How to Stay Creative While Working from Home

A creative working at his desk whilst covid peers in through the window

Let’s kick things off by getting the facts straight: the old “Working from home” no longer exists, we don’t live in normal times and so most of the ideals we had about working from home aren’t being fulfilled, at least for the time being. 

If you look back at all those wonderful working from home tips pre-March 2020 (those that haven’t cunningly been updated…) they’re woeful relics of a golden age:

“Keep regular hours” – pfft, it’s flexi-time all the way, baby. “Meet your clients down the pub”. What, in Tier 3? And I’ll bet nobody back then had this many Zoom meetings – could this have been a phone call, perhaps?

So, how do you stay creative while working from home?

Like a lot of creative-types, I thrive on collaboration and regular feedback, tossing design ideas back and forth. It keeps my work focused and allows me to keep my ideas fresh and look for opportunities to grow. I’m lucky that I get to use my creative skills as part of an industry that the government has deemed “viable” – a luxury many people in a creative role haven’t had this year.

Whatever your situation, it can be hard to stay creative while working from home, especially in uncertain times. But creatives are a resourceful bunch, and with the help of some creative people in our industry, we’ve managed to get a few ideas together to keep your creativity flowing…

First… Breathe and Smile

The basics are often overlooked, but are you looking after yourself? Take a shower, do some breathing exercises, remember to find time to laugh and play. You deserve to be happy and looking after your mental health is as important as your physical health – maybe even more so when the world is going to shit.

Staying positive is a key to staying creative while working from home. We can easily focus on the negative but it’s so important to be optimistic. Try and lift your mind by focusing on what you are grateful for. Go for a walk. Do some exercise. Enjoy some healthy food. Look at the little things that are beautiful. Choose joy. Have the audacity to refuse the negative of the status quo and strive for a better future. When your mindset is in that place you are all set to come up with other positive ideas that solve problems and contribute in a meaningful way to your work.

Matt Davies, Brand & Culture Strategy Consultant
Mrmattdavies.me

Find Your “Creative Spot”

I get it – sometimes you don’t feel creative. You can’t just turn it on and off. I’ve been creatively minded all my life, but there are times of the day, or after certain activities, where I feel more ready to be creative. With the normal routines of 9-5 out of the window, finding your new creative spot (which is in equal parts a time, a place and a mood) can be tricky.

A woman working on a laptop in bed

Finding, or instilling, the right mood is key. The very things that make us good creatives; the attention to detail, our emotive powers, our vivid imaginations, are also our greatest weaknesses when it comes to preparing for creativity. Try to find a time where you’re less likely to be distracted, feel more engaged and have everything you need at your disposal. And don’t be afraid to message your boss with content ideas at 3am. 😉

Tutorials, tutorials, tutorials. I’m gonna spend all this time wisely, completing all the tutorials I can get my hands on. I am going to be a master of ProCreate! I am going to be a motion graphics guru! I’m gonna get up early every day, and eat an insta-worthy buddha-bowl of sunshine and goodness that will fuel my creative potential…

Well. Things didn’t quite work out as planned. 

I slept in. A lot. I frequently missed breakfast. And I completed exactly ONE tutorial. Why? I’m not sure, but I think trying to force creativity sent me the opposite way. Also, being a digital creative doesn’t mean all of your inspiration and knowledge should come from the digital world. In fact quite the opposite. So instead I read LOTS – all of the books that were piled high on my bedside table. I spent lots of time outdoors taking in nature. I spent time being ‘bored’. I lay flat on the grass in my garden and looked at clouds. Then I slowly began to revisit creative activities that I hadn’t enjoyed for years – I started sewing again, I even did some linocut and screen printing! All things that reminded me why I love working in the creative industry in the first place, and the one thing that we don’t usually have at our disposal – TIME – allowed me to fall back into these habits naturally.

Lindsay Ball-McQueen, Digital Designer
Boom Online Marketing

Change the Scenery

We’ve all been fenced in, staring at the same four walls in our box room/living room/bedroom for the last 9 months or so. Stop. It’s time to get out. But as a creative person, I don’t always want to disengage my brain entirely, so here are some ways I like to stay engaged when I leave the house.

A man going out for a walk

Now that many of us are working remotely, I’m personally finding it quite challenging getting creative within my own workspace at home. In the office you have the luxury of moving around and having impromptu meetings within a side room or area (e.g. beanbags, every office has them), and while you can move around your home if you have a laptop, it doesn’t really have the same desired effect for me. 

One thing that I’d recommend trying if you’re having a creative meeting like an ideation session, is taking it outside. Whether it’s in the garden or a bench in a local park, use your phone or tether it to your laptop and I guarantee you’ll find each much easier to get creative. Plus, there’s an added bonus of fresh air!

Mark Porter, SEO Consultant
Search Valley

  • Plan a meal on the hoof. Get your shopping list 90% planned (I like Google Keep), but on your way to the shops (don’t forget your mask!) try and plan the last meal of the week. 
  • Play Pokemon Go. Seriously, collecting stuff is good for your mind and can help ease anxiety and insecurity. I can also recommend the Seek app, if Pokemon isn’t quite your scene.
  • Go somewhere new. Look locally, (no need to go all the way to Barnard Castle) find a street you’ve not been up before and see what you find.
  • Sign up to inspiring newsletters. Receiving an email in your inbox that lifts your spirits is a rare thing indeed, but there are a few that do just that for me:

The number one thing that’s worked for me in terms of staying productive recently is getting straight into a work mindset after waking up. I would spend a good hour or so browsing social media and the rest of the internet before starting my working day for months on end. This hour initially started as about 15 minutes, and probably reached 90 minutes on some days as I lay in bed looking for excuses to avoid working.

I would then start to crave that dopamine hit again as soon as I began work – and immediately look for distractions. By moving my ‘browsing’ time until the afternoon or evening, I’ve found I can maintain a high level of productivity throughout each day. I don’t know if the science behind the dopamine part is right, but I know that the basic idea has worked for me.

Luke Jordan, Youtube Content Creator
@lr_jordan

Collaborate

We might be apart, but lord knows we love a Zoom meeting right now, don’t we…? Don’t be afraid to use these as opportunities to ask people what they think of your current project, share your screen and explain your thought process.

Collaboration on an ipad

Remember the normal rules don’t apply. Mentally, at least to me, it feels like a bigger undertaking to show someone your work when they’re not in the same room (and therefore you’re more likely to shirk it). But do take the time – you need your peeps!

Changing the motive behind why I needed to be creative really helped. Going from an income based mindset to a philanthropic one gave me the motivation to run a project called BrandAid, where I give away logos to those that need one. I also run Rock the Lock; a virtual rock club night that raises money for Covid-hit causes.

Doing stuff for others has given me a much-needed dopamine hit, knowing my work has made someone else smile.

James Walsh, Head of Production
Boom Online Marketing

Try a New Approach

So you love Procreate, or Photoshop and why not, they’re great tools! But remember to try new things to spark your creativity. Don’t stay within the confines of your comfort zone for too long when it comes to tools. 

Try writing a blog post, if you normally draw. Try doodling if you normally write.

I have recently been trialing AI software, including the awesome Runway ML which helped to help create amazing visual content aided by machine learning. And also this abomination…

working with AI to create horrific things

Which brings me onto the next point…

Remember, You Are Not a Robot

The corporate machine is on hold, and who knows how long that will last, but if we’ve learned anything from COVID, it’s that taking some time for yourself (and not having to justify it) is important.

Chances are you feel you’re not doing enough work, and are worried about PrOdUcTiViTy, but when you think about how many fewer distractions there are in your day (no chatty colleagues, fewer foosball games), you might find you’re getting more work done in a shorter time frame.

“If you want to be creative, get some sleep. If you’re getting any less than 7 hours, you’re killing your imagination. I urge everyone to read a book called ‘Why We Sleep’ which has opened my eyes and changed my sleeping habits for good. It sounds simple, but for many, I think it can be tempting to achieve the ‘hustle’ lifestyle – working late and getting up early. Really though, sleep is powerful, try it sometime.“

George Driscoll, Senior Digital PR Executive
Root Digital

So use your flexi-time smartly, do simple tasks from your phone whilst taking a walk, enjoy a good amount of breaks, take a nap and get out in the sunshine when it’s there!

Whilst you may not always feel creative, making time for yourself definitely improves your chances of hitting inspiration and getting your creative mind back on track. You got this…

Creativity, here we come! 

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