You may have dreamed of working from home for ages, or you might love studio life so much that it's never even occurred to you. Thanks to Covid-19, though, working from home is almost certainly your reality right now, and you might be having trouble adjusting.
No matter whether you're a junior designer or an art director, the sudden shift to working from home can be discombobulating, and the hardest part can be coping with all the distractions that you don't get when you're working in a studio with like-minded colleagues. To help you adjust, here are six top tips that'll help you stay focused for the duration.
01. Get comfortable
If you're an established home worker than you probably already have a comfortable and ergonomic working setup that enables you to get everything done without wrecking your posture; if you've suddenly had working from home thrust upon you, you might not be so lucky. And while working on the sofa with your laptop on a coffee table may be an acceptable short-term solution, sooner or later you're going to feel the effects.
In an ideal world you'd equip yourself with one of the best office chairs you can afford and a desk to go with it; realistically you may have to improvise. A straight-backed chair (with perhaps a couple of cushions added) and a kitchen or dining table should do the trick, enabling you to work in comfort for the duration, without building up an exciting collection of aches and pains.
02. Close down unnecessary apps
The modern computer is a wonderful and versatile tool that's been an absolute boon for designers, but it's also an extremely efficient distraction device. And while this is unlikely to be a problem when you're in the creative zone and the pixels or vectors are flowing smoothly, there are plenty of other times when you're simply not feeling the job you're working on and suddenly you've wasted an hour on the web.
The easy solution to this is to just shut down the stuff you don't need while you're trying to focus on work. Close your web browser, your email, Slack, Discord and any other potential time-wasters, and keep open the ones you need to get your work done; while you're at it, put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode. You might miss an important email for a bit, but it'll still be there when you've finished.
03. Make a to-do list
Without the structure of studio life it can be hard to focus on what you need to do each day, and if you don't have a clear view of that day's tasks it's all too easy to procrastinate. So, start each day by writing out a list of what you have to do – perhaps adding estimates of how long you think each item will take so that you don't overload yourself – and then work through it, crossing each task off as you complete it.
It may seem overly simplistic, but when you're at home and feeling disconnected from your usual working environment, it's easy to let things slide; having a to-do list is a great way of keeping yourself honest.
04. Take regular breaks
When you look at your average working day in a studio, it's not non-stop work; there are plenty of natural breaks throughout the day, whether they're for getting refreshments or chatting with colleagues about what was on TV last night. Nobody can sit in front of a computer non-stop every day – at least, not for very long – and so you need to make sure you're getting up at least once an hour to take a break, and maybe get out for a bit of exercise while you're at it.
This isn't always feasible, of course; if you find that you've hit your stride on a project then it pays to keep going for longer, because the last thing you want is to take a break, come back to it and find that you've lost your momentum. For the most part, though, regular screen breaks are an essential way to take a breather, clear your head for a bit and then get back to work refreshed and focused.
05. Shut the door
If you live alone then you don't need to worry about getting distracted by other people; however if you're sharing your home with other people, whether they're housemates, partners or families, there's plenty of potential for distraction. And don't overlook the likelihood of pets demanding your attention, too.
When you need to focus, you might need to impose a bit of office structure and shut yourself away for a bit; explain that you need to work without distraction for a while, close the door and get on with it. Remember, though, to emerge when it's time for a break, especially if you have kids who don't necessarily understand your need to sequester yourself all day.
06. Get some noise-cancelling headphones
Still having trouble concentrating on work? Maybe you just need a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Whether it's bored kids, housemates listening to music or an outraged cat howling outside your office door, there are any number of noisy distractions around the house that you can only shut down with decent headphones equipped with active noise control.
You might use them to put a playlist of background music, or you might prefer some soothing white or pink noise to help you concentrate. But if the noise cancellation's up to snuff then merely having them on without any sound playing can do a great job of eliminating unwanted sonic distraction; you can find our pick of the best noise-cancelling headphones here.