Monday, 29 March 2010

The one about being your own boss

The advantages are obvious: a pay rise whenever the bank balance allows it and a new fancy made up job title whenever you feel like it. I've been running my own company with my business partner for more than 6 years now, and I like the way that my work fits in with my life, rather than the other way around. I don't rely on too much outside childcare for Samuel and it is great to be able to go into school in the middle of the day to see Anna as a singing penguin (for example).

The disadvantages are also probably obvious: an uncertain income, no-one to pay for your sick days except yourself, and no-one else to blame for incomplete/rubbish work.

The worst part for me is the conflict going on in my head: the conscientious boss versus the lazy worker, constantly slogging it out. The bossy-boss part of me thinks I should sit down and get started on writing for that new project immediately and I should invoice a customer for that completed job, and I should make some calls to existing and potential customers.

The lazy employee thinks she should make a(nother) cup of coffee, check Facebook, read a few blogs, re-check her e-mail, research flights to Manchester, and maybe just Google that guy that someone mentioned from that film that she can't quite remember. All important stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

Quite frankly, it's an exhausting war of inner dialogue.

And I haven't even mentioned the will power you need to work at home when you are surrounded by the dirty breakfast dishes, the non-unloaded dishwasher, the unwashed laundry, and the non-picked-up toys. Funnily enough, I do find it fairly easy to ignore these tasks (see Cleaning up) but usually this is in favour of the lazy employee rather than the bossy-boss.

This is what I have found helps to keep both the lazy worker and the boss in check:
- a deadline - even if the customer hasn't imposed one (unlikely) giving myself a deadline for doing something really helps.
- a to do list - sometimes my list includes seeing a singing penguin performance but it helps to give structure to an otherwise no-one-is-watching-what-I-am-doing day. Plus, nothing beats being able to tick things off the list as you do them.
- a break - a proper, walk-away-from-the-screen kind of a break...for me it usually includes eating something, fetching Sammy from nursery, and listening to the radio.
- to not check my e-mails all day/evening long - especially when I am not "officially" in the office, otherwise I can easily get sucked back in to work mode and never feel that I have free time.
- a dedicated space for working. Luckily, now I have a proper home office with a door, just for me. Yes, it gets full of the children's projects too and right now it has the following stuff in it that (believe me) have nothing to do with my job: a doll's pushchair, about 64 LEGO bricks, 3 big magnets, a cowboy hat, various bits of material and sewing, a half-finished knitted monkey, 1 juggling ball, and a multi-coloured wig. Despite this, it is really luxurious for me to be able to leave my laptop and papers on the desk and come back to the work later. I have had many years of my "office" being perched on the edge of the dining table and this is not ideal - especially when you have a toddler who wants nothing more than to get his sticky hands all over your latest 84 page piece.
- Skype and meeting people. If you work at home on your own, it can get rather isolating. Sure, it's great that you can work in your pyjamas and you don't need to wash your hair - but this can get quite horrible after a while (literally) and I find that I miss the whole having to look respectable for company aspect of working in a real office. So, it is quite good to have to meet your customers occasionally and, failing that, it's very good to have a regular Skype meeting with your business partner or some other network - to make sure you can still interact with adults during your working day.

Finally, you have to remember to give yourself a regular performance appraisal. I usually find something along the lines of “juggling working from home, plus children, plus house-wifey stuff, plus all the other things one wants to do is tough and you’re doing a brilliant job, keep up the good work!” is all that is needed. Then I step over the piles of toys, avoid eye-contact with the laundry basket, make myself some coffee and have a quick sneaky peek at Facebook before checking my to-do list.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Blogging for Insomnia

Just recently I have been composing blog posts in my head, at night, when I can't sleep. There are several problems with this; the main one being that it serves absolutely no purpose except to ensure that I get even less sleep than otherwise.

I know, I know, you're going to tell me about the "notepad and pencil" by the side of the bed trick, aren't you? But to be honest, I just can't be bothered. I do just actually want to sleep. To switch off my brain. And it bothers me that it is potential unwritten blog posts that swim around in my head at this annoying hour. It is not as though there aren't 117 million other more important things that I have neglected to do and could be thinking about.

So, in an effort to add a touch of spring cleaning to what is unfortunately becoming a bit of a boring bedtime routine, I thought I would actually try to write some of these posts down, during daylight hours - oh, the cleverness of me, as Peter Pan would say. And then I can go back to thinking about winter tyres, and hair appointments, and how the children need new shoes.

So, new (possibly sleep inducing) posts coming soon.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sountrack in my head

Apparently, when you are running and your mind starts wandering off onto other things rather than just concentrating on the next step and the next breath, you have reached a certain level of running fitness. Or so my good friend Emma tells me. And I believe her because she is a very experienced and super fit runner.

My other source of running advice, Tina, told me that she runs with a friend and they chat the whole time. Apart from being completely in awe of being able to talk while running - a skill that despite my ability to multi-task in almost all other areas of my life is definitely beyond my fitness level - I don't think this is for me because I quite like the way that running alone allows you to completely escape from everyone else.

Except, of course, yourself.

My brain has definitely started to wander off as I run. And the 50 songs I have on shuffle on my playlist in my ears helps to trick my body into running a little faster and to not think so much about how much further there is to go. It offers a soundtrack to 30 minutes of my life.

Things I think about while running:

-Imaginary conversations I would have with Tina if I was running with her (and by some miracle I could actually talk and run). We chat about old boyfriends and that time that we almost but not quite met up with Nicki on a beach in Italy. And then we move on to my lovely Godson and his fondness for books and what wonderful letters he writes to me. I ask her advice about my lollipop lady running outfit and she assures me I look great.

- When Let's Hear it For the Boy comes on I'm 15 years old again and Rachel and I have free tickets to the cinema to see Footloose (thanks to my mum who won them in a radio competition).

-And when Des attractions désastre by Ettienne Daho plays I am in a café in Paris imagining what this French guy is saying to me. I have no idea what the lyrics of this song are about but in my head he is talking directly to me and telling me how wonderfully I am running.

-The Obvious Child by Paul Simon makes me think of Samuel dancing around the kitchen playing his drums... Of course, my version is "we had a little son and we thought we'd call him Sammy…."

- Ramblin'man by Lemon Jelly and I am trying to count how many places he mentions in the song that I have been to. I love the way he says "Kentish Town" and makes it sound like somewhere exotic.

By now I’m hopefully more than half way. Sometimes I imagine that tough American woman from the TV programme The Biggest Loser is shouting at me to keep going and pick up the speed. I just need a few more good running songs to transport me away. Something like Ready to Run by the Dixie Chicks and Glor på Vinduer by Szhirley.

To finish off, it has to be noisy and if I'm lucky I'll get a bit of Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance and Rock Star by Nickelback to get me up the final hill.

And then I'm home.