We connected with Rachel Zetah Becker, an artist, graphic designer, and founder of Church of Earth, to get her take on working from home. As artists, we’re likely not new to working from home. Many of us get our start dedicating our free-time to our work. We may do it because we love it and it fuels us, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Read our interview with Rachel about her process, and then find the 5 TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME we complied together below.
Dirt: What is a sure-fire way for you to spark inspiration?
Rachel: The best thing for me is going outside on a walk, preferably where there are lots of trees and plants and rocks :) Just taking time to notice how the air feels, where the sun is, and the small details around me is my reset button and reminds me that no matter what I may be struggling with, there is a much more expansive world than just me and my life. Now and then I’ll add one or two hits of weed to the mix and my creative spirit is renewed and the ideas start flowing in.
Dirt: That’s the spirit! The earth is your office! Honestly, I really do get that sense from following what Church of Earth does. You’re always out there honoring nature in your process. It’s really inspiring. So, what is the biggest challenge you face working from home?
Rachel: Being my own boss can be hard! I love the freedom and independence but wrestling with my own self-doubt and self-criticism is a common challenge for me. Continuing to show up is key though. I am getting better at staying focused on my vision and going on anyway, and also knowing when to ask for outside guidance and help is something I’m working on. Sometimes I just need to interrupt my own internal dialogue.
Dirt: Asking for help is so important, and it ain’t easy. When do you know it’s time to ask for help, and who do you reach out to?
Rachel: Yea that’s been one of my major life-learnings of recent years! I don’t know if it’s just my personality, or being indoctrinated by capitalist individualism — probs a combination of both — but I’ve had this perception for a long time that I have to do everything myself — creating art, healing, saving the world — and it’s literally not possible or effective in the long run. So with this realization I’ve started to slowly build up the habit of asking for support or advice, usually with emotional processing.
Sometimes it takes me longer than others to realize that I just need to talk something through with another human being, but it usually comes down to me recognizing I’m stuck in a loop of my own internal dialogue which is stopping me from being present or causing me to procrastinate or self-sabotage. I’ll usually talk to a friend or family member that knows where I’ve come from in my healing/self-reckoning process and also understands the work I’m trying to do, and just try to be as honest as possible about what I’m feeling. It sometimes feels really vulnerable and scary beforehand but afterwards I feel relieved by releasing whatever it is out of my body.
Dirt: Oof. Yes. All of this resonates deeply. What are some tools that help you get organized when working from home?
Rachel: Writing lists. Sometimes multiple lists for different projects. Something that also helps me focus on certain more tedious tasks is having a podcast playing in the background. It gives my brain something to rest on so it’s not wandering away and getting distracted. And I can learn something at the same time which I appreciate! Also clearing out the physical clutter is super helpful — like many folks I really appreciate Marie Kondo’s modern classic, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to help with this epic lifestyle change!
Dirt: Creating that space for yourself to focus is a necessity! Listening to a podcast is a great tip. It’s also something you might not do in a typical office, that you have the freedom to do from home. I also really benefit from stimulus and inspiration to keep focused. What are some of the podcasts you enjoy?
Rachel: I really love Still Processing by Jenna Wortham & Wesley Morris for their cultural analysis, as well as Feed Your Wild by Vanessa Rodriguez and For the Wild by Ayana Young for spiritual and nature-based topics. Emergence Magazine also has some really great articles with recordings of the authors reading their pieces aloud.
Dirt: Thank you for those great recommendations! We will be tuning in. How do you tend to prioritize tasks throughout your day?
Rachel: I try to do the things that MUST happen that day first to get them out of the way. Even if I don’t finish them in that moment, at least touching in helps me avoid procrastination. I’ve found it helpful to designate time blocks for certain tasks, because I often struggle with structure. Give myself one hour to work on a particular design task on the computer, and then stop. One or two hours to make something physical for my shop, and then stop. And so on. This helps me stay focused on completing one thing at a time rather than get carried away and distracted. I haven’t done this yet, but I think setting a timer would be a good way to create a structural boundary.
Dirt: Seriously, taking your own advice and setting real boundaries can be the hardest part! We all have our own unique work-flow, so I thought it would be cool to compile some tips we’ve gathered from experience to help other artists step into their day. I hope these tidbits can help us feel connected to the greater community of those who work from home too!
5 TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME
1. Connect with your body.
Do some simple stretches to get the blood flowing and check in with how things are feeling. Make this one of the first things you do as a way to set a precedent and build the habit of being present in your body for the rest of the day. Also, don’t forget to feed yourself! If you take the time to do what makes your body happy, you’ll have a better day. We also recommend taking a shower and putting on pants 90% of the time. The other 10% is really up to you.
Why not be a little extra about it and have fun? Write out your daily agenda, priorities, and to dos. This can mean simply 10 - 15 minutes that you take each morning to write down your ideal day. What are your goals for the day, and what are the steps you’ll take to reach them? Check back in with your vision throughout the day.
If you need a solid way to prioritize, you can take a task inventory! Write out every single task that you do each day, as well as tasks that you need and want to do. Then, rate each task in terms of levels. Level 3 is busy work, the stuff you have to do that doesn’t make a big impact i.e. checking your email. Level 2 is necessary work that can be time consuming, but is generally important i.e. social media posting. Level 1 are the game changers, the things that will truly move your art, or your business forward i.e. grant research. Once you’ve written out and labeled all your tasks with a level number, you can go through and prioritize. You might find that a lot of your time gets caught up doing Level 3 tasks. This is why it’s important to write it all out. Circle the tasks that you plan to do today. As a rule of thumb, limit your daily Level 3 tasks as much as possible. Commit to several Level 2 tasks per day, spreading them out in a meaningful way. Last, but not least, make it a major priority to focus on a Level 1 task every day. Your Level 1 tasks should guide your work, and are determined by your larger goals and values.
If you work from home, you benefit from having the space and time to make your own ideal day, so take breaks! Do a little yoga, dance, shake, or stretch. Drink water. Drop the productivity act, and re-align your focus by letting yourself have a break. On days where you might not have any human interaction, give a friend or loved one a call! Make it a point to break up your day thoughtfully, and interact with others.
Leave the house! It can be tempting to stay in your own space (especially when it’s a place you love to be), but make sure to leave at least once even if it’s just for a walk around the block so you don’t get too sucked in and isolated. You never know what might happen to spark an idea or solution, or a connection you might make with someone unexpected when you venture out to take a break. Make yourself available to the world and it will do the same for you.
Set boundaries between work and the rest of life so you can Really REST. As artists, freelancers, and people that run their own projects or businesses it can be hard to navigate the boundary between work and the rest of our lives. But we need structured time to take care of ourselves too and not constantly be doing. Don’t neglect the need for human be-ing, it’s our birthright!
Remember to have fun and create a joyful atmosphere for yourself to work in! Put on some of your favorite music, light some candles or incense, make some tea or coffee, open a window for some fresh air. Create a space that is inspiring and you love to be in.