how I stay motivated working from home

First of all, how are you all coping during these weird days of self-isolation against COVID-19? If you are working from home now, are you starting to get used to it as the new ‘norm’? It’s all a bit weird, isn’t it? There’s so much information out there about what to do and what not to do. But as a freelance worker I’m used to working from home, so it’s not much different from ‘normal’ for me.

At the beginning of isolation I felt like everyone else was getting a little taste of what my daily life is. But many of you are being forced to work from home in less-than-ideal set-ups, and still need to work the regular 9 to 5 (or similar) because you are an employee, and that is when you are required to work. So I understand if you’re not able to relate to some of what I’m about to share, but it may still help a little bit, especially if you are not used to working from home.

When I first started working for myself, I researched on how to be productive and stay motivated, I didn’t want to fall into any bad habits. But everything I read sounded too hard, too rigid, and just not me. So I ignored it all and found my own way.

I asked myself: ‘What time of the day do I do my best work?’ And then I set a regular work schedule around that time.

Simple, but very effective, especially if you have the flexibility to set your own schedule.

I am not a morning person. I find myself very motivated from around 10am, and then again late at night, creativity can hit again.

This is a typical day for me:
30 minutes’ work on social media before I get out of bed. I could schedule my posts but I like laying in bed for a while anyway. I shower and dress as soon as I get up. Do I get dressed up for working at home? No, don’t be ridiculous. I used to wear a corporate uniform to work every day, so I welcome the freedom of wearing whatever I want to.

My mind still has that habit of not being able to think creatively until I’ve hung the washing out, or completed some sort of domestic duty, so I get that out of the way first. I then sit on the couch with a cup of tea and my laptop. I like to complete a bit of administration work during this time, then I start my official work day at 10am.

I stop for a late cooked brekky, sometimes that might not be until 1pm if I’ve lost track of time (this happens more often than not!), and allow myself some down time. My partner, Pete, comes home from his full time job early afternoons and I like to sit with him for a chat, before he starts printing and framing. Sometimes I will work with him on this, but if I’m not needed then I’m back to my own work. I’m lucky Pete loves cooking, and so does my daughter (who is currently in iso with us), and they’re SO good at it too! I usually don’t stop working until tea is ready, and then it’s couch time. Bit of TV or Netflix follows. FYI: It’s currently 8pm and I’m sitting here on the couch with them while writing this blog, enjoying a glass of red, while they’re both watching Master Chef.

I do some of my best work late at night. The laptop always stays by my side on the couch so I can pick it up when inspiration hits. Or I might do a bit of painting in my studio when I know there won’t be any interruptions. Before I go to bed, which could be as late as 1am, I work out what I need to do the next day. I add it to my ‘to do’ list (just in my phone at this stage, no special productivity software for me just yet!). Then I work out what order it needs to be done in, with priority jobs at the top of the list. I map out my day so trips in my van are reduced to a minimum. I am not obsessed with my ‘to do’ list, but I make sure I check it throughout the day so I don’t miss anything. If I don’t get through the list, that’s OK too.

As you can see, I break a lot of ‘rules’. I don’t use our office to do my work, I use the couch. I don’t get up early, I don’t go to bed early. I don’t wear office work attire to do my graphic design work. I eat when I feel like it, or have the time to. I don’t set a day aside to clean the house. I don’t use any software to help me. I don’t allocate days off, I just take time out when I feel like it.

However, I am incredibly self motivated. I love my job. There’s always room for improvement, things I could do better, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I just concentrate on these three things:

  • Stay focused – I have my goals. I praise myself on what I’ve achieved at the end of the day.
  • Stay healthy – I eat healthy foods and go for walks outside.
  • Stay social – I like to keep in touch with my friends.

I kept seeing on social media how you should not expect to be as productive during these times, and how it’s OK to spend a day doing absolutely nothing. So I started to fall in to this mindset, and slacked off a little. But then I started to fall behind with my jobs and I didn’t feel comfortable with that.

Just get through this the best way you can.

I’m handing over the reins today to Martina, my amazing work placement student for the week, to write my blog.
Here’s what she had to say:

Hello! My name is Martina. 

I’m a student at The Gordon institute of TAFE in Geelong, studying Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design.

As part of my course, I needed to do work placement, in which I wanted to work with a freelancer based in Geelong so that I could get the authentic experience of what it’s like working as your own boss in the field of design!

I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to do my work placement with Mandy Dollery, who did the same course as me a few years ago. A number of my teachers, who previously were her teachers, speak highly of her! How could I not approach her and ask if I could learn from her so she could guide me in my career in being a graphic designer?

I’m very fortunate in the sense that I’m aware of where I want to go on my future endeavours with a career in design. While I was with Mandy, it really became true to me that if you love what you’re doing you’ll never have to work a day in your life. As I was following her around Geelong gathering clients and working in the Geelong illustrators gallery, it was never hard work because both of us had a passion for what we were doing. 

I mentioned to her numerous times that my time with her didn’t feel as if it was work placement, but instead I felt more that I was hanging out with a friend. I didn’t want to leave at the end of each day because I was retaining so much knowledge and having so much fun – time flew by very quickly during this adventure. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank Mandy, because she has given me such great knowledge that I haven’t been able to attain in class – the hands on experience has taught me more than I could ever imagine. My passion for design has increased incredibly, and I will not forget the excitement I felt each day by her side – sitting at her desk and laughing as we create new ideas. 

I have a dream to one day be doing just what Mandy is doing: having a successful business, going to markets and selling work to clients that I have created with love and passion. 

Each day was different with her and that is what I want for myself – an adventure in my every day life, using my creativity to make other people happy, and being proud of the work that I produce. 

From an aspiring graphic designer,

@martinajdesign

I grew up with my mum telling me how much she loved hairdressing and how much fun she had, creating new looks and making new friends. So when I had the chance to do work experience my mum talked me into spending the week at a hairdressing salon. OMG. It was dreadful. We’re talking about the days of perms and strong chemicals. It was not my thing at all. My poor mum was so disappointed that I didn’t share her passion but that quickly turned to dismay when I decided I wanted to join the police. However, that was a passing dream because the police at that time had minimum height requirements and, at 160cm, I didn’t measure up.

I loved doing art but didn’t think of it as a career. When I finished school I did all sorts of things. I worked in retail, I iced cakes, I scooped ice-cream, I worked in a fairground and then I ended up in hospitality for 20 years. I got married and had a kid. You know the story. Time got away from me.

I loved being creative but I couldn’t see how I could make a living from it. I did not love hospitality but at least it paid the mortgage and the bills. I was stuck, until I realised one day that something had to change. I was not going to stumble on my passion one day and make a living from it. I had to engineer my future, and that meant making some tough choices. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to have a partner who gave me the courage and confidence to do exactly that.

I left my full-time hospitality job to do a Advanced Graphic Design course. It was a tough two years. I worked night shift in a service station, I fitted in my homework around my responsibilities at home, I gave up luxuries (?) such as haircuts and I didn’t get more than five hours’ sleep in one go. But it was all worth it. I won Student of the Year and now have a wonderful variety of work to do. I have finally turned my passion into my career.

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