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Managing time as a Work-from-home mom

Managing time as a Work-from-home mom

November 15th was my last post here. Wait, how did that happen? I thought I’d committed to writing a post a week?  Well, as it turns out, life came in the way, but I think what is more important and more true is the fact that I didn’t really manage my time very well.

Those who know me very well are gasping in disbelief, because everyone knows I am a tad annoying when it comes to deadlines and schedules. I positively turn into the Incredible Hulk if people don’t reach on time, leave on time, submit assignments on time or basically do anything on time.

Over the last 6 months (yes, I officially completed 6 months at my job today!), I’ve been juggling a full-time work-from-home job, three blogs, housework, chores, social media, bringing up my daughter, getting sucked into the vortex of homework, exams, assignments and projects and just barely managing to squeeze in some time for exercise. Oh, I’ve also been working on my memoir! Whew, that sounds like a lot when you see it all together, right?

That picture below just about says what my brain must look like on any given day; not a pretty picture, you’ll admit.

What changed, you ask? Nothing whatsoever. I am still that green monster, but there’s a trick I’ve learnt  which I am dying to share with you all, so here goes. 

There was this beautiful quote I read somewhere and  I am not sure who said it first: ‘You can’t manage time; you can only manage yourself.~ Unknown’

Suddenly, my entire paradigm shifted. I had been trying to bend time to fit my schedule when it should have been the other way around. Why didn’t I see this earlier? Such an epiphany, isn’t it?

Knowing that I have an obsession with time, it only made sense that I turned this into something productive and to my advantage. I’ve got a thing for checklists, to-do lists, schedules, planning and detail. It’s what inspires my work ethic and my personal comfort. (It’s an entirely different matter that I drive people up the wall with my insistence on order, but that’s besides the point.)

So a few days ago, I sat down and physically wrote down the various things that go into a normal workday. Now, based on the work you do this can vary significantly, but just go with me on the principle.

Managing time as a work from home mom



My daily tasks include:

  1. Working on my book
  2. My job
  3. My blogs
  4. Social media presence for work
  5. Social media presence for myself
  6. Cooking
  7. Housework
  8. Errands
  9. Exercise
  10. Time with my daughter
  11. Reading a book
Now, these are not in order of importance. What really matters is how I intended to carve out specific times of the day for each task. Given that some tasks will take longer than others, it helps to budget for extra time.
 
My day begins at 4.30 am. Some days, laziness kicks in and it is 5 am before I drag myself out of bed, though. So I start with what I feel would be the best at 5 am: Writing a few pages of my memoir. The stillness of the morning is very conducive to thinking and I find my fingers flying faster than they do at any other time of the day/night.
 
This is followed by chores and getting the kid ready for school. Soon after she’s left, I catch a bite to eat and then settle down to work. Work takes up a couple of hours, maybe more on some days. I then take a break to go for a walk and purchase some items from the grocery store. Not buying everything at once helps, since this means I get to walk every single day to the store. If I get a break, I spend it on social media time for work and intersperse it with personal social media time.
 
The afternoon is when I feel the most sluggish and unproductive, so I don’t force it and give myself over to either a quick snooze or just watch some TV to unwind. Once Gy is back home from school, I devote my time to her needs: homework, food, incessant chatter and more.
 
Dusk is when I go out for another walk and follow it up with a light dinner, some reading of blogs, replying to comments and wind down with a book before bed. I’ve stopped staying up late these days and most nights, I am in bed by 10.15 or earlier.
 
Obviously, this is not an iron-clad schedule. Some things or most of it will change given any single day. Five key tips that can help are:
 
  • Use a diary/planner to work out your important tasks for the day ahead.
  • Keep your phone in another room when you are working/writing.
  • Set a timer for social media and log off resolutely when the time is up.
  • Do not look at any screens, phones or tablets, before bed. Read a book and let the body relax naturally. You’ll sleep better.
  • Tell yourself that you cannot do it all on any given day. Let go of the guilt.
 
Do you manage time or manage yourself?
 
What do you find is the most time-consuming activity in your day?
 
Do share your thoughts.
*Featured image courtesy: Shutterstock

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5 Tips for Working from Home

5 Tips for Working from Home

Can I just say I have been waiting for 21 days to write this post on 5 tips for working from home? Why three weeks, you ask? Apparently, that’s how long it takes for you to form a habit and stick to it too! So, since I finally finished that timeline, this post is here to be read.

First things first. It’s with a good deal of joy that I announce to you all that I have started working from home, full time. (Takes a moment to do a happy jig)! Yes, after many years of working on freelance projects and part-time jobs, I finally decided to take the plunge and accept this role that I must say I am enjoying thoroughly!

It’s not easy to find a job that combines your passion with flexible hours and decent compensation. To be honest, I had stopped looking for anything along those lines a few years ago. So when this came along, it was natural for me to think twice before saying ‘Yes’, because I knew, for certain, that this would mean a huge shift from my comfort zone, where I’d settled for the last 9 years or so. 

Just give me a moment to soak in this feeling of happiness.

AAAHHH! Now, back to what we were talking about! 

So, the thing about working from home means that while you have the advantage of avoiding traffic, pollution and travel time, it does imply a huge number of adjustments and modifications in your routine. With a little effort and some smart planning, we can make that a seamless and comfortable shift.

Tip # 1

Prioritise work

  • In my role, I discuss with my team members the night before on the tasks that need to be done on the morrow. We also have some duties that get assigned  for an entire week, so it’s best to have a scheduler or a planner such as Google Calendar to note your tasks. 
  • Once I know what the tasks are, I cross-check the items on my personal schedule for the day (folding laundry/ cooking lunch/ airing the sheets) and prioritise them on the basis of what needs to be done first.
  • Waking up early can be a significant advantage in this regard, as it seems like you gain an extra hour to do all the work you want done! This naturally means you go to bed early as well.

Tip # 2

Set a schedule

  • Decide on set times of the day for each task, almost as you would if you were going in to work at an office.
  • Finish the heavy-duty tasks first in the early part of the day when your energy levels are high.
  • Relegate lighter jobs to the afternoon, post lunch, when your eyelids are likely to start drooping.
  • If your work is connected to a laptop or a desktop, pick a spot in the house and make sure you start working there at the same time, everyday. Making it a habit ensures your items are all in one place, saving you time and energy.

Tip # 3

Turn off distractions but allow for interruptions

This one sounds contradictory, but it isn’t when you think about it. A distraction is self-created while an interruption is something you cannot control.
 
Distractions: 
  • If you work online, do not open multiple tabs at once, unless  you need to use the copy-paste feature between two or three windows.
  • Resolutely turn off, mute or snooze notifications from Google hangouts/ Skype/ Facebook messenger/ Whatsapp. Better yet, put up a status that says ‘Working’ or ‘Busy’. People will understand.Trust me.
  • If you can, avoid personal calls during working hours. Politely ask friends/family to call you back if it is nothing urgent.
  • I work partly in social media so I have to be online while I am working. I solved this problem of distraction by creating a separate business account for my Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, so I would not get distracted by news feed or notifications. It’s been a blessing in more ways than I can count. 
Interruptions:
  • If you have a young child at home, you will need to work around his/her schedule. Ensure that the employer knows about the situation and is okay with your being available at odd times during the day. 
  • Work-from-home moms WILL be interrupted by the courier service, the telephone ringing, the handyman showing up or the friendly neighbour right in the middle of a deadline. However, instead of losing your cool, look at it as the required 5-minute break that you would have taken. Shift the perspective just a bit.

Tip # 4

Take well-timed breaks

  • Working with clear-cut deadlines and objectives works very well for me. If I know that I need to complete Task ‘A’ within 30 minutes, I do it. I use the timer on my phone to monitor my progress and feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s done.
  • Every half hour to one hour, I leave my desk and stretch, walk around, grab some salted almonds or a healthy snack. This gives the mind and the body the much-needed refreshment to handle more tasks.
  • Have a bottle of water or green tea on your desk so that you stay hydrated. Don’t forget to take restroom breaks amidst your working schedule.

Tip # 5

Do one thing that you love everyday

  • When all’s done you realise that doing one thing not connected to work is mandatory for a healthy perspective towards your job.
  • Find something you love- blogging, reading a book, swimming, taking a walk, playing badminton, writing in your journal, singing, aerobics, Zumba, yoga- to take the edge off the workday. 
  • If the thing that you love can help get you out of the house, even better. Staying indoors all day is not healthy, in any case, so do get some sunshine and some fresh air in your lungs regularly.
Yes, it’s been 21 days and I have managed to find myself comfortably set in this routine of mine now. I would like to include one sport or exercise as part of the schedule, so I intend to find time to incorporate that as well. 
 
Following these 5 tips for working from home has also enabled me to maintain my other love- blogging. I now find time to blog once to thrice a week across two blogs, reply to comments and even blog hop when I can. And guess what! I am in bed by 9:45 pm with a good book to end the day. Well, on most nights, for sure.
 
So, it’s not really hard when you think about it.
 
It just takes some planning, effort and discipline. 
 
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*Psst! This article says it actually takes you 66 days to 12 months to form a new habit, conclusively. No way was I going to wait that long to post this though. I’m sure you understand. Right? Tell me you do!

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Vacation with kids- Useful Tips

Vacation with kids- Useful Tips

We’re nearing the end of summer vacations in India and that means we must gear up for school and studies in less than two weeks. Knowing this well, we had planned a short trip to Kerala, to relax and refresh ourselves before returning to the routine that is Life. Taking a vacation with your kids can be incredible, especially if you are as open to experiences as they are.

My husband, V, prefers to go on vacation within driving distance, since that means we have our own vehicle to ferry us around and we can choose to change our plans without notice. Since we had 14 days at our disposal, we chose to drive down from Bangalore to Kerala.


The trip had three large aspects: The planning, the drive and the vacation experience.

As always, the nitty-gritty of the planning- the places we would stay at, the sights to see, checking the reviews on Trip Advisor- would be my prerogative. Given the person I am, the kind who likes things in place, I gladly took up the task. We decided to drive down to Munnar, spend a couple of days there, followed by three days in Thekkady, a couple more in Kumarakom and wind it up with a day in Kochi and a day in Palakkad, before driving back home. At the end, we actually only spent 11 days of the planned 14 and returned earlier than anticipated, thanks to a back problem I developed.

Booking our hotels:

This, thanks to the Internet, has become so easy that it is incredible how quickly we managed it. I checked out hotels/ home stays in all the places using Booking.com and Agoda.com. Once I found the ones I liked, I cross-checked the reviews on Trip Advisor and went with the ones that matched our budget and convenience. 

*Tips for planning:

  1. Always check if meals/ breakfast/ Wi-Fi/ Parking are available or included in the total cost. 
  2. Most places also charge extra for an extra bed for children.
  3. If you have an infant, check if the hotel provides a kettle in the room to boil milk or a provision to cook. Opting for a room with a kitchenette makes sense, in that case.
  4. If you have a smartphone, downloading the booking app makes it easier to check your booking details on the go.
  5. Carry a printed copy of your booking details as a backup. You never know when you’ll run out of phone battery or be in a place that has zero network coverage!
  6. Depending on where you are traveling, check traveler reviews for notes such as carrying mosquito repellent or sun tan lotion for yourself and the kids.
The Drive:

For this, I must credit both V and the South Indian state of Kerala. The roads were like silk, given how used I have become to the bumpy potholes and the terrible traffic of city life. Diesel stops all along the highway ensured that we had no trouble at any point of the journey. The entire trip from Bangalore, across Kerala and all the way back was around 1800 kms, so it needed enough energy, as you can well imagine. Since I don’t drive, the onus of that task fell to V, which he enjoys, thankfully.



*Tips for the Drive:

  1. Always make a checklist of things you will need on the drive. I always have my ready check list on Google Keep, since it has a check box option that helps me plan my travel. The colour code helps me find it easily in the sea of notes I have.
  2. Carry lots of water and light snacks/ fruits for short stints. Top these up at rest stops or at your hotels.
  3. Try and do most of the driving during the day time, especially on winding roads or the Ghat sections.
  4. If you/ the kids are prone to nausea, carry oranges along. Chewing on the peel helps. I also find that the orange hard candy/ dry ginger keep my nausea at bay.
  5. I find that a neck pillow really helps on these long journeys, to reduce stiffness.
  6. Kids can have a soft pillow and a shawl/light blanket so they can stretch out and sleep if the journey becomes tiring. Always ensure that they are buckled in, though, since a sudden braking movement could harm them.
  7. Young kids and infants need to use car seats, both for safety and convenience, on long, winding roads.
  8. Carry extra sets of footwear along if you plan to visit the beach or go on a light trek.
  9. Sunglasses, hats, moisturiser? These need to be in your handbag, especially in the Indian Summer.
  10. Last, or rather the first thing you should do is get the car a thorough overhaul before the long trip, so you don’t have any nasty surprises 🙂

The Experience:

Considering that the trip was spread over 11 days, I will not do justice to it in one short blog post. Rather, it may turn into a very unmanageable post, if I did that. I’ll try and do a shorter series of posts on each of our experiences, replete with good photographs too, so keep watching this space. 

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How about you? What do you do on vacation? 
Do you plan the entire itinerary well ahead or 
are you the kind who just goes with the flow and dives right into the experience?
Do you have any tips which you want to share?

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7 Blogging Tips: How to Write Daily

7 Blogging Tips: How to Write Daily


It has been two weeks (almost!) since I wrote a post on this blog. That’s the longest break I have taken in the last year. Although I wouldn’t really call it Writer’s block or Blogging block, I do think it had something to do with my online presence.

This doesn’t mean I have been idle in the blogging space. Oh no, I have actually signed up to be a Write Tribe Pro Blogger, where this cool bunch has decided to blog consistently, every day, for a year. Maybe more. Who knows?

But, ah, I was clever. I know that I cannot do justice to this blog with the daily writing challenge, so I smartly signed up my Fiction blog, since I dabble in flash fiction and micro-fiction, most of which is under 100 words in length. Of course, the real smartness of the move will be revealed if I actually manage to complete a year of blogging daily. Ha, that’s going to be something!

In order to do this , though, it requires a fair deal of management in the time and writing areas. So, today, I will share how we can balance our writing and social media roles together with the mundane demands of life, work and everything else!


Writing Everyday



It’s actually do-able, if you work around a schedule. I find that I write best between 9.30 and 10.30 pm every night. I don’t know why, but it’s true. Perhaps the silence of the household, after sending everyone off to bed, is a good booster. Or maybe the fact that the dishes are done and the kitchen is sparkling clean, so I can now reward myself with some time to write, could be the reason.

Either way, find your groove. Pick a time and write daily/ nightly at the same time. I’m guessing some curious writer gnome is watching and sending me creative vibes every night. Hey, who am I to complain? 

What do I write about?




This is a common concern, am I right? You feel that panic kicking in each time you sit and stare at the blank screen or notepad, racking your brains for an idea. 

That’s why we have prompts, my dear bloggers.

Search the web. You’ll find thousands of them. If nothing else, pick up a book and flip through it. A phrase will catch your eye. Use that as a prompt.

Organise your Writing

Picture courtesy: Sunny Side up

If you’re anything like me, you will constantly have four or five tabs open in your browser while writing a post. Wordcounter.net is a great website for people like me, who write to prompts and have to abide by a specific word count. I draft the whole post there and simultaneously open my WordPress Dashboard, where I copy paste the draft.

Next, I open the tab for image search. There is great value in adding an image to your post, especially since it draws on the interest of the reader and also makes it Pinnable!

If you are writing for the same weekly challenge, then you can save time by copy-pasting the template for future posts. Adding a generic statement at the bottom, such as ‘I am a Pro Blogger’ also frees up the time it would take to type out that statement each time.

Don’t edit while you write. Write without thinking and without stopping. Always make time to go back and check the draft for grammatical errors, run-on sentences, spelling mistakes and other typos. Think three times, before you hit that ‘Publish’ button. Remember, you’re building an audience for the writing. Let not a carelessly-worded sentence bring you down.


Leave a Comment

Image courtesy: Shutterstock
An integral part of blogging, in my opinion, is the idea of networking. This was especially brought home during my first-ever Blogging meet, in Goa this July. I was able to connect to a fair share of bloggers, mainly because I had followed them through their writings and interacted with them on their posts. There is a certain human connection that is established when you do this.

It makes the blogger feel wonderful, knowing that he/she is being read and acknowledged.
So, as much as it is wonderful to get a ‘Like’ via Facebook or WordPress and an RT via Twitter, it is infinitely more heartwarming to get a comment that appreciates what you have taken time to create.

Take Breaks

Sometimes, nothing helps. You just can’t get the wheels to turn in your head. No problem. Go out for a walk in the garden or down the street to get some milk. Carry your phone or camera along. Snap away when the mood strikes. You never know what it takes to kick start that inspirational bunny within.


Get off Social Media

As much as I advocate networking, I don’t really recommend it when you are in the thick of the writing process. Social Media Distracts. Let’s be very very honest about this.



This was probably the hardest part of the challenge for me.  Yes, I admit it. I am a Social Media junkie, more specifically, Facebook, Whatsapp and to a certain extent, Twitter. Thanks to the WordPress for Android app, that adds its fair share of distractions as well.

So, what do I do now?

  1. I turn off my Smartphone when I am writing my blog posts. I don’t get distracted  by those ‘pings’ every single time someone comments on the blog. Hey, I jump in excitement when I get fifteen ‘pings’ at a time after two hours of not being connected to the Net. Yeah, that’s your bonus 🙂
  2. I keep the tabs closed on my browser. You know that niggling need to check Facebook in between your writing? Yeah, stop doing that. You want a break? Go for a walk. Grab a cup of tea. Pick up a book. DO NOT OPEN that Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest tab.


Make time to visit other blogs

So, you’re overwhelmed with all the writing, the editing, the sharing and the responding to comments. I get that. Hey, we also have lives in the real world to consider. That shirt is not going to iron itself and the stove is just not going to turn on magically and heat up that pasta, no matter how hard I wish I had Harry Potter’s powers. Nope! Not going to happen.

So, if I can make an hour’s time to write everyday, I can surely find another hour to visit other blogs daily? 

http://www.audiencebloom.com/2014/07/increase-blog-traffic-30-minutes/
Picture courtesy
  1. If you have a WordPress (WP) account, just add your preferred WP blogs to the Reader there and visit them from within the app.
  2. For blogspot blogs, get the Feedly app. This has a very good interface and helps you click through to the blog and comment as well.
  3. Make sure you follow the ‘No Social Media distraction’ rule here as well. Turn off those tabs when you are blog hopping. When sharing a post that you like, share them through the blog’s page directly and hop straight out of Twitter/ Facebook/ Google Plus.

All said and done though, don’t get bogged down by the guilt. There will be days when you just cannot do it all. Moments will come when you want to throw in the towel and not write. That’s okay too. Just remember, we’re in this for the ride. Let’s enjoy it for as long as we can.

Happy Blogging, everyone!

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Have you taken up a Blogging Challenge too?

Do you have any more writing tips to add?

❤ Feel free to share your valuable comments and suggestions

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