I’m writing this shortly after the Prime Minister of New Zealand asked all New Zealanders to work from home if they can in order to slow the spread of Covid-19, echoing moves around the world. In the midst of this big, scary pandemic, and all the changes that come with it, I hope that sharing my experience can make one change a little bit easier.
Working from home can take some adjustment. I’ve mostly worked from home for the last three years, and my husband for over 10 years. It’s our preferred way of working. I’ve pulled together our advice on making working from home work well.
To celebrate the end of the school year, we went out for dinner as a family. This isn’t something we’ve done before. We’ve consumed food in cafes, pubs and restaurants at dinner time, but in the context of desperately trying to survive a social engagement with a rapidly expiring child. Chips and pizza were often involved.
This was different – it was an occasion. We all put on nice-ish clothes and headed to a local Indian restaurant I’d heard good things about. Excited, but with the odd tinge of apprehension we walked into the restaurant. Hopes were high for a fun night – and it was. It was new and different and lots of fun.
Reflecting on the evening, it was evident that our family is in a new season of life.
That family outing was the inspiration for my word for 2020 – ADVENTURE.
We’ve survived the preschool years, and we have a solid foundation in terms of our home, finances, friends and family. We’re ready to enjoy getting out into the world and mixing it up a bit more.
I don’t have any big plans. It’s more about taking a positive approach to uncertainty, taking a few more chances and being more forgiving about racking things up to experience.
I’m off to a flying start. Adventure 1 – going out to meet someone without my phone (necessitated by me leaving my phone at my parents and having to meet my dad halfway to be reunited with it). Followed by Adventure 2 – breaking out in hives. Not quite what I’d had in mind!
Do you set yourself a guiding word for year? Let me know, I love hearing them.
Postscript: I wrote this post at the end of December, but never quite got around to publishing it. I’m embracing this as triumph in slow living – not because it took me so long to publish it, but because I am publishing it on my own timetable rather than some arbitrary timetable that doesn’t suit me.
My approach to life this month has had a definite theme – let it go.
As someone with perfectionist tendencies, June was both a challenge and a triumph. There was a lot to do and it wasn’t going to get done to my usual high standards.
At home, that meant accidentally leaving things off the shopping list and lunch boxes without the usual homemade goodies. At work, it meant submitting messy first drafts that actually read like messy first drafts. In the end, nobody starved and all deadlines were met. But that wasn’t the triumph.
And just like that, summer exits and chilly autumn mornings arrive. While I enjoy a slow summer, the season ahead it shaping up to be more of a test of my slow-living principles.
Last month, I mentioned my intent to do more to lessen my environmental impact. So as not to feel overwhelmed, each month I plan to set myself one small action to incorporate into my life.
A big thank you to all the readers who said they’d like to join me in giving this a go. I’ve set up a Facebook group – Small action, Big difference – where we can support each other and share our progress. The idea is, we each pick our own action for the month, but you’re welcome to use mine as inspiration.
My action for March is one that’s been on my list to investigate for a while – buying packaging-free meat. I’m looking forward to getting started.
At school, I was a diligent student – a “brain strain” as my brother liked to call me – but the only subject I ever came top of the class in was home economics.
I’m no gourmet, but cooking is fun for me, a creative outlet and a way to relax. Or at least it was. Parenthood kind of ruined that.
These days, cooking is mostly a utilitarian activity. Preparing dinner is a precarious mission to get something palatable and vaguely nutritious on the table before someone has a meltdown (usually me).
Cooking dinner for kids may not be a walk in the park, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either. Here are four things I do to make it easier.
School is back and all of a sudden, it’s stifling hot – it must be the end of January. I’ve had a very chilled-out month, enjoying the school holidays and opportunity to forgo my usual routines.
After Christmas, we welcomed two new members to our family: Lenny (he’s black and white) and Holly (she’s the tabby). We’re enjoying getting to know them and watching them get up to all sorts of mischief. It’s like having a toddler in the house again.
The summer holidays were one epic staycation. We took advantage of the beach being only a stroll away. The wee guy went on a little holiday of this own to my parent’s farm. Mr More Time and I had three nights at home by ourselves. It was quite a shock to the system.
The only big “it’s easier without the wee guy” task we embarked on was clothes shopping. It confirmed that wandering around the shops is not a pastime I miss, not that I was ever a great shopper.
Imagine you could repeat 2018 – carry the same responsibilities, meet the same commitments, achieve just as much (maybe more), but feel less busy. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Plenty of doing, but no more feeling rushed or overwhelmed. No more feeling like a little mouse on a wheel, legs frantically moving but not getting anywhere. Well, I think you can. In fact, I know you can, because I’ve done it.
Roll back the clock four years and my life was a frantic mess. On the outside, I was the poster-girl for work-life balance – superstar in the office for three days a week and supermum at home with a toddler for the rest. On the inside, I felt like I was being chased across a tight-rope. Eventually, I fell off.
Following the fall, I scaled my life right back. I got myself into a pretty good place. With time, I found the courage to give things a go again. Fiercely protective of my newfound peace and calm, but equally determined to make a bigger contribution to the world, I went about adding things back into my life.
In 2018, I ramped things up. I tripled my working hours, throwing myself into challenging projects. While exciting, it was also terrifying – amplified by the fact I was back working at the scene of the fall, around the same people and on the same projects.
But this time, it was different. In the intervening years, I developed a set of strategies to help me feel less busy and, under pressure, they held up well. They got me through and I’m looking forward to doing it all again this year. Here are nine strategies to make you feel less busy too.
One thing I’ve learnt from letting myself slow down is that it’s easier when you have boundaries that force you to prioritise. With this in mind, I’ve chosen “enough” as my guiding word of the year.
I’ll ask myself, “What is enough?” to help me frame what’s in and what’s out in all areas of my life.
Last year, I started using enough lists to simplify tasks and projects. I find them to be a tangible and practical tool for intentional living. I want to apply the same principle to all aspects of my life.
Looking back, 2018 turned out a lot differently than I expected. This time last year, I had just completed my first freelance project. From there, the work snowballed and I’ve had as much work as I’ve wanted. Sometimes more.
It’s been a great test for my slow-not-lazy approach. I went from working 10 hours per week to 30 and the wheels didn’t fall off. All year, I was nervous about taking on too much, scared I’d end up back on the hamster wheel – endless rushing, getting nowhere. There were occasional blips of busyness, but, for the most part, I remained calm and had time to enjoy life.
Wow, we’ve reached the end of November. I can’t say this is my favourite time of the year. As we move into December, everything happens at once, plus I do a lot more shopping than usual.
A year or two ago, we simplified our household finances. We now have two joint bank accounts – one for day-to-day transactions and one for savings. We have debit cards hooked up to the transaction account. It works well, but theee’s one downside to this simple set-up that comes into focus at this time of year – it’s hard to buy a present and keep it a surprise, especially if you buy online!