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The Quick and Dirty about Working From Home

by Liz DiFiore and Erin Harris

Across the country people are experiencing change in their work lives. With the current state of affairs, work from home has become an essential part of the cost of doing business. Even those who have worked remotely for years face new challenges. Family members or roommates who are not normally around every day, limited work-designated space, and an endless supply of internet memes make the work from home experience a huge learning experience for many. For your benefit, here is the quick and dirty for surmounting this new normal.

• Noise cancelling headphones. • Bulletin board for creative inspiration. • Really nice chair for ultimate back support. • Stuffed animals for emotional support. • Live cat for continued social sanity.

Keeping Distractions At Bay

  • Consider investing in noise cancelling headphones. Even if you have a generally quiet space, the extra buffer can help insulate you from paying attention to irrelevant things – like dishes.
  • Control the clutter in your work space. Even if you only have a kitchen or coffee table to work at, take a few minutes each morning to clear it off so you have a clean space to start from.
  • Use a tomato timer in your browser to keep yourself on track. Tomato Timer for your browser, or the Forest app for your phone, are good, free places to start. Control your tasks by time-boxing them to keep your attention from straying.
  • Create a morning routine. To get yourself in the working mood, get dressed as though you were going out, make your favorite beverage, etc. Little things go a long way in creating comfort in your improvised workspace. Another pro tip: set regular working hours and stick to them!
  • Pro tip: Cleaning can feel really productive, but it can be productive procrastination. Don’t get carried away with the dishes, laundry, trash, etc. Concern yourself with your workspace and let everything else get handled after working hours.

Setting boundaries with family and roommates

  • Close the door if you can. If not, room dividers can be surprisingly effective to keep out distracting family or roommates.
  • Hang a sign up with “office hours” or even a simple “quiet, please” message. Sometimes that can be a simple way of reminding people that you’re actually working and this isn’t some surprise, extended staycation.
  • Share electronic calendars with spouses so they know when you are in meetings, or you can coordinate when one will need meeting space and the other needs to keep quiet. Regular morning check-ins on conflicts of noise can be very helpful for the coming day of meetings.

• Big monthly calendar right in front of my face – for visual aids. • Analog clock, also right in front of my face. (Again, visual aids.) • Activity Basket for quick moving of office stuff to alternate locations, if needed. • Small Bluetooth speaker for rockin’ tunes. • Post-its and letter files are color-coded based on project. • The latest PEGs on the desk, along with the “Guild Notebook of All Knowledge”. • Plants! (They live on top of my fridge.)

Organization Tips to Keep From Going Crazy

  • Create a file box or accordion file with your critical items: planner, to do list, favorite pen, address book, etc. This will let you keep everything in one place in case you need to move to a different room in your apartment/house, and will make it easier to clean up your space at the end of your work day — everything goes into the box. (It’s your starting point for your day, too.)
  • Clean desk, clear mind. At the end of your work day, take time to clear off your workspace. As you do that, scribble down any unfinished items that still need to be done. Then, update your to do list(s) and assess what your priorities are for the next day/week. (Erin’s Pro Tip: I also like to put out the physical folders or paperwork I need for the next day’s tasks – in order – with my planner and my to do list, so it’s all waiting for me when I sit down the next day.) Todoist is a great, free way to do this electronically.

Whether you’re new to working from home, or a seasoned veteran, situations are changing for everyone. But fear not! Focus can still be achieved even with the new normal.

Keep an eye out for more articles like this, diving deeper into each topic – coming soon!

Liz DiFiore is a freelance illustrator specializing in children’s picture book illustration, video and board games, and other commissions. She is also an active streamer on Twitch – find her at lizziebydesign. Liz is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Regional Representative for the New England Chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild.

Erin M. Harris is intellectually curious. She spends her time as a designer, artist, gardener, hockey fan, and major arts advocate. Erin is Administrator for the New England Region of the Graphic Artists Guild.

Illustration and top photograph © Liz Difiore. Bottom photography © Erin M. Harris. Used with permission.



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