Tips for Working From Home

I worked from home with part time hours for a smidge over 3 years. During that time I learned quite a few things, both about myself and about creating a work/life balance. I don’t consider myself an expert in any of this, but I figured I would share some of the things that I learned over the past few years in case it could help someone else.

Working from home is a bit of a unique struggle because you want to set boundaries, a time/space for your job that is separate from your everyday life. A lot of times, when that physical space of the office is in our own home, you feel as though you are always at work. Boundaries are much more likely to get muddled or not exist at all. You may feel as though you are never not at work, or like you cannot disconnect from your job.

I learned the hard way on how to make working from home work for me and from time to time I struggled with those boundaries. But, I’ve made it through and I’m hopeful that if want to work from home, you can too!

Tip #1: Create a space that is able to be separate from your home for your office.This may seem like common sense, an office or a desk set up in a quiet corner of your home, but this is probably one of the hardest tips to stick with. When you have that space, you ONLY do work in THAT SPACE. You do not do work in other area’s of your house and you do not bring “non work” into that space. This space would also preferably have a door or some way of sectioning it off from the rest of your house. Think of it this way, when you work in an office, the best part of the day is being able to leave the office and leave your work behind for the evening, right? So, why would you not want to create that same illusion at home. In our previous home, our office was downstairs and was cordoned off by both stairs and a baby fence (as there were times when I would have to contain a child while working).

A note on creating your office space: You do want to make sure the space is welcoming and set up the way you want and need. Make it a nice space that you want to work, not somewhere where you feel like you dread going to. Natural light is a big help, as is small pieces of home décor.

Tip #2: Have specific times set aside as work time.Now, this tip only matters if you have flexible hours, but I wanted to touch on it as I found this was another thing that really helped me and is a hard one to stick with. It’s the same concept as the separate space in your home. You need to have certain hours that are set aside each day (they don’t necessarily have to be the same hours everyday, but should be the same week to week, e.g. M/W/F 8-12, T/TH 1-5) and those are the only hours that you do work during. Now obviously if there is an emergency or something that comes up that changes (as it would in a normal work environment), but the important fact is that you have the stability of hours. You work during those hours and when it is not those hours, you are not working. This is good not only for yourself, but for your coworkers as well (if applicable).

Tip #3: Get Dressed.If you’ve been around here long enough, you know all about this tip. This is a tip that I just apply to life in general, but is even more important when you are working from home. You are not going to feel the same motivation and high productivity level while working if you are in your pajamas or sweat pants that you will if you take a little bit of time in the morning to put on jeans or slacks and a nice top. There is just some sort of way that we all feel when we are in sweatpants that we don’t feel when we are in actual clothes. If you want, you can change into sweats after you’ve finished working to “signal” to yourself that the workday is over and you can relax.

Tip #4: Take breaks, eat your lunch somewhere else, get outside. This is an important one because a lot of times when we work from home, we don’t take the breaks that we need to. We need to get away from the desk, away from the computer (or phone) and out into the world. Realistically, this tip applies if you are working in an office as well. Do not take lunch at your desk, do not skip out on breaks, make sure you are stretching your body out throughout the day. If you don’t, you’ll either feel much more tired come the end of the day or you will be a little bit more short tempered in stressful situations. Take a step away, that is what lunch and breaks are meant for.

Tip #5: Take time off.Another one that feels like a no brainer, but it so hard to do. Here’s the thing, when we are working from home it is actually much harder to take time off than you would think. You’re office is right down the hall and since you are in the comfort of your own home, it is easier to work through a sickness or through a time where maybe you shouldn’t be working. It can turn into a problem and while I wouldn’t say take time off all the time, make sure that you are taking vacation time and if you are sick, take a sick day if you can. Don’t over work yourself simply because you work from home and it’s “easy” with no commute.

Those are my top tips for working from home. If you hadn’t noticed the theme, it is mostly to treat working from home much the same way that you would treat working in an office. You need to have a set space, set hours, and the ability to take breaks. The hardest thing about working from home is that instead of going to and from an office, having a separate space from your home, you are simply walking down the hall (or down some stairs) and there you are. It is so much harder to feel disconnected from work when it is just right there. It can be done though, it just takes patience and discipline as you figure out what works for you.  I hope that these tips will help you if you work from home!

At A Crossroads

You know, it’s funny. I’ve been waiting a while to be able to say that I am a Stay at home Wife/Mom and a full-time blogger/writer. To only list myself as a “Wife, Mom, and Writer/Blogger”. To not have to worry about getting my hours in for my job, getting the endless work that came with that done, and having to fit my passion around those requirements. It’s something that I dreamed of for so long, that really everyone dreams of. The ability to just follow your passion. Who doesn’t want that?

Back in December I talked about how I had resigned from my job. It wasn’t something that would be possible with our move and something that had already been on the table prior. I am not going to get into all of the details of all of that because it’s not really relevant to this post. Let’s just say I am now able to follow my passion and as a family we can live the life that we have been dreaming of.

Here’s the thing, I don’t really know what that truly looks like.

I mean, I know what my life looks like as a Wife. I know what my life looks like as a Mom. I know what I want to accomplish as a Blogger. It’s a strange combination though and it’s something that while it rolls right off my tongue in a happy sort of way, still feels quite foreign to me. The idea that my role has changed ever so slightly. That my days are completely different- no longer searching for random pockets of time to plan a blog post, sneaking in moments here and there while my kids are eating at the table to answer emails or comments.

I took a couple weeks off at the beginning of February, to take a little vacation, to settle in to our new space (not home, not yet at least), to ease what I thought would be a hard transition. It was supposed to be a 3-4 week time period, but I found myself getting restless very early on. We are in a hotel apartment, so we have the cleaners (although I still do dishes, clean our kitchen and do the daily sweeping and tidying), we eat about 3 meals out (sometimes 4), and while I’ve loved catching up on my reading, I’ve missed the act of creating. Of doing.  I needed to write. I needed to get back into a swing of things of some sort.

And now? Well now I’m trying to navigate this new crossroads. Our schedule really only has to navigate around some type of afternoon nap for the kids rather than before when I was having to make sure that we stuck to a strict schedule so I could carefully work everything into a day. We have a freedom to get out, to explore, to DO MORE during the week day. I can truly set my own schedule and as I have access to 99% of what I would actually need to do anything on my phone, we can just pick up and go on an adventure at any time. And as strange as it is to me to say this, it feels weird. Freeing? Yes, but somehow foreign. The idea that our time is wholly ours and we can do with it what we will. I look forward to creating a new schedule that works with everything that we want to do AND lets me follow and nurture my passions along the way.

I’ll conclude this rambly mish mash of a post by saying how blessed we are and how blessed I am. I don’t know what the future will hold for us later on down the road, but I know that I am going to soak up everything I can right now and make the most of this blessing.

Friday Morning Cups

This picture may seem simple. May seem harmless. Just a book and a cup of tea. Nothing more to see, right? Wrong. Now I don’t expect you to infer what I am about to say, nobody could just from this picture. But that is why I’m saying it. That is why it’s just a simple picture, with a much more powerful caption. Often times this isn’t something that is spoken about beyond the “shtick” that many moms have started to claim. There is nothing wrong with that, but it can be a dangerous line between what is normal and a funny “just a mom thing” and what is needing a little more attention

☕️

Here sits my now cold cup of tea untouched along with my unopened book (that I started a night or two ago and haven’t touched since). If you know me, you know that either of these things being untouched is unheard of. Instead, I have been sitting here in my chair, staring out the window, utterly spent. Trying to recoup what little I have left.

☕️

Motherhood is the most incredible gift that I have ever experienced but it is also a uniquely exhausting and trying time. It is a constant, overwhelming, role and there comes a time (for all of us), when we are just spent. When we have nothing left. When the simplest of things (like drinking a cup of tea or reading) can just sit for hours without being touched. We are not good at asking for help, we are not good at saying that we are overwhelmed, we just keep trying to hold everything together, while seemingly pulling our own selves apart. There is a level of exhaustion that is normal and then there is a level where you may need to talk to someone or need to ask for help.

☕️

Don’t do what I did for a long time. Don’t try and hide how you’re feeling, or pretend like you’ve got it all together. Don’t always put yourself last. Every once in a while (preferably before you feel that last fraying string snap), tell someone. Reach out. Say I need a minute, 5 minutes, an hour (he’ll be ambitious and go for a couple hours if you can). You’ll be better for it. Your spouse will be better for it. Your children will be better for it.

Time Management : My Daily Breakdown

I’ve been talking about Time Management for a couple of posts now and wanted to give an example of how I apply what I’ve been talking about to my own days/weeks/months. It may seem complicated, but it actually isn’t. I just treat most of my tasks as “jobs” that I have to complete everyday. I also do have a part time job that I work the same hours for everyday. I find that I need to have a bit of structure to my days as I work from home and so this is what I do.

To start with: I use a paper planner (insert gasp here). If you’ve been following along this past year, you will know that I am a pen and paper kinda girl and prefer to write things down. It’s a kink in my brain that I just remember and feel more organized when I can write something out. I personally use and love the Day Designer planner system. There is a spot for me to mark out my time during the day, along with a daily to do list, top three priority list, and a couple other little boxes. I’ve got the perfect amount of room. I’ve used the Flagship for 2018 and loved it, although I am thinking about getting a mini for 2019.

The first thing I do is write down my to do list. I color code everything based on what it is for. Each color represents something different, household chores, appts, blog, business, work, etc. I put EVERYTHING on my to do list. Not because I need reminded of it, not because I want to feel “busier” than I am, but simply for the satisfaction of having checked it off. I won’t forget to dust the Living room on Tuesday by any means, but I like to keep track of everything that I am doing. It’s also key when you are first trying to develop a habit, or get back into a habit. I will also mark down in the notes section when a package is supposed to be delivered as our post people don’t ring the doorbell when they deliver…we’ve had packages just sit in the rain all afternoon because of this.

The next thing I’ll do is block out my times every day. I may be a little crazy about my time, but my days are usually planned to a T. I work weekdays in the afternoon for my job, so my mornings are spent with my children, writing, doing household chores, at appointments, whatever else. I’ll notate if I have a blog post or video going up that day, what time it will be at, as well as any appointments. This gives me a pretty good sign of what my actual day is going to look like and helps me narrow down my top three.

The final step is determining what my “Top Three” are for the day. I don’t always do this, but if I’ve got a lot going on, and am not sure if I will realistically get to everything on my to do list, I”ll mark down what I think I need to prioritize. Some days my to-do list becomes a list of other things (such as future posts I want to do, different things to order), things that don’t need to necessarily need to be handled that day, but that I want to remember for a future day. So, having the Top 3 can focus my mind when I do get a chance to work on items.

Once those three steps are complete I’ll briefly look at my day again and mentally block times out to accomplish what I need to accomplish. For example, I typically write my blog posts mid morning (like 10ish), while drinking my second cup, so I’ll try and make sure any cleaning I need to do is done between breakfast and mid morning. Since I work all afternoon on weekdays, any top 3 items that are non work related have to be done before 1pm and I’ll take that into account (as I don’t necessarily write everyday).

Most days I am able to cross everything off my to do list by using this system and most days I feel really productive! Of course, there are days that it doesn’t happen. I am living life and some days we just chuck the to do list and play all morning instead or I’ll spend a morning reading. That is ok and because of my time management, I know that I can make up anything missed on another day.

How do you do your Time Management? Do you have any tips or tricks?

Real Talk : Time Management

Earlier in the month I said that you do not have to be a morning person to be successful, you just have to be good at Time Management. I stand by that statement and today we are going to jump into a brief (ish) rundown of Time Management. If you think, “Mia, the year is almost over, why are we just now talking about this?”. Well, a)it’s never a bad time to start something new, and b)if you are wanting to feel more organized or productive in the new year, this is the perfect time/place to start.

Time Management is not some crazy, complicated, scary concept. It is just simply knowing how best to use your time. Knowing when you work the best and how to use that knowledge to your advantage. You don’t have to go any further than that. In fact, I’ll bet that you already do some sort of time management already and don’t even realize it.

Do you know that you write best in the morning, therefore spending your morning responding to emails, writing posts, or writing in your journal? Do you know that your brain functions better in the afternoon/late evening, therefore spending your morning doing the more aimless tasks (cleaning, laundry, etc) and then concentrating on work related items in the morning? That’s basic Time Management. Not so complicated, huh?

Time Management can also be taken a step further by setting limits on things that you need to accomplish for the day. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds and it is actually what I do for my weekdays to ensure that I can accomplish everything that I want to throughout the day without feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or like I’m spinning my wheels and going no where.  I usually set a limit, for example respond to emails/write posts for an hour and a half mid morning. This allows me to have a set time limit, gives my brain a chance to focus on what I am doing, and I find that I get quite a bit done in this time period.

I’ll give a brief run down of what I do in a separate post (stay tuned!) but first I want to touch on the easiest, simplest form of this and how you can apply it to whatever you are doing, from being a stay at home mom to the workplace.

There are two key ingredients to Time Management, the first is what we’ve already talked about. Knowing when your brain functions the best. Morning or Afternoon, it doesn’t matter. If you know when you feel at your best, then you can work around everything else.

If you are someone who just works better in the afternoon, that is fine! You’ll simply want to adjust your task list to be a little afternoon heavier, focusing the items that will take the most of your attention to the afternoon, rather than the morning. If you are someone who is bright eyed and bushy tailed first thing in the morning, then you’ll want to put any tasks that will take a good amount of your focus to the morning.

The second key ingredient to Time Management is going to be your priorities. Knowing what is at the top of your list on each day is key to success. I’ve talked about Priorities HERE. Within those priorities, you’ll want to have a general idea of what is going to take the longest, what will be the hardest, and what will require the most of your attention and focus. You’ll want to look at your first ingredient, when you work best, and lay out your priorities for that time.

If you work a 9-5 job, in an office, you may not be able to re arrange things completely (for example if you are a Night Owl, that probably will not work with your job), but you can still apply the same principles to allow yourself the most success in getting everything done.

If you are a Stay at Home Parent, you can still apply the principles of Time Management to your every day tasks and chores. Spending your “most productive” hours starting any tasks that need handled and playing/being with your children.

For example, let’s say you have a to do list of 5 items, 3 of them involve your immediate attention (aka due today or tomorrow) and 2 will take a good amount of focus and time. Those 3 assignments are your priorities and the 2 that will take the most focus and time are the ones that you will want to do when you are at the height of your brain function.

Not so complicated huh? Time Management at it’s simplest is just laying out what you need to do, figuring out when you work best, and then implementing both of those items together.

A Different Kind of Tired

If you follow me on any of my Social Media you may have already picked up on this, but the past few weeks have been no joke. They’ve been rough. It hasn’t been anything inherently bad, just routine life, but it’s just been a constant of life that’s stretched me thin.

Before we get too far into this, I did take a little “break” and did some self care that I haven’t really been able to get in, so I will not be so stretched thin and can “recuperate” a little. I am doing so much better now, which is referenced at the end of the post.

 I was talking with my husband one night and I found myself saying “I’m just so tired”. This was a pretty good sign to me as to where I was at. How I was feeling and what was going on. His response though? “Why don’t you go to bed then” A logical response to what I had actually said, but I knew that going to bed wasn’t really the answer, just like being physically tired wasn’t what was wrong. Yes, I was physically tired, and yes, going to bed would have probably helped, but it wasn’t the larger issue.

There is a different kind of “tired” when you are a mom. The feeling of just being so worn out emotionally and mentally. We say tired because with this feeling we can feel physically tired, but the root of that is really just our mental and emotional state. It usually comes at a point when we just simply need a break from “being a mom”. We need to have an adult conversation, an adult beverage, or -honestly- an adult only restroom break.

Being a mom (and a parent) means being constantly there when your kids are there. Yes, there are times when we step away and do dishes, or write, or read, or make food, but honestly there is always a part of us that is paying attention to our children. Keeping an ear out for what they are doing, keeping a side eye on what toys they are playing with, making sure that they aren’t destroying the house or hurting each other or getting into things they shouldn’t be into.

That alone, that divided attention, trying to do two things at once (keep the kids happy, and maybe cook some food, do some dishes) is exhausting by itself. And sometimes, being a mom is not the only thing we do. It may be the most important, but often times we are also wives, employees, business owners, or have some other commitment going on that we need to do.

Not only do we balance motherhood, partnership, work, we are also actively maintaining a living space and trying to take care of ourselves. Even with the help of our respective partners, it all adds up. And, at some point, we get tired. Not just physically tired, but emotionally and mentally worn out. We collapse in a pile in bed or on the couch and just lay there. We revel in the peace that is the house after the kids go to bed, the nightly chores are done, and there is a quiet that we haven’t heard all day long.

So yes, I was tired when I said that and yes, I did go to bed, but it wasn’t (and isn’t ever) a simple fix. It took a couple days for me to get out that “tired” feeling. A couple days of easy weekend-ing, having my whole little family together, and getting a blissful few hours kid free. That was what I really needed and when we started a new week, it felt as if I was back in action.

Sunday Evening Chat (aka supposed to be Friday Morning, but I missed it)

As moms (and parents in general), we’ve got some pressure.

▫️

The pressure of raising a being who is entirely reliant on you. The first few years are like nothing else. A baby needing you 24/7, then a toddler demanding your sole attention at all waking hours. It seems like the days are never ending (even though they say the years are short-which they are).

▫️

The pressure of putting on the “facade” of a “happy, beautiful mom with her happy beautiful children”. The pressure of constantly feeling “on” all the time.

▫️

The pressure of a clean home, ready to greet visitors, friends and family alike, and then the pressure of feeding and hosting those visitors.

▫️

The pressure of needing to do all the things for all the people all the time. Of constantly needing to feel like you are handling everything, taking care of everything and everyone. Making sure everyone is happy, healthy, and fed.

▫️

Finally, the pressure not to complain. Not to talk about how hard it can be. To only share the good, the positive. To put a smile on and brush any problems or struggles under the rug. To talk about the problems is to be ungrateful, to be airing stuff that just shouldn’t be talked about. This is just what t is to have children and deal with it.

▫️

Some of this pressure is just being a mom (the children are reliant on you after all and there are things that we have to do as mothers), some of this pressure just comes from who we are as a person. Some of this pressure comes from outside voices. Voices who judge us for who we are, what we do, how we handle ourselves and our family.

▫️

All this pressure is bullshit and insane. But it’s there.

▫️

How do we handle this pressure? How do we make sure we don’t bottle it up and let it take over bit by bit? How do we manage? How do we make sure that with all the pressure we don’t break?

▫️

Sometimes it feels like we are balancing on a tightrope with plates and cups stacked up high on our head. One wrong step and everything comes tumbling, no crashing, down. How do you do it? How do I do it? How do any of us do it? I wonder because we all do it.