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 books, writing

In some ways I’m like a zombie

Or at least I have been for the past year.

cross in fog at the cemetarySome of my readers probably think I’ve died, or at least been serious maimed and unable to write. I’m not dead. My hands are a bit messed up, but for the most part, still functional.

Where have I been for the last year?

The short version is that I went back to work full-time. The money was great, the physical and psychological stress was not. I was too exhausted after work to focus on writing. Marketing…yeah right. Cleaning the house…bare minimum, and the kids helped a lot. Dinners…my hubby Ryan was a champ and did a ton! Having a few hours in the evening to spend with the Ryan and the kids was about all I could manage.

Zombies go through the motions, are motivated by basic needs, and aren’t capable of much in the way of creativity.

doomsday

Unless you’re R from “Warm Bodies.” But that’s another story…a really good one. You should go watch it if you haven’t.

I’ve recently left my full-time job behind and am now looking for a new opportunity. I’m not sure what will happen at this point, but while I’m in between life moments, I’m trying to catch up on everything that’s been neglected for the last year. Kids. Hubby. House. Friends. Writing. Marketing. Basically, everything.

I’m hopeful 2019 will be a great year. I’m working on freelancing, tutoring, writing more, maybe  starting graduate school, and possibly starting my own business. Scary, but exciting. I’m really blessed to have a husband who’s supportive and understanding. Making a big change is stressful and downright terrifying at times. He’s carrying a huge portion of the load while I reset and figure things out.

I’m hopeful to have more books out next year for my readers who’ve been hanging in there with me, but if I’m slow getting back into things, I hope you’ll all understand. At the very least, “The Catalyst” reboot (post Kindle Worlds) should be ready soon, and I’m almost done with the next Eliza Carlisle book. Those waiting for The Ghost Host #3, it’s next on the list, I promise. I truly appreciate everyone in my life (family and readers) who support me in so many ways.

Thanks for always being there!

Hands Holding Hearts

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 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 🙂