Archive of ‘Working from Home’ category

4 Must-Have Items for Work-At-Home Moms

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Anyone who know me knows that I love efficiency, time-saving tricks, and (of course) results. As a new mom, I feel like the above 3 have become monumentally important, so I thought I’d share what I’ve discovered.

Below are 4 very simple, but (I believe) essential must-have items that every new work-at-home mom should have.

Cute ‘mom’ coffee mug– This one’s mostly for fun, but I find that my ‘Blessed’ coffee mug (a gift from a friend when I had my baby) puts me in the right ‘balanced’ frame of mind when I start my morning. Drinking from it is a reminder to take a moment, think about my little one, and also gives me my caffeine fix to work hard at my laptop for the day.

All-purpose planner– I’m old school (and I think a lot of other college instructors are, too!), so I have an actual paper planner, and it’s kind of like one huge syllabus with assignment deadlines for my various schools for the entire semester (it’s the only way I keep it all straight!), but I also record baby milestones in it (although I have a separate baby calendar, as well), and pencil in dates with friends.

Nursing shirts for every occasion (seriously)- I found some great nursing tops on Amazon that are super cheap, look great, come in 6 colors (I have all 6), and can be dressed up or down, and even worn to work events with a blazer (the colors and fit are perfect for the classroom or meetings). I sleep in them, wear them to workout, meet up with friends (with a scarf, cardigan, and/or necklace to add some variety), when I’m working from home (with a cozy sweater and leggings), and even during webinars with students (throw on a cardigan or blazer and earrings and you’re ready to go!). The versatility and not having to think about what I’m wearing each day has been exactly what this time-crunched, sleep-deprived work at home mom needs.

Freemie pump parts– Whether you’re working from home, in the classroom, or both, this purchase (discrete cups you can put in any shirt- I prefer to also wear a fluffy, light scarf if I’m using them in the car!) will save you time, effort, and make you feel productive during your commute to campus. They’re also great to use while working at your laptop so you don’t have to take a 20 minute break when you’re on a roll grading papers.

The 4 items above may not seem like much, but here’s the way I look at it: the mug is my ‘get-up-and-go’ each morning, the planner and shirts are my tired brain’s best friend when it’s hard to know where to begin (whether at work or when getting dressed), and the pump parts may offer some freedom and can keep me from wasting unnecessary time during the day.

These are the things that keep everything moving forward and functioning the way they need to in my life right now, and that is worth everything!

Happy living, momming, and working!

The Best Music for Working from Home During the Holiday Season

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As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I’m not normally a big fan of jazz music, but for some reason I absolutely love it when I work. I have no idea why that is, but if it helps me enjoy working, and also keeps me productive, I’m all for it.

While I’m grading papers or checking emails, I  tend to go to YouTube, type in ‘Jazz music’ and randomly click on whatever appealing option pops up (I rarely listen to the same thing twice- and it’s not uncommon for these ‘videos’ to be removed, so try not to get too attached!). However, during this holiday season, I’ve found 3 new favorites that I’ve listened to repeatedly (and there are so many more like these- especially the Christmas jazz!).

So if you’re anything like me- working from home, and wanting to be productive while simultaneously enjoying the holidays- light your Pumpkin Pie or Fraser Fir scented candle (those are my favorite- especially with the crackling wood wick for an extra wintry feel!), plug in your earbuds, and listen to some of the music below to make your work day that much better.

New York Jazz Lounge (because who doesn’t love New York during the holidays!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sI_Ps7JSEk&t=1372s

Autumn Coffee Music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpaJl6UsoZ8&t=2159s

Christmas Songs Jazz & Bossa Nova

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUjRuVhJ_4o

Happy listening, and happy holidays!

4 Time Saving Tricks When Working From Home with a Newborn

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When my mom friends told me taking care of a newborn would be time consuming, I didn’t realize how much of an understatement that was- that it would take up about 12 hours in a 24 hour day (when you do just the basics- feeding, changing, burping, getting them to bed, dealing with a gassy stomach, etc.). When I did that math when my little lady was about one-month old, it kind of blew my mind.

Right around that one-month mark, after calculating that at 12 hours spent with the baby each day, plus my average of 6 hours of sleep time each night, I was left with just 6 hours left each day.

Just 6 hours each day to do everything else.

That’s the amount of time I have left to work, eat, see my husband when he gets home from work, buy diaper rash cream on Amazon, Google whatever baby crisis is happening, maintain some sort of contact with the outside world (like texting friends), and maybe even change out of my sweats into something different for the day.

After all this hit me, and after feeling like I couldn’t get ahead with my work, I became more strategic with how I did things.

Granted, I haven’t had a maternity leave during these early weeks (no complaining- I have an awesome job, but it can be time consuming!), so I’ve been working 20-30 hours a week without a break (and taking two faculty development classes online, because I kind of wanted to prove something to myself, I guess) and had to figure all this out for survival’s sake. However, I know there are other working moms, or even stay at home moms who are incredibly busy, who could use some of these shortcuts, so here you go!

  • Go to bed early & be willing to sacrifice a little bit more sleep to get an early start in the morning. I know, you’ve probably already sacrificed the max amount of sleep that you want to, but for me a little extra productivity is worth a little less sleep. I’ve been trying to get us all ready for bed about two hours earlier than I typically would like to, that way if I shave off some sleep time in the morning to get an earlier start (like 10 or 11 am- don’t worry, I’m not that ambitious with a 7 week old), I don’t feel it quite as much. I also feel like I then have a chance to build up better momentum to get things done. (Note: If baby won’t go to bed, give dad a pacifier and bottle and have him take over so you can pass out by 10 pm.)
  • Do whatever you can to get baby to sleep faster, or at least find something to occupy her so you can work. I had to experiment with a few things (and I’m still experimenting). The small bassinet she would nap in on the couch in my office left her too fussy to sleep for more than an hour at a time, then the mamaroo worked like magic for a few days so I could work for 3 hour stretches during the day, but it wasn’t nearly as effective a few days later (like most things do with a new baby). Currently, a baby carrier works like a charm to keep her close to mom and keep her content (and normally asleep- like right now) while I’m at my laptop grading papers or writing blog posts.
  • Use feeding time as hour long breaks to recharge for the next work session, as valuable time for baby, and/or keep working at your laptop while she eats. Depending on what I need to accomplish for the day, I might watch Netflix to take a mental break from working, read an ebook out loud to my little lady, play music for her development, or have her eat while she’s in her baby carrier so I can keep working away (it doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s a huge time saver!).
  • Keep snacks next to the laptop. Most people would probably give the opposite advice so that you don’t eat all day long, but I suggest getting the portions you think you’ll need of water, trail mix, fruit, etc. and keep it by your laptop. I tell myself it has to last me until 6 pm when my husband comes home. At the that point I can hand the baby to him, eat some real food, and spend some quality time chatting with him before baby needs us and/or before I need to get back to work.

It may not sound ideal, but so far so good! For you busy work-from-home moms, it’s all about trial and error (as I’m sure you know), so keep powering through. You’ve got this!

Happy living 🙂

Quick, Healthy Foods to Snack on When Working From Home

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When I tell people that I work from home, a surprising number of people respond with ‘I could never work from home, I’d just eat all day.’

However, I actually find that (1) when you’re focused on working, you’re not usually mindlessly rummaging around the kitchen, so you’re fine. And (2), it’s easier to eat better, healthier options and feel satisfied than if you had to limit yourself to whatever you’d brought for lunch or had available at a traditional office.

During the last year or so that I’ve worked from my actual home a few days a week,

I’ve found a few snacks that hit the spots, keep my energy up, and can sit at my desks for a few hours or days if I don’t want to break my work flow by taking too long to eat.

  • Water. Of course, maybe you wouldn’t consider this a snack, but it’s good for you, and it does energize the body, help you stay full, and it will get you up and moving every couple hours to refill your bottle and/or use the restroom.
  • Dark chocolate. I keep a stash of small dark chocolate bars in the kitchen, and normally snack on one over the course of a day. I eat the really dark stuff (85%), so that I’m not tempted to eat too much, and so that I get a nice little boost of energy.
  • Melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon). We have one of these cut up into huge slices in the fridge at all times. If you want something refreshing that you can eat a lot of without overdoing it, start snacking on some type of melon.
  • Nuts. If you’re in the middle of a project and don’t want to break your focus, keep a small bag of nuts at your desk. Nuts aren’t my favorite food, but if I’m getting hungry and I really don’t want to start preparing something in the kitchen (which, I know from experience, inevitably leads to a longer break that could lead to procrastinating), I’ll eat some almonds or cashews to hold me over until I can take a real break.

You may already eat some of these snacks at your home office, or even from a traditional office, but if you haven’t discovered these choices, I encourage you to give them a try!

Happy living :).

The Best Laptops (and Other Office Must Haves) for Working From Home

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The nice thing about working from home as an online instructor is that you can create a flexible schedule for yourself and have some much-appreciated freedom. 

The downside when teaching online is that you have to use and purchase your own resources: laptops, printer, ink, paper, etc. 

Since I’ve started teaching primary online in the past 2 years (about 20 hours a week), I’ve started realizing I need to be more deliberate about the products and brands I’m committing to (for the sake of efficiency, reliability, and my bank account). 

For those of you working from home, these are the products I use and absolutely love:

HP printer– We pay about $5 a month and ink is automatically sent to us when needed. It does everything a printer in a corporate office would do, and it’s been incredible for the last 2 years.

Asus laptop- I could just use our desktop, but I’ve always gravitated toward laptops (so I can work from wherever I’d like). My husband (a PC guy- I’d been team Mac for a decade, but needed to get something that made more sense for working from home), helped pick out this laptop when it was on major sale around the holidays. It doesn’t have any impressive or particularly artistic features, but it’s worked wonderfully for about a year now, and only cost $500. I expect to need a replacement after 2 years of use (not due to the computer’s quality, but because that seems to be how long it takes for me to wear out my work products), but at only about $500, I’m okay with that. 

iPhone– Some people have a smart phone that’s provided to them by their work. I use mine primarily for work (not so much for fun), but the cost is on me. My last iPhone seemed to be on the verge of death for about a year (didn’t hold a charge, some much-needed apps stopped working, etc.) until I sucked it up and paid for the iPhone 7. It’s so much better, and I really shouldn’t have waited so long. I can check emails faster, sign and send documents on my phone, and I don’t have to worry about it dying constantly. Bottom line, get yourself the best smart phone available that will make your work life easier. 

For those of you that are currently shopping around for the best laptop for working from home, I went ahead and included a group conversation I had with some of my other college instructor friends, all of whom work from home in some way (website, small company, and/or teach online in some capacity) and rely on a personal laptop. They all had different opinions about which brand would be the best choice, but their input was invaluable to me. 

For those of you that don’t have a group like this to help you weigh in on decisions, feel free to borrow their advice from the following conversation!

~

(Our conversation from December 2017)

Erin:

Hey guys! I have a question. My MacBook officially died last night, so I wanted to know if any of you had some amazing laptop or brand you’ve been using for a while that you think I should consider looking into (I’ll be going to Best Buy tonight). I want to get a PC this time, something between $400 and $600, that’s just a standard laptop that won’t let you down- definitely doesn’t have to be touchscreen or anything. Any suggestions are welcome!

D:

I did the same thing a couple years ago. I bought a Dell that was highly rated (I needed it for some meeting platform that wasn’t supported by Apple). It lasted less than a year, and blew up in a way that couldn’t even be repaired. I had always been Mac loyal, but after that, I’ve never messed with PCs again. My Mac’s typically last 7 years. 

K:

My HP has been pretty good and I’ve have it for 3 years now.

N:

Had a Dell die in less than a year, too, never again! After that I bought my Lenovo for under $300 on Amazon and it’s great- not super fast but it’s touchscreen and gets the job done. I also have had 2 Acer laptops last over 10 years each.

Erin:

Thanks for the suggestions! Acer might be a good idea, I saw some good reviews for that brand last night. 

And about the Lenovo, Adam has a 1 year old Lenovo that I like, but it’s got this glitch where it won’t stay turned off if you unplug it. Ugh. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about that online.  Otherwise it would be perfect!

N:

Wow, mine has been great for 2 yrs- just kind of slow. But unfortunately they make more money when the laptops die faster

Erin:

Yeah, I’m also wondering if it’s because I use it like 25-30 hours a week lol

D:

You wore it out!!

Erin:

Probably haha. I figure it might be time to just buy a reasonable and reliable laptop that I can replace every 2 years. 

S:

They just came out with a new MacBook Pro, so the previous version might be cheaper at Best Buy now

Erin:

Good to know! And D, I was Mac loyal, too, because they always lasted 7 years for me, but my recent one didn’t even make it a full 4 years- I was shocked, so I’m kind of annoyed that I overpaid for it.

Yeah, Natalie, yours might be a different model or something. Maybe I’ll just look at different versions of the Lenovo- those had good reviews too. 

You guys are awesome! Thanks again! Adam and I will be looking back through these texts as we shop and discuss tonight lol.

How to Create Boundaries When Working From Home

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There are plenty of things I could work on in my personal and professional life. However, I pride myself on having finally mastered the surprisingly difficult task of working from home (I might regret saying that as soon as Baby joins us in a few months here..). For the most part, I’m organized, efficient, and pretty great with a routine.

However.

As much as I thrive with structure, it still took me a full year of working from home to feel like I had actually nailed it.

Here’s how I learned to create a routine, a work space that actually works, and learned to establish some mental, work, and social boundaries (as someone who could easily be tempted to work or play 24/7, but has learned not to):

  • Working from home doesn’t have to be pretty. If you’re better off working from a coffee shop, do it. If you get more accomplished working from a home office or your kitchen table, do it. Since I’ve been pregnant and queasy on a daily basis, my 8-10 hour ‘work from Panera’ days started making me nervous, so I had to retrain myself to work from home. I wish I could say I sit in my beautiful home office, close those lovely French doors, and get my work done gracefully, but as hard as I tried, it didn’t work. In reality, I sit at my new, trendy kitchen table and bury it under schedules, folders, textbooks, and other odds and ends (it easily seats 8 people, but I’ve managed to leave only one clear spot for someone who needs to eat- it’s not great, but it works perfectly for grading and checking emails!).
  • Know what type of schedule is required of you, and don’t overextend yourself. Maybe your boss has told you to work your 40 hours a week whenever it’s best for you, or maybe you’re given a pile of work (like me) and when you’re done you’re done. Know what you have to do, and do no more. Most weeks, if I work diligently, I work all day (8-10 hours) Monday and Wednesday, and just 1-2 hours on the other days (which I don’t count as work days, since it’s mostly checking email, taking care of loose ends, and dealing with the usual student crisis and/or paperwork- but no grading). I try not to drag things out throughout the week (like I’ve done in the past), since it makes me feel like I never get an actual break.
  • Check your email once a day, that’s it. If your company has a different email policy, by all means, follow it. However, as an online instructor I’m required to check email every 48 hours (which initially meant that I nervously checked my email 3 times a day and had a hard time getting anything else done). These days I feel most comfortable if I check my email once every 24 hours (usually first thing when I wake up in the morning, otherwise it hangs over my head until I finally do it). It typically takes 1-2 hours to deal with my emails, but once I’m done, I’m done until tomorrow and I can move on to other things.
  • Don’t make yourself socially available every day of the week, block off solid working days. When I first started working from home, I felt like I could make plans with family and friends every day of the week, but it kept me from getting into the right mindset to get things done, and it set a bad precedent that I was always around and willing to do anything on any day of the week (which was tempting, but I still had work to do!). These days Mondays are definitely off the table for socializing, and normally Wednesdays are, too. I didn’t set out to do things this way, but after a year of working from home and learning what days are best for me and my students, Mondays and Wednesdays organically became my work days (give yourself some time and you’ll likely fall into your natural work-from-home rhythm, as well). Before I knew it, my plans with family and friends started shifting, and they would only ask to hang out on my other available days of the week.

My tricks aren’t revolutionary, but it took a full year to step back and see what I had done. At this point, working from home feels effortless, and if you give yourself some time, you might also find yourself falling into a natural routine that reduces the mental burden of working from home.

Give it some time and patience :). Happy living!

5 Reasons You Should Consider Working From Home (and Why I Love It)

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I may not write about it on the blog as frequently as I could, but almost daily I tell my husband how much I love working from home and teaching online.

It’s fun to get into the classroom once a week and do things traditionally, but if you have the discipline and a solid routine, you really can’t beat working from home, regardless of what type of job you have (see these Forbes articles for more details: Five Reasons to Love Working From Home and One In Five Americans Work From Home, Numbers Seen Rising Over 60%).

Here’s why:

  1. You get to create your own work and life schedule. If I want to relax over the weekend, I can make a plan to get my work done during the week. However, if I find that there are more exciting things happening during the week, I can switch things up and get my work done over the weekend. I love that I can move things around this way. As a result, I frequently enjoy long Tuesday lunches with a girlfriend, midday hourlong phone calls with friends who live out of state, and some solid time writing for my blog.
  2. You end up saving money. As much as I sometimes wish I had coworkers to buy cookies for on their birthdays, or a ‘lunch crew’ to leave the office with on Fridays, I realize that I can still incorporate these things into my life (and do on occasion) without spending as much money. I also don’t have to update my work wardrobe, pay for gas money and tolls, or put wear and tear on my car, all of which results in some pretty decent savings.
  3. It’s easier to eat healthy and workout. Sometimes for lunch I’m chopping up vegetables in my kitchen, baking chicken, or digging into a huge piece of cantaloupe- none of which would be appropriate in a traditional office setting. I also have a little workout space in my house where I enjoy listening to bad 90’s music and lifting weights for about 30 minutes twice a week in the middle of the day. It’s the best way to put off getting work done while still doing something good for yourself.
  4. ‘Going to work’ turns out to be kind of relaxing. This might just be me, but some days life can feel hectic- running errands, taking care of household items, going to appointments, etc. During the uninterrupted time during the week that I need to work from home, life is quiet, unrushed, and predictable. It might just be my personality type, but sometimes it feels like a break from the chaos of everyday life.
  5. I can stop wondering if life would be better if I worked from home. I have a number of friends who wonder if they’d be better off working from home- some are new moms who are trying to figure out what to do with their career, some aren’t crazy about their coworkers, and others just feel that working from home is becoming so popular that it might be a decision they’ll need to make in the future. I know a handful of people who love working out of a home office and coffee shops, and I know a handful of people who regretted the move (the isolation and pressure to get yourself moving each day can definitely become overwhelming, especially in the beginning) and went back to the office within a year. Luckily, I know what works for me, especially with a baby on the way, so that’s one less major life decision I’ll have to worry about in the future.

It may seem that working from home is the next big trend, and it just might be, so if it’s something you’ve been thinking about, consider my 5 reasons why working from home is (at least for me), one of the best decisions I could have made, and decide if it might be a realistic option for you in the future.

Happy living!

How to Get Into ‘Coffee Shop’ Work Flow (When You Just Feel Like Spending the Day at Home)

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Mondays are the days that I pack up everything in my life around 9 am to head to a local coffee shop (usually Panera). As many people know, there tends to be a bit of Sunday night anxiousness that’ll remind you about everything you need to take care of on Monday, and that feeling each week is what gives me the motivation to get out the door when I wake up.

I pack up my laptop, headphones, folders, snacks, waters, and gym clothes (for an evening kickboxing class nearby), and get out the door before the usual crowd of busy college students, families, and location independent workers typically show up.

It’s a solid routine, but that doesn’t always mean I make it out the door.

Today I lingered, got some household things taken care of, and ultimately decided that I would work from my kitchen table (which is easier said than done).

I procrastinated, checked my emails again for no reason after I’d already done my morning email check, did some laundry, started writing this blog post (everything that was in no way urgent or related to the papers that needed grading).

Eventually I got into some semblance of ‘work mode.’ I pulled up a comfy chair, poured a cup of tea, put on my usual jazz music, pulled out my planner, and faked the ‘coffee shop’ feel enough that I just simply got started (a few hours later, of course).

It may not have turned out to be the perfect work day, and I didn’t feel like the unstoppable force that I normally do when seated by my usual coffee shop window from 9 to 6, but I did get done what I needed to, and for today that’s okay.  

Happy living :).

5 Office Essentials Everyone Needs When Working from Home

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You can go online and look up lists of essential items you might need when working from home (like I’ve done in the past), but I can honestly tell you that different things work for different people.

Having said that, here are my general suggestions for anyone working from home, with some advice for making it fit your own distinct personality and situation:

  1. The best laptop that works for you

I’ve looked at a few different lists of ‘Best Laptops for Working from Home,’ only to realize that the number #1 choice was actually my husband’s current laptop (which I hate using). So instead taking someone else’s advice (and when it comes to computers, everyone has an opinion), consider your own personal style and preferences when deciding which laptop would be best for you.

  1.  Reliable smartphone

I chose to include the word ‘reliable’ here because I used my own iPhone 5 well past when I should have (including the last year of it’s life when it didn’t hold a charge, so I could only use it when plugged into my laptop or a portable battery); it probably wasn’t the best idea for someone whose business relies on being connected. If your career and livelihood depend on responding to texts, emails, and taking notes on your smartphone, splurge for the new model when you need one.

  1. Portable laptop speaker and/or headphones

You won’t always be able to control your environment, or the volume of YouTube tutorials or other videos you may need to watch (or in my case, student speech videos), so I recommend having a good, portable laptop speaker, and a few good pairs of headphones scattered around when you need them- in your home office, kitchen, purse, car, next to your bed, etc.

  1. A makeshift (or real) office

You’ll need some sort of quiet space (or a few) where you can take your work seriously. Over the past year I feel that I’ve turned a few random workspaces into offices- my kitchen, living room, actual office in my home, and some quiet corners of the local Panera and public library. If I didn’t feel that I could comfortably get some solid work done in these spots, the whole ‘work from home’ thing would be a disaster at this point.

  1. ‘Work’ clothes

Depending on your personality and situation, you might prefer to work in sweatpants and a big sweatshirt (like I do from time to time), or athleisure wear (which I upgraded to when I started feeling like a slob in my sweats), or maybe just a comfortable pair of jeans, a cardigan, and high end ballet flats (my trusty Michael Kors flats have never let me down) when working from the coffee shop.

Good luck to all you you location independent workers. Happy working!

Automate Everything: How to Save 10 Hours Each Week

DSC_4981 copyTim Ferriss has talked about how to cut hours from our busy schedules in The Four Hour Work Week, and I took some helpful suggestions to heart after listening to the audio book. However, I’m sure many people, like me, were still left thinking “I don’t know that I could apply this to my job/life.”

Having said that, I think I’ve found a number of ways to apply the advice, put my own spin on it, and cut out a few tedious hours from each week.

If you don’t teach online college courses, this might not feel relevant to your situation, but who knows- it might just spark some similar ideas for efficiency in your particular field or life in general.

Here’s where I’m at:

I’ve reached the point in my online teaching career that I’ve started having regular conversations with a colleague of mine who lives in New York, has two kids, and has been teaching at multiple universities online for much longer than I have (something I rarely find), so her advice about balancing work and life is invaluable to me.

I’ve discovered a major theme in our phone calls lately, which is simple but also life-altering, and similar to the theme of The Four Hour Work Week and other helpful life hack-related articles I’ve read:

Automate everything.

When I sat back and thought about everything I’ve learned about organization, consistency, and teaching efficiently from my colleague and other like-minded people, I realized that the real gems that are helping me at this point are about automation (or as close to it as you can get as a freelance employee of sorts).

These are 4 new changes I’ve made to make my personal life and work life not only more efficient, but also much less stressful and more satisfying:

  • Set up weekly announcements to be sent automatically to each class at each school months ahead of time. My friend turned me onto this idea, and at first I was afraid there would be some massive mistakes and incorrect deadlines in these pre-planned announcements. However, it’s been two months since I stopped sending bi-weekly announcements, and I have to admit, having one less thing to take care of (in online classes at 3 schools) on Mondays and Wednesdays is so much nicer (and much more of a timesaver) than I thought it would be.
  • Have a separate planner to keep school deadlines and grading tasks straight. I used to rely on a random list of ‘to dos’ for each school that I updated daily (yes, daily- a huge waste of time) based on what I saw was up next in each class’s course schedule. However, after taking the same colleague’s advice, I created a planner that worked well for me (I actually made my own- if that gives you any indication of how obsessively organized I am), and pre-scheduled (a few weeks before the semester started) every day that I would have to grade certain assignments. My brain is so grateful for not having to strain to remember what was on the course schedule for that one school in that one tab that I just closed on my computer. Again, I was very doubtful (I normally have an aversion to calendars and planners), but it has been really nice to have ‘past me’ organize this entire semester’s ‘‘to dos.’
  • Plan meals ahead of time. I have tiny tubs of peanut butter, chicken salad and cracker ‘snack kits,’ and bags of almonds ready for when I need to run out the door (and they’re usually already packed away in my ‘teacher bag’ when I’m in the classroom all day). I also have dinners and lunches set up for my husband at the beginning of the week (all from Trader Joe’s, which eliminates most of the dedication, cooking, cost, and concern about health content on my part- thank you, Trader Joe’s!).
  • Automate your social life as much as possible. My husband and I have a few different groups of friends, and we also enjoy spending as much time as possible with family members who live nearby. For a while, it was time consuming just figuring out how to coordinate plans with everyone. To cut down on having to come up with creative activities to fill our usual 3-day weekends and see numerous people, we’ve established a few different ‘go-to’ activities on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays; it includes movies in the park with friends, Saturday and Sunday farmer’s markets (all scheduled by our city), family dinners on Sunday night, and an always ready guest room for dear friends and family who want to hang out for the night.

You may look at this list and consider the concept of ‘automating everything’ ridiculous; it is kind of crazy that we’ve become so busy as a society that we have to be hyper-organized to keep up with the demands of life. However, I see this as a chance to eliminate much of the busy work we deal with, and save hours of our lives to more fully enjoy being present, living at a slower pace, and appreciating the simple things in life.

Happy living :).

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