Productivity or creativity?
Working from home may be something you’ve chosen to do as you’re setting up your own business. It often makes sense to cut down on expensive overheads, carve out some space at home and launch things while you’re juggling your family commitments. More recently, we’ve seen enforced periods of working from home so it’s something that many, if not all of us, will have some experience with whether we’re running our own businesses or not.
Working from home can present its own challenges. Business insiders often suggest that while productivity is notably higher when working from home, it can be a challenge to be as creative as we might be when working in an office or team environment . Creativity is key but, for most businesses and in particular for startups. So, what can you do to ensure you continue to be creative in your work output while you’re working from home?
Make and break your schedule
There’s much advice around setting up and sticking to a schedule when you’re working from home. It helps to get you into the right mental space to undertake and delivery on ‘work’ projects when you’re physically in your ‘home’ space. That is particularly important at the start of a work from home experience, a great way to find your pace and productivity. But when it comes to creativity, it’s important to know when to break your schedule. If you’re working on something that requires creative thinking, don’t constrain yourself with time slots. Switching all your devices off and having some time outside of your regular schedule will ignite the thinking and ideas essential for you to jump into the creativity you need.
Timetable productivity and creativity
When you are looking at your daily schedule and what’s on your ‘to do’ list, don’t think only about linear action points. Yes, you need to answer emails and customer enquiries, yes your financials and paper work need to be up to date, all these administrative, time sensitive items are crucial to your day. However, in order to ensure you’re also moving forward and not just keeping things ticking over, you have to carve out time for creativity., for problem-solving, and for approaching your pain points with fresh eyes. Make sure you find time in your day and week to allow for that and know that in doing so, you’re helping your business to grow.
Stay in touch
Working at home can be isolating. Perhaps more so if you’re a one-person business. If you do have collages or a wider team that you can connect with, do so. Use whichever means of staying in touch and be varied in your use of them. Make time for a phone call to brainstorm an issue. Use Microsoft Teams or Slack to share information and research. Share via your Whatsapp groups or Zoom meetings. Whatever suits the issues of the day, or the connection that you need, make the best use of all outlets.
Blue sky thinking
Solving everyday problems is one thing. Strategising about your business and where it’s going, how to scale, and how to navigate the market are quite different. All of these big picture considerations take more time. Once monthly, see if you can set aside a morning or even a full day and dedicate it to some ‘Blue Sky Thinking’. Map out the issues you want to consider in advance so that you have a rough route map and consider bringing in one or two mentors or trusted advisors to share views. It’s fascinating how much progress you can make through talking together or simply affording yourself the time away from your everyday tasks to really drill down into what you’ve learnt and what that means for your path going forward.
Creativity has a direct correlation to learning, whether from podcasts or books, or simply from conversations. Steve Jobs explains that in his mind “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask how they’re doing, you say ‘Wow’, and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas”. See if you can find time to keep learning through your weeks and you’ll be surprised how ideas can connect from what you’re hearing. Choose a podcast that links into your industry, or into the problem you’re experiencing. Find inspiration from an audio book by a business leader, or take on a continued personal development course in an area that intersects with the work you do. Finding complementary areas to keep learning is a great way to spark your creativity when you need it.
Take time out to work out
You’ve heard it a million times and it remains true. Move your body and you’ll move your mind. It’s hard when you’re sitting alone at home, unmotivated by a team or by overhearing about the work out your college just completed this morning but push past that. We’re all tired, these days in particular, but know how much better you’ll feel if you give yourself the time and space to stand up from your desk and go for a walk or take the dog out. Or, how about an open water swim or a run with the kids? Whatever it is that you like doing or that you can squeeze into your day will benefit you, not simply in body and mind, but also by inspiring your creativity.
Switch up your tools
We’re all attached to our phones and our laptops. It can be hard to imagine getting work done without sitting in front of one or both at all times. Why not try setting your devices to one side when you can and picking up a pad and pen instead? Back to basics, yes, but also giving your body a new way of working can jumpstart your creative brain too. The act of putting pen to paper is an inherently creative process. You’ll find you take time to think about the words you jot down, cross things out, start again, doodle, make notes. It’s your brains way of dumping ideas and thoughts and questions in a way that we simply don’t do using a screen. If you do it a few times you might notice some habits emerging, solutions you return to over and over again, the voice of your brand, or problems that need fixing. Pen and paper gives you unlimited scope to be creative. It’s a simple way to break a creative block and find your inspiration.
Find a collaboration
You might be working solo from home but even if you don’t have a team to work with, you can still pursue a collaborative project with someone. Think of a mentor or connection who has similar work interests and propose a project with them. Perhaps it’s solving part of the business problem you’re working on? Perhaps it’s something completely unrelated, a charity project or outreach to help another start-up? Whatever the purpose, it’s a great way to start a conversation, to bounce ideas off one another and to kick-start your own creative process.
We can’t all be creative all of the time – just like we can’t all be productive all of the time. It’s important to know that and to be gentle with yourself when you’re setting expectations. Marking out your goals is very important in business but knowing when to be fluid in holding yourself accountable is also key. There will be days when you can achieve far more than you expected, whether that’s productivity or creativity, or both. And there will be days when nothing seems to work. Keep on moving, be kind to yourself and be realistic enough to know that everyone experiences these ups and downs.
Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.