How I maintain a work-life balance.

When I got news that I had secured a full-time job, I was seriously anxious.  I was concerned about how I was going to manage to find time for all my hobbies and still get to see my family and friends.  I was also nervous about my mental health.  I manage my mental illness with a combination of CBT strategies, diet, exercise and self-care activities.  I was extremely worried that when I began working my mental health would suffer if I didn’t have time to nurture myself.

But three months have passed and I feel pretty good about where I’m at.  I haven’t had a nervous breakdown, I’ve managed to foster my most important relationships, my blog and shop are still going strong and my home isn’t falling to bits.  I’ve learned a few things about maintaining that ever-elusive work-life balance that I’d love to share with you.

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Prioritize

I often find myself overwhelmed when I’ve got spare time up my sleeve.  There are so many ways that I want to fill that time and I end up procrastinating while I decide what to do.  Before I know it, I’ve frittered away the time and accomplished nothing.

I’ve gotten into the habit of making a list of five things I want to accomplish each day.  This list usually comprises both big and small tasks, such as making an important phone call or writing a blog post or tidying my room.  I try to make sure that these tasks are ticked off before I add anything else to my to-do list.  That way I make sure that I’m using my time wisely and not wasting it by fretting about all the things I could be doing.

Let it go

 There are a finite number of hours in every day.  And many of those hours are filled with non-negotiable tasks like working, sleeping and eating. That leaves only a limited amount of time to spread between socializing, cleaning, self care and hobbies.

If you try to do All The Things perfectly All The Time you’re setting yourself up for failure.  In order to maintain your sanity you need to let go of some things.  You have to relinquish the need to have a perfectly clean house or a regularly-updated blog or nightly chats with your bestie.  You have to make sacrifices and it will mean that you don’t always get to do things as often or as perfectly as you’d like.  It was hard for me to do this because I’m a perfectionist, but I’m slowly learning to ease up and let things go.

Make time for friends and family

It’s so easy to let your favourite people fall through the cracks when you’re time-poor.  I struggle to find time to spend with my friends and family when I’m busy.  My solution?  Make time to be with them.  Carve out a block of time each day to call your mum, or email your friends.  Book in dinner dates with your lover.  Plan weekend family outings.  Don’t assume that you’ll just magically find time for your friends and family, make the effort and dedicate some time to these important people.

Set boundaries at work

One thing I’ve found vital to my sanity is creating boundaries between my work life and my personal life.  I make sure that I get all my work done during the work day and I always aim to leave the office on time.  I’ve asked my workmates to only call me outside of office hours if it’s truly urgent.  I don’t check my work email at home and I don’t come into the office on days when I’m not working.

 

It can be very hard to do this.  I don’t like to disappoint people, and I’m always worried that I’ll be perceived as lazy.  When I was in high school I got this idea in my head that in order to be successful, you had to be working hard all the time.  That busy = important and worthy.  I don’t like feeling as though I’m letting my boss down.  Especially when so many other people in the office are happy to work late into the evening and call into the office on their days off.

 

But  if I don’t set those boundaries, nobody will.  My boss isn’t going to tell me not to stay late  or discourage me from doing office work in my own time.  I have to stick up for myself and set realistic boundaries.  I work very hard during office hours and I don’t actually NEED to be at work outside of my scheduled roster.  It’s not lazy to take time for myself.  It’s just a job, and it’s only one part of my life.

 

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Embrace lazy days

Full time work can be exhausting.  While it can be tempting to cram your free time with as many activities as possible, it’s not always a great idea.  Your brain and body need time to relax and unwind.  For this reason, I make sure that I have one “lazy day” each week.  On my lazy days I don’t do any work.  I spend the day reading, exercising, crafting and chilling out with my favourite people.  I can’t stress the importance of having dedicated “do nothing” days to help your body and mind to recharge.

 

How do you maintain a work-life balance?  I’d love to hear your tips and tricks.

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Getting back on track after a break

Hello gorgeous! I’ve been away from my blog for an entire week because Miss Fairchild and her gaggle of gorgeous girls have been staying with me.  Rather than try to carve out time for blogging, I scheduled a bunch of posts and stepped away from the computer.  I had an awesome time chilling out with the Fairchild clan and recharging a bit.  But now they’ve headed back to the city and it’s time for me to get back into blogging.  And cleaning.  And dealing with the pile-up of etsy orders that have accumulated.

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It can be mighty overwhelming to try to get back into work after a break.  Here’s how I do it.

Clean like a mad woman

When I’ve gotten a bit behind with work, the first thing I like to do is clean my house from top to bottom.  The physical activity energizes me and gives my brain a bit of a rest.  I find it really hard to work on blogging or crafting when my house is messy, so getting the whole place shiny and fresh is my first order of business.

Do a brain dump

After a while away from work, my mind tends to start swirling with all the tasks that need to be done.  I start feeling overwhelmed with the load of emails to be replied to, packages to be sent, blog posts to write and bills to be paid.  It’s enough to drive a girl into paralysis!

My solution is to have a ‘brain dump”.  I take a clean sheet of paper and a pen and I start writing down everything that I need to do.  Every. Single. Thing.  Big tasks and small tasks.  Don’t try to prioritize them, just get them all down on paper.  Doing this exercise really helps to clear my mind and gives me a bit more focus.

Schedule like your life depends on it.

After your brain dump, you’ll have a pieces of paper covered in scribbled notes.  Rather than use this as a demented to-do list, take out your planner or calendar and start scheduling those tasks.  Break them down and figure out when you’ll have time to complete each one.  Take note of any deadlines and prioritize your tasks accordingly.

Set three major goals a day

Rather than trying to do All The Things at once, I like to set three major goals each day.  These are the three things that I must do before the day is over.  Three is a do-able number for me, but you might only want to set a single task each day, or you may feel up to doing four or five.  I try to do those three tasks first, if possible.  That way they’re done and dusted and I can consider any additional work I get done a bonus.

Recognize your limits.

Go easy on yourself.  You won’t be able to catch up on your work all at once.  It might take a few days or even a couple of weeks until you feel like you’re totally back on track.  If you try to push yourself too hard, you’ll feel exhausted and your break will have been pointless.

 

It’s so important to give yourself a rest each day and don’t try to over-extend yourself.  Be kind to yourself and feel confident in the fact that you’ve got a plan, and you’ll be back on track in no time if you stick to it.

 

How do you get back on track after a break?

New years resolutions update: July.

At the beginning of the year I made 11 New years resolutions: one for each month (except December, because I’m always flat-out at the end of the year).  Each month I recap how went with achieving my goal for that month.

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This month, my resolution was to finish a big writing project.  I’ve been working on a project for my blog for the last eight months or so, and I had decided that July would be the month that I would finish it.

Well, I failed spectacularly.  I’ve nearly finished the actual writing part, but I haven’t even begun to tackle the task of editing, formatting and all that junk.

There are a couple of reasons why I’ve really stalled with this project.  The first is that I’m struggling with my separation from Ross.  It’s been a very rough month for me emotionally and I just haven’t felt up to the task of working on my project.  I didn’t want to force myself to work when my heart wasn’t in it.  I knew that I just wouldn’t produce my best work in that way, so I’ve kind of put the project on the back burner for the time being.

Another reason why I’ve struggled to gain momentum with this project is that I’m having second thoughts about my blog.  For the past three years, I’ve worked really hard on my blog.   My goal was to be able to generate an income stream from my website.  Ideally, I wanted to be able to make enough to live off, but I would have settled for a little bit of pocket money.  Over the last month, I’ve come to realise that it isn’t going to happen.  While I do make some money from my blog, I don’t make anywhere near enough to achieve that goal.  I get the occasional sponsored post, a smattering of sidebar ads and every now and then someone buys one of my e-books.  The truth is that I’m exhausted from the amount of effort I’m putting into fuelling the business side of my blog.  The effort I’m putting in is disproportionate to the amount of cash I get out of it.  And it’s really wearing me down.  So I’ve decided that I need to put the brakes on when it comes to blogging.

I’m not going to stop blogging.  No way!  I adore writing in this space and connecting with people from all over the world.  I’m truly grateful to all the readers that visit every day and leave beautiful comments.  I’m also grateful for all those readers who have shown their support by buying e-books or sponsoring my blog.  But the truth is I’m finding it really hard to put the effort into creating yet another product that I fear will generate only a handful of sales.

So that’s where I’m at right now.  I will probably keep working on the project, and eventually it will be released for sale.  I’m just not prepared to push myself so hard to churn it out while I’m not really up to the task of producing my best work.

So this month’s resolution was a bit of a flop.  But I did achieve some other things this month, like cutting my hair and taking some steps towards getting my driver’s licence.  So even though I didn’t reach the goal I’d set, I did some other useful things instead.

5 ways to make blogging easier

 When you’re juggling a day job and blogging it can be really hard to fit everything in.  And that can be stressful.  But it doesn’t have to be.

Over my three-and-a-bit years as a blogger, I’ve struggled with finding a work/life/blog balance.  But I’ve found some nifty little tricks that make the process a whole lot easier.  Even though I now have less time for blogging than I ever did before, I manage to get a lot more done.  How is that possible?  Let me tell you:

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1. Automate.

Automating your blogging means that you can be flexible about when you tackle your blogging tasks.  Scheduling your posts in advance is easy and is a huge time-saver.  It gives you the option of sitting down and writing a bunch of posts whenever you’ve got the time or motivation.  It helps you to maintain a regular posting schedule.  This is really important because it gives your readers a sense of consistency, which will encourage them to visit your blog.

Nowadays you can schedule so much more than just your posts.  Sites like Hootsuite allow you to draft your social media updates and set a date and time for them to be published.  This makes promoting your blog posts effortless.  You can also use services like Mailchimp to schedule emails.

Whenever possible, utilize tools that allow you to automate your blogging.  It leaves you with so much more time to spend on other important things.

2. Keep a running list of ideas

One of the toughest parts of blogging is coming up with post ideas.  When you’re sitting at your computer and that blank page is mocking you, it can be bloody hard to think of an original idea.

At other times, you’ll probably notice that your mind is overflowing with ideas for posts.  I find that this often happens when I’m away from my computer.  You don’t want these ideas to go to waste, so keep a running list of ideas.  Whenever you come up with an idea for a blog post, jot it down.  Then, when you’re trying to think of something to write about, refer back to your list.  Simple!

3. Come up with an editorial calendar

Another hurdle to blogging is deciding which idea to write about on any  given day.  An editorial calendar can help with this.  Plan out all your blog posts for the next week or month.  Make a note of whether there is any background work (such as taking photographs) which will need to be completed before you can do the post.  Having a plan really takes a lot of the guesswork out of writing your posts.

An editorial calendar is also a great way to make sure that the content on your blog is varied.  If you’ve got a plan, you’re less likely to accidentally write two very similar posts in the same week.  If you usually like to post a certain type of article on a particular day (such as my Things I Love Thursdays) a plan will help you to stick to this.  An editorial calender also helps you to schedule your posts and save time.

4. Do like tasks at the same time

This is one of the biggest time-savers for me.  I waste so much time if I flit around from task to task.  If I plan to complete a batch of similar tasks at once, I get so much more done.  For example, if I’ve got a bunch of photos to be taken for my blog and etsy store, I’ll do it all in one afternoon so that I don’t have to faff about setting up by camera over and over.  I’ll write all my etsy listings in one go, answer emails at a set time and so on.  Save time by completing similar tasks in batches.

5. Schedule time for blogging.

If your blogging time is limited, make sure that every second of it counts.  If possible, set aside some time each day to spend on your blog.  Even if it’s only a half hour a day, that’s still something.  Plan exactly what you’re going to work on in each blogging session and try your best to stick to it.  You’re going to be more productive and on target if you’ve got a plan.

What are your tricks for making blogging easier?

Relaxing for Type A personalities.

“I’m soooo stressed!”

 

This seems to be the catch-cry of three-quarters of the people I know.  Myself included.  It’s as though the bulk of the population are pushing themselves to breaking point.

 

I’m certainly guilty of this.  I work two jobs: as a blogger and as a retail assistant.  I run a household.  I have a boyfriend and a family that I like to spend time with.   I also run an etsy store.  My life is pretty much crammed to the brim with commitments and responsibilities.  And I’m not the only one.

 

Now more than ever, it seems that people are striving to make their lives as productive and meaningful as possible.  We try to fit as many activities as we can into a single day. If everything isn’t ticked off our ever-growing to-do list by the end of the day, we feel like a failure.  When you’re pushing yourself to accomplish so much, relaxing is usually the first thing to fall by the wayside.

 

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If you’re a Type A personality (driven, goal-oriented and organized) you might feel that relaxing is lazy or self-indulgent.  I’m here to tell you that it is neither of those things.  More importantly, making time to relax is vital to maintaining good mental and physical health.  Here are my tips for relaxing for Type A people.

 

Realise how important relaxation is.

You can’t do your best work if you’re exhausted.  And exhaustion is inevitable if you never take time out.  Constantly pushing yourself to work harder without a break puts immense strain on your body and mind.  This will deplete your mental resources and you’ll find it more difficult to motivate yourself to work.  Your immune system will be weakened and you’ll be more susceptible to illness.  Also, the work that you do while tired and burnt-out will be lacklustre.

 

If you constantly tell yourself that relaxing is a waste of time, and that you should be spending that time doing something productive, you’ll feel guilty as hell whenever you take time out.  Instead, remind yourself that you need to relax often to be able to work at your optimal level. So relaxation actually helps you to work harder and better.   Relaxation is good for you!

 

Plan ahead for relaxation.

If you’re anything like me, your schedule is full to the brim with appointments and important tasks.  It’s hard to relax when you’ve got a date book that’s bursting at the seams.  To counter this, schedule a set period of time for relaxation every day.  Write it in ink and highlight it so that you can’t erase it.  Make relaxation time a non-negotiable part of your routine.

 

 

Switch off, unplug and unwind.

I’m often guilty of spending my relaxation time trawling the internet.  I’ll check my Bloglovin’, I’ll reply to a few comments on my blog, I’ll start planning a new post and before I know it, I’m working!

 

If you usually spend your down-time online, you’ll be able to relate to the myriad of distractions that the net presents.  That’s why it’s a good idea to switch off your laptop and your phone when it’s time to unwind.  You’ll be less likely to get drawn into working by accident.  Instead, read a book, take a bath, go outside, make something with your hands.  Doing something away from the computer will give your mind and body a better shot at true relaxation.

Resist the temptation to multi-task.

Whenever I sit down to watch a movie, I find it very hard to sit still.  I’ll start thinking to myself, “Oh, I’ll just plug in the iron and finish the laundry while I watch this”.  Or “I’ll throw on my workout clothes and do some pilates in front of the telly”.  Or “I can totally answer these emails and watch Dr Who at the same time”.

 

Multitasking is a killer.  You can’t give your full attention to either task, so you wind up doing both badly.  It robs you of the ability to work productively and cuts into your relaxation time.  What a bummer.

 

Give yourself permission to just be.  Just watch your movie, read your book, listen to that album.  If you absolutely can’t sit still, do something low-key like painting your nails.  It’s still relaxing and pampering, and you can do it without shifting your focus too much.

 

Do you find it hard to wind-down?  How do you work relaxation into a busy schedule?

New Years resolutions update: March

My New Year’s resolution for March was to do something about my garden.  I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I haven’t done nearly as well with this resolution as I have with the others so far.

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When we first moved into our house, the garden needed a lot of attention.  It was overgrown, the lawn was scraggly and brown and there were weeds everywhere.  I had always intended to start working on it, but it just never happened.  This is partially because when we first arrived here, there were so many other things to do.  We had to unpack, buy furniture and get our cats settled.  Add into the mix the fact that Ross and I were trying to transition from “long-distance couple” to “live-in-lovers” and you can understand why gardening started to slip lower and lower down the list of priorities.

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Also, the fact that I hate yard work of any kind makes it hard for me to motivate myself to work on the garden.  I can force myself to do a little bit of basic maintenance, but if I’m faced with the prospect of spending the afternoon in the garden I’ll run in the opposite direction.  I am perfectly happy to clean my house top to bottom, but yard work?  Blegh!  The bugs, the dirt, the aching muscles and the heat all combine to make it one of my least-desired activities.

DSCF7837Another factor that’s come into play is my complete lack of knowledge about gardening.  I’m a total gardening novice.  I don’t know the best method to pull up weeds or nurture flowers.  Hell, half the time I don’t even know if what I’m pulling up even is a weed!  I don’t know anything about what to plant when or how to plan a garden.  The only thing I can do with any sort of skill is mowing, and even then I’m not great at it.

The neglect of our garden has resulted in it becoming even more overgrown and unruly.   The whole lot needs to be weeded thoroughly and re-done.  There are entire sections that will need to be completely stripped.  The task is just so daunting.  There have been a couple of times when I’ve asked Ross, “Can’t we just set fire to the lot and start from scratch?”

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This month, I had the best intentions of starting on the yard work.  I began well.  At the beginning of March, I made a list of all the things that needed to be done in the garden.  I went out and sprayed a bunch of weeds, did some mowing and pulled up a few weedy patches.  But that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.

I have to own up to the fact that I’ve been pretty lax on this resolution.  I could have pushed myself a bit harder to work on it, but I haven’t.  There have been other intervening factors though.  The weather has been unusually hot for this time of year, so I haven’t been able to work outside most days for fear of melting.  When I do work, I can’t spend more than fifteen minutes outside without feeling completely exhausted.  I’ve also been very busy with blogging and work and preparations for my baptism (which is happening this weekend!) so time hasn’t been on my side.

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Over the next few weeks, I’m going to get my butt into gear.  Now that the weather is finally cooling off, I’ll be able to spend a bit of time in the evenings working in the garden.  I want to organize a working bee one weekend, and my parents have offered to come around and help us strip the main garden beds.  I also plan to go to the local nursery and have a chat to some experts about what they can suggest.  I think I need a bit of expert advice, because I’m way out of my depth.

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So, perhaps I was a bit over-ambitious with this resolution.  While I won’t say it was a complete failure, there is still a lot of work to be done.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do some more work in the next few weeks.

If anyone has any suggestions for me about gardening, or what I should do with my yard, let me know.  I’d love to hear what you think!

5 house-cleaning tips for the time-poor.

You can always tell how busy I’ve been over the past week by looking at the state of my house.  When I’ve got a lot on my plate, house-keeping activities are usually the first thing to get booted off my schedule to make room for more important things.  Thus the cleanliness of my house has a direct, negative correlation with how busy I am.

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But over the years, I’ve picked up a few handy house-cleaning cheats, such as:

1. Music makes cleaning infinitely more bearable.

Let’s face it, cleaning your house is probably high on your list of Least Enjoyable Activities.  But if your favourite tunes are pumping on the stereo?  So much better, right?  So use music to make your cleaning time go faster.  When it’s time to clean, throw on your favourite album or make yourself a playlist that’s about 10-12 songs long.  Resolve to clean until the music stops.  Once the tunes die out, you can put your feet up and call it a job well done.

2. Make the most of ‘dead time’

There are pockets of what I call “dead time” in every day.  You’ll find them in the three minutes you spend microwaving your lunch, in the two minutes it takes to boil the kettle and in the fifteen minutes you spend flicking channels while you wait for your show to start.  Make the most of these little bits of free time.  In those few extra minutes, do a quick clean-up.  Round up all your recycling, stack a few things in the dishwasher, run a damp cloth over your bench tops.  You’d be surprised how much you can get done in a really short period of time.

3. Perfect the ’emu patrol’ system

A room will look so much tidier when it’s free of all the debris that gathers with daily living.  Empty glasses, discarded socks, stacks of paperwork and the like really clutter up a room and make it look much dirtier than it is.  To remedy it, employ this technique:  when you’re in one room of the house, and you have to go to another room, take a glimpse around the room to see if there’s anything in there that belongs in the room you’re heading to.  If there is, pick it up and take it there.  You’re bending down and picking things up like an emu, see?  Do this whenever you go from room to room, and your house will look much better in no time.

4. Focus on the areas you see most often.

If I get a call to inform me that guests are coming over, I usually fly into a panic.  I will go nuts trying to clean up the whole house before they arrive.  In reality, cleaning the whole place is pointless.  Most guests will only see your lounge room, your kitchen and possibly your bathroom.  Only tidy the areas that the guests are most likely to see.

5. Schedule big cleaning tasks.

I always remember to do the everyday cleaning tasks like dishes and wiping the counters.  But when it comes to jobs that don’t need to be done as frequently, I usually forget about them until they’re out of control.  I will forget to sweep for cobwebs until there’s a gigantic web that takes up half my lounge room.  My windows don’t get washed until I can barely see out of them.  To avoid this, make a list of all the bigger household chores, and then schedule them in your diary.  Try to set aside an hour or so on the weekend to tackle these often-neglected chores.

Do you have any tips for making cleaning more efficient?