Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Keep Your Sanity While Working from Home

As most of you know, I run Kalico Design out of my home office — which I love! But, while working from home has many perks, it also comes with some of it's own unique challenges.

I was recently in a meeting with two new business owners who were adjusting to the work-from-home mentality. We discussed some of the things they were finding hard, such as time management, how to focus, how to get inspired, and how to turn it off. After working form home for over two years, I've worked out a lot of my own kinks, but still tweak and adjust as often as needed to assure I am as productive as possible. Here are some of my tricks:

1. Have a Door: I am lucky enough to have a designated room for my home office, with a door! This helps separate work from home. It alleviates distractions (i'm not staring at dirty dishes or laundry, I'm only staring at my computer screen and work-related paraphernalia). This puts me in work mode, and helps to put me in "home mode" when not in the office. When possible, try to designate a specific room or area for your work space.

2. Window & Natural Lighting:
Again, I am very lucky that I have two large windows in my office. I strategically placed my desk and chair so that I face these windows. It helps to have natural lighting (which keeps me awake and alert, and also helps save on energy, b/c I rarely have to turn on an office lamp!). Try to position yourself near a window or natural lighting, especially if you are in a creative profession.

3. Billboard:
One of my favorite office supplies is my large billboard that sits directly in my line of site. I am able to put my important notices, production schedules, calendars, etc. all in one main location. As a designer, I often have long production schedules for large projects. Being able to see all these schedules in one glance is especially helpful and helps keep me on track. It's also fun to put up some of your own fun memorabilia, to keep your office creative and personal!

4. Set Hours: Sure, you're working from home, and you can always work. But, you'll burn yourself out very quickly if you don't balance work and home. I keep normal business hours, 9-5. OK, a lot of the time I will work late or I'll work on a Saturday, but i DO NOT answer emails or phone calls unless it is during regular work hours. By setting normal hours you will help to keep a professional relationship with your clients.

5. Ambiance: One of the perks from working from home is that you don't have to worry about offending or distracting co-workers. So, take advantage of this and make your home office as comfortable and personal as you want. I have a candle that i burn to help keep me relaxed. I also frequently play music for background sound. But, I don't recommend working with the tv on, it is way too much of a distraction!

6. Flexibility:
Another perk from working from home is that you do have more flexibility. Use this, don't abuse it. I swear by my laptop. For me, it's like a portable office. But, even if I am working from my laptop, I usually am still in my office. However, I do allow myself "work-from-home treats". For instance, on Fridays, I have a work from anywhere day. During the winter, this usually means working from the comfort of the living room couch. But in the warmer months, I may work outside when possible, or I might go to a coffee shop and do some work there. A change in scenery helps with creativity and inspiration. While it is most productive to have a set schedule and designated office space, you can still allow yourself a little fun — after all you work from home! Just be sure to make it the exception, not the rule!

What are some of your suggestions or tricks to working from home? What challenges do you face? What do you love about it? We'd love to hear your feedback and insight!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Loving the Olympics!

So, not only have I loved watching Shaun White, Apolo Ohno, Seth Wescott and all the other fantastic Vancouver Winter Olympians, I've also loved the graphics for the 2010 games(above)! I am loving everything about them, the bright colors, the overlapped textures and patterns, the sense of movement, and the hard-edged styled figures! Has anyone else gotten side-tracked from the racing, spinning, or jumping of the athletes to find themselves admiring the bright fluid graphics in the background!? Is it just me? (Doubtful!) Check out all of this year's Olympic posters here.

In fact, I was so enthusiastic about this year's Olympic graphics that I decided to research and compare it with the graphics of past Olympics. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find the full graphics package of some of the older games, BUT i did manage to find a lot of the past, present and future Game emblems (or "logos", in graphic designer speak). Here are some of my favorites. Which one do you like the best?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Practicing Creativity

I'll admit it. The past week, I hit a creative slump. It happens every so often, and normally I just have to work through it—either by distracting myself with something unrelated, doing more research, taking a break, or just pushing forward until I have a break through. This week, I turned to the research method, but decided to research the creative process itself. Not a new concept for me, as it was my thesis topic in college (maybe one day I'll share some of my findings...if only I could find my old paper!).

Anyway, back to my research. I stumbled upon a really great article on the 99% network, "RSS Creativity: Routines, Systems, Spontaneity", by Mark McGuinness. It describes some of the more mundane parts that help with the creative process, ways that make it easier to get to that "A-Ha!" moment. Below is a recap of some of the most important points of the article, or, read the full article here.


Most of us don't like to think about the labor involved in creativity. It takes away the glamour and the magic. But real creators know different. They know that creative work isn't particularly glamorous. It requires discipline, routine, and a nitpicky attention to detail. We often talk about “the creative process,” but it's really several interlocking processes. The magic happens at the point where they intersect.

Here are three core processes you need to coordinate in your work as a creative professional:


Many creative people lead apparently boring working lives, sticking to the same routine every day. They do this because they understand instinctively what neuroscience has now confirmed – routine is a key that unlocks creative inspiration.

Certain times of day are especially conducive to focused creative work. The effect is magnified when familiar objects, surroundings, and other stimuli (coffee, background music) become associative triggers for creative states of mind.

Takeaway: Notice what time(s) of day you are most alert and creative. Dedicate that time to focused creative work. Use the same tools, in the same surroundings, even the same background music, so that they become triggers for your “creative zone.”

A rock-solid productivity system performs a dual function for your creativity: (1) It ensures that all ideas and action steps are captured, so that nothing slips through the cracks, and (2) When you are confident that everything important has been captured, you are free to focus fully on the task in hand.

Systems are different from routines, since they are not dependent on circumstances. Major events can play havoc with your routine. When this happens, a good system acts as a safety net.

Takeaway: Take a few moments to review how you spend your time. Study productivity systems and experiment to see what works for you.


Real creativity involves spontaneity and surprise, whether a simple “Aha!” moment or the lightning bolt of inspiration. Paradoxically, the harder you work at routines and systems, the more likely you are to experience that bolt from the blue.

But nose-to-the-grindstone productivity won't get you very far unless you take a break, relax in the bath, have a beer with friends, browse the internet or a bookshop, or go for a walk. One of the best things about being a creative professional is that all of this stuff technically counts as work!

Takeaway: Take breaks from the usual routine. Be open to new people, places, and experiences. Welcome the thoughts that appear from nowhere. Have a notebook or phone handy to capture them."


Do you have any other suggestions, or specific things you do to help with your creativity?