January Slump – Survival Tips For Artists and Other Humans Who Work From Home

It’s January and all I want to do is wrap a blanket around myself and whisper sweet nothings to my sofa. I am not a Winter person, I find it difficult to be productive and ebullient when I am cold. Heck, I find it difficult to even get out of bed when I am cold, and working from home does not help.

Many of you are probably thinking “how wonderful to not have to commute on frigid winter mornings” and rightly so, I can’t argue with that. However, there are those times when I do wonder whether a cold slap in the face from a morning commute would actually help me perk up a bit every day. The grass is always greener, folks!
The truth is, my house is darker, gloomier, and chillier than usual, and the moment my kids leave for school, it takes a huge amount of self control to not tip over in slow motion while making a long groaning noise, and land balled up on my sofa for the day. Have you ever felt this way?

Well, I have worked from home for eight years now, and I have worked for myself for all of those years, so kicking my own butt into action has become routine for me. Over the years I have formulated a kind of action plan for times like this, to stop me from the slide into complete inertia. Most of it is just common sense, but I’ve heard that cold weather can kill common sense, so read on if you will:

 

  • Get out of your house
    Just leaving the familiar surroundings of your home will make a difference, trust me. I write this while sitting in my local library. I have a favorite spot tucked away in a corner of the audiobook section, right by a big window and a heater. The library has other people – quietly industrious people, and much better heating than my home. I come here for a change of scenery, and to avoid succumbing to my sofa’s siren call. It doesn’t have to be a library, if you have work that is portable, then go and work somewhere else.
  • Only work in work zones
    Some people can work in bed under their quilt, some people can work lounging on their sofa. I find that I need to be in a quasi professional setting to be able to click into work mode. I have to work at a table, away from home comforts like the TV, or my bed. Things get messy, when you work from home, and it’s important for me to draw a line between work and leisure time. Hence, I have designated certain spots as work zones (dining table:okay, spare room:okay, bed:not okay). Of course, I break this rule from time to time, but snap back into it when I feel things getting sloppy.
  • Set yourself automated tasks
    I make myself paint and draw every day. I set myself assignments in a planner, and give myself time blocks to do them in. I have found the book below really helpful, when I need ideas for tasks to keep my creative juices flowing.
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  • Give yourself an audience
    I use social media to record the results of each day’s work publicly,  so that I can be held accountable for my work. If I haven’t been documenting my work, then there is something wrong, and I realize that.  Blogging is part of this, the weekly blog helps me take stock of myself, and keeps me moving. Work breeds work, and sometimes just keeping the ball rolling is enough for me to come up with the next great idea.
  • Develop an interesting inner life…
    …yes, I actually wrote that. A downside to working from home is the potentially crushing lack of human interaction. While getting out of your home, and taking the time to meet up with other people for an occasional lunch date can help to an extent, let’s be honest, it’s not enough. It’s important to make peace with that, and find ways to enjoy your own company. I keep myself on a soul strengthening diet of good books and audiobooks (see below for suggestions), podcasts, and music, and practice yoga regularly.  I visit inspiring art exhibitions when I can. Find what keeps you ticking and thinking, stay passionate, and fit it into your schedule however you can.

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    My happy list this week; I recommend The Muralist, The Muse, and Hold Still for getting inspired to create.
  • Let it go
    When my kids get home I stop working. If I need to, I’ll work an extra hour after they go to bed, but I try to be present with my family in the evenings. I set myself boundaries, no looking at work emails at breakfast, no worrying about projects during dinner. It is okay to type emails while sitting outside your kids’ Tae Kwon Do classes, but it is important to step away from work at certain times everyday. It is so tough to do this when you work from home, but somehow you need to find a way.

These are just some of the things that help me stay motivated, semi-sane and productive. They may not work for everyone, and I am always looking for new ideas, so if you have any, do throw them at me please!

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