How can we continue to be our best creative selves when confined to our homes?
Associate Creative Director Steven Gurney shares practical advice on how you can foster creativity while working from home.
It’s in times of extraordinary upheaval that I thank my lucky stars that I work as a creative in such an agile and adaptable industry – an industry that has changed and flexed so much in recent years to incorporate godsends like remote working and flexible hours.
But what happens to creativity when the blessing of being able to work from home becomes a necessity? What do we do when the dynamic shifts entirely and how can we continue to be our best creative selves when confined to our homes?
IT STARTS WITH A CHANGE OF MINDSET
Where many might choose to look at this sudden change of working circumstances as a negative, I’m trying very hard to change my internal monologue about what my work from home space actually is. Where once I imagined it as a creative oasis, now I’m trying to see it as a comfortable and continually productive space for an as-of-yet unknown duration.
Thriving amidst changing circumstances—especially when they happen against your will—often requires a glass-half–full approach, a can-do attitude where you resolve to make the best of the situation. I, like many others, have to remind myself this every single morning when I get ready for work.
START THE DAY RIGHT, AND THE REST WILL FOLLOW
I love my morning ritual of coffee and a breakfast-pot at Leon before work.
The coffee, in particular, I can’t live without, and sometimes an instant or store-bought just won‘t quite cut it either. With the cash I’m saving on travel, I’ve found myself indulging a little in subscription services, notably ‘Pact Coffee’, sustainably sourced, high-quality, curated coffees delivered to your doorstep. It doesn’t quite replace my coffee shop ritual, but it helps.
There’s never been a better time for avocado on toast.
Remember when people claimed that young people never had any money because they spent it all on avocados? Well, now we can have our avocado cake and eat it, because we can spend our commuting fare on breakfast instead. And apparently, Avocado helps boost your productivity! Eat well, enjoy yourself and enjoy the breakfast routine.
I don’t miss my commute, but I miss the exercise it gave me.
Which is why, after my morning coffee, I like to take the government’s advice and get out for a little exercise. I go for a walk up the river on a running path – and rarely run into anyone. It’s long been documented that going for walks helps stimulate your creativity (Steve Jobs was a massive proponent of this) so getting out and about is a great way to start your day.
It’s easier to stay creative when you indulge your curiosity.
I like to spend some time each morning to see what’s happening in the world, to investigate what brands are doing and saying and mull over great creative work. I’ve kept this routine while I’ve been working remotely and I’ve found that a little inspiration goes a long way to boosting your own creativity and positivity throughout the day.
Make a list and check it twice.
If you’re a stereotypical unorganised creative (just like me) you might find it’s helpful to make a list of what you need to get done for the day. Don’t make lists of random stuff that’s easy to check off just to make you feel good. Instead, make a list of the vital things that have to be done by EOP. That’ll keep you focused.
YOU ARE A PRODUCT OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Your work environment ultimately effects the quality of your work. It’s why advertising agencies spend so much time on interior design and lighting – they’re trying to create a productive setting that’s conducive for creative work. Your own home is no different.
It doesn’t mean breaking your self–isolation for a three-hour trip around Ikea for new home office furniture, no matter how good the meatballs may be. Instead, there are a few simple [and free] ways to change your environment in an instant…
Open your windows and let in some fresh air.
We’re living in an era of no traffic so breathe in that fresh air while you can! Raining outside? Even better. I love the smell of rain on asphalt and the noise it makes.
Play your own music.
When working remotely, I like to dig into my vinyl collection of obscure atmospheric soundtracks to sci-fi video games. The soundscapes are like a meditative background ambience that stirs my creativity. Whatever you’re into – from Dua Lipa to forgotten 90’s classics, dive right in – no-one’s going to judge you in your own home.
Agencies have introduced bring-your-pet-to-work days for a reason.
Pets are super–calming and anxiety-reducing. If you’re lucky enough to have a pet at home, spend some time with it.
LUNCH BREAKS ARE MORE FLEXIBLE THAN EVER – LITERALLY
Having already exhausted the government’s recommended outdoor activity with my morning walk, I turn to yoga at lunchtime, and trust me, it will change your life. There are lots of free classes on YouTube for beginners and like the morning walk, it’ll boost your creativity and allow your mind some much-needed downtime. I often find that many of my best creative ideas come when I’m thinking least about them and yoga is the perfect distraction.
SEPARATE WORK AND PLAY
You’re only going to be able to maintain a high creative output if you give yourself time to rest. But when working from home for long periods of time, there is a tendency for work life and home life to blur.
You might find yourself answering emails at 6:30 a.m. when you might not have looked at them until after 9 a.m. in an office environment. Conversely, you may find yourself staring at Photoshop at 10 p.m. at night. But there are a couple of ways to avoid this…
Set up your own boundaries and agree boundaries with your work colleagues.
Decide for yourself what your working hours are going to be and do your personal best to stick to them. Secondly, make sure your colleagues know this is what you have decided. Chances are, they don’t want to be on a conference call with you at nighttime either. Look out for each other and respect each other’s boundaries.
If possible, change rooms.
A physical change in your immediate environment helps instigate a mental shift to, or away from work. Having a designated workspace in your home is great. When you enter, its game-on. When you leave, it’s personal time.
There you have it, my set of simple tricks and tips for remaining creative amid Covid. It’s a strange time for everyone –from individual creatives to entire companies that thrive on their creative output. But hopefully, when the storm passes, you’ll have an entirely new set of creative techniques that will enhance any future remote-working experience.
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