I am sharing my tips for coping with working at home during the Covid 19 crisis.
There are plenty of other tips and tricks out there if you just want to Google them, but these are mine from an artists standpoint.
Working from home and social isolation during the covid pandemic.
As artists we are pretty good at working at home and working alone, but even so this pandemic is getting to some of us so here’s my take on how you can get through it all.
Personally, I have gone from just me and Mr. S to having my children come home and bringing their pets too. Thankfully, they do their own laundry and they take turns in making meals, but it still all has to be planned out, the shopping lists needs creating, (thankfully, Mr. S is doing all the food shopping as he loves shopping), the house still needs cleaning and as lovely as it is to have them home, at times the interruptions are infuriating.
All that aside in order not to go mad, you will need to figure out a way to cope which keeps you sane too.
My first suggestion is to create a timetable (or tables) of things which need to be done, when they need to be done and who needs to do them. On our fridge door is a menu planner for the week, details of who is going to be cooking and the days where the timing of meals matters because someone has a conference call, an online course, or an online exam.
Then I have a timetable of things I need to get done in a week. Time for producing my social media content, time for writing this blog, getting it checked and scheduling it to be delivered to you at 6.00 pm on Sunday evening, time to make the online classes I am preparing and time to make artwork, too. The business of being an artist takes up far more time than making the artwork even though I would rather be making!
Having worked out what needs to be done and when, you need to stick to the plan. Having a clear idea of what you need to do and when you need to do it will make life easier. Within all that you need to maintain regular hours. If like me you are part of overseas groups who broadcast material late at night, watch it on catchup. I know it feels great to be there in the moment but, truthfully, are you really taking in all the info at 12.00 pm or 1.00 am? Probably not.
If you can stick to a routine of normal working hours you will not feel as if you are sinking.
If, like me, you live with someone who has meetings around the clock and around the world and they are struggling, and you are trying to support them my advice to them would be something similar. Sure, they need to be on that call at 2.00 am, it happens a lot in this household but you don’t need to be. Have your partner produce their own timetable and make sure that they stick to similar working hours as they would normally and have them take a long lunch or a nap in the afternoon. It is very easy when working from home to find yourself working far longer hours than you would normally. Eventually you will burn yourself out and not be able to do anything so manage your time so that everyone benefits in the long run.
Having worked out what you need to achieve as an individual and as a family to avoid conflict you need to create a routine which fits in around everyone.
My morning routine has been shot to pieces. When there were just two of us at home, I would take a shower, get breakfast and then sit at my desk. I have always preferred to tackle my emails first. But back then just taking a shower was easy. Now with five people in the house and a washing machine on almost constantly, we are having to fit around each other. So, I have adjusted my timetable so that we don’t get under each other’s feet and we all still get to achieve the same end goal, wash, dress, eat, work.
Oh, and whilst we all love a PJ day from time to time and doing it from time to time is ok too, doing it every day is probably not a good idea. Treating your day as you did before the lockdown will make it far easier to get back to some kind of normality when the time comes.
Agree ground rules around caring for pets. Share out the responsibility and don’t make it just one person unless that was the norm for you before the lockdown. If you have children off school for instance and your partner is also working from home, expecting you to look after them and the pets will cause resentment. And if this has happened it is not too late to resolve the issue. Ask everyone to sit down and discuss how best to meet the family needs so that no one feels put upon.
It is also a good idea to set specific areas for people to work in and stick to them. I know that is not always easy, but it will make for a happier household. As many of you will know, I no longer have a studio to work in having turned it into an office for my husband and claimed back the bedrooms so that we could stage our house for sale. Consequently I have had to set up a table for painting in our conservatory, I have turned a bedroom into my office, my sons have their rooms back with desks and chairs to work from but my elder son decided he wanted to do some tailoring. Our dining room table is really the only place he can work, and he has to clear it every evening before we can sit down to eat. It is not ideal for him or us, but we are making it work.
As artists it is essential that you divide your time up and take breaks. I know the perception is that artists spend hours doing nothing but as we all know, creating art is exhausting. Everything you create is a piece of who you are going onto that sub-straight. So be kind to yourself. Timetable 30 minutes to two hours at a time working on your art and then take a break. Not only will it rejuvenate you, you will see your work differently. In the words of my first, very scary, fine art tutor “you need to step away from the painting.”
If you can get outside and go for a walk every day, do so. I take a wander down our garden and into the fields behind to visit the horses. I would hardly call it exercise. I am not a fan of exercise, but I love to see the daily changes to the flora and fauna around where I live and breathing in the current really fresh air is really good for us, it lifts the soul.
If you feel unwell, look after yourself. If it is serious, seek medical advice. Don’t sit at home and suffer in silence. Whilst there are hundred of nurses and doctors dealing with the current crisis there are also hundreds who are there to deal with the other problems people continue to suffer with every day. It is not unlike the saying ‘a stich in time save nine’. Getting help early on will often mean that you avoid being seriously ill later.
We all have those days when we just can’t be bothered. Just can’t face doing anything at all. That’s fine. It is often your head telling your body to be gentle with yourself. However, if you find you are spending all day every day in your PJs and you can’t face doing anything, ask for help.
Mild depression is easily treatable, and it happens to one in three people. You are not alone but you can’t fix it on your own. Nipping this in the bud before it becomes a deep depression is essential. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak, quite the opposite is true.
I love my own company. Really. I love it when my children are away doing their thing living in other parts of the country and my husband is away on business. I can do what I want when I want, I don’t have to prepare meals and conform to normal household routines. If I want to go to bed at 9.00pm and read I can. Equally, I can stay up all night watching movies.
I could do it with other people around, no one would stop me, but being on my own allows me to do what I want without being scrutinized. That said, I still stay in touch with people.
During this time, I am making an extra effort to stay in touch with people I know. I have several friends/acquaintances who are completely on their own. I haven’t timetabled it, but I make sure I check in with those people by phone or on skype so that they know they are not forgotten. Making the time to stay in touch with people is good for them and for you too. So, get that address book out and start ringing round. And if you are not sure that you can, write them a note, let them know you are thinking about them. Include your home phone number and a new friendship could blossom as a result.
Now if you read my blog a couple of weeks ago, I covered taking online courses. This is a perfect time to take that class or watch the skills people are sharing for free. A favourite of mine is Laura Boswell’s Lino with Laura. I have taken a Japanese wood print class with Laura and she is an amazing teacher. She and her husband have put together about 35 short videos on Instagram showing the specific way that she makes her lino prints, which is very different to the way I do it, so it has been fascinating to watch her technique.
It doesn’t have to be art. I have also been watching Jamie Oliver and his children on TV making easy recipes for us to try at home. I have managed to get hold of some flour and plan to make English muffins this weekend. I have never made them before and probably wouldn’t have bothered had we not been on lockdown, but I am always up for learning something new. Finding something different to focus on, if only for a couple of hours, will often lighten your spirits.
After your timetabled working day, have an evening routine. Again, mine is currently shot. Mr. S and I normally prepare dinner together around 6.00 pm, eat around 7.00 pm and then spend the evening watching TV shows. With three other people in the house taking turns to make meals, I am spending far more time at my desk, so have to remind myself to take a walk around the house or garden when it is time to make myself a drink and if that coincides with someone else being in the kitchen, taking the time to catch up on what they have been doing during the day, before returning to my office. Meals are at different times but the routine after clearing up is still the same. I sit and make art whilst watching TV. I can’t help myself; I just love making art, but the routine loosely continues.
If you are having trouble figuring out what would be best for you, ask a friend. People love to give their opinions on what is best for others. Just because you ask does not mean that you must do what they suggest but often when you ask, the answer becomes clearer to you.
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Ps. The English muffins were a great success, really easy to make but I just need to freeze them before they are all eaten. 😊
The nine pieces of artwork below are each small works 152x152mm box canvas so 25mm deep, which I am offering up for sale to raise funds for the NHS. They are £65 each including p&p. I have numbered the pieces below the picture so that you can easily let me know which one/s you would like to receive. All proceeds will go to the NHS, less the postal costs and you will automatically receive one of the decorated face masks.
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7 8 9