Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Random things

I've written a lot about working at home recently, and rather less about the living at home part.  I blame computers.  In fact, I blame computers for a lot of things, but in this instance I blame them because when I'm sitting in front of one, I am generally working and so that's where my thoughts naturally rest.

So, on the living front...

A 'new' garden with lovely raised veg beds and a shady patio is definitely on the horizon.  (This means I am being very lazy about all the jobs that need doing both in garden and allotment; soon the allotment will no longer be mine and soon the garden will be dug up and remade.  An excellent excuse for laziness - if I didn't manage to find 1001 other things that need doing in the house instead.)

I have, however, dug most of the potatoes and harvested rather too many French and runner beans.  Thank goodness for a freezer.

Tomatoes, beetroot, sweetcorn and celeriac appear to be a washout this year.  Also courgettes and pumpkins (the plants simply haven't grown - they look like bonsai squash plants).  How is it possible to not have a courgette mountain in the summer?  I've harvested exactly two finger-sized ones and there are no more that I can see.  There will be a few carrots, and the peas were great while they lasted, despite the best (or worst) efforts of the birds.

Looking after a friend's two daughters meant that yesterday I had three times as many children as I am used to.  I was on my knees with exhaustion by the end of the day.  Was it the noise levels, the stress of being in charge of someone else's offspring, or the constant arbitration of disputes that was so draining?  (Mind, the hours previously spent digging potatoes can't have helped either.)

I took my knitting to the pub last night (a large shawl/blanket which I seem to have been knitting for approximately 79 years) and didn't knit a single stitch because I'd run out of wool and hadn't taken a new ball.

Sewing, knitting, spinning, writing - I am achieving none of these.  There has been some sitting in the (old) garden drinking wine and daydreaming, so the time hasn't been altogether wasted.

I'm taking a complete work and computer break for a couple of weeks - back in September, hopefully with lots of enthusiasm for all these creative things left undone in the tangle of summer, especially since I still don't know what the autumn will bring work-wise.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Sitting at desk does not equal work

Once again in the British media there's been discussion of home working and how it involves pyjamas and daytime TV.  I read about it here and have no intention of seeking out the original articles because they'll only annoy me.  But it made me think about productivity.

When I was an employee working outside the home, I travelled for 1.25 hours each day just to get to the office and back.  I spent at least a couple of hours every day in meetings, and sometimes I spent all day in meetings.  Now I've 'won back' all that time.  Some of it gets used for work, some for family.  And I know that the hours I spend working each day are much more productive now, because I can focus completely on the task at hand.

Some of that time I've won back, however, is in danger of being used staring blankly at a screen because 'I have to use this time to work'.  But if inspiration isn't striking and you're getting frustrated, it's ok to walk away.  Especially if I'm writing or editing my writing, as I have been the last few days, I find that there comes a point where what I'm writing stops making sense to me.  That's the point where going to do something else is actually the most productive thing you can do.  I get up, make tea, pack a bag (off to pick up the boy from his holiday at Grandma's this afternoon), and the brain whirrs away in the background without me being aware of it.  On the way up the stairs several sentences come to me spontaneously, I work out how to restructure this thing, and how to begin that thing, and the 'real' writing begins again.

Now, what I want to know is whether I can legitimately bill for the time spent making tea, packing a bag and walking around the house?

Then I remember how much time 'out' at work is spent in meetings, making tea for the entire office and gossiping on the stairs...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


A friend of mine remarked recently that she wanted to be 'that mum who, when the child says "can we do painting", answers, "well, I was going to clean the house, but yes, we can do painting!"'  The boy, who was playing nearby, seemingly oblivious but actually with ears on stalks as always, remarked, 'my mum's already like that.'

It made my day.  As a home business owner, there's no boss to give you a pat on the back for a good piece of work or for landing an exciting contract.  And as a parent, you don't ever hear your child say, "Mum, you're a great mum and I know you always do your best for me, so thanks.  I'm going to grow up to be a creative and well-rounded individual."  (And wouldn't you think it was a bit odd if you did?!)  But the boy came pretty close that day, validating so many of my choices:

  • Making the school drop-off and pick-up a non-negotiable part of my day.
  • Working much less in the school holidays and spending hours wrestling and playing scrabble instead of sitting in front of the computer.
  • Dropping everything when he says 'read me a story'.
  • Deciding to work from home in the first place, in order to put life first and work second - even though that work is fun and an important part of my life.
  • Using the recent gift of some free time for family time, rest and pondering (yes, that's what I decided to do, although some exciting work opportunities are on the horizon for September/October.  Another post on this question of time and how to use it coming up soon!)
The thing is, though, there was never a long term plan; it has always been a case of doing what worked best for us at the time.  When the boy was little, I used to say that I would one day write a childcare book entitled "If it works, do it." (In other words, don't listen to other people, the millions of experts or their books, just do what helps your family survive the day.  Assuming it's not illegal or immoral!)  Maybe it shouldn't be a childcare book at all, but a kind of life/work manual.  What works changes from day to day and from year to year, but for now, this rhythm seems to work for us.

PS. The blog has a new home to live and work in!

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