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How to Work From Home Part 2 – Separation

March 9, 2010

Do you work from home?

Do you struggle with constant distractions or lack of focus?

Yesterday, I made a case for my technique of creating a productive mindset by “dressing for success” just one day a week.

Part 2 of my How to Work From Home series explores the idea of separating your home life from the responsibilities of your freelance business.

The Challenge

With all the benefits of working from home come the challenges of staying focused, managing your time, and getting things done.  It goes without saying that building a successful Illustration business takes a lot of time and effort, and without a boss looking over your shoulder, it can be easy to get lured away from working by the many distractions of home and family.

The Importance of Separation

The best way to minimize this danger is to separate your workspace from your home.  As you will see in the artists’ perspectives below, there are many ways to do this either physically or mentally.

Ideally, your workspace will have a door that you can close to disconnect you from the obligations of your house and your family.  That way you can physically isolate yourself in your work bubble and focus on the tasks of the day, and the closed door will help to protect you from being interrupted.

Creative Solutions

In many cases, however, a cloistered studio/office space is simply not possible, and so a productive level of separation can be more difficult to achieve.  The nice thing is, this is yet another opportunity to inject some creativity into your business.

As an example, here are some ways that your fellow artists create a sense of division between home and work.  The following stories were among those shared in the comments section of How to Work From Home Part 1.

Artist Perspectives

Dave Aldrich: I too find working from home quite challenging.  My wife and I live in a small house, a cape.  My elderly mom lives with us so she has the one good spare room downstairs.  I tried creating studio space in our bedroom, but geesh, I was working out of my bedroom!  I tried working in our finished basement but there was just no natural light. I need natural light!

Finally (well hopefully not finally) I am working in what was our dining room. We tend to use it for dining only during the hoildays anyway.

I like the space. Plenty of light and room. The distractions are certainly there… the kitchen and its temptations, my mom and her occasional phone calls and other needs. And then there’s the sunshiney days that I just want to stay outdoors on the deck (I’m working on that).

Here’s a shot of my space and a story about a dry-erase white board that I recently made: http://aldrichdesign.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/making-my-own-whiteboard/.

Alex Mathers: The important thing for me is to establish a working environment that has a professional feel to it. You don’t want to be working in or next to your un-made bed with mess everywhere.

I work in the same room I sleep in, but I fold up the sofa bed and make sure the room is tidy and fresh, so that it puts me in a more focused, and work-oriented frame of mind. The room should still be a pleasant environment to work in, of course. Oh, and a plant helps.

How do you separate work from home?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2010 12:12 PM

    I find that I have to shift my hours of work to when my family’s asleep. So, between 10PM and midnight and 5AM – 7AM I have a good 4 hours to focus on my freelance tasks. Working during the day (from home) is almost impossible.

    • March 9, 2010 12:18 PM

      Hi Krishna,
      Thanks for joining in. I’m definitely in a similar situation when it comes to adapting my work schedule to fit my obligations to family life. As for me, there are a few days that I have time carved out specifically to devote to working, but otherwise, I must supplement that with late nights and early mornings here and there. How is your productivity during your work hours? Have you adapted well to those times while still having energy and inspiration to work?

  2. March 9, 2010 1:09 PM

    For me I need a clear goal, an ultimate place I want to get to.
    I need to working space somewhere that is away from my bed (or the kitchen)
    I cant be to isolated, people inspire me so its good to have people around – Going to shared office space even twice a week can be refreshing.

    Above all it beats working for someone somewhere else thats for sure!! I need to get back into it one of these days… for now its working for the big boss man ;)

    • March 9, 2010 2:41 PM

      Hi Sashca,
      Yes, it’s definitely a good idea to also get some human interaction, otherwise you get stuck on Illustration Island. Balance is important. Thanks for commenting.

  3. March 9, 2010 7:49 PM

    Hi Thomas. These are great recommendations, and as I also do all my artwork at home, I thought I’d share a key I kind of stumbled upon.

    The key for me is Active Organization. I need everything to have it’s place, where it’s out of the way/put away/not creating the sensation of clutter, but I also need my tools to be available at the drop of a hat. This works both in my workspace and on the move. In my workspace (which is about a 12′ x 4′ strip of the second bedroom in the apartment I share with my fiance), I have more wall that storage space, especially given the presence of a drafting table and desk in that area. Most of my frequently used tools have pegs on the wall so I can hang them up, out of the way, and pull them down at a moment’s notice. I also keep a folder for receipts that intend to claim for my taxes and another for client contracts tacked to the wall. This way, I always know where I’m putting those things. Once a job for a client is done, I pull the contract out of the active folder and file it away, but until then I have it both safe and handy.

    I keep pens, markers, brushes, and pencils readily available in consistently sized boxes… like the ones you get for school supplies. They are labeled by content, are compact, and snap shut, and can be stacked neatly pretty much anywhere.

    I try to keep a pencil and pen on me at all times, since I work a day job, and try to be able to draw at the drop of a hat. I use a portable toothbrush holder to keep my pencil and pen in. This keeps them safe, and can be tossed in any old bag in a hurry. I also try to keep a sketchbook around, but any old paper is fair game as far as I’m concerned.

    These tactics have really helped me up the time I spend drawing, and the speed of my process. This idea of Active Organization helps me keep my space (which is at a premium) highly workable while not wasting my time (which is also at a premium) with packing and unpacking supplies in order to keep my space workable.

  4. March 9, 2010 8:44 PM

    Interesting read – I just moved into a 1 bedroom apartment and am still undecided whether I want to put my work area where the eating area would be.. my idea was to get a table that could be either a work area or eating table. My other idea was to just redo my crappy area that is in my bedroom, and make it much more usable. I think I am leaning towards the latter only because of the cat and I can lock the door and work in my bubble… but I guess I can still have the option of working in the eating area if I want, considering most of my work is hand drawn.

  5. Diana Ponce permalink
    March 10, 2010 7:41 PM

    Since my husband and I both work in the field (he’s a web/graphic designer) it has always been important for us to have a dedicated space in our home to set up office. One of the bedrooms in our apartment is our home office. It is strictly for business… we each have our own desk/computer set ups, a drawing table with all the necessary supplies, good storage for supplies and an art reference/business library. The room is a good size, with natural light (and great views of a park across the street) and it is far enough away from the rest the house that we aren’t too tempted to do other things (like watch TV or do laundry, etc.). Our only problem is sometimes we spend too much time in the office online and/or working :)

  6. September 13, 2010 6:45 AM

    My husband and I share an extra bedroom and use it as an office. Most of my work is digital art, and so that’s where I usually work. To gain a sense of ‘work space’ apart from the rest of life, which is really more like signaling that it’s ‘work time’, there are two things we do:

    First, I have a big post-it with the roadsign for ‘Do Not Enter’ drawn on it, and I stick that to a side of my computer that he ca easily see. This is my Do Not Disturb Sign to communicate that I’m in work-mode at that time.

    Second, we both use headphones. This blocks the distracting noises from his computer, and lets me listen to my music.

    Third, I pick certain artists and songs to listen to while working. They have no lyrics and tend towards the classical aide, but if there’s a particular mood I’m going for in my art, I might listen to a song from a movie or other source that puts me in that mindframe. I try not to listen to these songs when I’m not working so that they will always be associated with work mode.

  7. Beastie permalink
    September 20, 2010 1:23 PM

    Thank you for this article, I’ve been having the hardest time getting “in the zone” now that I’m out of college and need to work in the bedroom of my small apartment. Once I read it, I looked at my work space, which was covered in empty food wrappers, underneath which I found a pile of underwear. Underwear…something I haven’t worn in months, as I’d been unable to find any. I was wearing a pair of my oldest, sloppiest pajamas, my armpits reeked, and it was clear I’d been far too willing to take full advantage of the benefits of working from home.
    So I threw out the pile of garbage, returned my intimates to their dresser, put on some clothes that didn’t involve shorts with frogs on them (and did, thankfully, include underwear), and dug out my cork board, which still had a few 6-month-old deadlines pinned to it, and now displays a very large note to “QUIT DICKING AROUND”. I envision this as a dramatic montage, set to Flight of the Concords’ “Business Time.”
    I’m feeling more productive already. I’d been considering buying a screen (or some of those hippie beads) to divide my room into a “living” half and a “resting” half, and now I’m thinking it would definitely be a worthwhile investment. If nothing else, it will keep me from gazing longingly at my bed when I should be doing work.

  8. November 22, 2010 12:22 AM

    working from home is the best job that you can get, you will always find comfort in your home while working .`”

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