Over her many years as a freelance photographer, editor and writer, Natalie Marquez Courtney has become well accustomed to the remote work lifestyle.
With many of us setting up WFH in a hurry as things first started to turn and unable to settle the basics of what our home offices should look like, Natalie opens the door to her south-facing study in County Galway and brings us through the basics.
From anti-procrastination app recommendations and coffee routines to talking candidly about the difficulties of balancing remote work and raising her young child, read on for insight into Nathalie at WFH’s routine, interiors, tips and tricks…
What are some absolute basics everyone should have in a WFH setting?
If you’re working on a laptop, the second screen is a game changer. When I’m at my desk, my MacBook Air is connected to a gorgeous 27-inch 4K LG monitor. Failing that, a separate laptop stand and keyboard are perfect, and help prevent that slow slip of the SlouchLand.
I need good noise-canceling headphones (I’m currently trying the Sony WH-1000XM5s and they’re great). For photo editing, I have an old Wacom tablet that is still going strong.
What do you keep in your WFH office?
My desk is usually covered with several notebooks, SD cards, rolls of undeveloped film, tubs of Muji pens (no idea why so much is hoarded), and sometimes a candle and some essential oil (I love the mix by Ground Wellbeing).
Have you decorated the WFH space with any photos, artwork, or musical instruments?
Behind me is a mid-century darling sideboard, home to a rotating collection of coffee table and photography books; It’s great to have some inspiration to dip into every now and then. The study is south facing, so there is also a hearty collection of plants scattered around the place, especially succulents and cacti.
On the walls, I have prints by Irish artist Laura Buchanan and photographer Jimmy Beck, and a decorative plate by April and the Bear in collaboration with Irish maker Paula Moen.
What motivates you when working remotely?
Time pressure is what usually motivates me when working from home! My son goes to kindergarten five times a week, so it’s usually a sprint to get as much done as possible before pickup time.
How do you balance working from home and having a small child?
Good child care is what brings us back to it; Knowing that our child is happy and safe and that having fun makes it easier for me to work and focus and to have solid, uninterrupted work time means that I am better able to stop work once the work is done.
Matchmaking is a struggle at times, and my answer to “How do I balance this” is often “bad”. Sometimes the line between work and home is so porous that it’s hard to feel like you’re giving the time and attention you want and deserve. Sometimes I find it hard to fully appear as a present parent and don’t constantly try to email a quick response or hit a call while preparing snacks.
Do you have a certain routine on your coffee break at home?
If it’s morning, my husband Ben makes me a delicious flat white using beans from Calendar Coffee, usually in a nice cup of Naomi Good or Galway’s potter Carly McCann.
After that, I am fed by constant cups of Barry’s tea – weaker and more milky than most Irish would find acceptable – so there are usually several cups scattered around the office by the end of the day, plus crumbs of the odd Kilbigian cookie oatmeal – I’m hooked!
What is your favorite lunch to prepare at home?
My favorite lunch is usually leftovers from last night’s dinner. Fast, warm and delicious. This week, that was chili chicken ramen, spag bol and “picky little bits” from the fridge, including some St Ola’s goat cheese on crackers.
How do you break up monotony during the day?
To mix things up, I’ll occasionally bring my laptop downstairs and work or take calls from the kitchen table; The room gets a nice light (and you are a little close to the kettle).
Do you have a way to go to procrastination, and how do you get yourself back in the zone?
If I feel like I’m switching tasks a lot and getting distracted, I’ll use Tomato One Pomodoro to get me back on track and make proper progress on the task. Having said that, I’m also a huge fan of “Procastiworking” and find that creating a melting pot of ideas when jumping down tab rabbit holes while searching for something can lead to more interesting results.
Do you have any tips for maintaining posture and avoiding back pain or eye strain?
I have an Apple Fitness+ subscription, and they have easy to use 10 minute videos, I turn to them often, and sometimes I squeeze in between calls.
How do you separate work and pleasure when you go out in the evening?
Most days, I’ll be able to do some meditation; I have favorites saved from a course I did with the awesome Jodi from Mama Sangha. It’s a great way to connect with your body, clear your brain and go from “work time” to “home time.”
How does it compare to working in the office?
I’ve been working from home in and out for over seven years and have found remote working can be free, but I feel lonely sometimes too.
I love being in shots, because you’re always in new places and meeting new people, so often the balance between going out and being around and having some hermit at home often works for me.
While flexibility and the ability to manage your own day can’t be beat, there’s nothing like being together to collaborate and share ideas. When I work from home for long periods, I often find myself missing the idle banter and quick, spontaneous conversations you might have with my colleagues.
Photo submitted by Natalie Marquez Courtney.
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