Lately as I’ve been trying to maintain balance between my work life and real life I realized that my work and email habits are quite different from that of most of my clients, since I work from home and don’t have a physical separation from my work and my home and I don’t have a nanny. I’ve developed some habits and structures that work for me, but since they are probably different than yours, I realized that if I share them with you, you might understand me a little bit better. Or if you’re a work at home mom as well, maybe you’ll get some ideas on how to make working at home work for you. Since my babies are so young, my goal is to be with them as much as possible and to really be fully present with them when we’re together (which is a skill I’m constantly trying to improve). For me, I’ve realized that I need to give myself real boundaries between work and life or else work will start to take over and I won’t be giving my kids the attention they deserve. This is what is working for me now with two kids under four and no cleaning lady/nanny/Mother’s Day Out (yet!).
In the past year I’ve developed some thoughts on email through a hodgepodge of books, podcasts and magazine articles. The main thought I first heard from a book (I think?) is that you generally only have the answers to questions people pose to you in their emails at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day. Therefore you can be more efficient in your emailing if you only check and respond to emails at those times. I decided this was a good idea for me. I instantly noticed a huge leap in my overall productivity when I turned off my email program while I was sitting at my computer editing photos. My phone however was still checking for emails every so often. Every time I heard the little ‘ding’ it made for emails received I was magnetically drawn to my phone with a power which took all of my discipline to withstand. Wherever it was, wherever I was and whatever I was doing at the time, I needed to know what that email said. While taking care of the email by deleting it, or answering it and then would inevitably get sucked into something else on my phone (there’s an app for that). I was allowing email to interfere in my time with my kids and my husband because I was getting distracted by my phone all the time. So I set my phone to manually check emails only when I would open the mail app on my phone. That worked great except that a few days would go by without me opening it and then when I did there would be 143 emails there. I don’t know about you but having the little ‘143’ red dot hovering over the corner for my mail app drives me craaaazy. So if I wasn’t getting sucked into checking my phone every time it dinged, I was now sitting there deleting zillions of emails at a time which was equally time consuming.
So internet, I made a radical decision. I removed my email accounts from my phone.
Yes I did.
So now, I only check my email at my computer and I only check it twice a day (or so). And I usually only respond to emails around 3:00 in the afternoon.
As I alluded above, I do not have a nanny or a cleaning lady (soon Jesus?) and my kids do not go to Mother’s Day Out or preschool. I’m hoping to change this at the end of the summer, but for now it’s all me all the time. Therefore unless there is just something that HAS to get done sooner I only work between 2:30-5:30 in the afternoons while my kids are napping. That’s right, I only work about three hours a day not including days that I have shoots or weddings. My kids don’t actually sleep for three hours. Usually Shep doesn’t fall asleep for a good hour and then he’ll be out till about 5:30 but Rhett usually wakes up earlier and then crawls around at my feet while I’m finishing up whatever I’m working on.
On a typical day where everything is going right and I’m being very disciplined this is what happens. In the morning I follow my FlyLady morning routine, Rhett has a morning nap, I get some cleaning done, glance at my email and play with Shep. Then we have lunch and go for a walk or play in the backyard. Around 2:30, I get the kids in bed, and then I sit down on the couch by myself to unwind for 15 minutes. After my 15 minutes of ‘me time,’ I sit down at my computer and get to work! This has worked quite well for me believe it or not. At the beginning of this year I decided that it was time to get some outside help with a big chunk of my editing. One of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. Megan does my editing (more on her soon) and sometimes I like to tell her that she is my most favorite person in the whole wide world. Then I come home to my husband and kids and depending on how they’re acting, Megan still sometimes comes out on top. Just kidding. I’m also going to be getting some help with accounting this year and I’d like to send Shep to preschool this fall. When those two things happen, I’ll be able to adjust my work schedule some more. This week, Megan is out of town so I’ve been editing photos after the kids go to bed. This is not a good way to live life! If that’s what you are doing all the time, do yourself a favor and find yourself a Megan or some other kind editing service! Life is too short. I’ve been doing it for a few days and it’s driving me crazy.
There you have it. In summary, I only work two to three hours a day outside of shooting and I only check my email twice a day. It doesn’t always work perfectly but it does work well if I am disciplined. I hope that helps you understand me a little better, or gives you some inspiration to tweak your own schedule! The End.