted effort to get out and mingle with other human beings even if I am being a voyeur.
Turn off the internet. Social media is my worst enemy. I will use it to great effect to avoid doing any work and the truth of the matter is that I hate it for this 90% of the time. Over the last month or so I have been creatiing social media no go zones. I removed the apps from my phone, and then noticed how often I wasn’t defaulting to my laptop to check my accounts. Once I am working from home. I am going to implement no go internet times. I don’t have to be working, I just don’t want it clogging up my day. 10 – 4 sounds like a good chunk of time to down the 4Gs. This also goes for the TV. I already have it switched off 90% of the time, and I only reinstated it in May when I moved into my own place. But there is almost nothing I want to watch and I think it is as damaging as spending all day scrolling on social media. So away it goes.
Meet people. This was one of my worst habits when I worked from home. I lived often in houseshares but with very insular and often strange indivduals who had no interest in their roomies. You would hear people sculking about, slithering down the stairs to make food and disappearing back into the safety of their den. It’s more depressing than living alone.
Manchester has plenty of gig venues. You can go alone and still be with people. Meet Up is a great place to find people if you just want to mingle with random strangers. And dating apps will find you friends as well as dates. You never know who you might meet. You might make a bestfriend. You might find inspiration in another soul. I am naturally, a loner. And that is the problem here. I am happy with the default setting, although I have noticed as I get older I enjoy my own company for long periods, less and less. It’s easy to implement when at work you might meet 15 other work colleagues for chats and tea breaks. Working from home, when you already live alone, is quite a different prospect.
Create sound free space. This may sound like an odd one. But I have a weakness for filling silence with sound, whether it’s the radio, or my mp3 player. I am very much aware that this is a bad thing in my life. My world is cluttered with noise. I might argue that music helps me create but I don’t know that’s entirely true. I write better in silence, why can’t I design and make in silence? This links quite well with the white space link I included earlier. It is simple down time, to gather thoughts and rest. Think of it as a brain recharge.
Bring nature in. It’s a fact that nature is good for your psyche. I don’t have a garden, I’m in a top floor flat but I am a child of nature at heart. I love bugs and earth and greenery more than I like cities and the internet. I have lined my window sills with plants to compensate for my lack of immediate outside space, and in my new studio I have lined them up like soldiers. I have big windows that I can throw open to let real air in. I can see sky. This, particularly when the nights are drawing in, is a really good thing.