Saturday, January 29, 2011

Working from home: Dream or reality?

Ever since the New Year, I feel like I’ve had this invisible clock ticking above my head, a clock that says “You only have X amount of weeks left before you have to go back to work…dun dun DUN”. While having this constant reminder is definitely scary, it’s also kind of exciting, because ‘going back to work’ for me means something completely different this year. If all goes well then I’ll be working from home (and for myself) this year and hopefully for years to come. 

The ultimate dream.

I know that if I’m going to turn this dream into a reality, however, then learning how to successfully and efficiently work at home is going to be key. I can be the best business person in the world, but if I don’t have a positive environment in which to work, I know I won’t make it.

I recently read this post from Ali Edwards, who has been working at home for 6-7 years, all while taking care of her family and staying positive. It really inspired me to think of what I need to do and how I need to prepare for my new role as a ‘work at home’ mom.

Here are a few things I’m thinking at the moment:

Childcare-This is going to be essential for me. I’m sure I could try working with Victor here, but I know for a fact that I would only get a fraction of the work done that I would if he weren’t here. I already have plans for him to stay with my friend Sara for 3-4 days a week, all day (the rest of my hours will be worked on evenings or weekends), starting in March. I’m really happy with this set up because Sara is excellent with children, I trust her completely, she’s flexible, and she loves Victor so I know he’ll be happy there. I also think that having this childcare set-up is only going to make my relationship with Victor better, because over the past little while I’ve just felt like it’s been too much, it’s too draining for me to be alone with him, all day, every day. I will work better and I will be a better mother when we are together, which brings me to my next point…

“Work time” vs. “Non-work time”-I know that this is going to be difficult, especially in the beginning when I’ll be setting up my business and will be excited about my work, but I’m determined to keep ‘work time’ separate from ‘family time’ (for the most part anyway). I’m going to set regular ‘working’ hours and stick to them as much as possible. I will let people know of these hours so that they don’t expect me to be available 24 hours a day. Of course I’ll have to be flexible (just the nature of the game), but I can’t be afraid to say ‘I’m not working right now.’ I won’t be with my family as much, so I need to treasure the time we have together when we get it.

“Work time”=Work-This is also going to be difficult, since I have the attention span of a goldfish (or worse), but I need to focus when I’m working and not get distracted by other things, whether they be online distractions or household ones. Having worked in government for 3 years, let’s just say I got real good at ‘appearing’ to work, when really I was just frigging around. I was there to put in the hours, that was it. This isn’t how I’m going to model my time working at home, however. I won’t be so concerned about working a certain amount of hours, but doing a certain amount of work in a day. If I get everything I want to do in a few hours done, then I can stop and feel ok about it, but if it takes me all day, then I need to work all day. A few tools that will help me keep on track include:

  • Lists-I love making lists, and having a list ready every morning with certain tasks that I want to accomplish, along with some ‘long term to-do’ lists to pick at, will help me stay focused.
  • Stopwatch-I tried The Pomodoro Technique a few times for household tasks and it worked really well, so I plan on using a stopwatch when I start working. Knowing that I need to work a certain amount of time before taking a break really helps me buckle down and work during that time, as opposed to flitting from one task to another, getting distracted a hundred times along the way.
  • Music-I always seem to work better with music, so I’ll need to come up with some good playlists, or find a good online radio station to listen to.

Flexibility/Motivation/Inspiration-The beauty of working for yourself and working from home is the huge amount of flexibility you have. Work doesn’t have to look like the traditional mould of going to an office, sitting at a computer and droning on for 8 hours straight. I think that if I limit myself to this method then I’ll be more tempted to slack off, so being flexible with my day to day work will be essential to staying productive and successful. Whether this means leaving the computer for a couple of hours for a location scouting drive, or taking a notepad and jotting down session ideas in the park, or taking a morning run as my break, keeping it flexible (and different) will be a great blessing. As far as staying motivated and inspired, I’m not quite sure what I will need to do in order to stay enthusiastic about my work, but I have a feeling that doing something I love will be enough most days. Perhaps having a poster or two in my workspace will give me that extra boost and keep me inspired.

Work Space-Last, but definitely not least (in fact it might be the most important), is having a clearly defined work area in my home. Preferably it would be separate from the other busy areas of the house, but whatever the case, I know that having a space where I can go and work without having any household distractions will be another key to my success. Just as my work hours need to be clearly defined, so does my work space. I won’t let my work stuff creep into the rest of the house, and I won’t let the house creep into my work stuff. I will also need it to be neat, tidy, efficient, and most importantly, pretty. I know myself and sitting at a drab desk and drab office=a drab me who won’t be motivated to work. I’m picturing a pretty inspiration board/wire for shoot ideas and ongoing design, lots of baskets to keep all my papers and equipment in, a large wall calendar to keep all my appointments in order, a comfortable chair, and lots of art/plants/pretties. Of course this will cost a bit of money but I think that if I do some DYI projects and shop at thrift stores, I should be able to come up with something that works for me without costing a fortune. I’ll be sure to share my space once it’s done! Here are a few pretty home offices that are inspiring me right now:

Well, that’s it for now. From what Ali said, it took her years to figure out what works and doesn’t work for her, and she also mentioned how what works often changes as situations in your life do, but that’s the beauty of working from home and working for yourself, you are allowed that chance to figure it out, to change what you need, to toss out what isn’t working and to create your own dream job. I really can’t wait to get started!

Maybe that clock could tick a little faster…

Be back soon with Victor’s 11-month update, oh my!

Until then, happy Saturday.


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Tweets end here.

It's no secret that I am addicted to being online. Whenever I have a free second, I tend to want to spend it on the computer.  Google Reader (aka blogs), Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, I check these several times a day, spending who knows how much time 'updating' (probably more than I'd want to admit).  One of my New Year's Goals is to actually spend less time on the computer, since I feel like it has gotten out of hand. 

I even scrapped about it:

Over the past little while though, I've been feeling a bit 'off' with these sites, especially Twitter, which in my opinion is the most foolish of all online guilty pleasures.  It serves no real purpose and probably wastes more time than anything else.  And lately I've just been getting annoyed at the whole thing, both at myself for spewing such inane 'tweets' (as if people really care what I'm doing today or what Victor is up to or how cold it is), and also at the people I follow and their inane banter back and forth with each other.  I know it's fun for some people, and I don't judge those who love it and who find use for it, both personally and in their businesses, but it has stopped being fun and useful for me for quite some time now.  It needs to stop.

And so, starting February 1st, I am taking a Twitter break.  No twitter for the month.  Not one Tweet, not one quick tweet-check.  Most of the people I follow on Twitter have blogs, which I also follow through Google Reader, so I will still be able to keep up with what's going, just not down to micro-detail that twitter provides...which is more than fine.  After the month is up I may return, I don't know, but I think that the break will do me nothing but good (as do all Internet/social media diets).  Hopefully it will mean more blogging, or even better, more real life living and productivity.  I'm tired of saying I don't have time for things anymore, so this may be the first step in getting more done and getting more out of life.

Wish me luck! (And if you  notice me tweeting after Feb 1st, send me an online scolding, I deserve it!) 


Ps-Besides having my own feelings about this, seeing my friend Faye explain why she quit Facebook this week definitely gave me the push to go ahead with this.  Unfortunately I don't think I could give up Facebook just yet (it still serves me too much in business and in connecting with family and friends), but I may eventually scale down on that particular time-suck site as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

[See Parts I, II, III]

I figured I should finish this list I started 6 months ago, haha, so here we go, the last random facts about me (and yes I realize that the photo above has been used to death, but I really don' t take pictures of myself anymore!)

77. I usually like to eat something sweet right after I eat something salty, and vice versa.
78. I can't dance and hate trying.
79. I've only ever smoked pot/hash, as far as drugs go.
80. I've only ever taken one puff of a cigarette in my first year of University and it was disgusting.
81. I was on the Dean's List one semester in University and finished with a 3.6 GPA (I think).
82. I spent my last semester of University in Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain, and it was one of the hardest/best experiences of my life.
83. I am not in contact with anyone I met there except for a Croatian living in Italy named Jelena.  We were nicknamed 'las abuelas' (grannies) while there because we didn't like to go out to the clubs like everyone else.  We still call each other that in our letters.
84. I'm a sucker for guys who can play guitar (umm, hello, Dan!)
85. For the longest time my favourite song was #41 by Dave Matthews (it still holds a special place in my heart).
86. On my wedding night I had a monster headache and realized that it was because I hadn't worn my left contact all day.  I had to sleep the headache off in my wedding dress.  Dan read a Reader's Digest (soo romantic and sexy, I know!)
87. I have very, very, very little patience and I really don't like it.
88. If someone bumps into me I automatically say 'sorry' (this might be all Canadians though!)
89. My third toe on both feet are permanently bend, most likely from years of wearing too small cleats.
90. My first concert was to see Amanda Marshall in 1997.
91. I'm a UFC chick.
92. My grandfather died 10 years ago when (I was 16) and I still think of him often.  He would have LOVED Victor, I just know it.
93. I avoid eye contact when I talk to people; this is something I want to change.
94. The next country I would like to visit is Ireland (with Dan).
95. I haven't done my own taxes, ever (my dad did them until I got married, now Dan does them).
96. If I could have chosen any degree to study (without worrying about its usefulness), I would choose a double major in Art History and Religious Studies (with a specialization in Catholicism and Catholic Art)
97. I wear several rings (up to 7), including 2 thumb rings, even though I know it doesn't look good anymore.
98. My eyes aren't really a colour, they're just a muddle of a few colours.  And they are always bloodshot, always.
99. I would like to get involved in another sport (I used to play soccer), but I'm afraid of how out of shape I am.
100. I've worked for 4 different government department in 2 different provinces.


101. Thinking of 101 random things about myself was really hard!

There!  Now I can stop having that little nagging thought in the back of my brain that I didn't finish blogging these, haha...

Be back soon-ish, with what I'm not sure...

Monday, January 10, 2011


January 1st, 2009

January 1st, 2011

*Longer hair for me, shorter hair for Dan
*Contacts versus glasses
*Better beard for Dan
*Fluffier, older, and bigger Shimi
*Halifax apartment, Sussex apartment
*A baby!

The difference 2 years can make :)


Friday, January 7, 2011

Goals for 2011

It's really hard to believe that it's that time again, another New Year is upon us and people all over the world (or at least around here and on Internet-land) are making their New Year's Resolutions (I call them Goals).  I also can't believe that I've been doing these Goals posts for 5 years!  [See 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010].  Here are the scrap pages to go along with them (this is the one scrap page that I insist on doing every year, I love having them to look back on). 

And this year's


Umm, yeah....still working on it, not sure if it'll get done this month, will post separately once I do!  It will get done though, make no mistake about it!

I've been trying to list as many goals as the year (so eleven goals in '11), but I think that it might get out of hand in a couple of years, so this may be the last time I do it.  Anyhoo, without further ado, my Goals for 2011:

1. Work full-time as a photographer: This is the big one, obviously.  My maternity leave will be up in mid-March and my goal is to start working full time as a photographer at that point (or at least part-time until the Spring when the weather heats up and I can start doing more sessions).  There are sooo many steps involved in making this happen, it's going to take basically all of my effort and energy over the next year to get up and running ('for real', as I like to say, since last year I was doing it on the side), but I'm really, really excited to get started and continue on what I built in 2010.  I'm going to create a loose schedule of things I want to complete each month related to my business and set up a 'work' area so that I can really dedicate the time I need to get things done (and not get distracted!)  I'm not sure how much detail I'm going to get into on this blog, but I'll be sure to share on my progress as the year goes on.  This is a huge risk for me, but it's one I'm more than willing to take.
2. Buy a house: Every year for the last 3 years I've had something house-related on my Goals list, and finally, finally, after a lot of saving and stalling and scrounging and waiting, we're finally in a position to buy a house.  We have the down payment pretty much saved and we'll be heading out to see if we can get a mortgage later this month or next.  Until that happens I'm not getting my hopes too high, but my ideal goal is to be out of this apartment by July at the latest (before it becomes and oven again and we all perish from heat stroke).  I've already looked at two houses and will hopefully start looking more intensely later this Winter and into Spring.  I'm so, so, so excited at the idea of finally owning our own home, it's been a dream of mine for the longest time and I can't wait for it to become a reality (I'm also really excited at the idea of having my own 'studio' space for work, since my dream office/eventual physical studio would be at home.)

3. Finish another quilt: I talked about making another blanket already in this post; I would like to have it completed by Victor's birthday but realistically I don't think that will happen, so I guess as long as I get it done before the next baby arrives I'll be happy.  Which brings me to #4...

4. Get pregnant: I write this one out sort of begrudgingly, since the idea of getting pregnant at the moment doesn't appeal to me at all (and even terrifies me a little bit!)  I know I always said that I wanted our kids to be close in age, and I do want to have at least one more baby, but with everything that will be going on this year (in particular trying to get myself established as a photographer), having another baby so soon seems really impractical and, well, dream-crushing (especially if I am put on bedrest again).  So in my mind I'm saying I'd like to get pregnant in late summer or early fall.  I know it might seem silly to be including this as a 'goal', but since it took so long last time I need to actually make an effort (aka see a doctor, chart my temps, whatever) to make it happen.

5. Take 2 trips outside of NB (one with Victor and one with just Dan): This is another goal I've had on my list every year, and I will continue to have it on my list for the foreseeable future.  Travel is still so, so important to me, and I've realized this past year that it doesn't have to be a huge trip either, even the little ones count.  In 2010 I stayed in Canada for my trips, heading to BC in August and Québec in December.  Both were wonderful (and different, which is also good).  This year I have no idea where we will go, I'm kind of thinking about a camping trip as a family and another UFC trip with Dan (we've already decided that we will be taking trips alone at least once a year for the good of our relationship), but we shall see how things are looking (and how our wallets are faring) throughout the year. 

6. Open an RESP, continue saving/paying off debt, 'grow up': Another financial goal, one that I include every year as well.  We paid off one of Dan's small loans in 2010, I would ideally like to pay off another in 2011, but with a new house and unsecured incomes, it might be tough.  I also want to start saving for Victor's education, since heaven knows how much it's going to cost in 20 years!  The 'grow up' part is related to getting a Will done up, since we now have a child to consider.  Not a very 'fun' goal, but important nonetheless.

7. Read 6 books: I'm embarrassed to have such a low number of books to read, but for me, it's actually quite a lot.  Besides baby books, I don't think I read a single novel last year and that makes me really sad and again, embarrassed.  So this year I'm going to make an effort to read more.  I'm currently reading the first book in "The Hunger Games" series, and I have a Stephen King/Richard Bachman book on the go too ("The Long Walk"), so it's a good start at least.  I'm also going to try and read more fiction versus non fiction, in the last couple of years I've completely stayed away from fiction, time to let my imagination go free again!

8. Put more effort into my friendships (and make new friends): This is what I consider a 'big risk', since I'm mostly a shy/hermitty person.  I've had pretty much the same friends for years and years, all people that I went to high school with, and while this is completely fine, I think that I should make an effort to make a few new friends.  Right now seems like the perfect opportunity to meet people since having a baby automatically gives you something in common and is a great ice-breaker.  But I also worry about putting myself out there, getting to know people and possibly being rejected (hence the 'risk').  I also want to be a better 'long distance' friend.  Write more emails, send more snail mail, call and Skype more...having my friends near me over the holidays made me realize how much I miss them and want to keep our friendships strong, so I need to find the time and make the effort (and hopefully they will too!)
9. Continue/expand on buying local/organic food: We've been working on buying more local and organic foods ever since we moved back home.  We found a good butcher in town that has local meat (not sure if it's organic, probably not, but I can't be too choosy with the local stuff), and I'd like to get our eggs, cheese and milk locally if possible.  This summer I'm also going to make an effort to buy more veggies and fruits at the market when they are in season, and either have a garden myself or help my sister out with hers.  I enjoy having food that's local and in season, so I try to get it when I can.  (Now if only they made local, organic perogies and taco kits, haha)

10. Spend less time on the computer: This might be tough considering that a lot of my work in the future will consist of being on the computer (editing, blogging, marketing, etc), and also because, well, I'm a HUGE Internet addict.  I check my Twitter and Facebook and Google Reader WAY too much, but it's just a stupid habit that I need to break.  Not having the computer so handy and visible in our next house will be essential I think (right now it's in our front hallway, so I see it all the time and can use it while Victor plays in the living room...bad idea).  I'll have my own office computer, but even our family computer should be tucked away so that we're not always sitting down at it.  There's so much more I could be doing with my time, and it's a huge time-waster/procrastinator-allower.  No more...hopefully. 

11. Take more risks:  As I mentioned in my last post, I want this year to be the year of risks, both big and small.  I want to start taking chances and living my life, I want to start feeling something, whether it be excitement, success, or even failure.  I think that I've been holding myself back for a bit, just coasting along, but not really enjoying life as much as I could be, and part of the reason is because I was afraid to get out there.  I have a few ideas of specific things I want to do (see #1 and #8 on this list), but in general I just want to have a more willing, fearless heart and mind this year.  It'll take a lot of work, but I want to give it a shot.

Woah, that's a lot of goals.  I tend to over-goal-make, last year I think that I got 6/10 done or partly done, so we'll see how 2011 goes, but I know that I'm really excited (and a bit daunted) by what this year will bring.  I only have a few more months left in my safe little maternity leave cocoon, after that I will be going back out into the world...I hope I'm ready for it.

Happy Friday to you, and may all your goals/resolutions for 2011 be achieved!