By Allison Goldberg
As lockdown quickly approaches its year anniversary – what is the traditional gift for a pandemic anniversary? Is it sourdough starter? – it’s time to admit that working from home is going to consume most of 2021 as well. And so while most of us are pros at this point, common pain points have also become clear. As a result, I sat down with Shira Gill of Shira Gill Home to learn more about how to stay sane and organized in 2021. Gill’s work and home have been featured in Parents, Real Simple, Apartment Therapy, Remodelista, and many more; her book, Minimalista, will be released fall of 2021 with Penguin Random House.
Allison Goldberg: We’ve heard a ton about creating boundaries between work and personal life during this time – fake commutes, sequencing rituals, etc. Do you have any tips for readers about physical ways to create these boundaries?
Shira Gill: Make sure you have at least one area of your home that is not used for work. For example, you may opt to rotate between working from your kitchen island, dining room, and living room, but designate your bedroom for reading, relaxing, and sleeping only. Having a space that is free from devices, cords, and papers, can help serve as an oasis – a designated space to shift gears and get out of work mode.
I also recommend sensory cues. If you’re working from the dining room or kitchen table all day, make sure to clear the surface at the end of your work day and place something lovely on the table – A bowl of fruit or a vase of fresh flowers will help send a signal that it’s time to transition out of work mode and into personal mode. You can also dim the lights and/or light a candle. Use a scented room spray or spritz yourself with essential oil. Put on your favorite playlist. Activate your senses in whatever way will help you transition out of the daily grind.
Goldberg: For many people, it’s not just that our dining room is now our office. It’s also maybe a roommate or partner’s office. Do you have organizational tips for making sure a roommate or family member doesn’t ruin your next Zoom call?
Gill: Divide and conquer! If you only have a few optimal work zones in your home, make sure to review schedules in advance to help determine who should work where and when. If your partner or roommate has a big presentation, they might need to claim the home office or dining room table, while you can make the kitchen counter work for reading and responding to emails. The key is to communicate and plan in advance so you’re not chasing each other frantically from room to room in the middle of your work day.
Also, get creative and consider out of the box work zones. Our oldest daughter has set up shop for online school in her cozy closet, and my husband likes working on our front patio when the weather is nice. Clarify your criteria for a successful work zone, and see if you can find it in a new and unexpected place – did someone say hammock office?
Goldberg: Beyond the space itself, I’d love to hear about how you’ve perhaps creatively repurposed any everyday objects to help create boundaries?
Gill: My number one tip is to repurpose a desktop letter sorter to organize and dock ipads and laptops. I’ve also repurposed household bins and baskets to create portable workstations, and magazine files to corral work supplies and reference materials. A toolkit or tackle box can serve double duty as a storage solution for cords, batteries, earbuds, paperclips, or other work related essentials.
If your career requires more gear than can be contained in a compact bin, consider turning a rolling cart into your own portable office. You can store everything from cords, a/v equipment, books, reference materials, and office supplies neatly on the shelves, and it’s a breeze to pack it up and wheel it out of sight when the work day is done.
Goldberg: I think it’s so easy to get distracted at home even if you’re childfree and solo, and I’m sure partners and children exacerbate the problem. What are your suggestions for staying focused?
Gill: First of all, consider your sightline. If you’re sharing your WFH space with others, make sure to position yourself in a way that minimizes distractions from your sightline. If you’re working from your dining room table, you probably don’t want to be staring at your partner doing the dishes, or your toddler playing in the living room. Set up your workspace so that your gaze is as clear of visual distractions as possible. And close the door! As obvious as this may sound, if you’re co-habitating and trying to get down to business, closing the door will minimize noise and distractions, and serve as a clear indicator that you’re in work mode.
Closing the door didn’t work? Make, or invest in, a physical signal that indicates you’re in work mode. Think – hotel “Do Not Disturb” sign. You can even customize door signs on Etsy with a customized message like “Zoom Call in Progress” or “Shhhh….In a Meeting”
Goldberg: Any final advice for readers?
Gill: The struggle is real to balance work and home life and keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy, safe and sane during this wildly challenging time. Give yourself a little wiggle room and forgive yourself if you end up eating cookies for lunch or leave your living room looking less than immaculate. The key is to try to be more intentional about how you set up and maintain your home so you can optimize your space and feel more productive, efficient, and calm in your day to day life.
For more tips, visit shiragill.com and follow her work on instagram @shiragill.