Working from home as a surface designer is a dream come true, isn’t it? You’ve wished and hoped that you’d reach the point where you made your own decisions about how to spend your time, and that day has arrived.
Except sometimes it isn’t everything you’d imagined it would be – and it’s often lonely.
I started working from home when my daughter was born, well before the pandemic, and over the years my work/home life boundaries got blurrier.
New social media sites would pop up, and as an artist, I felt I needed to explore them all. My daughter stopped napping and some of my daylight hours disappeared, meaning I developed the habit of squeezing in work whenever and wherever. It also didn’t help that my computer and art studio were only steps away from the dinner table, meaning work was always present, even when the so-called workday was complete.
I was not happy with my work/life boundaries, even though working from home was what I’d dreamed of for years. Sound familiar?
Work From Home Boundaries: How to Make Them Stick
As I see it, there are several issues that arise when working from home as a surface designer and some of them can be tricky to overcome. Here are the most common problems and some tips for creating boundaries for a smoother work/life balance.
Problem #1: Your Phone Is Sucking Up Your Time and Attention
Remember what it was like to try to get your art seen in the days before smartphones, email, and social media? Yeah, me, neither! These tools have made getting work as a surface pattern designer so much easier.
For instance, social media is an absolutely brilliant way to showcase your work. You can use it to attract clients, collaborators, and other artist friends who may recommend you to an art director.
It’s also an incredible way to lose an hour… or three.
Similarly, being able to email an art director a couple of digital files of your brand-new designs or research a tiny boutique company on Linkedin is also beyond what was imaginable just a generation ago.
Unfortunately, constant access to more information can also make you feel obsessed and pressured.
Phone use was (and is) one of my biggest struggles in achieving a healthy work/life balance, but there are some boundaries you can set that can help immensely.
- Limit your social media use to the platforms that genuinely help you and your business. Sure, TikTok is fun, but is it a good way to showcase your latest pattern? If it is, then by all means continue, but if you’re making most of your connections through Instagram or Pinterest, stick with those instead of stretching yourself thin trying to make content for every single platform.
- Keep your phone out of your bedroom. I charge my phone in my husband’s office, which is on the other side of the house from our bedroom. I try to plug my phone in around dinner time and then stay away from it for the rest of the night. If you don’t see your phone right next to you, you won’t be tempted to check your socials or email one more time before you go to sleep.
- Use an app to limit your time on socials, email, and the internet. It’s very easy to tell yourself you’ll only stay on Instagram for five minutes, or won’t check your email anymore today, but much harder to stick to it. Freedom is a great app for this, however, it does charge a fee, but it’s much more robust than creating easily broken limits within your phone’s screen time settings, and you can use it across all of your devices.
- Be conscious about the time you spend creating content. These days video is what all social media platforms are seeking. Do pattern design and videos align? Sometimes they do, but how much time does it take to make a video, and how much return on investment is it truly bringing to your business? Make sure you’re focusing on using social media in a way that is beneficial to your growth.
Related Article: How To Stop Comparing Yourself to
Other Artists on Instagram
Problem #2: You Work All Hours of the Day
The upside of being a work-from-home artist is that you can stop and put in a load of laundry any time you want. The downside is that you can also spend time tweaking a pattern for “just a little longer,” only to look up and find you’ve missed your entire evening.
Once again, this seems challenging to overcome, but with some practice and clear rules, you can do it.
- Set working hours and stick to them, no matter what. This is a serious problem, especially for those of us with children. It’s true you may miss a workday because your kid was home sick (raises hand), so sticking exactly to work hours isn’t always possible, but commit to doing your absolute best. Pick your work hours, write them down, and post them at your workstation. If it helps you, sign in at the beginning of your workday and out at the end, just like you might at an office job.
- Turn your computer off and put your phone away at the end of the workday. If work tools are staring at you, you’re going to be tempted to do just one more thing.
- Ask your family for gentle support in holding these boundaries. If you’ve decided you will not work weekends, or after dinner, ask your partner or kids to call you out if you’re breaking the rules. Make sure to tell them ahead of time to be kind about it, though! It won’t be helpful to have your spouse snipping at you because you broke your promise.
- Think about what matters most to you and write it down. If you’re incredibly focused, building your business may be the thing that matters the most to you at the moment, so working all hours of the day isn’t an issue. However, if you have friends or family, or simply want to get outside each day to see the world, make sure you have a reminder of what your values are nearby.
Problem #3: You Never Feel As if You’ve Accomplished Enough
This last problem is a bit ethereal and hard to pin down, but I know lots of artists out there, especially women, suffer from this one.
If you never feel like you’ve done enough, you’re never going to set healthy boundaries around work, because you’ll always feel like you have to do more. Here are some ways to overcome that mindset.
- Find a mantra that brings you peace and say it over and over again. Something like “done is better than perfect” or “I’m allowed to rest” may do the trick, or come up with your own calming affirmation. Shannon chiming in here for a minute: I’m a HUGE fan of mantras too and my favorite for this is “There’s more to me than my art business.”
- Stop comparing yourself to others, especially on social media. Follow the tips above for limiting your time there, and remember that what you’re seeing is only a tiny snapshot of someone’s life. No matter how accomplished another artist may seem, you’re on your own path that has value and you’re already doing enough.
- Take some time to think about what you have accomplished, surface design related or not. Remind yourself of what a great pet parent you are, or how good you are at Wordle. You don’t have to accomplish everything all at once. You’re doing a great job!
Some Final Thoughts on Setting Healthy Boundaries
Only you know what boundaries are right for you. But if you’re feeling burned out, stressed, or irritable about your work, you likely need more boundaries. You may also set boundaries and then quickly break them, only to realize you need to start over again, and that’s okay.
Millions of us around the world are learning how to create the best situation for ourselves. With patience and clear goals, you can live that work-from-home artist life you’ve dreamed of.
Written by Jen Picicci
Jen Picicci is an enthusiastic painter and surface designer. She’s always loved art, but didn’t think she could pursue it as a career until the birth of her daughter. These days if she’s not painting, you can find her hiking, planting flowers, reading a book, or eating a brownie.
Thank you so much for great reminder. Working non stop, I suppose, is the main reason I am getting into burnouts so easily. And afterwards, it is so tough and painful to get out from them. And if an emotional stress is layered over, it makes all the thing even harder.