Working at home can mean your ultimate success or your worst nightmare.
You’ve kicked the 9-5 job to the curb and have joined the ranks of those blessed few who get to work at home. You crawl out of bed your first morning of freedom and are at your desk bright and early.
You may already have your time planned but it you don’t, it’s a good idea to put some schedules and systems into place. Trying to accomplish things with a loosy-goosey day plan (which is no plan) isn’t going to contribute to your success.
Without structure inherent in a job environment, it’s up to you to impose structure on your own time. The easiest way to do this is to write a daily schedule. Start by listing your main goals, and then break those out into a task list. By assigning “appointment” times, or duration times, to each task, you can stay on track without getting lost in the many choices you may have.
A great way to accomplish a lot in an efficient manner is to batch similar work together. For example, if you have appointments out of your home office, arrange for them all to be done on the same day, thereby saving travel time.
You can also look after social media posts of all kinds in one session, say from 9:00 until 10:00. This not only focuses your attention on the task at hand, but it eliminates some of the temptation to click over to Facebook or Twitter to check out what your friends are saying several times a day.
Keep work in the work space
Regardless of what type of work you do, whether sitting at a computer, or sanding cabinets in your shop, it helps to separate home life from work by keeping work in the space meant for it. Believe me, if your work gets spread all over the house and your kids are moving your papers or tools, you’re opening the door to lots of family conflict.
Don’t eat at your desk, and don’t sleep in your office or workshop. Stop trying to do more than one thing at a time.
Beyond that, it’s a good idea to make it clear in your own mind when you are “at work” and when you’re home. While people often believe that the temptation is to do too little work when you work at home, for entrepreneurs the opposite is generally the case. It’s far too easy to work all the time, especially when you love what you do.
In Part 3, we’ll discuss those pesky distractions and how to rise above the din.
This is a question that people have asked me about writing fiction. Where do my ideas come from? The answer to that is simple: They are everywhere.
If you look at situations and people as subjects for a romance novel or novella, it’s not hard to imagine stories around them, once you get in the habit of doing so. Keep your notebook handy.
Here is an example: Recently a distant relative of mine got married in Hawaii. I saw the photos on Facebook, looked at the beautiful bride, and enjoyed the romantic, tropical setting. I don’t know these people personally so I don’t know their actual story. What I can do is use their photos as a jumping off point for creating a romantic plot.
The first step to coming up with a romance plot is to ask, what if?
If you have ever spent time in an airport waiting for your flight to be called, you’ve had lots of time to watch people and make up stories about them. The tired-looking woman in the business suit—see her over there, texting—perhaps she has spent so much time on the road that her boyfriend is losing interest. What does she have to do to keep her relationship alive? Or, perhaps she is never in on place long enough to have a relationship but she longs for a romance and a family.
A man wearing climbing gear sits next to the window reading a newspaper. Where has he come from and where is he going? Is there a woman in the city wishing he loved her more than he loves the mountains? You have enough conflict there to create a dynamic plot.
The young adults playing volleyball on the beach all look so happy and carefree. But what if that girl with the brown ponytail looks longingly at the tall, blonde guy who never seems to notice her? What is their story?
The choice, of course, is yours. You can make up any tale you like about anyone you like. Put them in a setting that appeals to you, and in a situation that is difficult. Give them an attraction for each other, but lots of obstacles that they have to overcome before getting together.
When you figure out those basics, voilà! You have a romantic plot.
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Celebrate often and laugh lots
Most of what we think is a big deal is really no big deal. Holidays and family events are obvious reasons to celebrate, but can sometimes also be exhausting if you are trying to live up to traditional standards or other people’s ideas about how a celebration should happen. Instead, why not pick your own reasons and ways to celebrate?
Celebrate a perfect hair day by taking yourself out for iced coffee. The fact that your bathroom got cleaned is cause for celebration, especially if someone else did it. How about celebrating a good night’s sleep? What about the first daffodil bloom in your garden or the first hummingbird at your feeder? Life is full of special and ordinary moments so why not just pick some and make them a celebration?
While you are at it, choose fun people with whom to celebrate. Choose to spend as much time as possible with people who make you laugh. It has been known for ages that laughter is good for you. The Bible says that a happy heart is as good as medicine. Plus it’s also a lot cheaper and far more fun than drugs and surgery!
Here are some ideas of how to celebrate and laugh:
Simply adding more laughter and fun to your life can not only improve your life, but prolong it as well. Laughter is a spirit lifter and the best antidote for depression. It is also known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, elevate mood, boost immune system, improve brain functioning, protect the heart, connect you to others, foster instant relaxation, make you feel good. There are so many reasons to laugh, it is really important to find more laughter in your life.
I know that it is not always easy to avoid people who get you down, but you can do things to offset their effect on you. By finding more reasons to laugh, you counteract the dampening affect of the negative influences with which you come into contact. Your light-hearted approach to life may even turn those grumpy folks into happier people, too.
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Surround yourself with beauty
One day I sat down to make a list of some of the things that make my life feel rich and full. There were very few things on the list that I didn’t already have and appreciate. But one item on my list was to buy fresh flowers regularly. For me, buying flowers had fallen into the category of money frittered away since flowers soon die leaving nothing to show for the money spent.
So buying flowers and having them around my home is a sign to me of my prosperity and luscious living, a sign that I have enough money that I don’t have to concern myself with such a small expense. With that exercise, I realized how very little is often required to feel rich and prosperous. Very often the problem lies in not identifying what gives us that delightful sense of joy, because we can be too busy to look.
If you were to create your own list of delights, it may not include buying flowers. Beautiful music, pleasing colours, pretty things give most of us a lot of pleasure, and surrounding ourselves with these delights makes life so much more lovely.
Our surrounding have a powerful impact on how we relate to other things in life. So it is important to fill our surroundings with objects that lift the spirit and soothe the soul.
Surrounding yourself with beautiful things is an act of self-care. When you treat yourself well, you are acknowledging that how important you are. You are one of a kind and very special. Take the time and care to add more beauty to your life to give your own soul delight.
Ask yourself if your home gives you pleasure to be in? Is your bedroom an expression of your beautiful self? If not, then take the time to identify those things that need to be removed, replaced, or revitalized. Adding beauty to your surroundings it can be as simple as placing a violet on your kitchen windowsill, to as elaborate as redecorating your whole house.
Whatever you choose, remember that our souls are nourished by beauty, so if you want a well-nourished and satisfied soul, be sure to surround yourself with more of it.
A few years ago I was working a trade show and while taking a break I walked past a booth advertising a new resort project. When I made eye contact with the man behind the table, we both had a jolt of recognition and said at the same time, “I know you.” It took a few minutes to trace our past connection, but we remembered that he had been the realtor who sold our house several years before. We had also attended the same church for a while.
We agreed to have lunch together to talk about old times, and during our conversation over burgers and fries, he made a comment that I have never forgotten. “A hundred years from now there will be all new people on the earth.” I realized, that with only a few exceptions, the statement was true.
Since then I’ve given that concept a lot of thought. If I am one of the people here now, then there must be a reason for me to be here.
What if we are all here at this time because we are the exact complement to the people with whom we will come into contact?
What if we are each here to be the one to help someone or several others get through this journey we call life?
If that is the case, then what do I bring to the table to offer others as a means to aid them on their journey? What talents and abilities do I possess that will make someone else’s journey easier?
If I have a responsibility to the other people who are inhabiting this earth in my time, then I need to look at what my abilities are that I can offer you. If I am to offer you my very best, then I need to use the talents that God gave me to the best of my ability.
There is no point in me spending a lot of time and effort trying to be something I’m not, since my purpose will be thwarted. Assuming that we are given talents and natural abilities which we might develop for the purpose of using them to make the world a better place, then it doesn’t make any sense at all for me to not maximize those talents and abilities.
If I spent an inordinate amount of time on meaningless tasks, am I not wasting the time I have been given to develop my talents for the benefit of those around me? Am I not squandering my abilities, to not develop them?
Why am I here now?
Who am I here with and why them?
What do I have to offer ?
Am I maximizing my talents for the good of myself and the rest of the world?
Do you have notice that it gets harder to make decisions toward the end of the day? You’re too tried to figure out what to have for dinner or what to watch on TV. That’s because we all have a finite amount of decisions that we can make in any given day.
Knowing that helps us prioritize. We can cut out a lot of decision making by implementing habits and routines. That way we save them for the important stuff. It also frees brain space for more creative and productive thinking. Routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.
Chances are you already have a morning routine. You get up, you get your coffee, read the paper or check email and fix some toast before heading into the shower. Let’s expand on that. If you create a “uniform” for yourself, you don’t even have to think about what to wear. You just grab a pair of pants and a shirt, or a skirt, tights and sweater and off you go.
Implement some routines into your workday wherever possible. Meal planning helps you figure out what meals to fix and eat. A cleaning schedule makes sure you stay on track with your household chores without you having to spend any valuable decision making skills in the process.
Building your creative work—writing time, or art—into your routine soon makes it a habit. When it’s already a habit, you don’t need to try to fit it into your day because it’s already part of your routine.
Wrap your day up with a bedtime routine that not only helps when you’re too tired to make smart choices, it also helps you fall asleep more easily.
Start by doing a few chores that make the next morning easier. Making sure the kitchen is clean and the kids’ school things are in order are great examples. Come up with a few calming things that help you slow down and get ready for sleep. Read a book, listen to some music, or wind down with a cup of herbal tea.
Sit down with a pen and piece of paper and think about what parts of your day and week you can turn into routines. Write the down and create daily to-do lists for yourself until you’ve established these new habits and routines.
Spending a little bit of time creating routines and habits will make your day run a lot smoother. You might just find yourself less stressed and get more done during your productive hours. And that’s a beautiful thing. It allows you to save plenty of decision making for the fun stuff like figuring out what park to go to, what family movie to watch or what board game to play.
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There are many ways to be creative as there are ideas in the world. However, sometimes the creative work we do for "work" bogs down and we need to try something new to refresh the little creative grey cells in the brain. Making your own soap is not only fun and creative, but it produces a useful product as well.
How to make your own soap
We all use soap. In the old days, most people made their own. Today, we are much more likely to buy it from the store. There are lots of brands to choose from, and each brand has various formulations and scents.
But making your own soap has some definite advantages. One of the most significant is the price. We can make soap much cheaper than we can buy it. Making it ourselves also gives us complete control over the ingredients, so we can create a soap that's perfect for our skin type in a scent of our choosing.
Making soap is much easier than you might think. It is, however, important to take certain safety precautions. Here's a basic recipe:
* 12 cups lye crystals
* 5 cups softened water
* 6 pounds lard
1. Put water in a glass or plastic bowl. Carefully pour lye into water, stirring constantly with a plastic or wooden spoon. This should be done outdoors or in a well-ventilated area, because it produces caustic fumes.
2. Mixing lye and water produces heat. When the lye is completely dissolved, set the mixture aside to cool.
3. Place lard in a stainless steel or enamel pan. Melt over low heat.
4. Allow both the lye solution and the lard to cool to room temperature.
5. Slowly pour the lye solution into the lard, stirring slowly and constantly with the plastic or wooden spoon.
6. Continue stirring after all of the lye solution has been added. Drizzle a small amount of the mixture into the pot periodically. When the soap keeps its shape for a moment before sinking into the mixture, you can add scent, color and herbs.
7. Pour the soap into a mold greased with shortening. Wrap in a towel, and let set for about 18 hours or until completely cooled. Uncover and let set for 12 more hours.
8. The soap may now be unmolded and cut into bars. Let the bars cure for 3 to 4 weeks before using.
Customizing Your Soap
There are lots of different ways you can customize your soap. To make the best soap for your skin type, you may want to use different oils. Some that are commonly used include olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter. The correct amount varies depending on which oil you use, so look for recipes online or in books until you get the hang of it.
Essential oils have therapeutic properties and add fragrance. Oatmeal, cornmeal and other grains can be added as exfoliants. And skin-safe colorants may be used to produce the desired color. These ingredients should be mixed together and added to a cup of the soap mixture, then stirred into the rest of the soap mixture immediately before pouring into the mold.
Making your own soap is easy, and it can be lots of fun. Coming up with the perfect concoction for your skin is rewarding, and sweetly scented homemade soaps make wonderful gifts for any occasion.
They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. That’s kind of a weird idea though, isn’t it? It doesn’t take that long to form a bad habit. And sometimes no matter how hard we try it takes us a lot longer to form a new habit.
When it comes to creative habits, how long does it really take to develop a new habit? The answer is that it depends. It depends on your mindset and it depends on how big of a change it is from what you are doing now. If it is your habit to eat a bowl of ice cream at night and you switch from regular ice cream to a low sugar frozen yogurt version, it’s probably not going to take you very long to make that new habit. Giving up ice cream altogether though or cutting out all sugar on the other hand might take a lot longer.
When we ask that question, what we really want to know is how long do we have to tough it out before it gets easier. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel where we don’t have to try so hard to do things differently or structure your day to fit in more writing time anymore? In other words, when will this new behavior of painting daily or writing a thousand words before work become automatic?
While it will be different from one person to the next and even from one habit to the next, there are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s easier to make a new habit than get rid of an old one. Whenever possible, try to replace an old habit with a new one. For example if you’re wanting to write every day, try replacing that half hour you spend reading the news over your morning coffee with 30 minutes of writing instead.
Habits will form faster if you stick to the same time and environment each day. Instead of trying to fit in sketching whenever, keep your sketchbook next to the door and schedule your art journalling time right after dinner, for example.
A constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior is also helpful. Remind yourself every day that you’re writing every day so that you can finish your novel by the end of the year. Or put up a picture to remind you that you’re developing your painting skills so you can have your own show. Keep your reason why you’re changing front and center and then be prepared to stick it out. Yes it will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones. But it will be well worth it in the end.
It’s hard to keep up willpower for any length of time. Yes, we can stick to a low-fat 1,000 calorie diet and go hungry for a week or two, but eventually our willpower fades. And yes, we can do exercise we hate for a while... until we run out of willpower.
But what about getting up to take the kids to school every morning, brushing our teeth or going to work every day. Those may not be our favorite things to do either, but we do them daily without the risk of running out of willpower. That’s because they have become habits. They are so ingrained in what we do and who we are that we do them without even considering skipping a day or a week. We don’t have to make a conscious decision each day to shower or drive to work. It’s just what we do – a habit.
When you start to think about it, there is an inverse relationship between habits and will power. When you first want to build a new creative habit, say, write or paint every day, it takes a lot of will power or self-discipline to get it done day in and day out. As you start to establish that habit, it becomes easier and easier to do until you don’t even have to think about it anymore. Doing your creative work is just part of your daily life.
Just being aware of this process helps us stick it out. We know we don’t always have to make such a big effort to go work out or skip the donut for breakfast. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We know eventually it will become habit to go write for fifteen or thirty minutes first thing in the morning or grab your paintbrush and add a few more strokes to your work in progress.
While we’re in that transition from willpower to habit, we can use tools to make it easier. Use a to-do list or creative planner or set a reminder to help stay on track. Find an accountability partner so the two of you can motivate each other and help bolster that willpower when it starts to fade after the first enthusiasm wears off. Compare daily word count or report in with each other every day. Even something as simple as laying out your craft materials—brushes, paints, novel research, etc.—will give you a jump start on getting at it in the morning.
Let’s talk about forming new creative habits. We all have times in our lives where we intentionally want to change our behavior for the better and create new habits for ourselves. This could be getting in the habit of eating healthier and drinking more water. Or it could be moving more and taking the dog for a daily walk. Or it could be work related, or spiritual, or fitting more writing or painting time into your day. There are so many areas in our lives that could be improved and made easier if we created new habits.
Getting into the habit of doing something is often easier said than done. For some reason that I'd rather not explore, we seem to acquire bad habits without any effort, but getting into a “good” habit can be a little more challenging.
Let’s break it down into a three step process that makes it easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new creative behavior and made it a true habit – something you do automatically without having to think about, like brushing your teeth.
Decide What You Want To Do
The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to write more. Instead say something like “I will write for 30 minutes every single day”. Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it, is half the battle.
Remind Yourself To Get It Done
The next few days should be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. Sticking to your new creative habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you’ll notice that it’s easy to slip back into old habits.
Maybe it’s raining and you don’t feel like painting. Or maybe your day just gets away from you. This is when it’s important to have a daily reminder. Set an alert on your phone or add the new habit to your daily to-do list for a while.
Make It Part Of Your Routine Until It Becomes A Habit
Which brings us to the last step. It takes some time before a new behavior becomes a true habit. Until then, a routine will work to your best advantage. Even before the new behavior becomes automatic, a routine will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
Make daily writing part of your after breakfast routine, or change fitting it in when everything else is done, to doing it before you start on your to-do list for the day.
Congratulations! Decide to create the new creative habit, practice the routine until it’s second nature and you’ll be well on your way to forming a new good habit.
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Taking a vacation this summer? Why not turn it into a creative retreat too? It is so easy to do.
Just go to your nearest art, craft, or stationery store and pick up a watercolour sketchbook (such as a Moleskine one). While you're there buy some watercolour paints. You don't have to get anything fancy. A child's paintbox will do.
Also get a water brush that holds water in the handle. They're amazing and fun. Here is what I took on my holiday to the lake.
I bought this plastic paint box a few years ago and squeezed watercolours from tubes into the pans and allowed them to set.
Whiling away the afternoon at a coffee shop, I made this little sketch of a woman eating a brownie. It took about ten minutes to draw and paint.
Don't let your fear of not doing perfect work keep you from being creative.
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When my daughter was in high school, she confided in me one day that she had loved kindergarten but thought that school had gone down hill from there. What she wanted to do was go back to kindergarten.
While there are lots of reasons not to, there are some good reasons to think about life as though we're in kindergarten. I never attended kindergarten when I was a child because where I lived it wasn't offered but I do remember art class being my favourite. Friday afternoons were the best!
It's not easy to retain that love a creativity in a culture that considers creative pursuits frivolous or not "serious" enough. I shared the following on Facebook a while ago. A great number of people agreed.
Everyone is born creative and lots of us want our crayons back so we can get lost in creative play. Well, we still can. Sometimes all it takes is believing that. Listen to what David Kelley has to say.
I took this photo this morning from my bathroom window. The roses are blooming a little early this year and if I could attach the scent of these Empress Josephine blossoms to a blog post, I would. It's heavenly.
Staying inspired on a creative path is not always easy. Sometimes I don't want to come up with an idea, or write that story, or draw another picture. That doesn't happen often, but there are times when I've sat at the computer so long that all I can think about is how much my bottom hurts.
So how do you stay inspired when the sky is grey and the laundry is piling up? Here are a few ways that work for me.
Where I share thoughts, creative ideas, and spread sweetness for abundant living.