The problem is; working from home doesn’t really feel like work. Just imagine the disapproving raised eyebrow you’d get from Susan in HR if you were in a ‘real’ work environment, sitting in your pyjamas, streaming your favourite TV show off the internet in the background and casually ignoring the ‘maybe today, maybe tomorrow’ deadline you have coming up. Yet, in the at-home workplace, you’ll find yourself doing just that. You’re the only person at your job and you’re still losing ‘employee of the month’.
And it’s not like you’ve got nothing to do either. Maybe a client has commissioned a painting or you’ve had an idea for a character design that’s been brewing in your head for ages or you’ve got a couple of difficult panels missing from a comic strip that you’re almost done with.
Whatever it is, you need to pull your finger out. You need to get started. And you just can’t be bothered.
So, what can you do?
This one’s pretty obvious. As I said before, if your work environment doesn’t feel like a work environment then how can you take what you’ve got to do seriously? So set an alarm and get up at a decent time. Get yourself fed and dressed (you can even pop out for breakfast or a coffee- make it feel like a commute- but don’t dilly-dally, remember you’ve got to get to work). And arrive at the ‘office’ on time.
Now you’re in your zone, I suppose the most important place to start is figuring out where you’re going wrong. Why can’t you be bothered? This is the time to really think frankly about how you’re feeling.
Is it that you’re lacking in confidence? Maybe you don’t feel experienced enough to achieve what you’ve envisioned so, rather than see yourself inevitably fail, you’ve chosen to avoid trying altogether. You might just feel underprepared. If that’s the case, it’s not cheating to do more research. References are always your friend and practice still counts as work.
If it’s not confidence, it might be an absence of passion for the specific piece you’re working on. That’s part of what makes art so difficult. If you’re simply not feeling it, sometimes you just can’t force it. When there’s no getting around a lack of interest in your project (say you have to stick tightly to your clients requests) try coming at it from a different angle. Start afresh with new tools, new colours, new angles. Set yourself a challenge to create the piece within a certain amount of time or at a certain size that you’re not used to. Obviously, if you have strict guidelines to adhere to, what you create now won’t be your final piece, but it’ll set you up with a fresher perspective and a new foundation from which you can build your project.
Tidy up. Put away anything that doesn’t need to be out. Put away anything that isn’t relevant to your work today. Do you need your iPad with you when you know you’re only going to use it to intermittently check Facebook?
Put it away.
This isn’t just about clearing your workspace either. Trying to work in a home setting brings any home responsibilities to the forefront of your mind. Instead of concentrating on your work, you’re thinking about the dishes sitting in the sink downstairs or the pile of new clothes you bought yesterday and are itching to try on. You’re surrounded by distractions and it’s up to you not to let those distractions take up all your attention.
I find this step to be the most challenging, because it takes more than just switching your phone off (and your music if you have to). This is where you really have to consciously make the decision to switch of a certain part of your brain for a bit so you can really focus on what you have to do.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to practice mindfulness, which is basically a purposeful state of awareness. Set an alarm on your phone to go off in five minutes, then spend that five minutes trying to focus on only your breathing. Feel your ribcage expanding and contracting with each breath, feel the air going in and out of your nostrils. Staying focused is a lot tougher than it sounds, but over time, you’ll find yourself becoming so much more present in your thoughts rather than letting distractions run away with you.
If eliminating home/workspace distractions doesn’t work, get out.
Take a pad and pen or whatever you can carry and go to a café or a park. Yes, physically separating yourself from your home helps you separate your focus from it too, but there’s something else to this tip.
I don’t know about you, but for me, it can be a bit scary working in public. There’s an added pressure with being outdoors. You suddenly feel visible, people could be watching, you have to look like you’re doing something. Use that pressure. Only, don’t just look like you’re doing something. Do something. Again, what you create in this time doesn’t have to be the final piece but it is a start.
And that’s what it’s all about remember;
Somewhere to start.
Thanks for reading. If you have any suggestions on how to stay motivated at home, drop a comment below! I’d love to know some extra tips.