You’re not alone in this. Everyone is struggling right now in some way. We’re all adapting to circumstances that are new and ever-changing, so don’t be so hard on yourself.
Onda has been a remote-first design studio from the beginning. Yet, outdoors is where my creativity is most stimulated. I used to go to local markets - talk to the sellers, see all the different products, engage in conversations with strangers at the bus stop. Traveling was part of my routine, as well as volunteering, going for walks, visiting museums and meeting friends. Can you guess how many of these things I can do from home?
I used to think that the first weeks in confinement would be the easiest ones. Turns out, I was so wrong. The first one was the hardest of all, and I felt my creativity shrinking a little bit. Of course, I didn’t want this to happen - I crave creativity. But how could I keep being creative within these four walls (or five, counting the ceiling)? I needed to adapt. I read articles, listened to different podcasts and tried different things. In the end, I came up with my way of continuing to be creative while working from home.
1. Change your working space
I know that one of the most common pieces of advice is to have a fixed place to work. I tried, I swear I tried, but it didn’t work for me.
See, one of the things I do the most to keep being creative is breaking my routine. How can I think outside of my boundaries if I never test them? After one week of working in the same desk turned against the wall, I was so done, sooooo done, that... I went to the kitchen. There I have a beautiful wooden table turned to the window, where I can see a green tree and a yellow candle on the window sill. Plus, my kitchen table is larger than my desk, so I had tons of space for whatever I needed, like my tea mug and notebook. I decided to stay there, and I did for a week. It was wonderful!
After a few days, this place felt dull, but I didn’t want to go back to my desk yet, so I went to the couch. Back to my desk… I have moved it to two different places in one month. I simply needed some change.
Isn’t the possibility to change workspaces as much as we want one of the reasons why we love remote-first companies? We need this change of space in our lives, and just because your choices are limited now doesn’t mean you don’t have them. Actually, making them can be a good exercise for your creativity and problem solving.
2. Get wild in your senses
- The flour when you bake.
- The land when you take care of your plants.
- The fabrics in your house that you normally don’t notice.
- The sunset or sunrise if you can.
- The colors in your plants.
- The rain falling.
- To all the noises - actually, am I the only one who’s been noticing noises that I had never heard before? I heard church bells the other day, and I don’t even know where I have a church nearby.
- To the birds singing much more.
- More of what to listen to at #7…
- Candles — they have been my best friend.
- Your cooking. I am getting more adventurous with more spices, and speaking of which...
- Different dishes (try to cook the cuisines of other countries).
- Homemade smoothies and lemonade.
Going wild with your senses will keep them awake. That will keep you more aware, more attentive, question more, and thus more creative. Go!
3. Open those windows
Are you claustrophobic? So am I! 👋 In my normal ordinary routine I need to go outside at least once a day to go for a long walk. I feel suffocated if I don't. And now I’ve been counting the ceiling as a wall as well - seriously, I need to see that sky!
My trick? I open as many windows as I can in my house. I work in front of my windows and I get lots of fresh air while I am there. It truly makes me more in touch with the outside.
4. Gotta have those rituals
Yes, I use the word “rituals” because these are daily habits that have become sacred to me.
In all the articles I read, writers reinforced the importance of keeping a daily schedule as if still going to the office. I am a very lucky, lucky person because I can walk to the office every day, but it wasn’t always like that. Like many common mortals, I also used to spend a lot of time commuting. So I thought: what if I wake up earlier as I used to because I had to commute, and use that time for something that makes me feel more energised?
Before drinking my black tea I am just a walking soul with disheveled hair. I am not the type of person who would normally work out in the morning - but this ain't an ordinary situation. So what do I do?
I wake up and try to meditate. It helps my brain wake up more than I thought. I have been using the Headspace app for this. Then, I do a yoga session with the Yoga for beginners app. I rarely wake up earlier than planned, but when I do, I go for a walk while there aren't many people outside - if you're claustrophobic, you're going to love that!
Speaking of which! Because of my claustrophobia, a ritual that I have is to stop whatever I am doing and go to my window when the sun is hitting. This is my time to do my photosynthesis. When it is not sunny (actually, I’m writing this and it is raining), I do it anyway - if anything, I can feel fresh air on my face.
Then I dress as if I were going to the studio. And, by the way, a small note:
4.1. Dress to impress
I always dress as if I were going to Onda. Sometimes I even put my red lipstick on.
I don’t know who sold us the idea of working in our pyjamas, but to me those are false news, folks.
5. Get that dream or hobby out of the closet
I am also back to drawing and painting a lot. Besides, I don't know if you have seen, but at Onda we launched the challenge Smashing the Boredom (click here to know everything) where we agree on a skill we want to acquire or an achievement we want to complete. As a language nerd, I have chosen to learn Hungarian. I have been to that country twice and I've fallen in love.
6. Cut yourself some slack
It's ok if you don't feel as productive as you used to. It's ok if you feel more tired. It's ok if you feel you need longer breaks. Make realistic goals for yourself and strive to achieve them. And when you are done for the day, do nice things for yourself, from a home spa to a movie that makes you laugh. Here's an idea:
7. Get back to the classics - here's the bonus of listening
When was the last time you watched or listened to that classic you love so much? As this time invites us to slow down, you can travel to what makes you feel alive. For example, I have listened to this compilation of vocal jazz.
I also created a to do list of so-called classic movies that I want to see.
PS: just a short note - going back to classics doesn't mean diving into nostalgia and getting depressed. These are already complicated times as they are. Mind your mental well-being. If you think that watching crime series will make you anxious, or that organising those photo albums will make you sad, this might not be the time to do it.
Before you go
This pandemic is making us reflect on a few things. One of them is our impact on the environment. As I said, I used to travel a lot, but now, more than before, I am considering how I can make my travels more eco-friendly as I see the pollution levels falling so quickly. I took some time during quarantine to do this ecological footprint test, and, omg, I was so scared by how much I pollute by traveling so often by plane.
I know sometimes I will still travel by plane, but covid-19 is making me consider how I want to travel next time.
We're also experiencing conference meetings more than ever, and we're discovering that they are cheap and time effective. Maybe next time you think that you have to travel to London for that business meeting, think again. You may save some money, time, and Mother Earth.
Don't forget to keep on giving
Don't forget that you work with human beings who are probably feeling the same as you, and as we're farther apart than ever, it is important to keep the dialogue fluid. I find myself writing more than I would on a normal day, but it is important because now we don't have our water cooler breaks, nor do we have meetings in a room where we can see each other. Keep your team up to date with work, write to them often, without forgetting to ask how they are.
Lastly, in your community - you can help from home
The world needs a lot of help right now, and you can see how you can contribute. For example:
- Donate money to your national health service.
- I have found a volunteering group that is distributing meals across my city for families in need, and my family and I cook meals for them whenever we can.
- There are volunteering projects you can do online. For example, The United Nations Volunteers programme has some that you can check out here.
- Call a senior - search in your local community how you can keep them company through a phone call.
What do you think of these tips? Are you going to try any of them? Let us know!