February 6, 2013

8 Tips for Working from Home

Before Abiella came home, I was working and studying from home.  During that time, I wrote the following blog post but never published it. I was talking to my sister last week about blog stuff, and said, "I have this post but it doesn't seem relevant anymore since I wrote it so long ago."  She encouraged me to publish it anyways, since many of you work from home and it may be relevant for you. 

So here goes... (cue the wavy tv screen and 80's music... we're going into the past here.)

The fact that I’m brewing a pot of coffee at 9:30 pm, means my schedule is officially weird.  Working from home has its major advantages, and this is one of them.  I’ve always been a night owl, even when I was teaching I’d stay up well into the early hours of the am, just to hear my alarm beep madly at 5:30 am. (Thank you Dr. Pepper, for giving me the caffeine needed to sustain such a schedule.)  These days though, I’m fully in charge of my schedule.  There’s no two ways about it, it. Is. Awesome.  To some, working from home may seem like a crazy idea, but for the hundreds of folks I share a coffee shop with each week (while typing madly away at our laptops) working from home is the norm. 

However, hours and hours of free time, ready to be molded by you and only you, can in fact, be quite daunting. And it takes a certain level of self-discipline to make the working-from-home thing run efficiently. While I’m certainly still figuring this whole work from home, study from home, thing out… I’ve learned a few things along the way that I thought I might share:

1) Get dressed.  As tempting as it may be to stay in your jammies all day (after all, who will really see you?) It will make you feel like a total loser if you answer the door to the UPS man, or a neighbor needing some assistance in their yard, and you’re still in your pjs at 3 pm.  Regardless of how productive you’ve been, you’ll be very aware of how unproductive you look... not that I know anything about this.  So… put some pants on, brush your hair, for the love of everything good brush your teeth and act like a normal working citizen.  You may not have to wear a jacket and heels, but pants… they’re mandatory.

2) Make your coffee strong. 

You’ll need all that caffeine to keep you focused on work, and NOT on youtube, facebook, and all of those other time suckers.  When there’s not a corporate ‘screening’ of your internet hits, or a boss to walk by and say, “…and what are you doing??” you’d be surprised how tempting it is to watch that funny video someone sent you, or read the blog you haven’t caught up on…The more adrenaline you have pumping through your system, the more likely you are to stay on task. (Unless caffeine makes you jittery and less likely to focus... If so, disregard this tip.) If you’re opposed to caffeine try tea or water with lemon… something other than plain old H20 can help maintain a ‘work ritual.’  I know when I have coffee by my side, it’s time to work and not play.

3)  Go outside.  I recently discovered that I can pick up wifi from my backyard.  Hello, afternoons spent writing away in the sun; I’ll be seeing a lot of you. (Working from the shade of my screened-in-porch is also a favored option.)  Getting outside can boost your focus, and you’ll get things done at lightning speed.  Promise.

4) Go into town and be in the presence of other productive people.  I am lucky. A mere 5 miles from my house lies two very busy coffee shops, filled to capacity every weekday with fellow “work-from-home” professionals.  These people keep their headphones on, look pensively at their computer screens and make important phone calls (I can tell how important they are given the tone of their voice and how many times they say, “Hold on… let me check…” while madly hitting keys on their keyboards.)  These people make you feel important.  They’re also wearing jeans and hats and carrying cool bags, but guess what? They look like real-life-adults with real-life-jobs making real-life money.  I always wonder, “What are all of these people doing?? What are their jobs??”  Alas, I may never know, but I trust that it’s something incredibly creative and wildly lucrative. I’m also 100% certain that they’re all geniuses and given enough time their genius will rub off on me.  Bottom line: These spaces simulate that of an office environment… just better, because you can have a bagel and mocha delivered to your table, and only converse with the “coworkers” you really enjoy.

5) Make a schedule.  If you work well without a schedule, then kudos.  But if you’re like me, a schedule is mandatory.   I need a list, I need times, I need deadlines, and I need highlighters.  Without these 4 things I am nothing.  (Sidenote: brewing coffee and working from 10-2am is actually on my schedule.  I’ll get to that.)

6) Go on walks, be active.  Take 10 minutes and go on a walk.  You’ll be surprised how many good ideas you get while you’re out there.  I mean, let’s be honest, what one can get done staring at a blank pad of paper on a desk for 30 minutes is probably equivalent to what one can get done walking around outside for 5 minutes.  It’s science.  Go where the endorphins are people. 

take a walk with me.....

7) Meet with friends.  I do coffee or lunch with friends about 3 times a week.  That may sound like a lot, but it’s really not.  How many people do you see at the average work place? Anywhere between 5 and 100? You eat lunch together, you converse, you talk about your personal and professional life… Personal interaction with other humans is simply part of a good work environment.  Working from home shouldn’t be any different.  Find other people who work from home (or who have a good solid lunch hour away from their workplace) and go out.  Put this “meeting” in your calendar.    If you’re meeting with a fellow work-from-home-professional, you might consider talking about your goals, things you’ve accomplished that week, things you hope to accomplish, and dreams for the future.  This accountability helps a lot.  It may not go towards your work hours, but the break is worth it. Trust me.

8) Be flexible and don’t hate yourself.  Many “work-from-home-professionals” feel they must put in their hours during the ‘typical’ 9-5, even if this comes at the cost of a really awesome experience.  (clearly some w-f-h-p’s HAVE to work these hours b/c that’s when they are hired to be ‘on-the-job’) but if you’re not, be brave, take advantage of your days, and the flexibility you have… who knows how long that flexibility will last? 

Tip #8 brings me to the reason I brewed a pot of coffee at 9:30 pm.  Today, I had a lot to get done during typical business hours, I had to get materials collected, packaged, and shipped, I had to get items returned to a store.  I also chose to enjoy a late lunch with Sean and have an amazing dinner with friends.  All along, I knew that my work would be waiting for me when I got home.  After all, I’m an official night owl who works best after 11 pm.  (Just look at the papers I wrote for my Ed.D. at 3pm versus the ones I wrote at 2 am… I swear  an odd stroke of genius  hits me after 11…might as well take advantage of that ‘night-owl-phenomenon’ before baby Abi dictates my schedule, eh?)  Anyhow, point being, I didn’t feel bad taking an hour to go have a late lunch with Sean, because I knew while the rest of the world was watching prime-time television, I’d be writing grants and taking names.

On that note, it’s 10:00 and I’m off to start the second half of my workday.  Toot-a-loo!

So there you go folks. A blast from the past. Also... regarding tip #1. One fellow work-from-home-gal I know, might disagree with me.  Which is reason #456,912 why I love her. 

Happy Tuesday folks!!

Also- wish me luck.  In 30 minutes I leave to take my daughter to get her granulation burned off AGAIN... (no luck with the home remedies- so sad) AND to get her button changed for the first time. They will be simultaneously training us to do it so we can do it from home every 3-4 months from now on.  Hmm... changing a mechanism that goes straight into my child's stomach.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....)


February 5, 2013

Something Strange is Happening...

Something strange is happening right now... there's an odd light stretching across my floor, I think I hear birds chirping, and there are a whole lot of people walking around my neighborhood. YES. I think it may be happening.  Sweet Hallelujah it may be Spring!!

For the past hour and a half I've had Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days are Over" lyrics belting through my head... Could it be?? Could my cabin fever be nearing an end? I know it's only the beginning of February but for the next 7 days I see lots of 50's and 60's in the forecast and I'm. Freaking. Out. 

Having to keep a child "incubated" is 80 times more difficult when it's too rainy or snowy or stormy to even go outside.  

Last week we had snow AND tornadoes. After a long stretch of sleepless nights, we were finally sleeping soundly when we woke up at 3am to sirens blaring and the weatherman telling us to "get to our safe spot."  We gathered the dogs, Abi, the weather radio, and headed to the basement. 

Sidenote: Not all of our friends have basements and while ours is very, "cobwebs-with-one-light-bulb-hanging-on-a-string-ish" it's a basement and we've spent many nights hunkered down with friends and neighborhood pets waiting out the storm.  So, this night, I was pacing the basement's concrete floor when my phone rang:

ME: Hello? Ash, are you in your safe spot?
ASH: Whhhaattt???? 
ME: Ash, you called me.  Are you in your safe spot??
ASH: Noooo.... Should I be??
ME: Ash, you don't have time to get to my basement.  Go to your bathroom. 
ASH: I'm coming to your basement now. 
ME: No, you don't have time.  We're already in our basement. We're in the storm now.  Get to your bathroom!
ASH: Okay.  Call me after the storm. 

I hung up the phone and told Sean there was no way she was awake.  She must have heard the sirens and called in her sleep. Turns out I was right.  You know you have good friends when they call you in their sleep in the middle of a tornado. 

All this to say, if Abi wakes up from her nap soon I'm going to throw on some tunes, grab a soda, and go on a walk. Anybody seen the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? I feel like I'm as happy as those girls were when the snow started melting... minus the weird "stuck in a cabin b/c they were kidnapped by their future husbands whom they actually like" scenario. 


February 4, 2013

Party Weekend.

Oh my gosh. I don't even know where to begin with this weekend.  First, one of Sean's very best friends came and visited from Georgia.  It was his first time meeting Abiella and it was so fun watching the two of them "hit-it-off."  Abi was officially smitten. She loved being held by him and every time he was in the room she couldn't quit staring.  She knows a good heart when she sees one. Also, I don't even know how it originally started but every time Ryan visits the same dessert is made...deep fried toaster strudels with icing (don't even judge). That alone makes a weekend pretty fantastic. It was a short but awesome visit and I want him and his new wife (my very good friend Brooke) to move here stat. 

Second, my girlfriends threw a monster party for me and Abiella Saturday night.  I haven't laughed so hard or yelled so much in a long time.  When I got there I was greeted with my favorite drinks, favorite food (Mexican-hello GUACAMOLE and homemade quesadillas!) and THESE AMAZING CUPCAKES!!!!


I mean can you even handle it?? Notice the heart over Ghana. Unbelievable.  They're even bushwacker flavored too! (If you don't know what a bushwacker is you're missing out.  It's my favorite drink in all of Nashville.) Thank you Benny Cakes!!!

And then the gifts! Oh my gosh! I had specifically said I didn't need gifts because so many people had given us so much during the adoption process... but a few weeks ago one of my friends called and said, "If you don't register, we're kidnapping you under the guise of a cherry limeade and making you do it."  So I did.  Turns out getting gifts is pretty darn awesome. Some of the presents included amazing outfits for Abiella, awesome books, and even a few things for myself.  (A spa treatment AND a free house cleaning to name a few.) What!??? YES!!!

After gifts they had a fire with s'mores!  (AHHH!!! NOBODY loves a good fire more than me.) I. WAS. IN. HEAVEN.


The party was across the street from my house so after 6 hours of absolute awesomeness I walked back to our place exhausted and happy. I hadn't been out that late in months.  It was SO MUCH FUN and I felt so blessed.  My friends know how to throw a good party any day... but add in all my favorite things and I thought I was going to seriously pass out from sheer joy.

I realize there's not a single picture of me in the bunch, but I've been told there are some great pics on a friend's camera... I will retrieve those and share them one day soon.

Now we're back to the normal week but thank GOODNESS Abiella is feeling better... We had some sort of stomach/respiratory virus last week that knocked her out of 5 therapy appointments... booh :( This morning we had feeding therapy though and we're back on track.

Cheers to a good weekend, great friends, and a healthy baby!

PS: Thanks to all the brave souls who participated in the Throwback Thursday link-up last week. That was SO MUCH FUN!  Your pictures and stories were AMAZING and so much fun to read. You made my Thursday ridiculously exciting. You rock!