I’ve been hearing lately from many creatives who, thanks to the current COVID-19 situation, are struggling to work productively. Even on the best of days, it can be difficult to get yourself in the right frame of mind to produce high quality design work.

At Proponent, we’ve given ourselves and our employees the flexibility to work from home from the beginning, which has made this forced transition from office work to remote work considerably less daunting. We know firsthand how difficult it can be to make that shift, so here are some tips to help you reach your full creative potential. Most of what we recommend is applicable to other industries as well, so feel free to share this with any of the working professionals in your life.


Woman in white t-shirt and blue jeans with dark blue icon of person tossing potato chip in air on couch.
Winning gold in the 2020 Couch Potato Olympic Games.

Create a routine, and stick to it.

You could argue that one of the worst parts of working from home is having too much freedom. After all, now you can start work anytime you like, take regular snack breaks, and even stop for a short snooze in the afternoon – who’ll ever know?

In my experience, having such a free-flowing approach to the day often ends up leading to less productivity, rather than more. Structure adds focus and helps keep your mind from wandering off. Without knowing what your day will look like, you’re just as likely to spend the afternoon chasing your Netflix binge as you are finishing the day’s deliverables. I find that starting the day at the same time with the same routine, such as eating the same breakfast or doing a quick crossword, helps to warm up my brain and get the workday off to a comfortable, calm start.

Pay attention to how long it takes you to achieve certain common tasks, and structure your day around those blocks of time, taking care to stick to your schedule. Give yourself permission to ignore distractions and focus on getting those tasks done, but remember to make time for breaks (especially lunch) and exercise! Even a short walk around the block can do wonders to lift your mood and prepare you for the next task.

Set up a dedicated work space.

Whatever you do, don’t work from your couch, your bed, or any place that’s meant for relaxing. Pick a spot that’s reasonably removed from most distractions, and never work from anywhere else ever again – or do anything else in it except work. Make sure it’s comfortable. If you’re having trouble keeping your eyes focused, add a light with a color temperature 5000k or higher.

Make sure also that your workspace is equipped with the tools you need to a) do your work and b) minimize distraction. For instance, if there’s construction on your block, have your headphones close at hand to block out the noise. Have a notepad or dry erase board nearby with your to-do list written on it. The bigger and more in-your-face your notes and to-do list are, the more likely you are to do them. Yes, there are tons of apps that promise to keep track of your pending tasks and keep you organized, but we’ve found that they’re generally no match for a physical reminder; not to mention, checking something off is much more satisfying than clicking a box.

Embrace pen and paper.

We rely on many tech solutions to help with our work (which we’ll share another time), but there’s really no substitute for pen and paper when it comes to exploring visual problems – or indeed most creative projects. Since you never know when you’ll need it, get in the habit of carrying a small sketchbook with you at all times. Ours are never far away when those quick sketches and protracted brainstorming sessions decide to come knocking. Once we’ve got a couple of options that seem promising, we’ll share them with the rest of the team for feedback.

Find what works for you.

Not everybody has the discipline to create a highly regimented schedule and stick to it. Nor can the most expensive, most technologically advanced pair of noise-canceling headphones drown out all distractions. Parents who need to supervise their children’s learning, people who are responsible for taking care of elders or other family members, dog owners who need to take their pets for walks – each of these things can take precedence over work itself.

Working from home gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility, so make sure to take advantage of that when you can. Don’t feel guilty for behaving in ways that you wouldn’t usually in an office environment. The key is that you deliver. Discuss how you will be delivering your work with your superior(s) and make sure that you do, but don’t add stress to an already stressful situation. If anything, take this opportunity to figure out the types of situations you thrive in (and a quick snack break here and there never hurt anyone).