7 Tricks to Working from Home as a Designer

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Alexander Georges
Author's profile picture
Lydia Chamberlain
May 5, 2020

Working from home can feel brutal.

Every day is starting to blend together like those weekend cocktails we crave on workdays.

Not only does the monotony make us feel like robots, but the separation we used to have between home life and work-life are blurring.

I’ve worked from home an extra week longer than my coworkers because I was sick the week before our mandatory work from home (WFH)–quite possibly with the virus going around.

As such, it’s become imperative to learn how to separate work and regular home life.

If you don’t, you only add to your own stress and anxiety.

That’s why we’ve decided to share some tips for working from home as designers.

I hope they help you regulate your sanity as they have for us!

1. Try the Pomodoro Technique

This time-management technique was invented in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo.

It’s actually quite simple.

  1. Work on a task for 25 minutes
  2. Take a break for 5 minutes
  3. Repeat steps 1-2 for four times
  4. After the 4th time, take a 15-30 minute break instead of 5 minutes
  5. Start over until you complete your tasks

I love this method because it’s a very simple concept that keeps me focused while giving me small breaks to stand up and stretch.

As a matter of fact, I’m using the method while writing this post!

I use an app called ClearFocus which automatically sets the Pomodoro timers for you, but unfortunately, it’s been discontinued from being downloaded.

However, there are some alternatives that I’ve found online, like Focus.

2. Create a Separate Workspace that Inspires You

Do you know what helps mentally separate working from home from your normal home life?

Separating your workspace from your everything else.

Physically making the separation helps you create that mental barrier that tells your mind, “Okay, here is where I do my work and there is where I do my normal home stuff.”

You can take it to another level and surround your workspace with things that motivate you.

It could be pictures of designs that you love, pictures of people that inspire you (I won’t judge you if you put yourself), collages, paintings, photographs, whatever you want.

It’s your space, so get creative, designers!

3. Transform Your Area Into a War Room

This tip is similar to the last, except instead of just putting inspirational objects in your workspace, you can turn your workspace into something called a war room.

A war room is a place where you surround yourself with ideas and notes related to your work.

It can be pictures, printouts, post its, important highlighted text, feedback, etc.

These things help you visualize your work so you can see everything at once.

Also, seeing things from this different perspective can spark new ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise.

4. Take Notes and Share Them After Meetings

One of the issues of being physically separated from your coworkers is that there’s room for translation errors that wouldn’t normally happen if you’re all in the same room.

I’m sure you’ve had plenty of meetings by phone, Webex, or Zoom as I have that ended with everyone understanding a project differently.

So what can you do about this?

My tip is to write down notes during the meeting and share them with everyone after the meeting ends.

That ensures that if anyone came out of the meeting understanding something differently from you, you can both discuss it now instead of way down the line after you have done a lot of work incorrectly.

5. Creating a Spec Document to Ensure Everyone Is on the Same Page

Creating a document that outlines your goal, tasks, deliverables, vision, data, and more and sharing it with the team will make it clear what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what you will do.

This has multiple uses. It makes it so that everyone is on the same page.

If everyone understands the parameters of the project at the beginning, it prevents the team from going in circles and wasting time later on.

On top of that, it prevents scope creep. No one can say that you didn’t do something if you literally had it written what you’re going to do.

It will also help you down the road when you’re reviewing projects you’ve completed and you’re using them as examples to how awesome you are when being interviewed.

6. Let Coworkers Know Exactly When You’re Working and When You’re Not Working

In a boundary-less setting, you’re responsible for putting the boundaries up yourself.

Let your coworkers know that you’ll be off at 5 every day so they don’t bother you after that.

It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but it will be well worth it to take care of your own sanity.

BUT if you’re too shy, here’s a sneaky tip.

If your company uses shared calendars where everyone can see when you have meetings, like in our company that uses Outlook, then create a meeting with only yourself so no one else can reserve that time or expect a response!

7. Priority Matrix

Do you work on a dizzying number of projects as I have?

Do you freelance and have to create your own list of priorities?

Try creating a priority matrix.

A priority matrix, as the name implies, helps you create an order of what tasks should be completed and in what order.

It lets you visualize your tasks by comparing the impact and effort to complete them.

  • If a task is of low impact and requires lots of effort, it’s considered a thankless task. You should do these tasks last.
  • If a task is of low impact but low effort, then it’s called a fill-in. You should prioritize these over thankless tasks.
  • If a task is of high impact but high effort, then it’s called a major project. This is about the same priority as a fill-in.
  • If a task is of high impact and low effort, it’s called a quick win. These tasks should be prioritized over every other task.

You can see how it would look down below.

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