Workspace | Sophster-Toaster

I’ve been working from home for years, so my space and routines were already set up when the rest of the world suddenly joined me. I had lots of time to work out the kinks of having my workspace within my home. From starting my business in a tiny apartment, to working out of a larger apartment, to now a house, I kept a few things constant throughout the years to help foster creativity, productivity and work/life balance. Here are my tips for working from home in the long term.

Workspace | Sophster-Toaster

Keep your workspaces and home spaces defined.

For me, my workspace is currently a whole room upstairs and a few shelves in the basement but, in the past, it has been just a corner of a bedroom. Keeping your work stuff in its own place, and not letting your personal things gather there either, will help you keep the spaces separate in your mind and help you avoid the stress of living at work.

Take breaks outside of your workspace.

If possible, avoid working, eating and entertaining yourself all in the same place. It’s easier to be productive at work, and relaxed at home if you can divide these places by activity.

Try to keep your home tidy.

It’s difficult to concentrate in a cluttered space and those chores that need doing will nag you in a whole different way when they’re all around you. It’s best to keep on top of things now so they can’t overwhelm you later.

Set a schedule and stick to it.

Get up at the same time, take lunch at the same time, stop working at the same time, everyday. If you have pets at home, this will also help them get onto an agreeable routine.

Get dressed.

I am my most creative in the morning, so I will frequently start working in my pajamas, but I always feel like my serious work day starts when I’m dressed, brushed and ready to meet the world.

Set goals for how much you want to get done in a day, in a week.

You know when you’re at work, and out of things to do – or out of inspiration – but can’t go home yet, so you just find busy work or distractions to pass the time? Those moments will happen at home too, but you’ll actually be able to do something useful with that time! If you have all your goals plotted out, you’ll know when you can take a break to catch up on home stuff or, conversely, when you really need to stop chasing those distractions.

Set boundaries with friends and family.

People will think that because you work from home, you are always available. Don’t be afraid to say no to random drop-ins or doing things outside of your job, outside of your scheduled working hours.

Workspace | Sophster-Toaster Workspace | Sophster-Toaster

Glasses Warby Parker
Shirt Sophster-Toaster
Jeans Angry Rabbit
Shoes Vans

All photos by me.

Worker Bee

Worker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

When I was born in the late 80s, my parents gave me a popular Canadian first name, my mother’s British middle name and my father’s Irish last name. Although my first name, Melissa, is of Greek origin, meaning bee, it was quite common at the time in Canada, placing in the top 20 baby names of that year. My parents did a great job of representing my complete heritage in just three names. Now that I’m married and have taken the last name of a man – because I’m romantic like that – with English and Scottish ancestors, I sometimes feel like I’ve lost a little piece of myself. Perhaps that’s why I’m always careful to keep my Irish/Canadian family traditions alive.

Worker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster BlogWorker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

One of the most important and valued things I’ve inherited from my Irish ancestors is the strong work ethic and fearless desire for something better that each generation has instilled in the next since arriving in Canada at the height of the Potato Famine. Though eating porridge with lots buttered toast, for dipping, will always be a close second.

Worker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog Worker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

I can’t help thinking about my family while working hard to keep up with orders and prepare for market season on this sunny St. Patrick’s Day. Though the hard part may be over for us, that never quit, never give up attitude passed down from my great-grandparents, to my grandparents, to my parents is still alive in me today. That endless list of personal and professional ideas, goals and plans that anyone else would see as unrealistic and unachievable ebbs and flows as we do the things that once seemed impossible and make even bigger plans for the future. To me, this (and porridge with toast) is what it means to be an Irish-Canadian.

Worker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog Worker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster BlogWorker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

Dress ModCloth (old)
Tights ModCloth (other colours)
Slippers White Noise Maker
Necklace Suzy Shier (old)
Earrings I’ve had as long as I can remember

Worker Bee \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

Visit the Sophter-Toaster shop for all the handmade goodies in my studio, or, better yet, come see them at Many Hands Market on April 3rd in St. Catharines!

All photos by me. 

Working from Home

Working from Home \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

Leslie Knope is my work ethic role model. I wish I could forgo a real-person amount of sleep to get as much done as she does. Unfortunately, I cannot live in a fictional world where it’s possible for one person to do the work of four or five. I can’t stay up all night making cookies and quilts and still get all my work done the next day. I need to maintain a work day schedule with enough time to recharge with food, sleep, friends, family and passive TV binging every now and then to avoid small business owner burnout.

Working from Home \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog Working from Home \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

A band-aid on the finger is the international symbol for “I work with my hands”.

I’ve been working from home as a full time self-employed person for about a year now and I think I’ve finally developed a schedule that works for me. Everyone always says they would love to have a job that allows them to work from home. Those who live the dream know that it’s not as carefree and casual as everyone thinks. Everyone struggles with something at the beginning, it could be retaining a diurnal lifestyle now that you can work anytime of the day (or night) you like, combating cabin fever, maintaining work/life balance or any number of weird problems you’d never see coming. For me, the biggest struggle has always been keeping my work and home life separate. Here’s the best schedule I’ve been able to come up with:

I wake up around sunrise; I have since I was a kid, I don’t know why and I don’t know how to stop. I usually read in bed until a reasonable hour.
8 am – 9 am I make breakfast and make a to-do list, check my stats, maintain my Etsy listings, print out and process any orders that came in overnight and form a social media marketing plan (if applicable) while I eat.
9 am – 10 am I get dressed, tidy up the apartment and make myself a cup of tea.
10 am – 1 pm I dedicate time to working on new samples, which can include design time, sourcing materials, sewing, photographing or listing new items in the shop, and working on wholesale/ consignment orders.
1 pm – 2 pm I try to take a break to eat lunch. This time of year, I have a lot of working lunches.
2 pm – 4 pm I work on orders I take in through the Etsy shop. If I don’t have any open orders to work on, I focus on the blog.
4 pm – 5 pm I pack orders, print and process new orders, return emails and order supplies.
5 pm I try really hard to stop working but usually have to run to the post office, drop off some consignment items, answer trickier questions from customers, take some pictures for the blog, do research, etc.

Even the best schedule can be really hard to stick to when your office or studio is only a few steps away from your living space. For example, last Sunday night I found myself in my office, in the dark, answering emails at 10 pm, saying out loud, “this is why I have scheduled email time” and telling my husband I was almost done several times before I actually was. Every weekend I tell myself I will rest and recharge for the coming week before working on orders and blog stuff all day Saturday and running work errands half the day Sunday. But sometimes that’s what it takes to run a business.

Working from Home \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog Working from Home \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

The best trick I’ve found to avoid burnout is literally tricking myself. If I can find a way to do things in a way that makes me happy, like working in my pajamas for an hour every morning or making myself a fancy and exciting tea before sitting down at my sewing machine everyday, I’m less resentful towards my intense, high expectations boss (i.e., me), less anxious, more creative and more likely to stick to the schedule.

Working from Home \\ Sophster-Toaster Blog

Dress Sophster-Toaster
Tights Shopper’s Drug Mart
Slippers White Noise Maker (similar)
Barrette very old

Finding balance is hard, but once you do, you’ll amaze yourself with how much energy and productivity you can find in one little person.

All photos by me.