How to work from home: Tips by Local New Orleans Photographer who exhibits a horrible case of ADD
Whatsup guys! Thanks for stopping into my tiny corner of the internet. With the outbreak of COVID19 going around and everyone starting to work for home I decide it might be helpful if I share my experience of working at home.
For someone like me working at home is hard. I simply just don’t want to do it. Period. 😊 I mean don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I love photography, but making images is only a tiny part of my business. It’s the emails, contracts, phone calls, networking, marketing, website management, etc. These tasks can get very monotonous. So the question comes down to how do I force myself to do the things I don’t like to do? My number one solution to this used to be: grab the laptop and go to the coffee shop. When I was in college it used to be grab the backpack and head to the library. Well the CDC has advised us to stay at home. So no, can't do that.
So here’s some tricks I’ve learned over the years of working at home by myself. These tricks are what work for me. As someone once told me, take the meat leave and leave the bones. So please take what you want leave what you don’t need.
Tidy Work Space
First off, if you don’t have a work space, find one. The kitchen table, the living room table, wherever, but tidy it up. For me, I find it hard to focus without a designated, clean work space. I learned this trick a couple years back through a meditation app (headspace). Although initally i wasn't convinced, once I implemnented it I found it made a huge difference. Logically now if I think about it, it makes sense. With a clean and clear work space it is less likely to be distracted by things unrelated to your task. I feel the same way about having multiple tabs open on your internet browser. I was so often distracted by these things. I’d be working on one thing, then start another thing, forget what I was doing and end up on messing around on Facebook on my phone.
Leave Social Media Alone
Most of us enjoy all the positives that social media has to offer. I love the ability to hop on and see all of my friends and check in with family members. This, however, can be very distracting, especially right now being stuck in the house. I’ll check my emails on my phone and next thing I know I’m on social media, realizing I didn’t stock up on toilet paper, that I’m not going to have any for the next month, to OMG they are shutting down schools, to arguing over politics, to some kind of meme group, to a live feed of a press conference of the mayor banning groups of 10 and the financial dread of realizing me or my girlfriend don’t have any work for the next month, to looking up from my phone and realizing the entire day is gone. Yes, social media can be detrimental to getting work done. Put it down. When I really need to get a solid amount of work done I just put my phone in the other room. I would delete the app but I can’t. I use social media for advertising my business. If you can delete the app I’d say give it a try. Also, there’s apps which will block the social media apps from opening. I never needed to give it a try, but it’s out there.
To Do list
This is crucial. When I first started my business I use to get so stressed out with stuff to do. Without writing it all down on a piece of paper, in my head it became a never ending mountain. From that I’d get anxious and go to my immediate default of procrastination.. So now I write out a to do list, with the due dates of each thing next to them.
This is a new one for me, but several people suggested it, so I gave it a try. It’s making huge strides in my productivity. What I’ll do is at the end of each day is: I’ll take my to do list, and prioritize stuff onto my hourly schedule. Doing this has really helped me learn how long certain tasks actually take. With my kind of work, little stuff will pop up as well (client phone calls, emails that’ll need to respond to immediately, etc) so I’m rarely finishing on time within the hourly schedule. Regardless, it helps in the sense of prioritizing my to do list. The trick is to just not get stressed out if certain tasks are taking longer. If I don’t finish something by the end of the day I just schedule it in on the next day.
Break up long tasks.
This is a thing I struggle with, and may affect me more than others. I do this for culling (selecting which images I’m going to edit) and editing. One wedding can take at minimum 10 hours total in post production. I can’t do all of that at once. I’ll get way too burned out, all the images will blend together, and I’ll start making stupid editing mistakes. So I’ll split editing into two hour or one hour increments.
I try to schedule in a 30-45 minute lunch break for myself. If I don’t, I wont eat and turn into a zombie by the end of the day. The issue for me comes in after I eat and need to get back to work. See I’m one of those people that watches TV while they eat. It’s an issue, because I’ll get sucked into a tv show and just say screw it I’ll watch one more show. Then next thing I know my day is shot. (sometimes the same will happen with sitting on the couch after I eat with my phone(social media)) What I’ve learned is to simply put on a boring show. Something that I absolutely can not get into. My old tv was a smart tv. I would put on a youtube nature video, videos of cool scenery with music on as the audio. It helped a lot. As soon as I was done eating, I'd just start working again.
If it’s a really rough day and I can’t concentrate. I do 25 minutes on 5 minutes off. I set my timer for 25 minutes, force myself to work for that time, then set the timer for 5 minutes and take a break. It’s called the Pomodoro technique https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique .. I use my old dark room timer, but if you don’t have a timer, here is website with a timer on it. https://tomato-timer.com/ This technique big time works for me. It also keeps me from sitting down for too long of a time. Reminds me to get up and stretch.
Call a friend/Network
I find this essientail. Now if you're working with a team of people this may not be a big deal, but if you’re a one man show, CALL OTHER PEOPLE. There has been time I've gone days without social interaction, instead being consumed by work. I’ve learned to call, at least, one person a day. Working by yourself can get pretty lonely, pretty quick. I’ve learned that human contact is gravely important to keep up my morale and stay sane.
When you don’t have anyone to meet not showering all day and working in your PJs gets pretty tempting. Trust me, YES it is AWESOME to do that, but just like everything else moderation is key. I can easily run wild with it. Instead of just walking into my home office, in my PJs, and sitting down to work I treat it as if I am "going into work." This means I shower and get dressed as if I'm showing up to a standard desk job. It just helps me feel a little better, to sit down at my desk clean cut. Some days I even put on nice clothes just to sit in front of the computer. It helps.
Switching Work Spots
This use to help me a lot. I get antsy sitting in one spot for too long. So I’d work in the studio/office for awhile, then switch it up and bring my laptop into the living room. I’m actually starting to do this less lately. I think part of that is a new roller office chair I got.
So just switched out my chair from a kitchen chair to a mesh office chair. I’m really starting to see a world of difference in it. I am able to sit much longer in the studio than I use to and I’ve found myself working in the living room less. However, if you don’t have access to a nice chair try to switching spots if possible.
Let there be light
This might just be a personal thing, but I open the curtains all the way , and try to get as much light as I can into the room I’m working in. It seems to help my mood a bit better. Being alone all day for days at a time gets rough, I’ll take and try anything that will uplift my mood.
Just do it
Sometimes I find just getting started is half the battle. Once I’m started it’s a lot easier to stay focused. So most of the time, I am literally just forcing myself to do emails or my accounting. Once I get into it I typically breeze through it.
This is my favorite. Almost too much of my favorite, to the point where it can get a little distracting. A year or two back I got into home espresso, it’s kind of become my dorky little hobby. So if I’m not careful I can find myself making shots of espresso as a form of procrastination. But bottom line stimulants help. Specially if you have ADD. I use to be on Adderall as a kid. I absolutely hated the way it made me feel. However, I did get stuff done when I was on it. Now I refuse to take it(just a personal thing). I prefer to drink two cups of espresso. Of course again, this is what works for me. Don’t start taking stimulants because some photographer on the internet said coffee helps him focus.
Boundries/ Time Management
One thing I've learned is sometimes I have to put up boundries with loved ones. This is the most challenging for me to do. When I am working, at the house I am still working. It's important for me to not be disturbed, because I can get so easily distracted. It's imperative to explain this to roomates, partners, and family, specially if they do not work from home. It's hard for them to understand, because I make my own schedule and I can do whatever I want. It's important that I make time for my partner and plan activities with them, but at the same time it's just important to take care of my work responsibilities. I've found in the beginning of my career I never had time to socialize, be it with my girlfriend or freinds. This was true in the sense of I was always working, but I was wrong in the sense because I was not managing my time properly. What was happening is I was losing time by procrastinating or not prioritizing certain tasks. Then a deadline would come up and I would have to work straight to meet it. That's why all of these mentioned practices are so important for me to do, so I can spend time with loved ones and so I don't loose my mind. All of this has taken me years to realize and I am still not perfect at it.
Easy Does it
I am my harshest critic. Like no really, I’m a complete jerk to myself sometimes. I am constantly reminding myself to chill. Rarely do I ever have a to do list done in a day. By design I write my to do lists so I can get as much done in a given time as if I’m going to be working at 200% productivity levels. Most of the time it’s not possible to finish my daily schedule. So I have to remind myself to take it easy. BUT at the same time I have to be careful that I don’t take that to an extreme and start becoming complacent.
So yea those are all my tips for working at home. It’s all kind of common sense stuff, but it’s stuff that no one really taught me. All of these practices I have learned the hard way.
I know there’s allot of people who are switching to working at home and I really do hope this can help someone. I’m not lying when I say working at home and staying focused is the most challenging thing about running my own business. I’m assuming I’m not alone in that. Just like I know I am not alone in going through this covid19 stuff right now. With this pandemic happening there’s a lot of unknowns hanging in the air right now and it’s scary. Half my friends have lost there jobs, my partner is filing for unemployment, and I have lost work for the next two months. No clue if this virus can actually kill me(I’m young, but definitely not healthy)and I'm terrified that it’s going to take out my older friends and family. Yet there’s a certain calm to me. I’ve been in this place before, New Orleanians have been here before. During Hurricane Katrina there was many unknowns. We got through that, we will get through this just as we did back then, by coming together and helping each other. We will be ok.
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EDIT: I just turned on the comment section in this blog. Please if you have any tips on how to stay focused and productive please share them with us.