As a notion still considered unfamiliar in society until the COVID-19 occurrence, studying or working from home has been one of the significant consequences experienced by many people worldwide. With the rising number of professionals from almost every industry, the obligation to work from home has turned into a must-accept reality all of sudden.
For communities of professional designers, working from home might not be that much shocking as their job itself doesn’t require coming to the office and interacting with customers (at least not directly). However, if you’re still dealing with such a significant shift in these difficult times, we have prepared many tips below to help you optimize your work from home.
Practice Better Management
Recognizing what’s important is the key to comprehending time management. Sometimes we allow ourselves to finish non-demanding tasks first for the sake of “generating more time for the real job,” while in fact, we actually have been avoiding our busy work. Once you can find the difference between these two and refine your distribution process, you’ll see ones that aren’t materializing into anything and have the option to eliminate them entirely.
Besides doing better job management like above, lining out your priorities is also a recommended strategy. You can do this simply by focusing on completing one task first before jumping to the next one. Many think that they can multitask and become so productive because of it. Still, many also don’t realize that each of their tasks is mostly not completed yet because they keep jumping from one task to another. Remember, doing too many things at one time without producing or achieving the desired result is actually far from being productive. Prioritize which one goes first, and then the next, and so on.
Don’t forget to reduce distractions as much as possible. Considering that you work from home, the chance for it to happen is highly likely: dirty dishes, loads of laundry, crying babies, etc. Whenever possible, try to deal with these situations outside your working hours.
Maintain an Organized and Clean Working Environment
An organized working space is more than just about neat shelves, tidy stationeries, and fresh potted plants near your computer screen. It’s also about the atmosphere and feeling: peacefulness and not much noise disturbance are also what you should target.
Moreover, your job likely requires a stable internet connection and working devices to support your designing processes. Before you start your job, always make sure these aspects are accounted for every single time so that you have a lesser chance of being interrupted by technical issues later.
COVID-19 shouldn’t be your only motivation in cleaning your workspace, too. Besides maintaining your hygiene, practicing cleanliness should also be done in a psychological sense. You at least have to have some energy before starting the day and ensure your working space is as comfortable as it can get. Regardless of whether you have a designated desk for everything or do everything from the couch, think that you’re going to spend the whole day staring at your computer with not much movement. If you’re not going to be comfortable in it, it’s going to affect whatever you’re doing for the day.
Use the Right Tech Tools
This tip is an extension of the previous one. Depending on your situation, this tip can differ from one designer to the other. For instance, professional designers working for a company might not have to be confused with their home office setup and everything because their company will usually already arrange it for them. For those going freelance or not under contract with a specific company anymore due to COVID-19, they might have to start preparing their devices themselves.
As you now work from home, you definitely will depend on your projects on the tools you use. And you’re not just going to use them: you’ll also rely on them to run and develop your design business. Each designer, of course, already has their own preference, qualification, and knowledge about the right tools and programs for them, but this can still be a challenge when you first transition to home.
Here are some quick recommendations from us if you’re still stuck choosing which tool or program to use for your job:
- For communication with clients: Skype, Whatsapp, Signal
- For communication with team members (if you work in a team): Flock, Microsoft Teams, Twist, Slack
- For project management: Trello, Asana, ClickUp, Paymo, Wrike
- For design: Adobe Suite, CorelDRAW, Sketch, Inkscape, Affinity Designer
- For administrative tasks: Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, WPS Office
- For file sharing: Dropbox, Google Drive, WeTransfer, Send Anywhere, Hightail
- For accounting and invoices: Zoho Books, QuickBooks, Pabbly, FreshBooks, Sage 50cloud
There are, of course, other apps for different functions you can also use, depending on the size of your brand or business. Please make sure to learn about each app or software carefully first and read customer reviews or testimony before you and your team decide to invest in them. Doing this is especially important if the software you want to use only comes in subscription or license purchase because you don’t want your money to go to waste if you regret using it later.
Don’t Forget Break Times
Continuing from the previous point: although absolute comfort is something you want to have for as long as you can, your working space should also still allow you to “break away” for a couple of minutes in between. You shouldn’t forget that you’re at home and not in the office!
Hence, take this reason to get quick 10-minute breaks away from all your devices occasionally. Get up from your seat, do some stretching, and make yourself a nice cup of coffee. Look out the window to inhale the fresh air or massage those stiff shoulders.
Although these don’t necessarily reduce all your burnout, at least you’re helping your mind and body not be put into constant work for hours. And don’t worry: doing this is not going to interrupt your flow. On the contrary, detaching yourself for a while can also help your mind obtain new perspectives, which may be helpful for your design projects.
We recommend using your alarm to set your break times technology to ensure that you give yourself breaks during your workday. Take note that these quick breaks don’t mean a 2-hour afternoon nap! If you also want to allocate some napping time, make sure to later “redeem” those used hours to finish the rest of your schedule for that day.
Identify The Time You Work Best
When professional designers work from home, whose concept is supposed to be more flexible in nature, their energy and motivation are inadvertently more fluctuating throughout the day. Some think they produce more in the morning, while others find themselves more productive thanks to that exciting anticipation whenever the clock is about to strike 5. For people working in a creative industry, you must know that inspiration doesn’t always strike all the time. Maybe your creative juice is at its peak in the afternoon.
You can quickly identify this by keeping track of your performance in a journal or mobile apps. By figuring out what time you do your job best, you can adjust your priority list to focus on demanding and time-consuming tasks at these “best performance” times and manage your energy better. If you think you have several “best times” in one day, similarly allocate your energy-consuming tasks to them so that your productivity is increased while procrastination is simultaneously decreased.
Take Care of Both Your Physical and Mental Health
COVID-19 affects not only our body but also our mind and emotion. People have been opening up about coping during the pandemic in such difficult times since they’re now depressed, anxious, worried, etc. These negative feelings occur because we’re all being “mandated” to stay at home and limit outside exposure as much as possible.
With the fact that you probably don’t tell anybody about how you feel, you’re bottling those feelings inside, which isn’t a good thing to do. Many people don’t realize how important mental health is, and sometimes there’s still some stigma assigned to people who struggle emotionally. However, being obliged to work from home all the time will always pose a particular mental toll, and chances are: you’re not alone. Your emotions are valid.
Don’t worry if you’re experiencing negativity at some point. Try to stay physically and mentally balanced by practicing a good diet, exercising daily, and sleeping regularly. What you do to your mind and body will affect how you do everything. If you take care of yourself, you’ll find your body energized and refreshed, and your mind generates more confidence and determination to finish your tasks.
Work Less on Weekends
Maybe you love your job so much and want to do it every day. Perhaps the project you’re currently handling is highly demanding, and cutting weekends off is just not going to cut it. For some people, this tip might not be doable, and that’s completely okay.
On the other hand, not working on weekends may sound like a dream, especially when you’re exhausted from working the whole week and want a chance to wind down at the end of the week. Maybe you have tried to do this but always failed. Whichever way you feel, if you think you want to try this one out, make sure to construct a solid routine first during the week and slowly go from there.
Setting the rule of not working on weekends presents temptation in itself since you probably think that you can steal some time to do some more polishing or touch-ups. This is where you need to be stricter on yourself by first sticking to a solid routine on weekdays. Do your tasks accordingly and make sure they’re finished before weekends.
Now you probably say, “But sometimes we can’t control the workload, and we don’t always finish our to-do list according to plan.” Again, our suggestion is to dedicate yourself fully during the week to do exactly that: checking off those to-do lists as much as you can! When you’re determined to get productive, we believe your weekly routine will gradually get more seamless.
Understand That It Comes Down to Determination
We’ve said the word “determination” and “determined” so many times now, and maybe you’re tired of hearing it. You get it; these words are essential to ensure maximum productivity, primarily when we work from home. But then you’ll probably forget about these soon, continue doing something else, and then realize no productivity was achieved whatsoever. What’s the catch?
To make it as a professional designer, particularly during COVID-19, shifting the usual office working style to entirely home-based is actually more life-changing than how it sounds. The way we’re doing things from now on won’t be the same anymore. And when people are faced with changes, they often don’t realize that they’re struggling to adapt to them.
Maybe you now have an insane amount of work. Perhaps your working hours have become so scrambled to the point you’re tired of navigating your professional and personal life. You’re trying your best to get things done while still staying sane, but if you aren’t a driven person, you’ll just be stuck in this loop and end up exhaust yourself in the process.
This is a difficult time, and everyone is uncertain about the future. You can keep yourself afloat by being positive, determined, and motivated to do that. You have to make sure you’re still in a good position during these very uncertain times.
We hope the tips above can help you work from home much more efficiently! Like everybody else who has to deal with this situation, don’t worry too much if you feel physically and emotionally burnout after a couple of weeks or months. Working from home is not for everybody, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not manageable. We wish you all the best in your job!