It's the penultimate newsletter of the year! The Christmas dinners are calling (it's 31 days to go if you're reading this on the day of release), but there's still a few weeks of working left before the holidays.
Hopefully this blog will make that time a bit easier for a few people, especially if you're currently (or thinking of) working from home. It's something I've been doing for a few months now so I thought I'd share some titbits I've learnt during that time, and why I'm such an advocate of the remote-working lifestyle. I'll also be chatting about some Christmas items on my Etsy shop, so stick around for that!
Before you read on! A reminder that I will have a stall at the Crafty Fox Market at Mercato Metropolitano on Saturday 7th. It's a fabulous food court with loads of food and drink options, as well as a bunch of other crafty traders - so come and say hi if you can!
I'll also be exhibiting in the Catford cARTon Gallery in Ninth Life Pub from 12th-17th December, 12-6pm. For more info, check out last month's newsletter.
Coming up this month: how I work from home and a Christmas shop update
Tips for working from home
Since graduating in June, I’ve been living back in my parents house, where I’ve transformed my bedroom into a home office/studio. The ‘renovation’ began when I decided to start building my illustration business, meaning I could keep stock, pack orders and design new products from the same space. In other words, it's an office with a bed in it!
Working from home can be quite a divisive topic, with most of the artists I know either loving or hating it. I talked about this a bit in my previous newsletter, but my time at university told me that I’m pretty versatile when it comes to working environments. I’m a bit of an introvert, so I’m pretty comfortable working on my own - whereas I know others love the studio environment to motivate them to do their best work.
It can be difficult working by yourself though, and there’s certainly lots of pros and cons. So this newsletter I’m going to give some recommendations based on my time working outside of a studio.
Go for walks
Sitting at home all day away from the busy outside world, whilst fun at first can feel isolating very quickly. I love being in control of my own mini-studio, but sitting at a desk for six hours can get pretty boring and definitely doesn’t do wonders for your back!
My solution to these problems was to go on a walk for between twenty minutes and an hour every day. The route doesn’t really matter, but I usually go to my local park and sit for a bit, often working on this newsletter. Granted, this is becoming much more difficult as the temperatures hit single figures, so an added motivation like going to the shops or grabbing a coffee can definitely be an added bonus!
If the weather’s a little better I might be tempted to go for a jog as well. I took part in the NHS couch to 5k programme last summer and I highly recommend it as a straightforward way to improve your stamina over 8 weeks. If you need a bit more motivation, Jog On by Bella Mackie is a lighthearted read that cites the benefits of exercise on your mental health. I listened to the audio book a few weeks back and thoroughly enjoyed it!
If you're at university or work somewhere with a long(ish) lunch break then going for a stroll might break up your day a bit as well, rather than the endless social media rampage we normally associate with lunch.
Have a social life
One of the cons about working from home is that you miss the water cooler conversations of office life. No surprise birthday cakes, no after work drinks and definitely no gossip from admin. I’d say it’s an absolute must that you get some form of social interaction from other sources. One of the hardest parts of graduating for me was the swift removal of seeing my friends every day. Today's instant messaging age makes this transition easier, but it can still be easy to fall into a self-deprecating cycle without having your support group around you.
If you’re straight out of university or a previous job, you’ve probably got a bunch of contacts who are off doing their own things - so try and keep in touch! After a long day of solitude an evening social can be a great event to look forward to. I’m a fan of spreading activities throughout the week to break up the monotony, rather than leaving all of the fun stuff till the weekend. It becomes much harder to arrange things with people moving to different places, but it's so important to keep yourself energised.
Staying in a house share can work out pretty well for some, as you’ve got a network of people you can talk to outside of working hours, or whilst making a cup of tea. Finding tenants is hit and miss, but I’ve heard of some amazing friendships being built this way too.
If you're looking for a more active alternative, evening classes and activities are also a good option. I recently joined a badminton class in my local area, and it’s proved a great way to meet some new faces whilst learning a new skill. Classes like these are all over the place, both in sports and other (more sedimentary) activities. You've just got to find the right one for you!
It's worth adding that working by yourself can get a little quiet, too. Podcasts are always a good shout to liven the place up a little. Some of my favourites are Sustainababble, Beyond Today, Sidenote and Under the Skin. If it's 3 pm on a Friday and things are looking grim, I'm going to suggest my ABBA vs. Madonna playlist... you'll thank me later.
One of my favourite things about working from home has got to be food. Gone are the days of eating cold noodles out of a plastic takeaway box. Being at home opens you up to a world of modern technology - ovens, hobs... plates!
By 12:30 pm I’m normally flagging in energy or getting frustrated about a job, so getting up to prepare something small or even just reheat some leftovers can give me a much-needed distraction to whatever I was working on. Something as simple as cutting up a salad to a podcast or YouTube video can really break up your day and gives a nice start to the afternoon.
If things are looking especially crap, I'll use lunch as my walking opportunity and maybe grab some snacks for the afternoon. Things usually look better after food. I've always been a serial crisp muncher and tea slurper whilst working, so I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who's ever shared a desk with me in the past. Sorry.
Let's not forget eating at home also allows you to avoid the 7 am zombie-sandwich-making rush. I'll never forget the time my sleepy brain decided not to shut the Tupperware lid, leaving a scrumptious chickpea curry to be smothered all over my backpack just before lunch. Not fun.
If you're in a position where you've got to juggle multiple clients and social commitments, organisation is an absolute must! If you don't have a calendar/diary, whether that be digital or physical go and get one. Right now! No matter how boring your life is, writing down your commitments is the key to your week running as smoothly as possible.
I'm a fan of the paper calendar, so I have two: one for work and one for my personal life. The work calendar is a free printout that Fran Meneses offers to her patrons on Patreon every year, while the personal calendar is whatever calendar I can find on short notice in January. This year's choice is the National Trust 'Coast and Countryside' which I probably picked up at Sainsbury's for about £3.50. I seem to remember last year was different seaside resorts? Who knows what the new year will bring...
I'll put any major deadlines on the calendar, along with social media stuff like publishing this newsletter or any product launches I have planned. I'll also mark out any time I won't be working, like for social occasions or weekends. I like having goals like these set out, but I won't put the smaller tasks on here. For that I use a website/app called Todoist.
If you'd rather go over the top on your scheduling, this recent video by Matt D'Avella offers an extreme example of how Google Calendar can be used to schedule your time to the hour. Definitely not my vibe, but whatever gets the job done!
Separate work and play
Whilst scheduling your work is important, don't forget to schedule down time too! One of the main problems I face working from home is that my work life starts to blur into my own life. The thought of having to work on the way home from your job seems a little unfair to me, and yet I've found myself answering emails in my PJ's at 11 pm. This is bad!
I have come up with a few solutions though:
1. Turn off email notifications
That goes for your phone and computer! I personally find constantly pinging pop-ups a bit stressful when I'm trying to work, but doubly stressful when I'm just trying to watch some Doctor Who reruns. I won't even have an email app on my phone unless I know I'll be away from my laptop for a few days. I know I'll just compulsively check it otherwise, even though 99% of the time there's nothing to see.
2. Put your phone on do not disturb
The do not disturb feature has been a life saver for students and workers since its introduction a few years ago. It's the ultimate concentration-booster to mute those pesky group chats while your busy, and a bit less extreme than powering down your phone (I'm not that crazy). Finished working? Turn that baby off and have a look at those cat memes.
3. No work in bed
As anyone who has a desk next to their bed will know, it's very tempting to grab your laptop and work under the duvet for 8 hours instead of getting up. Whilst this initially sounds like the freelancer's dream, it means you're never really out of 'work mode' even when you're in bed. I try and draw an invisible line between my desk and my bed, making sure work doesn't cross that threshold. Having fever dreams about Photoshop crashing doesn't sound like much fun to me.
4. Get dressed please
Even if I know I'm not leaving the house, I like to look a bit presentable to motivate myself to get stuff done. I'm not saying to put on a suit and tie (slippers are allowed) but getting dressed will hopefully tell your brain to kick into gear and let it know that play time (aka sleeping) is over.
5. Keep weekends/evenings free
Okay, of all the things I've listed so far this one I'm probably the worst at. Whether I forget to plan something for the weekend or I just like working a bit too much, I often find myself in 'work mode' on a Saturday morning. I should really be a) sleeping or b) doing something more interesting than writing newsletters! This is where the 'social life' I mentioned earlier comes in, but a new hobby works too. I've been trying to bring my French practice into the weekends but we'll see how it goes!
Christmas shop update
As I said in the intro, Christmas is practically here already! I'm looking forward to playing Last Christmas on loop, but until then I thought I'd share the Christmas cards I've come up with this year. It's not the biggest selection, I'll admit - but I wanted to dip my toes a little and try out a few designs.
My favourites of the set are two designs I made for LGBT+ couples, after I noticed a shockingly barren offering on Etsy (and in shops). There's one for lads and one for gals - but if it's not for you, please share them with anyone you think might be on the lookout for some LGBT+ designs, as it's definitely not the easiest thing to find!
I also wanted to list the last order dates if you want to get anything posted for Christmas. It's especially important if you're posting to outside of the UK!
Last recommended order date for shipments to the UK: Tuesday December 17th
Last order date for shipments overseas: Tuesday December 10th (Eastern Europe), Friday 13th December (Western Europe)
Some stuff I’ve been enjoying this month
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See you next month!
- Georgina :)
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