Episode #34: (MINI) Our Work From Home Tips

Hi! As you may know, we’ve each worked from home for many years now, so we used this mini episode to share what works for us and what doesn’t … haha.

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Show Notes: 

-We mention Get To Work Book, which we both use and love and is owned by a dear friend of ours who we call “our third sister,” Elise Blaha Cripe.  Emma shares that she loves the Perpetual Calendar Notepad.

-Book recommendation: The Now Habit.

Here are a few links to past blog posts on this same subject:

How to be your most productive self. 

How batch working changed my life.

-And a real oldie on working from home.

Work From Home Tips For Every Enneagram Type

Happy Monday and thank you so much for listening to the podcast! XX

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Episode 34 Transcript

Emma: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast. We’re not new to working from home, in fact, we’ve done it for years and it’s a big piece of how we stay productive. In this mini episode. We are each going to share what a typical day is like for us, and then three habits that have helped us to do and feel our best when we work from home.

Elsie: Yes. So this episode is based off of, or inspired by a listener question. So if you have a question, you can send us one any time at podcast@abeautifulmess.com and maybe we will do a mini episode all about your question. So, OK, I’m going to read the question for today. “Hello. I’m new to working from home as a lot of people are right now, I suspect. What are your experiences when you first started working from home? How have your work routines evolved over the years? Do you stay in PJs all day? Do you wear makeup? This is new territory for me and I want to hear about things that work for you and don’t work.” So, yeah, I thought we would start off by kind of telling about like a typical day and kind of answer her question about the PJs and the makeup and all that. And then we will also share, each of us, three habits that have really helped us since we started working from home. We’ve both worked from home on and off throughout our whole career. But for the last about five years, we’ve exclusively worked from home. So I love batch working. That’s a big part of what helps me be productive. So every day is a little bit different for me because what I like to do is a lot of one thing for most of the day. So at least one or two days a month, I will do a full day of just photo shoots, usually with my photographer. It has been a little bit different lately with the social distancing. But yeah, typically I’ll do a couple shoots a month where the whole entire day I basically change clothes like 80 times and I have a list and it’s very detailed of what kind of shots I need. And I can get all the pictures that go with all of my blog posts for the whole month in one or two days. I also will spend a lot each week, probably one or two full days, just writing and just talking to our team members about projects. We have some pretty big projects going on right now that take a lot of meetings. So that’s a big part of what we do. Another thing is our meetings for A Color Story. We have one each week on Monday and then each month we have an ABM meeting where we do an editorial one and then we do what’s the other one called?

Emma: It’s just our team meeting where the meeting is our whole team.

Elsie: Team Meeting. Just to kind of like keep everyone on the same page, because almost all of our team works from home. And other than that, I spend a ton of time working and planning on projects with Colin. So Colin is my assistant. And I think one of the common misconceptions about an assistant is that they take all your work from you and do it for you. But really, when you work with someone, you spend so much time working together. So like this morning, we started a new DIY project and we spent, you know, about 30 minutes or an hour, just like putting tape on my wall and trying to decide where we wanted to put some shelves and stuff. So that’s also a big part of how my weeks are. And as far as the makeup and stuff, I’ll talk about that and one of my tips. But let’s just say I don’t really care. That’s not a big part of what I think makes me productive is like looking cute every single day.

Emma: Interesting, because I’m a little different. So for my typical work day, working from home, I get up at the same time as my husband. He works at an office most of the time. Obviously right now he’s been working from home. But so we get up at like seven-ish and I usually start working around eight or eight thirty. I pretty much always get dressed and put some makeup on unless we are kind of late.

Elsie: She does, she always looks good every single time that I face time her.

Emma: Well, I don’t wear like a ton like my everyday look is very similar to my going out look in that it’s pretty minimal. Like I have, like I don’t know, six products I use or whatever. Probably less than that actually, I’m trying to sound fancy. But I like to have a very routine, like a very like morning routine. It helps me. I think it like clicks my brain into oh today is a workday as opposed to like a Saturday or Sunday. If I don’t have anything going on and I’m not going to see anyone, then I don’t wear makeup. I don’t put contacts in.

Elsie: Really? Oh my gosh. My mind is blown right now.

Emma: Yeah I look super lazy if you call me on Saturday. I mean, if I’m gonna go see someone, then that’s different.

Elsie: So you would put your contacts on a Tuesday, but maybe not on a Sunday?

Emma: Yes, definitely.

Elsie: Funny.

Emma: Yeah, it it just helps me. Click into. It’s a workday mode. I don’t know what it, you know, it just tells my brain. Hey, today’s not a day off. Today’s a day you’re going to work, but I do have a very simple way that I dress like kind of a uniform and like I said, a very simple makeup routine. And if I wake up late, then I skip it because it’s kind of like, I kind of I like wearing makeup. I like looking a certain way. And so and I’m not upset if I’m not wearing makeup or anything, but if I choose to sleep in, then I forfeit my opportunity to put on my makeup. So which is fine. But yeah. So then I start working eight or eight thirty. I usually take a pretty short lunch break. Like only like 30 minutes and I’ll usually stop working around 5:00. And of course, you know, like everybody’s life. Sometimes I have doctors appointments, dentist appointments. I see my hairdresser a certain number of times a year. You know, all those things. So that fits into my work week usually, too, unless I can get an appointment on the weekend.Yeah.

Elsie: Nice. Yeah. We both do pretty much stick to traditional working hours around like eight to five ish or nine to five ish. And I love that. In the early days of my relationship with my husband, I was kind of starting the blog and starting a business and he was, you know, doing the same music stuff he does now. But we both worked. So we sort of like slept in and then we would work part of the day and then we would hang out a bunch and then we would work super late at night. And compared to that life. I like basically hate that life and I love the life we have now. I think that keeping traditional working hours, if you can, you know, in the first few years of a business, maybe it doesn’t make sense yet, but eventually it just feels really freeing to me. And I occasionally work at night, of course, like when I want to or I’m excited about something or there’s something that I really need to do last minute. But for the most part, it does feel really good. And I think it is sort of a key to longevity to be able to shut it off and actually take nights and weekends off as much as you can.

Emma: Yeah, I totally agree because for me, a lot of times people will talk about, like, working for yourself or working from home, all the flexibility, which to me I think there is flexibility, but I personally don’t love a super flexible schedule. What I love is the flexibility of basically getting to be alone, because getting to be completely alone is a very good space for me. It makes me feel a lot more productive. I’m able to do certain tasks much easier when I feel like nobody’s watching me or nobody like needs to talk to me right then. And it also makes it where my little introvert self gets filled up. So then I’m ready to see friends or talk with my husband when he gets home or whatever, you know.

Elsie: Yes, I am the exact same way. I don’t think I identified, I didn’t always identify as an introvert or understand that about myself. But years ago we sort of tried to do like an office space in Missouri. And it was very…it was definitely the least productive time I’ve ever had as a blogger and really challenging, honestly. And after that, we decided to start working from home. And I immediately felt sort of like a weight lifted off of me. So I think, you know, in your heart, like you’re probably thinking right now, I identify with that strongly or I just don’t at all. Maybe you love to be around people. Some people do. You know, that’s the type of people who end up working in coworker space is what’s that called? Coworking spaces, you know. But I would rather die than go to who WeWork. That’s a little dramatic, but who I would never want to a subscription to WeWork. No way. Like, no way. I love having a certain part of every day where the door’s closed and I’m completely alone and I’m just doing my thing silently. I think that my Enneagram definitely plays a part of it too, because I’m very, very easily distracted and I can’t have someone coming up to me all day bringing up different subjects. Like I even have a hard time staying focused at home with our different employees, texting me about different types of projects throughout the day. So no way could I handle it like people constantly coming into your workspace asking you about different things and kind of pulling your mind in different directions. That’s really, really, really tricky. OK. So should we move into the tips? The first thing I wanted to address was like the get dressed up vs. not get dressed up. I feel like when the quarantine started last month, it was like a very big topic, whether or not you get dressed up. And for me, as someone who’s worked from home for a long time, I’m like, oh, that’s cute. You’re really new to this. Because that’s like not a big deal. No but seriously like it’s the least thing that I worry about. I don’t think that my appearance affects my productivity at all. Although I do dress up about one or two times a week, maybe more, if it’s a photo week. And I like dressing up. And it feels good and it’s fun, you know. And if I’m ever just in the mood to do my makeup, which sometimes, you know, the mood strikes you…inspiration’s there, then I’ll do that. But taking many days a week to just wear like my yogas or my pajamas while I’m working or like sweats or whatever does not affect my productivity whatsoever. And so my tip is to give yourself the permission to try it both ways and just see if it even makes a difference to you. Because just because some other blogger says, oh, this is a big productivity like key, doesn’t mean that it will be for you.

Emma: Yeah, I definitely think more than anything else, like most things in life, it’s the mindset of it. What does it do to your mind to stay in your pajamas or get dressed? And if for you it does nothing, then just decide if you want to spend the time getting dressed or not, because that’s all it is.

Elsie: I actually something good for my mind because I just love it.

Emma: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t think there’s a black and white. You know. Right or wrong on it for sure. OK. My first tip has to do with getting organized because just like Elsie was mentioning, I also like to batch work. I think that I think we could do a whole episode on batch working, actually, because that’s a big way of how we get a lot done. And also for me, just makes me feel a lot more like I can then make more space to, like, explore, because any small business owner will know there are a lot of projects you do in a year and over the years that end up not being useful or profitable. And you kind of have to always be exploring. So if you don’t make time for that, you know, then that’s not great. You can’t grow your business. Anyway. So how I get organized is obviously to do this. But I want to kind of point out two tools I use. It is Get To Work Book is a brand by our friend Elise, and she sells lots of different products and they’re pretty much all awesome. The one that I use every single day that I work and on the weekends is the Perpetual Calendar Notebook. Wait, no Perpetual Calendar Notepad. It’s not a notebook. It’s a notepad. It’s sheets of paper that have a look at your full week. And it starts on Monday and it ends on Sunday. And there’s space to like write a pretty long to do list for each day if you want. I don’t tend to use up the entire space. I use that every single day. I usually fill it out sometime on Sunday for the following week. And I will kind of figure out all the big things I have to do that week. And I spread them out because to me, if I have like three really hard things to do and one day that’s not usually great. And then also it allows me to work easily, see when I’m going to batch work and which for me, I do a lot of my own photography. Not all of it. I do also work with some talented people and clean my friend Janae Hardy. She’s awesome. But most of the time I’m doing my own photography for like food and crafts at my house. So I also check the weather for the week.

Elsie: Smart sister.

Emma: I do use artificial lights, but not very often. Only when I have to, because I just think I’m better with natural light and I prefer it. So I look at the calendar or the forecast, which isn’t always accurate. But and anyway, I schedule my my photography batch working around whatever the sunny days are, and anyone on my team will tell you there are times I’m kind of like, hey, I’m not going to do that today because the sun’s out today. So I’m photographing (laughs), but I’ll do it tomorrow. But sorry you won’t hear from me today. I’m like, the sun’s out here in Missouri, so I’m getting it. So anyway, so I use that calendar notepad. That’s kind of like my daily to do list thing. And then another tool that’s really helpful is I have a big oversized wall calendar. And what I like about that is it gives me a month view at once.

Elsie: Ooh.

Emma: Yeah, because sometimes I have something coming up two or three weeks from now that’s like, oh, I’m going to be out of town for four days. So I like to keep that in the front of my mind as I work because it kind of, you know, gives me that little fire under my ass to, like, work hard because, hey, you’re not going to have the extra space that weekend to catch up on something if you need to, because you’re going to be out of town, you know, or whatever it is that’s going on. So I like to have that month calendar up in my office that helps me remember what’s going on.

Elsie: I love it. Okay, so I’ve talked this one a little bit in the past, but I like to use a Post-it note because for my to do list, I like the Enneagram Seven, I chronically sort of like overbooked myself or put too high of expectations on what I can get done. And then I feel let down and I feel deflated and that’s never good. So I discovered this a couple of years ago that if I just take one post it note and I kind of just post it there on my planner for the day and then whatever to do list I have for the day needs to fit on that note. If it’s too big to fit on the note, it’s probably unless it’s a photo shoot, like a shotlist, there’s nothing I should ever have that’s longer than one Post-it note for a day because everything we do takes time. Right. And then my other tip for that is to do the annoying thing on the list first. I feel like this is kind of cliche advice, like if you just Google like tips for working from home. This will always come up. But it for me, it works really well.

Emma: It’s a classic.

Elsie: It’s a classic. Yeah. At the moment I am finishing my taxes I had some permitting issues with our BnB. Things like that are what needs to go first in the day for me. And then things like writing a blog post or even talking to the employees, like having meetings are things that are fun for me that I look forward to so I can save those til later in the day because I know that I’ll want to do it. But the thing that is frustrating, I think it’s best to just knock it out first thing and then you can go the whole rest the day without really dreading anything.

Emma: Yeah. No, I, I totally agree. Knock out the most annoying or most difficult thing first or whatever you’re dreading. Yes. Okay. My second tip is more of a book recommendation. It’s called The Now Habit. It’s mostly about procrastinating. So I think everybody has their own way of procrastinating and probably most people struggle with it. I’m sure there’s those special few who don’t. But I do. And for me, it’s…so there’s a lot of reasons why we procrastinate. Sometimes we’re kind of stuck. We’re either intimidated by the project to come or we don’t know how to move forward. But for me, the number one thing I find myself doing, and I actually think you can hear it, by the way, that I talk, by the way that I structure sentences, is I have a hard time prioritizing. I don’t know what’s the most important thing. And so I end up trying to do like three or four things at once. And I either don’t complete them or I do them kind of poorly. It’s just it becomes really difficult for me to be like, I’m just gonna do this one thing right now and I see that other thing out of the corner my eye could be working on. But I’m not doing that. I’m doing this one thing right now. So, yeah. So that was…once I kind of unlocked that for myself, I was like, oh, this is a little thing I do that really messes up my work week. So how can I, like, catch myself in those moments where I’m like doing two or three things at once that I’m doing at least one of them poorly? Or how can I write my to do list in a way that helps me see, hey, this is the most important thing. So, you know, maybe you’re gonna do it first or maybe it’s not due until whatever. So, you know, you’re going to work on it Wednesday or whatever. But just, you know, I try to find ways to help myself prioritize because I realize I struggle with that. But anyway, The Now Habit talks about lots of different procrastinating things. So if that’s something you struggle with, it’s a helpful book.

Elsie: Nice. Yeah. I haven’t read that one. Okay…

Emma: You can listen to it also. I actually listen to it. I didn’t read it. I rarely read nonfiction. I usually listen to it.

Elsie: Yeah. That’s a good idea. All right. So my third one is to schedule all kinds of different things. Whenever I first started working from home, I think that my biggest flaw or problem was that I felt like I had to be doing something that earned money at all working hours of the day, and sometimes I would just get overwhelmed and then just do something stupid, like go shopping. Right. Or go to Target. I just wasn’t able to sort of like break up my week into a realistic format. So something that really helped me over the last few years is that I schedule four days a week of normal schedule and then on Friday I schedule nothing. It’s like an overflow day. And a lot of times I spend that day doing whatever I didn’t get done from the week, but every once in a while I get to spend that day doing something that I wanted to do that I hadn’t had a chance to do yet, or preparing for the next week or getting started early on something. And it just feels really good to have that extra time built in so that I don’t have to panic or feel, you know, sad if not everything happened on the schedule supposed to. And I also do schedule time to clean now, which I know this sounds so silly, probably. But if you work from home over time, this will become a big thing: cleaning up your workspace at the end of the day, at the beginning of the day. If you do recipes or DIY like we do, they can make a big mess. Sometimes you need to have an hour at the end of the day or 30 minutes just, you know, to put on a podcast and set your home back to a home that is really important. And if you work from home and you’re not willing to schedule that as a part of your day, it’s not going to work over time. It’s really not fair to you or, you know, if you have a roommate or a partner or, you know, I don’t know to your business, it’s it’s just not fair to anyone if you expect yourself to do all that extra cleaning and a prep outside of your work hours.

Emma: Mm hmm. And my third and final tip is to figure out how to take a productive break. So what I mean by that is we all need breaks in our day. You know, if you work like an hourly job or like some of the first jobs I ever had, it was required. You had to go sit in the break room and, like, clock out for ten minutes. And we do — our brains need a break. Sometimes you get kind of stuck in work or sometimes you’re like needing to brainstorm and you’re just out of ideas. And that usually means you need a break. So there are good and bad ways to take a break for me if I start a podcast that I’m really like into and it’s gonna be a long form one that’s actually not great because then I typically want to finish listening to it. So I’ll try to find tasks where I can do that and I might end up kind of wasting time or like doing some tasks that aren’t as important. So for me, the best break and I have a few throughout the day, but my favorite is I go on a short walk. I have a couple areas in my neighborhood where I know I’m like, if I unless I go really slow. It’s like this is a 20 minute walk and I’m going to spend the time either not thinking about work at all. I’m just going to think about things I’m grateful for. Kind of like a little happiness meditation. Or I’ll be like, hey, I’m going to brainstorm, but I don’t have any paper with me. So there’s — the pressures kind of off. I’m just going to like, think about this problem at work or think about this thing I’m trying to work on and just, you know, let my mind kind of wander. And I find most of the time that I come up with great ideas when I’m on a walk because I used to think it was such a waste of time, like, oh my gosh, I’m like wasting my company’s time going on this walk. But now I’m kind of realizing, no, some of your best ideas happened because you went on a walk. So you should do that. You should make space for it.

Elsie: I completely agree. Like, sometimes you need a necessary break to get inspired. Reset your mind.

Emma: Mm hmm.

Elsie: Okay. Well, I hope this episode was helpful. We love working from home. And if you’re hating it, maybe this episode will give you something to try. I will say it’s probably really hard if it’s a temporary situation and you don’t have a workspace set up, you know, and you’re trying to work in your bedroom or in your kitchen. So I don’t know, god speed!

Emma: Or if you’re in between homeschooling your kids.

Elsie: Oh my god!

Emma: We’re all rooting for you. Just do your best. This is more for…if this is helpful, if it’s not helpful, forget it. You’re doing fine. Just survive.

Elsie: Yeah, you’re doing great. OK. Thank you for listening.

Emma: Bye.

Read More
  • I was so excited to hear about the Perpetual Calendar Notepad! I have been looking for something like this for a while since like Emma I like to plan my weeks out like this. I just placed my order for it! Also like Emma, I’ve learned that I have to put something besides pjs/workout clothes to be in “work mode.”

  • I’d love to hear more about balancing domestic duties and parenting duties with working from home. Who does what and when, how things are decided between partners, who comes in from the outside to help and when. Love this!

  • I would love to hear you expand on the different work environments your company has had over the years (pros/cons, maybe why the old one’s didn’t work for you and why WFH is best at least right now). I’ve read the blogs since before I could drive and I loved thinking about how cool your store must have been and how cool working out of your studio house must have been and I know I was just seeing the outsider perspective. It’s been incredibly interesting to hear you guys break down why you decided to close the store, stop the clothes line and various apps; I’m curious about the progression to working from home.

  • Hi! Love your podcasts! Do you have a post of what your work from home space looks like? Or do you move about? I have an office type space that I want to make into a cozy reading/working nook. Any tips would be great ?

  • I’d love an episode on batch working as suggested in this episode! 🙂

  • Just wondering if you’ve ever bumped up against fear of Success, and if so how you overcame it? A lot of us talk about fear of failure, but the bigger hidden fear is of succeeding. This episode about working from home was very helpful to me, because it’s something I want to pivot towards. But I dont pursue it because of fear of success! Anybody but me feel this way???

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