Only the other week at 3.30 am I was shuffling my kids into the shower, wrestling my 4-year-old to wash his hair because his 1-year brother had projectile vomited into his face.
Between cleaning up vomit and gag-worthy poo-ey nappy, my work plan for the week went straight out of the window.
Although I’m grateful my business affords me the luxury to work from home, I also know being productive and staying motivated isn’t always easy especially when the whole family are coming off from a week recovering from gastro.
Being self-employed for 5 years and being a mum of two little boys, I often get asked how do I manage to do it all. So today, I wanted to share with you the one thing you need to do to stay motivated when working from home.
It doesn’t matter if you’re self-employed like me, have a job that has flexibility or a mum building a side hustle, this all applies to you, so read on.
Creating Structure and Routine
Yes I know, this doesn’t sound very sexy but hear me out.
There’s a misconception that having structure ad routine can feel suffocating especially for those spontaneous and people-loving personalities who will contest that it stifles creative energy and workflow. How do I know? Some of those are my clients.
Yet when we establish structure and routine, we create freedom.
We no longer need to carry thoughts that can weigh us downin our short term memory. Instead having structure and routine allows us to put processes and systems in place on AUTO-PILOT.
In other words, it allows your brain to go on cruise control.
I have a client who blatantly told me that structure and routine just isn’t “her thing.” My response was ahuh. But before our coaching journey was done, she’d become a structure and routine queen and here’s why.
She was doing life haphazardly wondering why she wasn’t able to accomplish all the things she wanted to do. She told me her health was a priority but she didn’t know where to start.
So we implement structure and routine and now she’s meditating, journaling and exercising all before her son wakes up before taking him to school because it’s become habitual, she’s on auto-pilot.
Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming on where to start. You don’t need to pull up a spreadsheet or calendar only to look at it blankly. Often removing distractions and things that cause you stress can help you prioritise what needs your attention first. Download this free Stress Audit to help you discover what obstacles could be in your way and then fill in the blank:
Today I’m going to _______________________________________________,
When it comes to the night-time routine with putting our kids to sleep, hubby looks after our eldest and I take care of the baby. As of late, hubby has been struggling big time with an injury so he’s been on bed rest and I took care of both boys last night.
I ended up falling asleep with them at about 8pm and so of course I woke up at 3am wide awake panicking that I didn’t put my alarm on for my morning run.
So I got out of bed to charge my phone downstairs and not long after that I hear my youngest start crying and my eldest say “what happened!” quite a matter of fact.
When I turned the lights on, both kids were blinded by the light but I was blinded by the sheer fact that my eldest face and hair was covered in vomit. It took me a few seconds to figure out who’s vomit it was.
My poor baby had an upset tummy.
Hubby being a light sleeper came to the rescue and in the early morning hours, we found ourselves showering the kids who were defiant and putting a load on in the washing machine only to find that the vomiting episode came as a series.
So while the sheets got washed and put in the dryer, we carted the boys downstairs to watch telly and keeping them vertical with our fingers crossed.
I left my hubby and still went for my run with my crew and planned to pick up supplies for the family on the way back.
The Importance of Structure and Routine
Driving to our meeting spot, the rain got heavy.
Torrential. I could barely see through the window even though my windscreen wiper was going at 100mph.
I texted Nyree “We’re crazy!”
Next minute I’m running, listening to Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre and feeling amazing.
The thing is, when you have kids and you’re a working mum, life is constantly throwing you curve balls and you can either get hit and complain about it and give up or you can get hit, realised it hurt and focus on a new strategy to anticipate the unexpected.
That’s the importance of having structure and routine with inbuilt flexibility as a working mum. Have a plan but know that nothing ever goes to plan so have a plan B too.
After the run, I popped into Woolies, grabbed the supplies I needed and went home to be a full-time mummy.
My Saturdays morning is when I work on my business, fat chance that was happening today.
However having structure and routine for the majority of the time helps me stay focused on my business, holds me accountable and also allows for wiggle room on the off chance it doesn’t go to plan, like today.
At first, some clients are apprehensive about having structure and routine. Ashley was against the idea of structure and routine because she thought it would be too restrictive.
However after I told her that it’s quite the opposite, she gave it a try.
Having structure and routine is quite liberating and frees up your energy and time from constantly thinking about the future when instead it allows you to put certain things on AUTO-PILOT.
She wakes up to journal, meditate and exercise all before her son wakes up and has the rest of the day to pursue her passion projects and studies.
Why having inbuilt Flexibility is not only Important but Necessary
Once we become mums, our lives are forever changed because we put our children before our own needs.
As a result, we’re in a constant tug-of-war between prioritising their needs and fulfilling ours. This ultimately puts us at risk on the road of chronic stress and burnout.
What I see is more effective is doing the opposite.
What use are we if we are not role models of what it is to be a happy and healthy working mum?
We want to teach our kids that happiness is an inside job and that begins with prioritising ourselves. That isn’t to say we neglect our children, in fact, we actually have more to give.
Having structure and routine is a way we honour prioritising our needs and having flexibility around this is how we can fulfil our children’s needs at the same time.
Here are 5 Ways to Adopt a Healthy Balance of Having Structure and Routine with inbuilt Flexibility that Prioritises You:
Decide your office hours, the number of hours you work every week and block out this time in your calendar so you have a visual representation of your working week, you can do this also with your study commitments. Once set, commit to this and be intentional with the time you do have.
Create appointments with yourself in your calendar for your meditation, exercise and other activities you know that helps with your mental, emotional and physical health – these appointments are non-negotiable.
With the time you are with your children, declare that you will be 100% present and they have your undivided attention – this means no mobile phone so their love cup is full and can learn to appreciate the need to have focused attention when you have allocated time to work. I find timers are particularly useful when your children are old enough.
Have a journal/notepad that you can write in always at a arms reach away, when ideas and thoughts come to you when you’re with your kids, write them down for later. Don’t spend energy remembering things that will distract you from being in the moment.
When planning out your week, decide on your minimum and maximum hours you want to dedicate to work and set S.M.A.R.T goals so that you feel confident and on fire by the end of the week. Sometimes we can set unrealistic goals and set ourselves up for failure if we’re not working towards well thought out realistic goals in the season of life we’re in.
Recently my favourite quote is
Change your pace, not your purpose.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or stressed and don’t know where to start, apply for a stress assessment and we can arrange a time to chat about strategies on your next step forward.
Emotions can be all-consuming. You only need to look at a toddler to see the intensity of an emotion when something goes wrong.
It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it may seem, for them, it’s the end of the world.
I remember reading that kids are just little people with big emotions. They’re emotions are valid and to be respected. As we grow up, we learn to process those emotions so that we can still function in society.
Just imagine having a meltdown in the supermarket because the store ran out of bananas, wouldn’t that make for an interesting day.
However many of us still act this way internally even if we don’t show it. So it’s important we develop the ability to process our emotions so that it doesn’t create dis-ease in the body.
This week my work is a balance of doing 1:1 health coaching and administration. Admin encompasses everything from marketing to accounting. It’s not my favourite part about having a business but it needs to get done.
So each week, I dedicated office hours for actioning my admin tasks. But for some reason, my family just assume I can drop everything to spend time with them because I work from home.
As much as I love the work I do, I will always prioritise my family so when I’m put in a position to choose, I feel this pang of guilt.
So today I was feeling really frustrated because I’d been interrupted for a few weeks in a row and I was getting fed up but I didn’t say anything.
My stomach getting all twisted inside because I wasn’t expressing how I was feeling.
When I did try to, I couldn’t find the words.
So I used a method that helped me process my emotions so that I could communicate with my family in a way that didn’t make them wrong.
I was able to set boundaries lovingly so that they understood that they were still important but they had to respect my time too.
So what’s the method Merly?
It’s called the NOW method.
N stands for name
One of the fundamentals of processing our emotions is to be able to identify and name the emotion we’re feeling.
To help you find the vocabulary for your emotion, you can refer to the emotion wheel.
Once you have named the emotion, notice how it feels in your body.
Do you feel hot or cold? Heavy or light? In your mind’s eye does it have a colour and shape?
The more you can describe it, the better this exercise works.
O stands for open
Step 2 is about opening up and allowing the emotions to be.
Open up your body to allow the emotion to be there for as long as you need to.
You can use your breath to visualise where the emotion is residing, it could be in your shoulders, jaw, fist and stomach.
Where do you feel you lock up, tense or experience the feeling most?
W stands for write
Lastly, once you have observed the emotion in your body, write it down.
Explore with curiosity and enquire within. You can ask questions like what caused the emotion to rise, how is the emotion impacting your thoughts and where to now?
The NOW Method is such a useful tool to help us process our emotions and begin to reduce some of the stress in our daily life.
I mentioned in this post that there’s a myth that humans, particularly women are great multi-taskers. Although yes we can multi-task but at what cost?
A study of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD using a neuroimaging and cognitive testing showed that when our brains are distracted it impacts our ability to focus and reduce productivity.
But you don’t need to have ADHD to know that.
My husband who proclaims he’s such a great driver with amazing spatial awareness says that it’s only when I’m in the car he seems to lose his pizzazz.
As I was saying, I don’t know about you but often when I walk into a messy room or office, I immediately felt overwhelmed and it’s usually because I feel all over the place, I don’t know what to do or where to start.
One of my mentors, Milena would say “what’s the most important thing for you to focus on today?”
It helps cut through the chaos and gets straight to the root of what’s important now.
Have you ever tried to just sit and think nothing?
No matter how hard you try to think absolutely nothing, a thought will pass by, sometimes it’s thought about thinking nothing!
It’s a perfect example of how our brain is continually scanning your internal and external environment even when you’re focused on a task. For example, you’ve decided to sit down and read a book before bed and whilst engrossed in a chapter, you remember you need to turn the light off on the front porch or set your alarm on for tomorrow.
So what can you do?
The ABC Method
One neat little hack you can do to help you maintain focus and prevent distractions is to use the ABC method.
A stands for aware.
When you thought comes into your mind you are aware of your options to either focus on the distraction such as stop reading the book and set your alarm or you can choose to let the through drift by.
B stands for breathe.
Take a deep breath and consider your options.
C stands for choose.
They make a decision; will you stop to set that alarm?
It’s 10.59pm and I’ve been staring at my computer on what to write because I got caught up with blogging the “right way” and went into a big rabbit hole of self-doubt.
Can you relate?
Well this is my blog, so I can blog anyway I like and so I’ll just keep typing and hope for the best!
But it does bring me back to one of the regrets of the dying explored more deeply in a book written by Bronnie Ware, where they wished they had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not the life that others expected of them.
So imagine, you’ve come face to face with the knowing that you’re on your last days on earth and you hear yourself say “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
I want you to take a moment, close your eyes and imagine this scenario clearly.
Say these words out loud to really feel the gravity of these words.
Then come back.
Life, at least the way I know it is chaotic and busy with two little kids. It’s so easy for me to get swept away with the day to day life that the year can feel like it flew by. My mind constantly somewhere else other than right here in this moment.
That’s why bringing my attention to the breath, my senses, what I can see, feel, smell and hear helps bring me back to the here and now. Incorporating mindfulness helps me stay true to my compass.
Being mindful can give space in our day to get present to areas of our life that we want to honour.
What are our dreams, desires and aspirations that are deep within that has been supressed because we’re too consumed about what others might say or think?
Maybe you’re in a job that is literately destroying your soul but you stay because of the money, you could be in a toxic relationship but preserve because it’s not the “right time” to leave or you find yourself late at night loading your body with all the stuff that’s triggering you to have major health problems but stress is to debilitating that you need the quick fix just get through it.
You’re waiting for the right time to change, whether that time comes, who knows.
I don’t have the answers for you and that’s the most powerful thing about this because only you can create a life that is true to yourself.
How do you know when you’re not in control?
It just feels icky because everything is hard and not in flow.
I’m actually thinking about my client who told me last week that she’s feeling like she’s found her frequency! You can read more about her recent testimony she wrote half way through her health coaching program with me.
So coming back to reading this sentence again, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me” I really get that no one can live my life except me.
Who knows maybe in the future, we can transport our consciousness into another body but right now as far as I know, this mind, body and spirit has me at its command.
So I dare you to just explore perhaps in a journal this week, is to imagine yourself at the end of your life and start writing just a few things you regretted not doing on the left hand side.
Then on the right hand side of your journal, pick one and write small actionable steps to making some of those things a reality for you.
For example, maybe you always wanted to learn to speak Spanish, play the piano, write a book, get a tattoo, be on stage at a TEDx talk, go to uni in your 30’s or live in a tiny house.
What’s one thing you could do tomorrow that brings you that one step closer to making it a reality for you?
For more support on how you can use mindfulness to help you overcome the overwhelm and get present to designing a life without regret, join my 5 day challenge click here.
Today I had to get an x-ray for a tooth extraction. I had to remove any jewellery and wear a protective belt around my waist.
The lady was really nice but I was so nervous about a machine radiating these energy wavelengths around my head that my mind started thinking about things like what if she makes a mistake and blows my head off!
Fear can be so debilitating that we can stunt our own personal growth if we’re not diligent in monitoring our thoughts.
So how do we evolve when we feel frozen by fear?
It’s about viewing fear as a state of transition.
The word transition evokes the feeling of progress, it’s letting go of the past and reaching out for the unknown.
It’s where transformation happens.
So how do we embrace this space called transition?
Expect that it’s going to be hard. When we know this, we can prepare ourselves and surrender to what is.
I read a wonderful analogy that transitions is very much like the act of swinging from one trapeze swing bar to another whilst soaring through the air, it’s that moment where we are still holding onto the bar of the past and reaching for the bar ahead when we finally let go.
How exhilarating would life be if we were swinging from one bar to the next, feeling the fear and doing it anyway!
You’re probably reading this now because you already know the benefits of having a daily meditation practice or have heard that meditation could help you manage your stress levels but feel like it’s an unattainable goal. Even the phrase “daily meditation practice” already seems time consuming and daunting to say the least, right?
But what if I said to you that implementing this special daily mediation practice is going to give you more time?
Yes, you read that right.
Often when we are time poor, we’re usually overwhelmed, over-stressed and over-worked. Our focus and productivity wanes. our modern busyness of life leads us to be completely unaware how much we are wasting because we’re committed to keep on moving, even if we’re dragging our feet by lunchtime.
It’s free but also meditation can give you more time.
How? Meditation allows you to focus your attention inwards, cutting out the unnecessary clutter that could be causing confusion and indecision. When you have clarity and dominion over your thoughts, confusion dissipates and a call to action is visible.
If you have only a certain amount of time in the day and during these times you are more productive, you then create more time and have breathing space for the more important things in life like being present with family.
An effective way to incorporate meditation is to adopt what I like to call is the heart-full minute.
Put your hand on your heart and take 5 deep breathes. The goal is to focus on feeling the heart beat on the palm of your hands whilst noting your breath going in and out. Feeling your heart pulsate in itself bring your back to life force that is you.
You don’t need to think nothing, it’s perfectly normal to have thoughts especially judgmental thoughts about if you’re doing the heart-full minute correctly or what you need to be doing straight after the meditation.
To bring your focus back, start noting your breathe. So as you breathe in, say in your head you’re breathing in and so forth as you breathe out. Noting is a great tool to bring your attention back to stillness when you catch yourself carried away with your thoughts.
You might think a minute isn’t that long but you’d be surprised. The heart-full minute can be done anywhere and anytime, so many opportunities such as while you’re on the toilet, waiting at the grocery line, breastfeeding or having a shower.
Do this enough times and you get the compounding effect that meditation will get easier and easier the more you do it.
Finding practical ways to reduce stress in your life is a great foundation to help you balance your hormones and boost your fertility. For more tips to detox your mind and body, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.
In the past week, I have been feeling so overwhelmed with what is going in my life right now that I haven’t been present when I’m with my children. As I was breastfeeding my son to sleep at 7pm at night, my mind was racing when I should have been just enjoying the quiet peaceful moment of the two of us as he drifted off to sleep.
When I was pregnant with my second son approaching his due date, I was still working on the phone and attending the meeting with clients whilst wrangling a 2-year-old toddler. People would question when I was going on maternity leave and I would say I was going to work right until I popped. I had always been a good multi-tasker. I thrive best working under pressure. With my firstborn I figured since I was able to study, work, start a new business and raise a breastfeeding baby without the need to pump, I could do pretty much anything. There lies my biggest problem. The illusion that just because I could do everything, doesn’t mean I should do everything.
So leading up to the birth of my second son, I was doing just that, everything. Little did I know I had internalised a lot of my frustrations and anger, it would then erupt out of nowhere mostly directed at my husband, who was apparently supposed to be able to read my mind all the time! It was then my midwife gently said that sometimes the baby doesn’t come until the mother is ready. Here I was just doing my thang until the baby came. At no point did I consider maybe the baby is waiting for me. I know of other mums who took at least a week off, even up to a month to get into the nesting spirit and although that sounded wonderful, in reality, I think I’d rearranged the furniture a trillion times before the day was up.
Often when we are excellent masters of time, we often assume that we have everything handled even when we don’t. I had been terribly moody, getting very cranky at hubby for not seeing the obvious such as washing the dirty dishes. At the time, I had the hugest belly, so I was finding extremely difficult to lean over and wash the dishes but again, I never explicitly told him to help me even though he does our laundry and everything else, I just assumed he’d know about the dishes.
So what did I do?
I set my last day of work that Friday and took a big breath and wrote down a list of all the things that were floating in my head. Now you’re probably thinking, oh Merly a “To Do” list? Well not exactly. What you want to do is take away the mental load that is taking too much space and causing stress and anxiety because it’s just getting too heavy.
The thing with each item you write down, some might be something as simple as setting up your out of office email response, bulk cooking for the week or buying more bin bags to bigger stuff like paying the overdue mortgage repayments, getting the carpets cleaned before baby arriving or booking flights for Christmas. Regardless, how trivial or major the items are, they all weigh the same when their floating in your mind, hence the mental load can be overwhelming and stressful.
Writing a list is a great way to just dump the junk on paper so that you don’t have the pressure of having to remember. Even remembering the points is a mental load in itself! For me having a hubby who can’t read my mind, during our in-home date night over a cup of tea while our son was asleep, I’d run through the mental load list and delegate tasks that he was happy to do. It was wonderful because he had no idea that I had a trillion things on my mind and as a soon to be dad-of-2, he felt useful that he could do something to ease the pressure.
The following Wednesday, I gave birth to baby Axel.
Coming back to now, I realised as my baby boy started to snore, I did a commando crawl off the bed and went downstairs to write down my list.
When we feel overwhelmed and stress, this has a direct impact not only on hormones but also our immune system. With what is currently happening around the world, with many of us couped up at home, we need to do as much as we can to keep our immune system strong and healthy.
For more tips to start balancing your hormones, you can download my free 7 Day Hormone Cleanse here.
You are what you eat (absorb). Every human cell in your body is made of the building blocks of what you consume. I’m currently breastfeeding my son who is 4 months old and it amazes how chubby he is getting each day. However, as adults, we have autonomy on the food choices we make daily and at times we can be oblivious of what’s happening in our bodies on the cellular level. Other than getting fresh air and sunshine for vitamin D, the only other thing that we have complete control of when it comes to our health and wellbeing, is what we consume.
90% of our immune system is in our GIT (gastro-intestinal track) because it’s the most intimate way humans have a direct connection to our environment. For example, when a mother kisses her baby, her body is responding to any pathogens that are pickup from her saliva which sends a message to the body to change the composition of the breastmilk for antibodies for the baby to fight the infection.
I think the majority of us have weaknesses to certain types of foods like chocolate, cake, cookies and my personal favourite, cheese! This is not to say you have to give up on all your vices. It’s about incorporating more balance in your diet to literately build a healthy body and a strong immune system through the food you eat and supporting the microbiome that resides in your intestinal tract. After all, we are made up of more bacterial cells than human cells!
Here are 3 tips to help you become more aware of what you are consuming:
Start to eat mindfully, as you chew your food, take your time. Make mental commentary on the flavour and texture. Even before you put food in your mouth, notice it’s colour and smell. Whether your eating smashed avocado on rice cakes or a doughnut, being consciously aware of what you are eating is the first step in acknowledging how food plays an important part in how you feel.
Chew, chew, chew! We don’t chew long enough. I’m constantly having to tell my threeanger to stop shoving food down his throat and chew. Chewing is the first step in digestion. Give your GIT a helping hand. When your food is well chewed, it makes it so much easier for the rest of your body to break it down and nourish you.
Takes breaks in between each mouthful. Families come together around the dining room table to connect and share food. It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk and share stories. Taking breaks between mouthfuls helps your body recognised when you are full. You’re less likely to overeat and again it’s better for your digestive health.
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You might have fantasised in the past about working from home but now this might actually be your new reality and realised it’s not all it’s all cracked out to be. Maybe you have the kids at home too, so trying to find the balance of doing productive work whilst keeping the kids entertained is darn challenging or you could be feeling unmotivated to work because your worried about family and given these uncertain times can be quite overwhelming.
One way of coping and making a smooth transition to working from home is focusing on what you can control. One thing is to think about how you start your day.
As a work from home veteran, here are 5 practical things you can do:
1) Wake up an hour earlier to get some work done before the kids wake up. If you don’t have kids, take full advantage and use this time to focus on your health like doing a YouTube workout, meditate or declutter a corner of a room. All this helps boost your health and wellbeing and you’re more likely to feel you can tackle the day ahead, no matter how challenging.
2) Create blocks of time to do productive work with pockets the day for regular breaks. If possible, have a big bottle of water and snacks in your designated office space to stop you going to the kitchen to stare aimlessly into your fridge for hours at a time.
3) Let friends and family know your office hours. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have all the time in the world to chat. Being constantly interrupted will have you feeling defeated by the end of the day. So set yourself up for success by setting boundaries and be vigilant.
4) Schedule everything in your diary. Whether you like to use a paper diary or an online calendar, make sure anything that is going to take more than 5 minutes to do is recorded. Our brains have so much to contend with these days, so give yourself some breathing space by not having to remember everything. Use the tools to help you.
5) The Law of Diminishing Intent basically means the longer you wait to do something, the less likely you are going to do it. So tackle the hard stuff as early on in the day as you can. You might choose to do an easy task first to ease you into work mode while you have a coffee but if you have a few calls your avoiding, or a report that’s killing ya life, schedule it in before lunch. Trust me, lunch will taste so much better.
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