How I’m cleaning up my work from home life

Friday is here which means I’ve survived my second week working from home. While I managed to stay on task and get my work complete, I cannot say that I was a role model for establishing some healthy work habits.

Earlier this week, I panicked. My sweet darlings are home with me on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which means I work quite a bit in the evenings. {A trade off I welcomed in exchange for more time with my family.}

Tuesday morning went all right. We painted and built race car tracks and played school bus. We kept busy, which kept the peace.

By mid-morning; however, things took a turn for the worse. I got anxious about my looming list of things to do before the kids returned to school on Thursday morning. I constantly felt pulled to respond to emails or do just one little thing that would earn a check mark of accomplishment on my to-dos. But my obviously distracted parenting led my children into one of the hardest places to come back from in our house.

Boredom.

When my nearly four-year-old daughter gets bored, she turns into a whining, lethargic television magnet. She won’t play. She won’t read. She won’t color. {But she will repeatedly tell you that she won’t play, read or color.} My husband and I try to limit the amount of TV time she gets, but she eagerly cashed in her 30 minutes with Mickey Mouse for the day by 10 a.m.

My toddler actually plays really well by himself most of the time. He loves his cars and books and trains. But when he gets bored, he throws stuff. He punches stuff. Or breaks stuff. Sometimes all three at once. He sure knows how to liven up this bore-fest.

That is when it hit me. Literally. My son hit me with a cardboard book as if to say “hey, read this to me NOW!” Daphne looked up from the hot dog dance. Henry flashed his innocent doe-eyes at me as if he hadn’t just chucked Little Blue Truck at my head. I was so preoccupied reading through emails during what was supposed to be family time that I probably hadn’t even noticed my son’s non-violent attempts at getting me to read to him.

It was time to set some boundaries. For myself.

Email Overhaul

I decided right then and there before my new book bump had even finished forging onto my noggin that if I couldn’t be strong-willed enough to not check my emails, then I just had to get rid of them altogether.

For Christmas, my husband gifted me an old, broken iPhone of mine that he had restored so that my 1,500+ photos and videos could be salvaged. I’d been using it as an iPod the last few weeks since it still carried all my old music on it, too.

I retrieved the iPhone and got out my current Samsung Galaxy. I quickly removed all work-related email accounts from my current phone and uploaded them all into the iPhone. Ta da! Work phone, personal phone. My work phone stays tucked away on family days and {so far} has been enforced just as tightly as Daphne’s TV time.

Invest in Efficiency

Two things you should know about me if you don’t already. 1. I’m pretty frugal. 2. I’m an extremely efficient worker. With that being said, there are so many resources out there these days to streamline work flow, particularly for marketing and advertising agencies. I’ve always resisted the urge to take advantage of them, or would only utilize the services that were offered for free, because being a boutique agency I’m able to serve all of my clients in what I felt was a reasonable amount of time anyway.

But if by week two I was freaking out about getting everything done and subsequently hindering family time, it was time to loosen the purse strings to make an investment in my new business. While I may be incredibly quick and accurate at doing my work, why wouldn’t I want to couple that with a program that would continue to work for me on my days off?

First, I did a lot of research on programs that would assist me with the social media management component of my business. After a lot of comparisons – from price, to ability, to interface – I decided to sign up with Sendible. The best part? They offer a 1-month free trial, phone support, and training webinars.

Second, I signed up for QuickBooks Self-Employed. I’m already familiar with QuickBooks online from doing the books for my husband’s business a few years ago. It’s incredibly user-friendly and because it syncs directly to my bank account, I don’t have to remember to make any entries myself. Taxes are no joke and there are so many ways for small business owners to make mistakes. Investing in this online program allows me to work more closely with our CPA and track my income and expenses without being responsible for the initial recording of them.

Finally, I upgraded to Canva for Work. Canva is a great online resources for non-designers to pretend to be designers. While I’m fairly literate in InDesign and other Adobe products, I am not a trained graphic designer and have wasted quite a bit of time attempting to be one. I have used Canva for over a year to make really quality images to use for social media, signage, invitations and more. The reason I decided to up the ante from the free version is to save myself time. Canva for Work has the added benefit of saving everything you need for your brand{s}. You can save a color palettes, logos, templates, fonts and more. This investment was the hardest for me, because it seems like a luxury when it offers a great version at no cost. With that being said, I have huge plans for all of that time I intend to save not having to type in my hex colors each and every time I design an image.

I feel less stressed and less distracted already. These three investments were definitely worth it.

{Note: For print pieces and particular projects, there is absolutely NO substitute to a good graphic designer.}

Be the Teacher

I had to help oversee a work event for my former employer last week,  and while I was there someone said something that really resonated with me. She asked how winter break was and I mentioned that the dreaded ‘B’ word had sneaked its way into our house during the second week my kids were home from school. I added that they were looking forward to going back to school {mom included} because of the structure and plethora of activities coordinated by their teachers. She just looked at me and said, “you can be the teacher.”

Once I got past the idea of me standing in front of them singing songs about the weather in an attempt to replicate circle time, I realized that she probably meant that I could incorporate the things that my children respond to at school into our home. For my daughter in particular, I concluded that was the constant flow of predictable activity.

When it comes to my business, I plan. I schedule out my time for meetings, projects and emails. In order to be a teacher to my kids, I needed to apply these same principles to my household like a lesson plan.

I kept the entire family in mind as I lesson-planned. We all get stir-crazy, especially during these winter months, so I first looked for indoor activities that wouldn’t break the bank if we did them every week. My mom got us a family membership to Wonderscope Children’s Museum for Christmas, so {purely because they both start with the letter ‘W’} Wonderscope Wednesdays was born. It was easy to get both of my kids excited to pack up snacks and head out to play and learn.

Coming up with something to do on Tuesdays was a bit more challenging. While Kansas City has a ton to offer, I was determined to create some habits for our family to build some consistency in our new days-at-home schedule. After all, me being home with the kids isn’t just new and challenging for me. My daughter downsized from full-time 5 days a week pre-school, as well, and she’s had an equally difficult time adjusting to the unpredictability of each day.

This week I decided we’d go check out the Johnson County Library, something I thought was a luxury for stay-at-home parents. Well, we had a great experience and I learned a lot. {You can check out 150 books at a time. Everything is DYI with a library card. They have movies and video games. What?!} The best part? A 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning story time kicks off next week. Jackpot! We’ve read the 4 books we checked out 1 million times and both kids are already asking when we get to go back and pick out more books. While I will continue to look for other free opportunities in town, it’s safe to say that Library Tuesday will become a thing. {Catchier name ideas are welcomed.}

It’s only been a week, but everything went swimmingly. I was more engaged with my children, didn’t spend any money, and honestly didn’t even think twice about my iPhone pinging away with emails at home. The best part? No one got bored.

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