Posted in creative writing, writing, writing thoughts

Improving work-life balance

work-1627703_1920Writers work in a variety of situations: work from home full time, work outside the home and work from home part home, work full time outside the home and fit in writing on lunch breaks and down time, and on and on. Achieving a work-life balance that works is often a challenge.

When talking about work-life balance, there are four “life quadrants” to consider: work, family, friends, and self. Work-life balance doesn’t mean all four of these are in equal balance. Work-life balance also isn’t static, but should be fluid over time to accommodate changing situations. Everyone’s personal work-life balance will be different.

Below are some tips and resources for achieving better work-life balance. Please share any additional tips that have helped you!

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SELF

  1. Take care of yourself! If you aren’t caring for yourself, every other area of your life is impacted negatively.
  2. Schedule one activity per week that is just for you, whether it’s doing something on your own or going out with friends.
  3. Make others aware of your plans or schedule so they expect it and can adjust accordingly.
  4. Know when to stop or say no. This includes work commitments and family/friends activities. Simplify your life by prioritizing which activities are important and which are beyond your current capabilities.
  5. Exercise and/or meditate. Both are stress reducers and don’t have to take up hours of your day to provide health benefits. Both work to reduce stress by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms everything down in the moment and long term as you develop a consistent routine.
  6. Develop strong time-management skills.
    1. Plan your entire week ahead of time.
    2. Set time limits for chores, writing etc.
    3. Keep an activity log for a few days, tracking every 15-30 minutes. Review at the end of the day and cut out whatever is unnecessary or time wasting.
    4. Reevaluate your goals so they are realistic.
    5. Utilize auto-ship/delivery/pickup services when possible.
    6. Choose easy-to-make meals and have kids or partners help prepare them when possible.
  7. Limit time-wasting activities and people. Rank daily activities based on priorities. Trim what wastes time.
  8. Participate in community engagement activities such a group discussions and book clubs at HGW and local activities and events in your area.
  9. Create a designated quiet space. This space should be a space where you can take a mental break. Make it uncluttered and free of work materials or reminders. Find a space with lots of light, one that is comfortable, has plants possibly, and is calming.
  10. Take short breaks throughout the day to get in some steps, go outside, or do something that allows you to clear your head.
  11. Change your life structure to matches your time to your responsibilities. Delegate or split tasks when possible, enlist help from services or friends, or cut out activities or responsibilities that are not necessary.
  12. Redistribute responsibilities, focus on what you specialize in, what time commitments make sense, and what you value most.

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WORK

  1. Let go of perfectionism, especially on a first draft. Let yourself work free of critique so you can work faster. Save the editing and re-writes for later.
  2. Limit distractions while working. Turn off your phone, internet, etc. and focus only on your work for a specific amount of time. Then take a break and clear you mind.
  3. Take pleasure in your work. Keep a list near your computer reminding you why you enjoy writing.
  4. Overlap instead of multi-tasking. Accept that some family activities do not require your full attention and can double as work time, such as waiting in the lobby for a child’s dance class to end.
  5. Set boundaries and stick to them. Know how much time you have to devote to different areas and makes others aware of your commitments so they don’t feel ignored and can help you accomplish your goals.
  6. Have a physical schedule of deadlines and projects that is posted where you and family members can see. It serves as a reminder to you and to family members of why you are busy or can’t spend as much time in other pursuits at the moment.

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FAMILY

  1. Unplug and take time for your family. Tell others about your goal to stay unplugged for a specific amount of time so they can help remind you.
  2. Choose specific family activities that need you to be fully present for – such as a child’s sporting event or school program, and leave work behind.
  3. Schedule dedicated time with family each day or week. Don’t allow other distractions. Bonding time makes you more productive and relaxed at work.
  4. Make time for sit-down breakfast to start the day on a positive note.
  5. Family dinners are good for kids because they help them have better relationships with parents, which reduces parental stress.
  6. Get kids involved with necessary chores and have fun doing them together. Turn on some music or make a game of it.
  7. Involve the kids/family in exercise time or meditation. Children need quiet time or time to work out excess energy just as much as adults do!
  8. Check in with your kids/family every so often to see how you’re doing and express your needs to them. Work-life balance is often a group effort and works much better when the whole family is invested in improvement.
  9. Develop rituals to start/stop work and mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to be present in other activities. Set aside 20 minutes before wrapping up work to tie up all loose ends and clear your mind for family time.

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FRIENDS

  1. Make time to spend with friends, but set realistic goals based on your current commitments.
  2. Write out an “ideal” time with friends, such as dinner or a movie, and write out an alternative plan for busy weeks, such as 30 minutes for coffee. Adjust on a weekly basis for what fits best for that week, but don’t skip seeing friends regularly.
  3. Involve friends in exercise activities, such as walk or fitness class.
  4. Include friends in work related activities, such as a reading club or trip to the bookstore for a reading or author event.
  5. Take short breaks during the day to text or chat with friends.

An important thing to remember when working to improve work-life balance is that we all go through different seasons where some things simply must take priority while others are pushed aside. It doesn’t mean you’re failing at one aspect or another. It means you are aware of your limitations and are taking action to manage your responsibilities.

Posted in writing

Perspectives on Crazy

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The Edible Animal Cell cake for my daughter’s science class. Cakes are NOT my specialty! Obviously, lol!

I’ll start off by saying this post has nothing to do with writing. Maybe that’s because I haven’t done much writing lately. Either way, this is what I felt compelled to write about.

 

Last week I had kind of a lousy week at work. Patients weren’t showing or there were already holes in the schedule to start with. I only work 12 hours a week, so every hour missed makes a big difference. Then we got to Thursday (last day of the work week for me) and I actually had a full afternoon of patients I always enjoyed seeing.

When my last patient came in, I immediately recognized that on the verge of crying look a lot of young moms get. The one I still get on a fairly regular basis, especially lately. When I asked her how she was doing, she started off by saying it had been a rough week. It snowballed from there. And let me tell you, I totally sympathized with everything she was saying, from struggles with the kids’ school to toddlers refusing to potty train to feeling like your dental cleaning was the highlight of your week because it was the first alone time you’ve had, because I’ve been there many times.

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The infamous Giant Marshmallow. Thank you for that, YouTube.

So, I started telling her about the 6 college classes I’m taking and the massive amount of homework they require, the crazy things my kids did when they were little and the crazy things they’re still doing, the many projects my kids have done in the last month-for school and because my daughter really loves YouTube craft videos (FYI: avoid the giant marshmallow), the soccer team my husband and I got suckered into coaching and the crazy ref who started harassing me after I complained to the league about him yelling at the girls all game and taking off without telling anyone after enforcing the mercy rule , and how stressed out my husband has been trying to finish a bunch of work so he can transition into his new position.

 

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Note taking on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I don’t get this play…

We spent most of the appointment laughing with each other.

 

At some point my patient-still laughing-said she was suddenly feeling better about dealing with her toddler. The funny thing was, I was thinking the same thing after telling her about how hectic things were for us. It wasn’t a competition to see whose life was crazier. Toddler years were tough. I’m glad we’re not in that stage anymore. We have new challenges now, a lot of them just as much of a struggle as trying to keep you little one from climbing up on the table and sucking all the chocolate off the toffee you just made (you can imagine the mess I had to clean up after that one, lol!).

My kids are now 10 and 13 and we’re dealing with mean girls at school instead of potty accidents, but chatting with my patient reminded me that all of these things are temporary. I may not be blogging or writing very regularly for a while, but eventually soccer will end and the semester will finish and all the other stuff will level out. More crazy will line up, it always does, but we’ll get through that, too.

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My son’s 2-foot tall model of a platinum atom.

So, if I’m not around much lately, be patient. I’ll be back when the crazy dies down. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Posted in creative writing, writing

Travel Blog 1: Tour Bus, Streetcar, Streetcar (again), Shuttle…Zoo?

2013-06-17 16.16.23While flying does cut down your travel time, it also leaves you without a car. That’s not so bad when visiting New Orleans and staying at a hotel right in the French Quarter…mostly. While my husband was sitting through an EPA conference, my two kids and I walked all over the French Quarter, seeing the aquarium, kids museum, cemeteries, the double decker tour buses, and the butterfly habitat.

No car? No problem.

Except when we wanted to visit the zoo. I love zoos, probably more than my kids, and NOLA was supposed to have a great zoo. It was definitely not within walking distance, though. My previous experience with the area was driving through the French Quarter on the way to Florida, appreciating the architecture from the confines of our weird smelling RV.

2013-06-18 10.51.22For some reason, rather than just having the nice man at the hotel call us a cab, I thought we could make it to the zoo using NOLA’s public transit system. I had several maps which laid out the route to the zoo through various modes of transportation. It would be an adventure, right?

With two kids (7 and 10), and my only other experience using mass transit being riding back and forth on the Metro from campus to Washington DC during a week-long high school trip for a National History Day competition, we set out.

So, we hopped on the tour bus and rode several miles to a historical neighborhood, where we bravely got off the bus and attempted to find our streetcar stop. We cautiously approached a bud shelter where several older African American women were sitting on the bench, and after failing to find some kind of indication of whether this was a stop for the streetcar, bus, or something else, I asked the ladies if we were in the right spot.

We weren’t.

2013-06-18 15.34.34They nicely pointed out where we should be standing. A platform in the middle of the road. The streetcar lines literally ran down the middle of the street, with cars driving on either side. Beginning to regret this adventure, we trekked safely to the streetcar stop, only to be followed by yelling. I looked around, hoping the shrieking isn’t directed at us, and found the nice lady who’d directed us yelling and waving at us. I was so startled, it took me a few minutes to figure out what she was trying to tell me.

We were at the wrong streetcar stop.

2013-06-20 15.08.04Because the streetcars run on rails, they run in one direction. What direction you want to go determines was side of the tracks you should wait on. We were on the wrong side. So, grabbing my kids’ hands again, we hurried across the rails to the other side of the middle of the street, and waited at the right stop.

The streetcar came trundling up the tracks soon after, and we climbed aboard. My kids still thought we were having an adventure while I was cursing myself. I paid our fair and shuffled the kids into the car to find it packed. I held my kids’ hand, keeping them close, while I stood trying not to rub up against a guy whose armpit was dangerously close to my face and a lady whose shopping bags were taking up the aisle. After one more on and off to change streetcars, I eagerly dragged the kids off the streetcar when we reached our stop.

A sign for the zoo awaited us after walking a few blocks from the bus stop, but the zoo itself was nowhere in sight. There was, however, a group of tourists waiting around the sign who told me the zoo was still a mile away, but there was a shuttle coming! In twenty minutes. When the shuttle finally pulled up, its capacity was a whopping nine seats for the nearly twenty people waiting.

2013-06-19 11.29.48Seeing that I had two kids with me, the other tourists were extremely kind and let us get on with the first group. Ten minutes later, we finally made it to the zoo, and it was as fabulous as I’d been told. One of the best zoos I’ve visited. The only thing that wasn’t awesome was the fact that we had still had to get back to the hotel.

Lesson learned: Call a cab.

Posted in writing

MIA…sorry about that!

I don’t think I’ve written a blog post that wasn’t a pre-prepared promo of some kind since the beginning of the year. It’s been a hectic start to 2016, and now that we’re beginning month 4, I finally found some time to sit down to blog.

What has been keeping us so busy lately?

iStock_000024086772LargeThere have been some health issues in our family, we’ve had a huge shift in our spiritual and religious beliefs-which has affected a lot, and I managed to seriously over schedule myself when it came to my writing and teaching schedule. Add in track and soccer, taxes, regular every day family, house, and work stuff, and a few panic attacks thrown in there, and yeah… I feel like we’ve been running since January and haven’t really had a chance to breathe until recently.

My hubby shouldn’t have to travel again until summer, we have less than a month left of sports events and practices, health issues are under control for the most part, major deadlines were met, we’ve got a plan for fixing up the backyard (yay!), and I’ve decided to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree-which will be tough, but will also help improve my work situation. Things are getting back on track.

2016-03-29 08.02.02I’m still writing, which is a huge stress reliever for me. Running keeps me grounded as well-not to mention keeps my back and shoulders from killing me. Writing-wise, I’m working on finishing Wicked Revenge. Personally, I’m looking forward to spending the summer camping and working in the yard with my family as soon as the always volatile spring weather of New Mexico figures its crap out and decides to warm up.

If you have tips on keeping the crazy under control, I’d love to hear them 🙂

Posted in books

The Art of Being Prepared

I’m talking about mountain hiking in particular this week.

Needing to get away for some family time, we headed up to LaPlata Canyon for a hike with the kids. We had sunscreen (which we didn’t end up needing) and sweaters (which we DID need), snacks galore, bratwursts for lunch, and our mini hiking cook stove to roast said brats. I should have worn pants instead of capris, but we were pretty prepared even though he forgot one of the camelbacks in the truck.

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We didn’t really think about how rainy it had been lately, so we didn’t think about bringing an umbrella. The clouds looked ominous, but we’re used to mountain hiking and knew it probably wouldn’t hit until late afternoon, so we set out!

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It was so green and pretty! At this point I think we’re up around 12,000 feet, but I may be wrong. My hubby would know better.

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My daughter loved all the pretty flowers we saw up there! With all the rain there were way more than usual!

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We also saw some snow, the last remaining bits from the winter…

2015-07-12 14.01.38 And saw some pretty neat rocks!

Then we started to hear lightening and decided it was time to turn back and make for the truck before the storm hit! It was a good call because we barely made it back before the rain hit. And then the hail followed suit!

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And just kept coming as we drove back down the mountain.

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It finally decided to quit so we stopped off at a campsite to cook our lunch and got to see what the crazy storm had done to the river! Crazy way a sudden rain storm will do. That was a lot of mud washed into the river at once!

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We had a lot of fun and even though we hadn’t brought umbrella’s, and we had a great day together 🙂