I’ve been working remotely as a freelance content creator and communications professional for more than two years now, so the COVID-19 crisis hasn’t actually changed a whole lot for me in terms of my usual work schedule.
However, it wasn’t that long ago that I was settling into #FreelanceLife and, of course, it was a struggle to organise myself effectively. Especially considering I’ve spent most of the past 18-months living between Northern Italy and the South of France (both equally stunning!). The distractions and therefore the struggle, let me tell you, are real.
I would like to think though that I’ve come a long way in those two years. My clients remain happy, so I must be doing something right. Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way:
1. Create a routine baggy enough to work for you
It’s OK if your day doesn’t look exactly like it would in the office. A 9 to 5 routine works for many and is necessary for some roles, but not everybody and in all job capacities. My brain is foggy in the mornings, for example. Always has been, always will be. For that reason, I generally put aside a few hours after dinner for more meaningful writing tasks, as I know that’s when I produce my best work. That way, if I get started a little later in the day, no big deal.
Of course, I do have this luxury as a freelancer without a boss to answer to. Chances are though, at this crazy time, your manager is willing to accommodate your individual needs, especially if it means you’re going to be more productive. Have an open, honest conversation with them and, who knows, you may just transform your working pattern permanently and for the better, COVID-19 and beyond.
2. Plan your day/s
Determine what a day’s work looks like for you. The #WorkingFromHome guilt can be real and you’re probably going to be tempted to pack in every second of your 7.5-hour working day with ‘stuff’. You don’t need to. Those moments of downtime we all enjoy numerous times a day in the office – chatting at the watercooler, running out to clear your mind and get a latte – are essential to both your productivity and wellbeing at work. The same goes for when you’re working at home, yet we tend to feel guilty for taking breaks or not spending every second waking hour working.
The best way I’ve found to alleviate that unnecessary anxiety is by clearly defining the tasks I would get done if I was in the office and ensuring I follow that same work plan at home. At the start of the week, I write down a schedule in my diary that literally looks like this:
And so on. I try to break down each day into an equal number of tasks. That way, I can swap tasks around if their level of importance (or my mood!) changes. Some days, for example, I really don’t feel like writing content. If that content isn’t time-sensitive, I’ll swap the writing task with something more analytical like creating a website traffic report, for example, or, even better, social – such as Zooming the designer I work with to brief him on a project. We’re not machines and we shouldn’t try to act like we are.
For me, putting on even a small amount of makeup (if you’re that way inclined) really wakes me up for the day ahead and gets me into ‘work mode’. I honestly can’t get started without it at least a swipe of BB cream and mascara, even if I’ve got no Zoom calls scheduled for that day. Of course, it doesn’t need to be makeup. Brush your hair, put on shoes, change into something more structured than PJs, do a dance, light some sage, whatever ritual makes you feel more put together.
4. Make your face
It may seem counterintuitive but admitting you don’t know everything will build your credibility.
It’s simply impossible to know everything about your business or even your speciality. Pretending you do will lead to mistakes being made and trust being lost in your ability. You’ll also waste the talent of those around you and likely alienate yourself too.
Admitting that you don’t know the answers, but assuring your client you will find them out, perhaps by enlisting the expertise of others who may be more knowledgeable in that particular area than you, is key to becoming a trusted adviser in any field.
As Ernest Hemingway wrote, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” We concur!
Yoga, yoga, yoga! I feel that in this day and age, there are simply no excuses left – you need to be practising yoga. It’s good for your mental and physical health in just about every way and it doesn’t matter if you’re unfit, inflexible, ill, really busy. There is a yoga style to suit everyone and even mere minutes of your mat will do wonders.
Yoga with Adriene is one of my favourite YouTube channels for at-home yoga and meditation sessions.
5. Sort out your space
Your home office or working area doesn’t need to be Pinterest-worthy, but a clear, clean and well-lit (natural light, if you’re got it) space really does make all the difference to how you feel about ‘going to work’ at home.
Perhaps I’ve been a little too influenced by Marie Kondo in recent times, but I try to keep my desk really minimal and clutter-free.
Good luck everyone!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lee Tobin, Marketing Expert
Lee is a professional storyteller. She uses a storybook approach to emotively communicate your organisation’s core messages to your target audience. She especially loves social media and believes that comms should always be bold.