SUZIE | I am really curious not so much about anything specifically scrapbook related but more as to how on earth you manage to do everything you do on a daily basis.
JENNIFER | I would love to know * how you organize your day to manage work + family+ exercise + home.
AE | I recently wrote a big post that addresses this topic: Daily Work At Home Rhythms And Things I Have Learned. I definitely have help: wonderful childcare, someone who does the deep cleaning, a supportive husband (even though he’s often gone right now), etc. Those three main things allow me to focus on my job and all the different things that go into keeping my work humming along from day to day.
I’m a working parent. It’s not easy, but it’s easier for me now than when I first started. I love my job. I love my kids. I love my husband. I love working in the yard. I love travel. I love taking pictures and pairing stories with those images. I want all those things to be part of my life and I work hard to make it happen.
ALI | You seem very in charge of your life and purposeful and on the ball! What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with mothering, responsibilities, behind on house, organization, behind on memory keeping, etc? Do you ever feel that way? How do you get back to feeling in charge?
AE | I definitely find myself overwhelmed from time to time. When I feel overwhelmed the first thing I usually want to do is take a nap. That’s a good sign to me that I’m holding on too tight and juggling too many things. To be honest, when I get most overwhelmed I tend to take it out on Chris. NOTE TO SELF: This does not help.
Over the years I’ve learned to let certain things go (or enlist help) because I can’t do it all. I’m fairly organized and I like things to be put away. When things aren’t picked up I feel even more overwhelmed. I like to go to sleep with a clean kitchen and a picked up living and dining room. If I come downstairs in the morning to start my day and the kitchen is a mess (usually from me cooking and our dinner) and there’s stuff all over the table and couch it’s more challenging for me to get to work. It doesn’t always happen the night before but I more often than not I put in the effort.
When I am feeling overwhelmed what do I get back in charge? First thing I usually do is make a list (if I don’t have one going already) and figure out what the most immediate thing is that needs to be done. Next thing I do is just get started. I know that I will feel better if I just begin the process of tackling the things that are making me feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it’s really hard to get going…
With memory keeping, I have zero issues related to being behind because that’s not the way I choose to approach it. I have issues when I have projects due that I find myself behind on (usually because I got distracted by something else) but with general memory keeping I don’t play the “caught up” game. I choose stories to tell based on motivation and inspiration. When I scrapbook the stories are from long ago and from today. I haven’t done our Italy trip from 2010 yet but I’ve already done a layout from a story two weeks ago.
I also do a lot of juggling – tasks move to the front or to the back depending on the day, the deadline, how I feel, etc. I try to be as flexible as possible (key word is try).
MARTHA | Do you ever struggle with a total lack of motivation? When you are alone at home with no physical boss, do you ever find yourself completely wasting time? Not with intention, but maybe as an escape to feeling overwhelmed and/or frustrated? If none of this applies to you, please just skip this question. Thanks Ali!
AE | Yes. I’m completely familiar with a lack of motivation and wasting time. I’m familiar with spending way too much time surfing around - sometimes it can be valuable but often I think it’s just wasting time. Sometimes it does happen for me as a result of feeling overwhelmed and other times it happens as a result of a build-up of doing too much work and is simply a sign I need to take a break. I actually had one of those days a couple days ago – I got the basics done but when it came time to move forward on the projects that need to be moving forward it just wasn’t happening.
Here’s some of the things I do when I find that my motivation is totally lacking:
- TAKE TIME OFF. For me a lack of motivation is usually a good sign that I need a break. Working from home on my own hours means that I don’t always keep to the 8-4 or 5 that I strive for – there’s a positive and a negative to it for sure. Over the years I’ve learned if I give myself the day (or the morning of afternoon) off and I go do something completely different – even if it’s stuff that needs to be done around here: grocery shopping, gardening, exercise, etc – I usually come back to my desk the next day ready to work. Because I work from home I try to look at my schedule more globally vs. getting caught up in the fact that I might not get all my work done on a particular day. Looking at it from that perspective definitely gives me more flexibility in choosing to take a day off (it’s always made up somewhere down the line).
- GIVE IN. If I find myself mindlessly surfing due to a lack of motivation sometimes I’ll just keep messing around until I find a hook that re-motivates me again (a link, an image, a quote, a tweet, etc). When I do this, I don’t beat myself up if I don’t come across a hook. I take the hint that I likely need a break (see number one). I also often find when I do give in that I don’t like wasting time – I know I’m doing it when I’m doing it and it usually doesn’t feel good. That’s usually why I’d rather just decide to take the day off, go do something totally different, and approach it again fresh in the morning.
- MAKE A SNACK. My office is upstairs. The kitchen is downstairs. Going downstairs to get a snack breaks up whatever I was in the middle of wasting time with. Usually when I come back upstairs I’m ready to try again at getting down to the business of the day.
- GO FOR A WALK OR OTHER EXERCISE. I’m working on retraining myself to remember that this is a really good option for me when I’m lacking motivation. I may not want to do it but I always feel better – more energized and better focused when I do.
- FORCE MYSELF TO GO TO THE NEXT THING ON THE LIST. Not fun but it usually works. I have to talk myself into this one – I try to pick something from my list that is easy and quick, where when I finish it I’ll be back engaged in the business of work and be ready to tackle the next thing.
You also might want to check out a post I wrote a few years back: Breaking Out Of A Creative Rut.
This post is part of a 2011 Memory Keeping Q&A series. Additional posts in this series will be listed below as they are posted. Past Q&A posts are available via the Category Archives here.