How to Survive Working From Home
One of the absolute best things about working for yourself is the ability to sit at home in Level 2 pyjamas, eat toast for lunch and hang out with your dog. But it’s not all a bed of roses. It can be hard to stay motivated and resist lethargy (and naps) and there is the small matter of your lovely sitting room morphing into the corporate office you worked so hard to escape. With no IT department on hand technical frustrations can make you weep and the solitude can drive you potty. Over the last year of working at home I have developed a few habits and made a few investments that have made my home and the inside of my head much nicer places to be.
Ditch the productivity apps
The further I get from the corporate world, the more I return to an analogue life. I used to download all the latest project management and productivity apps but they had precisely no effect on taming the disorganised and peculiar ways in which I work.
What has really worked for me is the Bullet Journal. I now have everything in one place and the urgent, important and trivial all sit together as happy classmates. I use Midori MD diaries with one of their fabulous leather covers (from here) and also their sticky notes to add extra detail to pages. Everything is neat and tidy in one notebook which keeps my head and desk clear. Each day I write three things to do on a small piece of notepaper and I don’t open my Bullet Journal until those things are done. Mostly.
Make the technology disappear
It’s bad enough having an enormous television in your sitting room without adding ugly office equipment to the mix. By choosing the right equipment it is quite possible to minimise the visual impact of these items and be able to put away your office at the end of the day. Choosing a laptop over a desktop is obvious, but what is less well-known is that you can buy a scanner the size of a Toblerone bar (Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100) and a printer that is not much larger than a piece of A4 paper (HP OfficeJet 200). These items are so small they can go on your bookcase at the end of the day. And because they are both wireless and rechargeable, there are no ugly cables hanging down and you can take them with you if you like to move around the house following the sun as you work.
Wire your router & keep cables to hand
Wiring my desktop to the router has had a unexpectedly large impact on my stress levels and my productivity. Our wifi isn’t as good as it should be given we live in Central London and I think if I added up the amount of time I spent waiting for pages to load or things to download I could have walked to China and back.
I also keep key cables nearby for when my wifi is playing up and I need to wire in the printer or scanner. These small things can make a huge difference to how you feel about life and your work.
Buy a label maker
Lots of kit means lots of cables and chargers and other horrid tangly things. I keep them all in a drawer but I do make sure they are all bound up with an elastic band and labelled using my trusty label maker (I was inspired by this article). This saves a lot of stress when you need your camera charger but can’t remember which one is which, and it stops you throwing away a cable that doesn’t appear to have a use only to find it belongs to your Light Pad and can’t be replaced, as I did last year. Labelling everything seems like a faff but it’s one of those things that makes you feel like you are winning at life. If you have kids let them do it as they think it’s enormous fun, even if their spelling isn’t always up to par.
Scan everything, now
It's hard to settle down in the evening to an episode of Silent Witness when you can see your paper-strewn desk in your peripheral vision. If you invest in the ScanSnap scanner you can scan everything the second it arrives and bin the paper immediately.
If you use Quickbooks, use the app to load expenses as soon as you have incurred them and then you can ditch all those annoying little receipts for coffees and other fripperies. I use Evernote to store inspiration pages I've ripped out of magazines and I also use the Shopify app for adding tracking numbers to orders on my way out of the Post Office so I don't need to hold on to those fiddly bits of paper.
Pretty up your desk
I’d far rather my desk looked like somewhere an Edwardian woman might sit down to write her correspondence than a 21st century computer station. I have a small desk and use the dining table if I need to spread out. A found piece, with small drawers for bits and bobs and those key cables is perfect.
Try to remove as many ugly things from your desk as possible and where it’s not possible at least corral them into something pretty. I like Bridie Hall’s Alphabet Brush Pots for pens and pencils. If you are super geeky, all your pens and pencils will match (I like Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Drawing Pens and Dessin Eraser-Tipped Pencils the best). Neisha Crosland’s letter trays by Harris and Jones are great for paperwork and our horn tray is perfect for holding pencil sharpeners, banks cards, hair bands and other little things. A S’well water bottle and our Emma Lacey rainbow mug will keep you hydrated and caffeinated in style.
It is so easy when you work from home to fall into a pattern of lethargy and apathy. You can’t be bothered to get dressed properly or wash your hair and sometimes it’s hard to muster the enthusiasm to leave the house at all, especially in these darker months. Having a dog is just the best thing for making you get out in the morning and I find those walks are where I clear my head and decide what my focus for that day is. If you don’t have a dog, a walk to a coffee shop or bakery can serve the same purpose.
Listening to Radio 4, podcasts or audio books can make you feel less isolated whilst the kinetic movement of a scented candle seems oddly to almost feel like company. And finally, don’t be afraid to move around the house as the light changes. Soaking up as much daylight as possible during the winter really does have a massive effect on your mood and wellbeing.
See our Rainbow Mug here.
See our Rectangular Tray here.
Words by Annabel Bird
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