As of this spring of 2020, it will be four straight years that I’ve worked at home from my bedroom office. To many, this idea seems weird… but it’s my normal.
I like my bedroom studio. It’s small and cozy and my rabbits also share this room, so we are together every day. I wear several hats as an author, illustrator, and professor which means my job every day is different and always new. It also means I have several jobs that don’t pay as much as someone who might be full time at a studio or working a more “regular” job. Aka, I work hard and make a modest living. I know, yes, publishing doesn’t pay a ton – sorry to those who think all of us authors are millionaires. For me, working in my bedroom is my normal. It has to be my normal because I am able to save the money I would otherwise be spending on a studio. To me, this is a worthwhile sacrifice because I want to own a house one day far more than I care about working at an outside-my-house studio (I’m a millennial so house ownership a distant concept for me). To others, that might not be a sacrifice they are willing to make and that’s totally fine. This is my choice.
I type this during the COVID-19 outbreak in America where so many people have been laid off, their work halted, or are working from home. For those who have the luxury of having kept our jobs during this time and are now finding themselves working from home, I wanted to give some tips on how I’ve worked from a tiny desk at the end of my bed and kept my sanity and work/life balance intact. To those who have not had the luxury of being able to work from home and have been let go during this pandemic, I’m truly sorry. In this way, our government has failed you deeply and I hope they can come to a resolve to help hardworking Americans.
When I first started working at home in my bedroom, I had just left LA and a fulltime job and moved home with my parents. Then, a little while later, I moved halfway across the country to Colorado to be with my boyfriend (now fiance). All this time, my studio has been the same. It’s a Pottery Barn Teen desk I got when I was 15 for my birthday with a desktop computer, a monitor, and a Wacom Cintiq atop it. I have a calendar on the left side of the desk where I log my days, my water glass on the right next to my bunny treats. Above my desk is a pinboard full of things like my monthly calendar (where I put travel dates and important things for the family), notes from my parents, postcards from friends, letters from kids who write to me, and pictures of my loved ones. This is my inspiration board. It grounds my space and helps me center myself at my desk when I go to work every day.
Here are some things I find important to do as an experienced work-from-homer.
GIve Yourself A Strict Work Space
I work at my studio desk or I work at the living room table. That’s it. I don’t work at my bed. I don’t work on the couch. The moment I start to do that, I lose all organization of what parts of the house are “relaxation” parts and what parts are “workspaces”. I live in a very small house and these boundaries have to be maintained. I also have a chronic illness so sometimes, I want to work on the couch and every once in awhile I will allow it… but otherwise, I’m strict about my spaces.
Keep a daily calendar or log
Every single day I have a logbook that is hourly and a list of things I have to do every day that I check off. I log my hours every single hour and color code them with highlighters – this will be logged as “Blog Update”. I have a system. For instance, green is “work” and I also include housework as “work” because it IS work. Tidy house, tidy mind. I also cross off “showering”, “working out”, “cleaning”, and “stretching” every day on a list that I have for each week. Even if I don’t do those things, it allows me to see my week more clearly.
Maintain work/life balance
Lucky for you, I made a whole blog post about this! I am pretty strict with making sure I have a healthy sense of when to put the pen down and be present in my life. This is a good thing to manage as your workspace is in your house and the lines can get blurred easily.
When you get something done, allow yourself a break to check the internet or social media. Have a stretch. Pet your animals. Go on a walk. Have a piece of chocolate. You did it! You did those emails! You got that drawing done! Good job, give yourself a pat on the back and a little reward. As you get into a routine, you’ll have to reward yourself less because you won’t need to because you are doing it!
Move Your Body And Get out of the house
Walks are so good for you. Exercise has been proved to help mental health. Whether it be a quarantine Youtube video workout done in your living room during the pandemic or a walk around your neighborhood – move your body a little. If you can’t move your body, then try to get some sunshine on your face on a patio or porch or slush through some snow outside and feeling the brisk air on your cheeks. Any sort of outside contact will help you feel more human.
The moment you start working from home, everyone wants to go on walks during the day or hang out during your lunch hour, or just take up your work time. You might be working from home but you are working… establishing boundaries with the outside world helps. Establishing boundaries with social media also helps and thankfully there are some great apps to help that. Right now as I type this, a lot of us are on self-isolation or quarantined for COVID-19, so please don’t go outside and know this also applies to people just calling you or friends wanting to facetime.
Know Your Schedule
I can’t draw before noon. I wake up early but I just can’t draw before noon. SO, I do all my emails before noon, then I sometimes answer a few later, but mostly… I let myself draw in the afternoon. Allow yourself to have a weird schedule. If you want to work out at noon – do it! If you feel better doing your work in the morning and answering emails before your day wraps – also do it! Be flexible with your schedule and make it your own.
This is something that takes a long time to put into practice. It took me about 3-4 months to get into a real routine and about a full year to be comfortable with my situation. Even still somedays all I want is to get out of the house and just escape. So if I’m able and can afford to, I let myself do this because that’s the wonderful flexibility about working from home.
Take care of yourself. Establish boundaries. Be sensitive to those around you. Be patient with yourself and adapting to your new routine.