WORKING FROM HOME
I started working from home just few months before my son was born, in 1996. I guess, like most people I never much liked travelling to an office, and I never much enjoyed getting out of bed early.
Even in its infancy – the internet changed my life.
Whilst on a beach in Turkey one summer about 10 years ago I had an email from a host informing me that one of my clients websites had been hacked and I had 24 hours to fix a suspected malware file or face a takedown. If I couldn’t do it that day there and then, I would definitely lose my much valued client.
This hacker had left a file on the server with their hacker name, and a not unfriendly message. I did some relentless Googling and found that there was a group of non malicious teenage hackers doing this kind of thing for fun. The group even had a forum where they left screenshots of the sites they were hacking. Mine was one of them and I felt ashamed until I saw the screen grabs of blue chip companies they had also broken into.
The weakness on this particular site was a contact form which was inadvertently opening up access to the back end. Knowing that I could fix it I had nothing to lose by messaging the hacker group – HackerZ, and had comms with the young man who was apparently living in Tunisia, and to be honest he was pretty helpful explaining how he had broken in. It changed the way I built my websites from that day forward.
In the space of 4 hours I’d found the hacker, cleared the ‘malware’, set up a WAF server account so that no one could get back in to the file structure, and made sure nobody could get through the same door. An hour after that I had managed to patch things up with my future wife, who had been abandoned during the crisis. All from a beach bar.
I realised then that I could work from literally anywhere in the world any time of day or night.
It was one of the most liberating professional experiences of my life.
It’s an old anecdote, but a fact that in the 1950’s not many children had ever been to the seaside, eaten banana, or seen a real pineapple outside of a tin. Six decades years later – it seems incredible that we are experiencing another quantum shift in how we are expected to live and work.
Following lockdown I’ve developed a renewed focus and I find I’m making the time to concentrate on finer details. It’s given me creative freedom to explore new approaches to Digital Marketing. A small tweak, a new word, an appreciation of colour and texture, a shape, a feeling, an emotion. Finding something beautiful amongst the mundane. Forcing myself to open my eyes very wide to see new things in an ever narrowing landscape. Without the need to rush around or be in face to face meetings I’ve now got more time to become a craftsman rather than a fire fighter.
Here are a few of the things I think about that are helping me to deliver better creative work. They may be obvious, they may help you too.
I spend a LOT more time planning, and researching. Both can help identify the very best opportunities and extends the time spent enjoying my work. Like we were once taught at University, working out a bunch of different ideas leads to exploration. I’m more receptive. I look at smaller things. They help me formulate a wide picture.
I split my days in two. Having cleared a particular inbox it’s probably the quietest in the early morning, so I try to spend that time in creative thought mode. We aren’t tied to our offices any more, I haven’t been for years to be honest, so if I need to I’ll take a walk, tinker in the garden, listen to new music, pull out a sketch pad and some thick felt tip pens. I make myself do this.
I’ll implement the ideas in the afternoon and I create self imposed deadlines if I don’t have a real one. I force myself to finish work at 5.30 and I religiously take a walk or cycle for one hour or more.
I’m lucky I know, to have beautiful countryside at my doorstep. But when the weather makes it impossible to explore the outside I listen to new music I’ve never heard. Then after dinner, I’m fresh again so I’ll maybe craft and polish some of the work I did in the afternoon, upload a project for a client, and then explore the work of others.
VARY THE WORKLOAD
I vary my walk, work and music. I look at old jobs with fresh eyes and re-visit them. I perform regular analytics on live jobs, but I’ll visit old ones and notice new things that I can apply to current or future work. I work slowly now I have more time. I concentrate on the detail. The more I work with the detail, the wider my vision seems to be. I’m not clouded with the ‘how’ any more.
Leave the beaten path, if terrain allows it, and walk a few yards into metaphorical woodlands or open countryside. By wandering a little I find that it sometimes brings me closer to problem solving. It’s good to explore it’s quietest corners, and go deep into pockets of it, but also try to view it from afar. Look at the trees, look into gardens, look at the horizon, listen to the sound of life.
WALK SLOW, WALK QUIET
I never know what’s around the next corner, so I take my time and find that I see more detail. With advancing years, I place my feet carefully, I’m surprised how much more I see in the same amount of time.
Ok, I know this is stretching a euphemism. I’ve configured 3 x 32″ 4k monitors help me see much more. It’s amazing how being able to actually see a UI in detail can make a difference to workflow. It’s also a shock to realise that there’s actually a lot more going on that I first noticed.
There are so many little details we might miss normally. Competitor analysis is one thing, but aspirational content, outrageous ideas, odd thoughts, life experiences and encounters all play a part in our creative output. Appreciate the work that our peers and contemporaries are producing, take strength from them and be inspired not threatened.
I get out as much as I possibly can. I tend to walk every day for exercise and relish the changes in the weather. No walk can ever be the same if I keep my head up and pay attention to the world around me. I don’t forget to exercise my mind either, I stretch myself with new software, new techniques and new challenges every day.
Stop for a short time and just listening and look. Waiting for a couple of minutes in the middle of a project helps me see much more detail. The one thing we can say we have more of these days is ‘time’. Take some of that time to reflect on your own work.
Photography © Bammy 2021