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A Creative's Guide to Quarantine

So you’re bored in the house and you’re in the house bored?

For many creatives, the lack of collaboration can hinder the creative process. For some, isolation allows them the most time to produce. However, during this time of quarantine, most creative professionals have been forced to work from home. 

I worked from home for over two years as a designer for an international software company. The structure there allowed me complete freedom to work as I needed in order to meet deadlines. That kind of liberty sounds wonderful and it was on many days. However, it forced me to develop work habits at home. So, here’s my advice for creatives on staying sane while working from home.

Get Outside

I begin every day with a run. Partly due to the endorphins exercise releases and the positive vibes it brings throughout the day but primarily to ensure I get outside every day. It can be really easy to slip into a pattern of waking up, making coffee, and working through the hours without regard for regular grooming habits. 

This run allows me to reserve an hour everyday where I remove myself from work, take in a new environment, and create a routine that makes working from home more manageable in the long run. Maybe for you it’s a long walk or yoga in your backyard. Whatever it is, make it part of your everyday routine and don’t be afraid to switch it up. 

Additionally, getting outside will give your mind a rest from screen stimulation. I find this is especially helpful when working on bigger projects where I can sometimes sit for 4-6 hour design sessions. This pause gives me time to reset when I run into a creative block.

Cherish Creative Blocks

Over the years, I’ve worked with a wide range of creatives that all had different routines in their creative process. Almost everyone I talked to said a routine was crucial to preserve creative time. In an age where you’re accessible 24/7 through email, chat, phone, tin can on a string, it’s important to block off time where you can’t be interrupted. It’s easy to lose a couple of hours throughout the day from one off tasks here and there.

Personally, I prefer to do as much of my administrative work first thing in the morning. Get the emails out of the way, check in on-going projects, clear roadblocks for others, and form a to-do list. After that work is clear, I block at least 3 consecutive hours of my day to produce. Some days, that’s critical thought into a client’s brand. Some days that’s wireframing a new website. 

Whatever it is, I’ve dedicated focus and time to knock out my to-do list.

I recognize that’s not always possible. There are definitely days where I have non-stop meetings that prevent me from getting that time in. You may not find time in your schedule to have 3 straight hours of creative time at all during a week. So cherish it when you do get it. Maximize your productivity during these blocks and your bosses will want to clear that time for you as well.

Listen To Music Everyday

While some you may be Too Blessed To Be Stressed, the rest of us have to deal with it on an everyday basis. However, I’ve found the best way of coping with creeping scope, sudden deadlines, or that really annoying client is indulging in music.

According to a recent study by the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, 74 men volunteered for a trial to study the effects of music on the stress levels of surgical patients. Half received ordinary care while the other half received the same care but “listened to music of their choice through headphones before, during, and immediately after the operations.” The music group became significantly less hypertensive during the procedures and also recorded feeling much calmer and better during operations.

While producing creative work isn’t as stressful as surgery, music still has inherent benefits that we’ve been studying for centuries. I try to find at least an hour a day where I can listen to music while I work to relieve stress and produce higher quality work.

Office Space: Not The Movie

I understand that not everyone is able to have a dedicated office space in their house but if you can spare your dining room table, or create a makeshift desk in a corner of your home, it will go a long way towards making this period more manageable. 

Many of the creatives I spoke with indicated having separation between their work and home lives was crucial to preventing the two from mixing. It’s super easy to get distracted from work with TV or books or video games readily available. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of working during your off hours because everything is accessible. Sure you can send that email out at 9:30 PM but is it worth blurring the work/life line?

If the mind is a pencil, we can grind it down throughout the day. Being able to walk away allows us space to sharpen that pencil for another working session.

So that’s my method. Spending time every day listening to music, exercising outside when you can, utilizing a separate office space, and making sure you cherish those creative blocks when you get them. It’s not a perfect system but each of these steps will help you manage this quarantine marathon.

Chris Bunn

Chris Bunn

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