Whether you've just decided to go freelance, or are working remotely for a studio, these 6 tips will help VFX and Gaming artists manage their time, stay productive, and find a good work-life balance!
1. Find a good place to focus
If you don’t have a specific room in your house dedicated to being an “office” or work room, create a space within another room of your home, whether it’s your bedroom, living room, or kitchen. It should be a place where you have enough room to sit comfortably, and set up a desk and chair if possible. Having a place where you can focus and have less distractions is best - if you are prone to procrastination and watching TV, then the living room may not be a good fit because you will be tempted to turn on Netflix!
2. Develop a routine
If you are used to working in an office and transitioned to a “work from home” job, your body may be used to the morning commute and a typical routine of taking a shower, buying a coffee on your route to work, walking down the street, and getting on a bus. Many people think that if they work from home, it just means they can sleep in later since they no longer have to commute to the office. While this is technically true, you may find yourself feeling groggy or not productive if you sit down at your desk right after waking up. Try to set up a morning routine - even if you don’t leave your house, take the time to wake up a bit earlier, and make a coffee and have breakfast before you sit down to work. If you’re not isolating in your home, then consider going for a walk before showering, or buying a coffee from a local cafe before coming home to start your day. The movement and routine will help wake your body up and be more focused when you sit down to start working.
3. Keep track of your time
Whether you are freelancing, or working for a company, it’s a good practice to keep a log of how long you spent on each task every day. This will not only help you stay focused when you are productive, but it will also allow you to estimate and gauge how long it takes you to do certain tasks in the future. Try this by setting a timer for one hour, or a certain amount of time when you begin a task. See how far you get with that task in that amount of time, and whether you got distracted at any point during that hour. This is also a good opportunity to schedule breaks for yourself - if you know you have a scheduled break at 11:30am for coffee, you will be less likely to get distracted during your scheduled productivity time.
4. Invest in comfortable equipment
Depending on your situation and how long you expect to be working from home, it’s likely that you should consider investing in a good desk and chair if you haven’t done so already. Being comfortable isn’t just a benefit to your health and well-being, but it also helps you focus and be more productive. Having a second monitor is also a great way to organize your virtual space and have more room on your screen to manage multiple programs or references while you are working on a project. The time you save opening and closing windows seems minimal, but it all adds up in the long run! Many government tax programs also offer incentives when purchasing home equipment that you will be using to work that will offset the cost of the purchase when you file your taxes at the end of the year. So if you are wondering whether it will be worth spending the money on a new chair or desk, do some research first and see if you will be eligible for any tax returns on your purchase!
5. Connect with colleagues and friends virtually
This goes along with scheduling breaks and time away from work - when you aren’t in an office setting anymore, you may have less opportunities to socialize with others. This can not only stifle creative ideas and collaborations, but might cause you to feel lonely and depressed if you are working remotely for long periods of time. If you don’t have weekly team video meetups with your work colleagues to join (beer fridays, etc), or a chat group to be present in (Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc), consider joining a Discord forum, or online group in your field to connect with other like-minded people in your industry. If you aren’t isolating in your house, it’s also good to schedule meetups with friends in person, or look for industry events in your field where you can go to meet other people like you! Many industry events are now more accessible than ever as they are hosted online and you can join from all over the world without leaving your home.
6. Try Something New
While a daily routine is important, this is a great time to try a new hobby or consider an online class - especially if you are isolating in your home. Many fitness studios are now offering online classes via Zoom or Instagram Live, or having classes outside instead of an indoor space. Learning a new skill or recipe is also a good way to sharpen your mind and feel more accomplished without just focusing on your day-job 24/7. However, while online learning has become much more popular recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that also means it’s an over-saturated area with many new and inexperienced companies jumping on the bandwagon. When considering an online school or service, especially for a specialized technical or artistic skill, do your research and be sure that you can find out who is teaching the classes. Not everyone is well-equipped to teach online, and you want to pick a place with reputable teachers and a proven track record for success. Schools which have been operational online long before the pandemic also mean that they have worked out the issues that come with remote learning, so you can be sure that it will be a smoother experience!
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