Thursday, October 15, 2015
(Note: I began this post over the summer, hence the Vancouver reference...)
Balance. Since I started working from home I've gotten a lot of questions about it, and to be honest I've kind of avoided writing about it because I feel silly giving advice to anyone. I, like anyone else, just kind of make it up as I go along. Most of the time it works well for me, but right now in fact, I write this from a plane on my way to Vancouver for a work trip after just getting back from a weekend away with some friends. I'm feeling pretty shitty about it, if you want to know the truth. The work trip popped up after I had already planned the weekend with my sister and girlfriends, so it became two trips in a row. Not okay in my book. I got home yesterday morning and hugged the boys for the past 24 hours, until I drove them down to Phoenix for the week. Tears. But they get to swim in a pool for four days straight and play with their cousin and have the best time with their family, so it's win for them, I'm sure. For me though? Sad, with a big dose of Mom Guilt. But then at the same time I'm excited about this work project, I'm excited to see a new place, I'm excited to see our ideas come to life. Two sides to the coin.
And balance...somedays I feel like I've got it down. I wake up early, I run, I work for a bit, make breakfast for the boys, we keep it going all day. I work during nap time. I blog somewhere in between, I start dinner before Hank gets home and we spend time hanging and playing before the boys go to sleep. Spend time with Hank before he's off to work on his own projects. Work again. Go to sleep. Wake up and do it again, and feel really damn good about it. Those are some days. Other days I feel like I'm not doing such a good job at anything. There will be a hundred things running through my mind and my brain skips from one thing to another, then back again, in a wild merry-go-round that truly has no ending. The crazy days don't happen too much but on those days you can bet I'm texting Hank saying "IS IT 5PM YET! I FEEL INSANE! HELP!" And then he gets home and I kind of melt into him, and I swear, everything is okay again. He tells me to go into the office, put on headphones, and get stuff done until I feel better again. And I always do. Bless that Hank.
But that elusive work-home balance...hmm. That's a tough one, and I think maybe even more so when you work from home, because everything kind of bleeds into everything else. After I left teaching and my main "job" was just my blog (I use that term very, very loosely) I never felt pressure to get a post done or reply to my own emails within an hour, but once I began consulting and was working on someone else's time, I sure did. This made mapping out my days imperative. So now I try to wake up early enough to get my workout done AND bust out some emails. I work best in the morning, so an hour of time there is worth a lot.
Most of the time I feel like I have this meter in my brain. Sometimes I'm totally killing it on the friend front- I'm able to schedule playdates and friend dates, text and call, then other weeks I have so much to do and I feel like I barely have time to leave an Instagram comment. That weight slips to one side. Do you feel that way too? There's a very fine balance that I totally hit sometimes, but rarely. I wonder if anyone out there knows the secret. I sure don't, and when I sat down to type a whole list of things that work for me, I felt like they were totally common sense things that everyone knows. Get ready in the morning, set aside chunks of time to work, be flexible and understand that because you're working from home things are bound to come up, with one million interruptions.
So what else could I add to this that could be new? I think the reason I started this post back in the summer and haven't finished it up until now is exactly that- I've read a million blogs on this topic and wanted to be sure to add something worthwhile to the mix. And the best way I know how to do that is to tell you how I do it, not tell you how YOU should do it. And maybe you can take a tiny morsel from my own experience and make it your own, or maybe not. Either way, here's what works for ME:
1. I asked for help. I work 40+ hours a week from home. I coordinate social media for Ergobaby and Orbit Baby, as well as take on various projects on my own outside of that gig (which is my main job), and I also recently began contracting hours to a PR firm in San Francisco. I help with outreach, press releases, etc. Then I also have this blog I try to keep up the best I can. I'm busy. So once things started getting slightly crazy Hank and I decided that I would hire a nanny/babysitter 1-2x a week. Our sweet helper is an old student of mine, and comes for three hours a day at least once a week, often twice, but also comes for full days if I have to travel for work. My parents and sister help when I have to be out of town, and my mother-in-law also takes the boys for three hours 1x per week, so between those times, 2-hour naptime for Charlie while Henry is at school, and working at night while Hank is at work/at band practice, it's successful if I have to be away or work at home. Help though, is key for us, and I could not do it without the 10ish hours a week the boys spend with our babysitter or family.
2. I know my WHY and my priorities, and keep them in my mind as I take on a new job or project, or figure out how I want to use my time. For me my family is my Why and will always come first, and everything else is secondary. I've learned many lessons over the past few years in regards to being protective of my time, and moving forward I've been trying to say no more than yes. The power of no, right? ha. But I have to do this to protect the time I have with my number one priority. For other people their level of what's important may be different than mine, or circumstances demand priorities to change, and of course that's okay- to each their own. But I feel like it's always a good idea to be aware of what your list is, so you can plan accordingly and move through life with the biggest things leading you as you make decisions.
3. I utilize lists. I make a list every single Friday that is kind of just one big running checklist of things I've done and things I'm doing. I began doing this for Ergo but now do it in my everyday life. It's basically a three section list: Done, To-Do, and Big Ongoing Projects. I simply list the things I've done (referencing the previous week's to-dos- this helps to see holes in what I still need to complete), then list the next week's to-dos, and also revisit my big projects list. This is specifically for my day-to-day life and any job outside of Ergobaby, including this blog. It works so well for me and I keep it right at my desk, and it truly boosts my productivity to stay so organized.
4. I create boundaries. Here's the deal, the last thing I ever, ever want my kids to remember is me on my phone. Tough when I'm so connected and so many aspects of my life are media-based. But I try to make it a major point to work during work time and play during play time. I obviously still take photos and love to document with my phone in hand, but I always remind myself that almost anything can wait. That's a boundary that I had to set after taking a step back and seeing myself rushing through whatever I was doing to answer an email, take a call, whatever. That didn't make me feel good to notice that. So now I really try hard to work during work time (most of the time! ;))
5. When I'm there, I'm all there. Okay not really. But on my best days, yes. This can be applied to basically any aspect of life- when you're doing something, really do it. I keep this in mind when working. If I have an hour to work I try to focus and be all there, tune out distractions (so hard with so much stuff to look at online, right?). But I attempt to put 100% of myself and all of my focus into that work. And then when I step out of our office and into the living room with the kids, I can feel 100% good about being 100% there with them. It's just what works best for me- to keep that in my mind, always.
I still feel kind of silly sharing all of this, especially the last one, because hey, we all know to be all there. And I look back at so many posts I've shared over the years and smile to myself, thinking I knew it all. None of us do! But like I said up there, here's what works for me. Maybe not the newest advice, but things that make world run smoothly, for sure. I also would love to share a whole different post on how I balance my own interests along with being a mama, so I'll have to work on that next.
To wrap up, let me know if you have any questions- I'm happy to answer in the comments below. I also have something exciting coming up in two weeks, related to this topic. Stay tuned! xoxo