For many women who are writers, editors, coaches and multi-passion entrepreneurs, the core element of their work is to be writing content, planning systems and organising services that start out by sitting at home in front of a laptop. The dream of working from the comfort of your own home comes alive as you sip a cup of tea while sitting on a comfy cushion or even while snuggled up under a duvet on the sofa…except this sumptuous idyll lasts all of about half an hour before either the deafening silence of quiet suburbia or the rattling noise of the city centre’s comings and goings start infiltrating one’s thoughts and highlighting that almighty sense of isolation. Or at least, this is how things can sometimes end up.
No doubt, having a carefully chosen office space and comfortable (but not too comfortable) furniture around you helps with finding the fun and ease of working from home, as opposed to a cubicle in an open-plan office, but there are ways in which all this can not only become a little mundane but actually downright stifling. It’s no good trying to focus, plan and creatively assess one’s ideas when your eyes have locked into a kind of sleepy blur and you’ve got the beginnings of pins and needles. This is not the path to a healthy working life.
5 Ways to maintain the ‘spark’ in your creative working life:
1. ‘Mix-it up’ a bit:
Break the spell of the office space you’ve created by taking breaks to pop down to the local cafe and write, laptop at the ready, while listening to the background noise of cappuccinos being made and even babies screaming at the table next to you. There’s nothing like taking things ‘out on the road’ to appreciate the quiet of your flat when you get home. For some, this kind of background noise really helps to focus on prioritising work that needs silence to concentrate and the work that can be done over a cup of coffee. You could even decide on the days in the week that you’ll do this ahead of time, or if you have more space at home than in the average cafe, you might want to consider days when you de-camp to the kitchen instead of your comfy office, just for a change of scene.
2. Allow time for properly allocated breaks.
If you set yourself a task to be done in three hours, give yourself the option of two or three five minute breaks in between, or a 15 minute break at the halfway point. Regular breaks are essential for better productivity. Even just allowing yourself a small target of getting a certain amount of content written before you next check emails and stop to watch one favourite video on YouTube, can help you pace yourself well enough to get through the work and appreciate the breaks. Don’t try to skimp on breaks and cut them down to the lowest amount, because this will ultimately backfire, just as too strict a diet could leave you craving favourite snacks so much that you over-indulge at a later stage. It works the same way. Also consider that this is the key way in which setting your own timetable is your opportunity to make things work best for you. Don’t squander it with bad time management. If you promise yourself the evening off, stick to it as though your evening off is another commitment you cannot get out of.
3. Think about your health
Drink plenty of water – it sounds like a cliche, but if you don’t keep yourself hydrated and only drink teas and coffees which are diuretics, you won’t be keeping your body going at optimum efficiency, and that means less time left over at the end of the day for YOU to do your own thing. Which foods make you sleepy if you have them at lunchtimes? Avoid them until dinner in future. Do you have regular exercise scheduled each week to help keep your energy levels up? If not, think about where you can fit in half an hour minimum, three times a week to just do some running, or dancing to your favourite songs. Adding in some Pilates or other stretching and toning activities will build up your strength and flexibility which will help you avoid injuries while doing the cardiovascular work. If it sounds like too much of a time commitment to enrol in classes at your local gym, consider following along while watching a DVD or online video so that you don’t need to waste time going out to classes if the travel time makes this impossible.
4. Eliminate money-related stress
Health should be top of your priority list of course, particularly if you’re self-employed. But even if you’re employed, working from home the majority of your time, you must look at ways to keep to your commitments, meet deadlines and generally show your reliability for the sake of maintaining a regular income and building up to a promotion. Money-based anxiety is a common source of stress which can threaten to undermine your carefully-structured diet and exercise plan. Many people in today’s financial climate need to take more care in their budgeting. Without some kind of income protection insurance there can be unexpected costs or losses which can end up being very stressful indeed. This kind of stress can affect your work and even weaken your immune system, so consider getting some outside advice and reassurance with regard to savings, insurance and pension plans. Setting up some kind of emergency fund as a ‘buffer’ for any unforeseen expenses is recommended by top entrepreneurs such as Marie Forleo and endorsed by financial gurus such as David Bach and Ramit Sethi, so this should be top on your list of monetary essentials.
5. Surround yourself with inspirational things.
If you need to think creatively for your work, you’ll need creative things around you. Putting pictures on your wall or having your favourite paintings on rotation as a desktop background will help to motivate you to keep up your creative output. Otherwise, a scheduled monthly or fortnightly trip to an art gallery, museum or exhibition of some kind to keep your ‘inspiration pool’ topped-up could work well. Musicians and writers have often used museums and galleries as a kind of working space too, as you may find that the cafe there offers a great alternative hide-out to the regular coffee chain places that can get a bit same-y. Consider booking in a monthly online search for the best places to go for the month ahead. If you’re really pushed for time however, watch out for the temptation to spend a few spare minutes searching through pictures on pinterest. You might find those few minutes turn into hours and end up robbing you of that evening off after all.