How to stay productive living in a tiny space.
Some of you asked me on Instagram how to make the most of your freelance life while living in a small apartment or studio. Especially during these challenging times where we are forced to spend all our hours indoors, this is a very relevant question.
You might have heard of the advice ‘use your bed only for sleeping’. But what if a bed is the only furniture you possess and you are forced to do your work from your bed? Where do you wind down if everything in your home reminds you of deadlines? How do you get motivated when your cosy bed is standing there right in your eyesight?
Coming from someone that has lived in a 30 square feet studio for ten years these tips can hopefully help you manage your (freelance) work from a small space and hold you back from going crazy.
Make your bed exclusive to sleeping.
‘Your body and mind should recognize your bedroom as a place of rest and intimacy’, says Dr Michael T. Murray. By subtracting simple things like devices, outside noise, and adding good hygiene, using your bed for the sole purpose of sleep, you can truly improve and benefit your well-being. This becomes more challenging if you are only able to work from your bed. But, not impossible. Make your bed when you get up in the morning and set up your ‘workspace’ with a good quality laptop stand. Store your pillows in a dedicated storage unit to make the bed less cosy. Only work on top of your sheets and not under them. It’s a small distinction, but if you stick with it, you condition your brain to believe work-mode is for on the covers and chill-mode for under. Also, try to work opposite of your head-board. Maybe you can sit sideways against the wall, or at the foot of the bed. When you end your workday, move to the opposite side, get under the covers and wind down with a book or carefully curated (aka healthy) feed of your preferred social platform.
Have morning and evening rituals.
… and stick with them. Especially, in this case, rituals are essential for your well being. It prepares the brain to start up or wind down. In the morning, get up, shower, make your bed, make some coffee, go for a walk, come back and start your day. In the evening, clean up your work set up, make some tea, meditate for a few minutes and snuggle up under the covers with your favourite book. When you repeat this day in and day out it becomes a habit and therefore so much easier to automatically get productive or relaxed.
Make a to-do list.
Just before you end your working day, make a to-do list for the next day. When you get these out of your system, you naturally feel more at ease and prepare. Include at least one to-do you are really looking forward to. It might be writing a caption for social media, watch a cute dog video or take a walk. It doesn’t necessarily need to be work-related. This also helps you find a reason to get up in the morning, knowing these things are waiting for you to execute them. By intentionally writing them down, they become more ‘real’, and you are more likely to tackle them. Make sure to store the to do’s away when you get ready for the evening though!
Whether you like to meditate, go for a walk, or watch a short youtube video, be sure to take a break and breathe. When you continue to work without a break in between, you will find yourself anxious by the time you get to relax. Use a timer to have a few minutes for yourself at least every hour. Do a few jumping jacks, meditate for 5 minutes or get a tea to collect your thoughts and notice your surroundings. Taking breaks actually makes you more productive, go figure!
Don’t invest in a nightstand. It will only attract clutter. If you’re done with your tasks for the day, then deliberately start cleaning up and setting yourself up for a great night of relaxed entertainment and sleep. Make it a ritual with some nice calm music that forces you to unwind. Make it your ready-to-unwind soundtrack so the minute you hear those tunes, you release tension. Store away paperwork, your to-do list, laptop, whatever reminds you of work or your studies so you can’t see them while lying in bed. Minimalism is key while living in a compound space, so invest in some great storage options.
Change it up.
It can be tough to concentrate and pay attention when you are in your room 24/7. Since not everyone has the privilege to move from room to room to find a place to focus I recommend changing it up. Paint your wall another colour each season. Bring some fresh flowers into your room. Print out photos of inspiring quotes and put them insight while you are working. If you can, move your bed closer to a window. Play a playlist on Spotify you wouldn’t usually pick. Get a different type of coffee on a day you don’t feel productive.
Too much repetitive behaviour can make you feel less productive because our minds get bored. Minor changes like these will help you ignite that productivity and get you in the flow again.
Above tips can definitely help you one way or another. The most important one remains: be kind to yourself. The world is changing at a very rapid pace already. We are forced to make most of our homes even though we might not afford the right equipment. We are forced to be productive in an online world while the offline world sometimes seems to be on fire. Understand you can’t be functioning at 100% capacity like we normally would all the time. And that that is ok.
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