How to Maintain a Steady Work Pace

How to Maintain a Steady Work Pace

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I will lead with my clause – some days are better than others. In no way do I follow this exactly every single day. 

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With that out of the way, I do want to say that I keep myself fairly in check when it comes to deadlines and tasks. This includes what I want to do behind-the-scenes in my business and client work.

Steady Work Pace

As always, I use lists. Checklists, to-dos, bills due, errands to run, school functions, etc. are all included. I prefer to have mine in a planner because there’s something satisfying about physically marking off an item, but I also keep a digital record of client tasks. 

Next, the flow.

I use the planner to color-code all the things. If it’s for a child, each child has a specified color (because then at a glance I can usually tell if it’ll be around school hours or during). My husband gets his own color and I have a personal item color in case I have an appointment for myself. Each client has a separate color so I can see who I’ll be focusing on that day. All of this helps me to stay accountable.

Some people use block scheduling, which I love in my brain, but trying to implement actually stresses me out because of the kids being at home interrupting my idea of how the blocks should happen. It’s a spiral that makes me feel like I’m either behind or not doing a good enough job.

How to Steady Work Pace

After color-coding, I write down everything I need to get done and want to do if time allows.

What this step means for me is that if I knock off all the need to-dos, then I may choose to take a break, go on an adventure with the kiddos, or continue on to the wants. How my day has been derailed dictates the decision. I celebrate the days I check off every item on both the need and want side. Let me be clear, those days are few and far between, but I relish them like the luxury they are, for sure.

Maintain Steady Work Pace

Unexpected events will come up (like our youngest disappearing and thinking she needs to try to clean the litter box and put the litter in the kitty food dish thus resulting in an impromptu bathroom cleanup). That’s the name of the game when you work at home with children around. With all the measures in place for staying ahead of deadlines, working ahead when I can, and preparing mentally for the disturbances, I can maintain a steady work pace. 

When you fly by the seat of your pants, you can still get the job done, but items start to slip through the cracks or you have more stressful procrastination happening. 

I don’t know about you, but there’s enough stress to deal with in my day. Tracking my time for certain clients tends to hold me accountable as well. You are “on the clock” so-to-speak, so you remain focused until that particular duty is completed. 

What do you find seems to help maintain a steady work pace when put in place?

How to Maintain a Steady Work Pace
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If you have a little in diapers but aren’t sure which brand may fit the best for their little tush, feel free to try a mixed selection with the Diaper Dabbler!

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Back to School Prep Tips

Back to School Prep Tips

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Summer draws to a close much to our chagrin. I suppose some may be overjoyed to send their tiny destroyers back to school. 

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For me, it’s bittersweet.

While the fighting drives me batty, I miss having them surrounding me, the flexibility of having the option to stop my day and go for a treat, and not having to be the chauffeur all week numerous times a day.

The oldest will be in 4th grade this year. I’m a bit in denial that the middle one starts Kindergarten next year, but was grateful to get a list of items that I could nearly count on one hand. Hooray! We knocked out his list in two shopping trips (added spontaneously to a grocery run). 

Now, everyone has their routines, special school readiness list, and maybe even traditions. This family is no different.

School Prep Tips

Here are my back to school prep tips:

Little Spurts

When I get the supply list, I look it over and see what may be cheap at the store, which may cost a bit (it seems the older they get, the more expensive every aspect of their lives gets), and which we may have leftover from the previous year. Then, I break it up a bit in the course of the weeks before school so that I budget efficiently and knock out the list without breaking the bank.

Store Together

Whenever an item is purchased for the school year, I stick them in the same bag together (or the backpack if we have that on hand). I let him pick a new backpack each year as a special start to the year with whatever his new taste is for that time. We’ve had Ninja Turtles, Skylanders, Emoji, Pug, and this year was the oh-so-favorite Fortnite. Once it arrives, all supplies and school goodies go directly in the bag so they are ready for the first day of school without worry or rushing around looking for anything missing.

School Schedule

The end of the previous school year, our daughter started preschool, which meant on those days I would be late picking up our son. To prevent tears, panic, and stress, we bought a Gizmo watch for the boy. This way, he can wear it on the days I will be late, he can contact me after school to know how late I will be, and the school doesn’t need to call me wondering if I have forgotten to pick up our child. Knowing how our schedule fits together makes this and other activities run fairly smoothly, and he can wait inside during inclement weather if necessary. 

Practice Runs

A few weeks prior to school, we have a camp that he needs to be on time to every morning. This helps us slowly ease back into the up and at ‘em days rather than the leisurely wake on your own volition times. Getting back into the routine of homework, bedtimes, earlier meals, etc. can be quite a rude awakening with an adjustment period. Starting a week or two before the first day may be a good idea. We always go to the open house to meet the new teacher and take some of the fear out of the first day jitters, too.

While these act as a starter pack (get my drift there <<—- and there? Ha) for your back to school prep, the best suggestion I have is simply to take it a day at a time and do what works for you and yours. Toss in some fun while you tackle the to-dos! 

What are your going back to school musts?

Back to School Prep Tips
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If you have a little in diapers but aren’t sure which brand may fit the best for their little tush, feel free to try a mixed selection with the Diaper Dabbler!

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What to Look for in a Mother’s Helper

What to Look for in a Mother’s Helper

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For a long time, I fought the need for a babysitter or mother’s helper. Not because we couldn’t afford it (although, I’m definitely cheap and shelling out the cash was a block I had to overcome). But because I felt like being home with my kids and working my business was WHY I started in the first place, right?

And I COULD do both. Honestly, I can. However, I was a much better mom and businesswoman by hiring someone to come hang out with the kiddos for a day. My productivity skyrocketed, the girls had a fun day, I was here to lend a hand when needed or answer any questions, and my stress level drastically dropped.

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Seriously, it was amazing. 

mother's helper

Rather than refer to the babysitter as such, I call her a mother’s helper. Why? Because I’m still home, but she’s like a second set of hands to keep the children occupied (even cleaned up after their games and crafts and such). I think I accomplished 2-3x the amount I normally would have in the amount of time that she was here. Therefore, she paid for herself three or four-fold. 

So, what should you look for in a mother’s helper? This list will help:

Trustworthy

Seems like this characteristic should be obvious if you’re putting your children in their care, right? Maybe. Yet, it’s an important one. Sometimes we feel “desperate” and want to bypass some of our intuitive feelings because of that. Take your time, vet the candidates appropriately, and have a little faith that you will find the right person for the position. Knowing that you won’t worry about their well-being if they are out of your line of sight ranks up there in key components.

Amicable

Children are GREAT judges of character. If the person does not jive with your personality, take that into consideration. Are they friendly? Do the kids like them? Now, don’t get me wrong. That stranger danger is strong in a lot of ages, which we should be thankful for and also bear in mind when interviewing. While being shy or standoffish is normal, you certainly do not want to hire someone that your children are visibly afraid of or treat badly. This person will need to be an authority figure as well as fun to keep them occupied.

Communicative

Having been a nanny and daycare worker, communication is vital in many relationships. Looking for a mother’s helper means finding someone who will be honest and they should not be afraid to tell you any information or ask you questions. Again, this may take a little bit of time for them to open up to you and establish that line, but if they are too combative or passive-aggressive, then it may not be a good fit for your needs. You also should be aware of if you are too combative or passive-aggressive. 

Helpful

Look for in a Mother's Helper

Are they willing to clean up after themselves and help clean up after the kids? If they do an art project, are you picking up the mess or do they put supplies back? While this may be nit-picky, the last thing you want to do is start harboring resentment for hiring someone you are then cleaning up after. Perhaps this point is not a make-or-break-it objective for you. But I take this bonus as exactly what a mother’s helper gets hired to do — make my job easier. So, when lunch is made AND put away, the kids have fun and are tidied up after, I can finish my work and go about my day without having to focus on the chaos that happened while my focus was elsewhere. 

This list serves as a start of the essential elements you should look for in a mother’s helper candidate. Ultimately, you will know who the best choice will be for you and your family. What’s a characteristic you would want??

What to Look for in a Mother's Helper

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Work-Life Balance: I Wear Puke with Pride

Work-Life Balance: I Wear Puke with Pride

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Today, I’m happy to feature my first dad perspective! Andrew Tan takes on the elusive work-life balance we all seek. Not only does he reminisce a bit, but discusses how to handle a little one, newborn twins, a spouse, work, and his hobbyist pastime.

Walk on his side of life for a moment…

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As I write this, my shirt is festooned with baby spit-up. The air around me is rancid and sweet. I haven’t decided if I like the smell; maybe it’s endearing.

Dad-Hood

I’m a Dad now. More than that, I’m a father to a 2-year old daughter and twin newborn boys—three children in less than 3 years.

Life is different. Not better, not worse.

Different, as in the grass is greener over there, but I’m not looking over the fence to check. I used to be an avid hobbyist, in the sense that I used to spend all my time with miniatures and scale models. What exactly do I mean? Check out my site and you’ll see immediately from the photos. As an art form, I created and made miniature worlds.

Work-Life: Puke With Pride

This is my hobby desk (hours spent here).

Now, the “miniature me” has taken over—and as I cradle him in my arms I wonder how I’ll regain my work-life balance again.

The World Before Kids

Quiet.

I remember the quietness of nights. I could listen to a podcast, audiobook, watch television, or simply gone out an visited a friend. My wife and I would have long dinners on weekdays no-less!

If my phone rang, or I got a text, there would be no juggling act. You just whizzed away a few words or held onto a conversation for minutes…hours with nigh a second thought. Time was time, and I had a lot of it!

But, life had a simplicity to it. By my age, my wife and I had worked out a good routine. Without kids, a single day went from A to B. Alas, my job (work) and life fell into a dynamic balance. You worked to live.

Now that we have newborn twin boys (!), our life-bearings all point to two words: “survival mode”.

Survival Mode

My favorite movies are about the castaways who survive on remote islands after a shipwreck. With limited supplies, these protagonists learn to live without the luxuries of normal life.

Here I am. A Dad without the time to enjoy the luxuries of normal life—things like going to the bathroom for more than 10 minutes or being able to sit at my work desk to punch out a work e-mail.

Indeed, I used to work quite a lot from home. I’m an academic scientist, a fast-moving job which is itself mentally demanding, and quite logistically challenging. Scientific progress doesn’t wait for Dads. Or, does it?

Hobbyists Know How to Get Things Done

As a miniature hobbyist (and a career scientist), I’ve learned how to accomplish hard things efficiently.

A painted miniature figure for tabletop games.

For example, I’m great at analytical puzzles: if “Baby A” needs to drink 3oz of milk, and takes 15 minutes to finish the bottle, do I have time to take a 20-minute shower and check my emails before “Baby B” wakes up from his 90-minute nap?

The answer is “no” of course.

My 2-year old is a wildcard. A veritable jack-in-box ready to poop on my logical plans. This is fine though because I’ve also learned how to survive abject failure, like a bench experiment that doesn’t go right or spilling a pot of modeling paint all over your lap.

Well, here I am wondering how I’ll write my next blog post and get it ready for publication.

Win Small to Win Big

It’s a miracle I’ve learned how to manage my time. Staying organized is the best way you can make solid progress in any creative endeavor. Before kids, I planned projects ahead of time and included margins to buffer against distractions.

Paintbrush on red acrylic paint.

If I’m writing a paper or working on a freelance painting with a tight deadline for delivery, I’d plan ahead. I’d schedule my daily routines to make the best of my time. But importantly, I’ve honed how I compartmentalize and think about projects (i.e., see how I’ve thought about speed painting miniatures).

To work efficiently, you need to think efficiently. It takes practice. The mind-space it takes to work quickly under challenging conditions is enormous!

I’ve read somewhere that to maintain mental endurance for a specific task over extended periods of time the best thing to do is break a large task down into small pieces. Focus on the small pieces. Enter the flow. And, by accomplishing the small bits as quickly and as confidently as you can, you eventually wake up to find your huge mountain… conquered.

Now caring for two newborn babies at the same time, who barely sleep longer than my favorite movie, “Titanic” starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio, is hard work. Of course, while my mental acuity drains with every lost minute of sleep, My Heart Will Go On.

The Art of Surrender

I’m exhausted.

I’ve got a backlog of projects I want to complete; unfinished blog posts, unpainted models and scale miniatures. They all sit on the virtual shelf in my head, begging me to revisit them. Finish me, they say.

Well, despite my lamentations of parenthood, I’m the happiest Dad ever. Never in my imagination did I think I would have family quite like this. Busier than a swarm of bees, buried under a pile of stinky diapers—wearing the aroma of milk-vomit. The wet-stains on my shirt are shaped like Barney the Dinosaur.

But, I’m content—The purest form of satisfied.

And, more.

I’m filled with a sense of accomplishment. I’m actually doing the Dad-thing.

The puke I wear, I wear with pride.

(Though, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten a dog.)

Work-Life Balance: I Wear Puke with Pride

Andrew Tan Bio Headshot Guest Blogger

Andrew is a loving father (of three), a neuroscientist, freelance writer, and miniature hobbyist. He enjoys the discovery of a good book, a movie (preferably science fiction), and watching his children grow.

He is an avid writer and blogs regularly about his experience as a miniature hobbyist. His site is a daily journal, a lab notebook, and a sketch pad. It is a collection of ruminations written in the quiet margins of life (much noisier with kids!).

If the miniature hobby has taught Andrew anything, it’s that anything worth doing is best done with other people. Miniatures and scale models are mediums that allow him to see things from a different perspective. Through unique miniature pieces and places, he shares how he views and thinks about the World—a place where his kids will live.

If you’re looking for a Lifestyle Blog for Dads with hobbies, or simply want to check out some fun articles about parenthood, visit his site.

And grab your freebie on how to Get Lost in Your Child and really engage with them even on busy days. (I’m off to spend the day with the girls before brother gets out for the long weekend.)

If you have a little in diapers but aren’t sure which brand may fit the best for their little tush, feel free to try a mixed selection with the Diaper Dabbler!

Please, remember to sign up to my email list so you never miss anything flawsome around here!

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When Life Keeps Throwing You Curveballs

When Life Keeps Throwing You Curveballs

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One of my newest favorite topics: curveballs. And, the timing is pretty fantastic. Let me set the scene…

Our son had a baseball game on Wednesday, and my husband got home early enough to attend. I was thankful since the girls had their respective shots that morning and were not feeling too hot. So, I went home, my husband stayed for the remainder of the game.

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Fast forward an hour…

I get a call that they are headed to the ER, but everything is fine. As it turns out, T-man stole second and went around to third. Catcher through it to the third baseman, but he missed the ball and our son got pegged in the earpiece on the batter’s helmet which in turn smacked his eye. The policy says he had to get checked for a concussion and cleared before his next game.

A literal curveball. Ha!

He’s fine, but it made for a super late night. Therefore, my husband took Thursday off of work, we all slept in, and my daughter was able to take her daddy to donuts with dads at school. It worked out for us in the end. Definitely through us for a loop, but silver linings and all that.

curveballs

Life throws these curveballs, literal and otherwise, constantly. The only difference from person to person is how you respond to those setbacks, obstacles, or challenges. Honestly, some days you may be more capable of responding well than other days. If I had been at that game, I probably would have caused more panic in our son than my husband because holy crap, he got hit in the face with a freaking baseball. I’m grateful it was him there to support T-dizzle and not me.

How do I handle curveballs thrown at me? Here are a few ways:

Breathe

Some of my friends can attest to the fact that I repeat this statement over and over. For good reason. It works. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, facing adversity anticipated or not, or simply come up against a new struggle (physical or mental), take a second. Shoot, take a day or two if you need that time. But, step back from it and breathe. Focus your energy on something other than what your brain keeps shouting at you, and see what kind of clarity or help you receive. All too often, we get so wrapped up in a moment that we forget about the bigger picture. Once we have that perspective, dealing with whatever hurdle we’re up against becomes easier.

Troubleshoot

I mean that in the least technical way possible. Haha Blame my day job, but the analogy works. The same way you would work your way through a computer or technological issue, you can submit a problem to your brain. The wiring is similar if not a bit more complicated. Do you need to unplug and reset? Do you just need a restart or reboot? Maybe there’s a virus or a bug to be worked out. Whatever the case may be, it’s likely that you can solve your curveball with a little troubleshooting.

Grace, Always Grace

As I mentioned, some days you’ll be better prepared to tackle troubles with positivity than others. And I’m here to remind you that that is A-Okay. Also, having a support system (even if it’s just one person you can go to to help you gain a different outlook on situations) will be SO invaluable. Not only someone to bounce ideas off of, but someone who will tell you how far you have come, what a great job you’re doing, and to give you a boost from time to time. We all need reassurance now and again. There is no shame in that. You can provide the same for that person or people in return. Chances are if you need a reminder, so do they.

What do you do when life throws curveballs at you? Does your system look similar to mine or do you have a completely different set of steps? Whatever the case, I want you to know that we all stumble and you are not alone. Keep doing you.

Life Keeps Throwing You Curveballs
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And grab your freebie on how to Get Lost in Your Child and really engage with them even on busy days. (I’m off to spend the day with the girls before brother gets out for the long weekend.)

If you have a little in diapers but aren’t sure which brand may fit the best for their little tush, feel free to try a mixed selection with the Diaper Dabbler!

If you’d like to work with me, find out how! To see your words in my blog, contact me today for a guest spot!

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Top Five Tips for Moving with Children

Top Five Tips for Moving with Children

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Throughout the years, I have moved a handful of times. Okay, somewhere around 13 times in actuality. But, a friend of mine, Ariane, has moved nearly twice that. As some of you can likely relate, my hat’s off to you. With her knowledge and experience, she was kind enough to share a bit of advice she has learned along the way to make your move as smooth as possible (hopefully).

Get on with it, shall we?

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I have moved a LOT in my life; at the time of this writing the count is at 22 times; 7 before I was married, and 15 after, and 3 of those were with children with 2 of these last moves being across state lines (in one case the move was over a distance of 2,000+ miles). So, I like to think that I know a little bit about moving and hopefully moving well.

But you know what? No matter how many times I do it you can never predict or prepare for everything, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to. It just means do your best and when things get crazy just roll with it and try to enjoy the process, and I say this knowing exactly how difficult that can be!

So, to help you out and to hopefully make your move with kids a little easier; here are my top five moving with children tips.

Get help.

I know I know; this can be a hard one. Maybe you are moving to or from a place where you don’t have any family or friends that you can ask. I have done moves both ways, with no help at all and tons of help and I am sure that you can guess; tons of help is way more fun and a lot less stressful. So even if you don’t have friends and family that you can lean on, get help. Hire movers to come to help you move and even pack. Hire a cleaning lady to come do the move in and move out clean for you. And most of all hire someone to come and entertain your kiddos for that day of moving, and even days leading up to and following that move. You will be glad that you did, it is worth the extra money (and I am super cheap and try to do everything myself).

Make it fun and familiar.

Change is hard. Change for little ones is even harder. It can be scary to be moving to a new place, and little ones feel the weight of all of the change and uncertainty most of all. Talk a lot about the move to them during quiet times, so they know what is going to happen. Tell them fun things about their new home, go and visit with them and let them spend a bit of time exploring it if you can. Have something exciting for them to look forward to about the new place. In my most recent move, I bought a new blow up pool to go into our new big backyard, and my little girls were absolutely ecstatic about the opportunity to get into the new house and swim in the pool.

Moving with Children

Trickle in.

If your schedule and geography permit it, move a little bit at a time so that the intensity level is a bit less and the workload is a bit more manageable. This can be especially important if the workload is resting squarely on your shoulders.

Try to be patient.

It will take everyone a few weeks to a month (or more) to settle in and really feel at home. This is especially true if your kiddos are little like mine are (3.5 and 17 months at the time of this writing). That means everyone needs extra snuggles, might need more naps, earlier bedtimes, more snacks, and have more spontaneous meltdowns. I know how frustrating and exhausting this can be. But try to be patient with them, and with yourself. Unpacking can wait a bit, household projects can wait, whatever it is it can probably wait. Take a moment with the kids and take a moment for yourself.

This too shall pass.

When all goes awry, and you wish that you were on the other side of this thing, remind yourself that this is a brief moment in time, and you will soon be settled in your new home!

Happy moving!

Top Five Tips for Moving with Children

ArianeBioImage

Ariane writes stellar SEO, publish-ready content for a host of clients from all different backgrounds and with various and sundry needs. Clients choose her because she never misses a deadline, can flawlessly write in any tone desired, and competently compose prose on virtually any topic. She is an English major with the soul of a scientist and worked for 8 years as an environmental chemist before embarking upon her career as a freelance writer and virtual assistant.

On a rare day off, you can find her snuggled up with her four great passions; a good book, her husband, and her two young daughters.

If you are looking to make a career change, find a new job, or just want your resume updated, Ariane can breathe new life into your old resume or create a spectacular new one from scratch. Email her at ArianeCooley@gmail.com to discuss your project and see examples.

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Please, remember to sign up to my email list so you never miss anything flawsome around here!

And grab your freebie on how to Get Lost in Your Child and really engage with them even on busy days. (I’m off to spend the day with the girls before brother gets out for the long weekend.)

If you have a little in diapers but aren’t sure which brand may fit the best for their little tush, feel free to try a mixed selection with the Diaper Dabbler!

If you’d like to work with me, find out how! To see your words in my blog, contact me today for a guest spot!

Ultimate Back to Work Pumping Class