Working from Home: Tips for Sanity

I read this article last Friday and decided to add my own spin!

https://www.fastcompany.com/90476020/working-from-home-7-smart-tips-to-help-you-get-more-done?utm_campaign=eem524%3A524%3As00%3A20200312_fc&utm_medium=Compass&utm_source=newsletter

 

The 7 smart tips in the article referenced above are:

  1. Get Dressed
  2. Create a Dedicated Workspace
  3. Set and Maintain Your Normal Hours
  4. Focus on Your Output
  5. Eat Healthy Lunches
  6. Schedule More Check-ins with Your Team
  7. Limit Distractions

These are all basic strategies for working remotely and some are easier to implement than others. Since I have been working remotely for the past 8 years, and across many time zones, I thought I would share some other ideas that have been helpful in keeping me engaged in work and with my teams, as well as balanced my family life.

Enhanced Communication

We all know to some extent that much of our daily communication at the office is non-verbal. We see a co-worker with clenched teeth, or notice an entire team disappear for 2 hours. These are non-verbal cues that help us to do some interpersonal research and interaction to ensure that we are completing our deliverable with the most relevant information available. When we return home at the end of the day, we see the non-verbals of our family members, and no doubt turn to the happiest member for some stress relief (maybe the family dog?)!

When all of our time is spent away from the office, we miss out on those non-verbal cues, so enhanced communication becomes helpful and effective. When we are suddenly available 24/7 to our household, expectations need to be set, so that everyone understands what appropriate work boundaries are during lockdown.

Here are some suggestions for teams:

  • If possible, use a shared app for managing projects or tasks such as Monday.com. You can use this as your virtual office, see input, comments and status
  • If an app is not right for your team, a daily morning email can work well
    • Keep it short
    • Include explanations, why, steps, instructions, etc.
    • Bullet what you can
    • Use meaningful subject headers, such as Status: Project #1 [date]
    • Encourage your team to ask questions
    • Provide information for next conference call or video call
  • End of the Day Summary to Manager
    • Include status of deliverables
    • Issues/challenges
    • Needs
    • Accomplishments
  • Daily morning huddle call

 

Here are suggestions for families:

  • Family meeting to set schedule, expectations, answer questions
  • Clearly identify workspace and expectations surrounding this space
    • g. “The dining table is my workspace from 8 – 5”
    • “I will put everything away by 5:30”
    • “While I am on conference calls it’s time for you to play in your fort”
    • “We will eat lunch from 12 – 1 picnic style”

You get the idea and of course you will have an entirely different scenario at your home!

  • Collaboratively get ideas for how to manage household tasks
  • Meet daily for a family huddle with lots of hugs and cuddles
    • Gently remind family of expectations
    • Ask what’s working well
    • Ask for issues/challenges
    • Ask for other input
  • If it isn’t working well, be sure to problem solve
  • Make changes as appropriate

 

Enhanced communication works well most of the time and especially now, to be sure we don’t start losing our sanity, we need to “use it or lose it!”

Lockdown Italia: Manage Well

Pancake_Ricotta Orange with Nutella
Saturday Breakfast: Ricotta Orange Pancakes and a smear of Nutella

I was prepared for the lockdown here in Italy. I had a meal plan and I stocked my two-shelf pantry a little at a time over January and February. There is satisfaction when you’ve anticipated a crisis or emergency and effectively moved past the first phase — avoiding a potentially crazy situation.

Now that we have lived through the first week, it’s time to do a quick review of what 1) has worked well, 2) potential holes are in the plan, and 3) other opportunities this situation provides.

Worked Well

  • Zombie Meal Plan: the rough template of what meals we would eat over the course of a 2-week lockdown, and ensuring that we had the ingredients in the cupboard or the refrigerator
  • Routines: we have been using a home video series for  yoga stretching, apps for sermons online, prayer time every meal and every night before bed, tidying up, so these structures keep an even keel for us emotionally and physically
  • Introducing our love of singing into our Routine: I felt very Maria von Trapp yesterday — wait, I have to start earlier, earlier in the week when we ran out of dishwasher pods. We ran out, which is a little cloud on my sunshiny plan — it means, that I have to don my pink rubber gloves and wash dishes BY HAND! Washing dishes by hand has always been a particular hated task of mine, possibly due to a somewhat mentally traumatic event in my elementary school years, but let’s not open that jar of anchovies. So, I am washing dishes by hand, and I think I must have gotten over my little trauma, because I started remembering times my grandmother and I washed dishes, singing old-timey church hymns at the top of our lungs. I determined that the next day, I would draft Hubby as my suds helper, (which worked – because he is simply the best guy in the world™®. Then I started trying to sing an old-timey hymn and I had forgotten most of the words. Not to be deterred, I asked Hubs to choose a song. He wasn’t quite cooperative. Another night passed and I turned into Maria von Trapp or maybe Mother Superior. I warned him that I wanted to hear Folsom Prison during the next episode of ‘washing dishes.’ Then I followed up on it. He wasn’t cooperative at first, which is totally unreasonable — see Hubby has a beautiful singing voice — he has performed musical theatre! Anyway, I started the song, and we all know that I love to sing, but not everyone loves to hear me sing. I handed it off to him and like a champ, he took it and sang his best Johnny Cash! I heard all of Folsom Prison! Next, we started learning a duet — Shallow — it was incredibly fun and yes, it helps to strengthen us, remind us of who we were, who we are, and gives us hope about how we’re going to handle anxiety and stress together. As a team or at least a country duet.
  • Haven’t needed to go to the grocery store (might want to, but haven’t, just no need)

Potential Holes

  • Not accounting for Hubby’s water and creamer needs during the day when he’s home from work (accounted for coffee, and for water, just not the extra 1,5 liter he chugs throughout the day and the 1/4 cup of cream he likes in his “coffee”–meaning he is using my-planned-for-espresso-steaming milk. Don’t worry, I have two boxes of milk in the cupboard that I can use — I am just being stingy! #curmudgeon)
  • Didn’t plan for a small bag of dishwasher pods, hence long story above
  • Possibly might run low on lemons and juice — a grocery run may be needed this week (In this ‘live’ test of my Zombie Meal Plan my goal is to be able to eat well with no grocery store runs! Even if we do sneak in a creamer and dishwasher pod purchase.)

Other Opportunities

  • Guitar might get some air time
  • Might use my singing lesson techniques
  • Writing projects
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Home organization
  • Posts for Chrissyginger Instagram might improve

 

Traveling While Sick: Tips & Observations

The morning of my flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Frankfurt, Germany I started an earnest sinus infection/summer cold. Here’s what I did right and what I would change if I had to do it all over again…

This is what worked well:

  • Scheduled 24-hour layover in new hotel
  • Hall’s cough drops in a carry-on bag
  • Advil in a carry-on bag
  • Z-pack antibiotics (proactively prescribed from fantastic nurse practitioner)
  • Giant bottle of water to take on the plane
  • Best carry-on bag design
  • Cash
  • Shopping in airport
  • Very-close-to-airport hotel

What I would change:

  • Type of hotel
  • Should have been located near some restaurants

So, I stayed at a sister brand hotel– it was really new, and really cute. Hip. Trendy. Lower cost. Here’s why:

  • No in-room coffee
  • No executive lounge
  • No room service
  • No restaurant
  • No wi-fi in room

I learned on this trip just how spoiled I am with a full-service hotel, meaning the big, full service with a restaurant, a snack room, an executive lounge, room service, coffee-at-will in my room. In these big hotels, I can work in the room, in the lounge, in the lobby, but in these trendy scaled down hotels, it is designed for a different crowd. Folks who have kids, don’t work from their room, are not spending any time in their room except to shower and to sleep.

So, I dragged myself around the coffee bar/check-in a few times during the day, looking so pathetic, the guest manager/clerk helped me microwave my soup, find the spoons, and made me coffee. I ended up sleeping throughout the day and night, recovering from the crud that had ushered me out of Africa.

Moxy Hotel, Frankfurt, Germany
Welcome to the 2nd Floor!

Note: I have found incredible hospitality at the hotels that I have stayed at — caring people, ready to help. Because I have been a road warrior, I have had several instances of being quite ill during my stays throughout the United States and Europe. Here’s a shout out to every room service person who helped me with hot water and lemon, disinfecting the bathroom [don’t ask], the folks in the restaurant who prescribed lime juice with salt for my throat so I could deliver training to a crowd, and proceeded to procure it for me from the kitchen, and I could go on…Everyone at these places deserves to be treated kindly and with respect. I love you all in the hospitality industry!!!!

 

Shout out to the room decor designers! This is what I was waking up to when I was so sick in Frankfurt, Germany at the Moxy Hotel.

cute boy mural

Travel: Broken Foot Edition

Ace bandage helps!
Waiting on picnic bench while Hubby tours the mine.

One of the annoying little things that can happen on any given expedition out of your front door is an accident. There are all kinds of accidents that happen every day, you get stung by a wasp–swelling up, you eat something that makes you sick, or you step one wrong way, causing some weird injury that impacts your ability to do what you want to do.

This happens while traveling, although usually not to me.

You see I am a bit of a “being safe” nut — full of helpful anxiety about germs, street food, and neighborhoods that are off the beaten track. I walk tall, don’t drink much alcohol (if at all), and am inside of my hotel room at a reasonable hour. I avoid public demonstrations, threatening people (both them threatening me and me threatening them LOL!), and going out without a scarf, a sweater, and a cross-body bag. I pack bandaids, acetaminophen, diarrhea medicine, vitamin C, and sunscreen. All of this so that when I travel I can walk all over the city fearlessly and fun-loving!

But accidents do happen. And one happened to me on Monday of Week 3 of my 5-week vacation. I was at a wild animal park/sanctuary, and I stepped down from a tall step onto some cardboard that had been placed, I had imagined at the time, over a former mud puddle. The dirt was dry, there was no mud, I didn’t even stop to think about taking this large step. My weight landed on my right foot, which then slid over the hidden large rock, and proceeded to hyper-extend, popping as I landed with a thump. My phone flew out of my hand; I managed to land on my knee, then my well padded hind end; shaken up, to say the least. I am not in the habit of falling, tripping, nor stumbling. I think of myself as being quite spry, although not at all athletic.

As you can see below, this did not stop me from petting the baby cheetahs!

3 Cheetah kittens sunning at Rhino and Lion Safari Park, South Africa
Sweet kitty kitty cheetah cheetahs.

I am so grateful that I didn’t know at the time that I had broken a bone in my foot since I have extreme anxiety about visiting hospitals, especially hospitals in Africa. Now, I say this since the local hospital that was pointed out to me in Zimbabwe was built from cinder blocks back in the 1950s–I would guess. (Realize that I do believe in contributing to any and all aid organizations that help third-world countries get medical supplies and other assistance.) We have resistant strains of bacteria and viruses in the U.S. and I am certain that it is no different over here in Africa.

So, grateful. No trip to the doctor [until 6 weeks later when it became apparent that it was more than a bad bruise]. But….with swelling, bruising, and pain that continues every step that I make a full two weeks later, I now have a new understanding of making the most of a trip. [And now, 9 months later, I realize how important it is to avoid injury!]

—–

It is now a full month later and I still have pain in my foot and rely heavily on my hiking shoes — no other shoe feels comfortable. I have a bruise on the bottom of my foot, another one on the side, and the worst bruising on the top of my foot. You know what this means…Dr. Podiatrist here I come!

Broken bone in foot

Also another P.S. regarding healthcare and Africa: Thank you to my nurse practitioner J.S. for not only prescribing  medicine to prevent malaria, but also having the foresight to prescribe a Z-Pack — as it happened, the morning of my 10-hour flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, I woke up with a sore throat, coughing, –some sort of bronchial sinus cold that I am prone to–the meds are saving my butt. I am in Frankfurt, showered, napped, and on day 2 of the Z-pack and can function. Even if the flight was rough, thank you Halls Extra strength by the way. I will cover being sick in a foreign city in a hotel layover room in a future post!

 

 

South Africa: Card Reader Issues

SimonsTownView_20180706

In this beautiful place at the tip of Africa, it is a piece of heaven for little penguins. The Indian Ocean and it’s hypnotic mists along with the quiet town, Simon’s Town, make for a peaceful retreat. However, the magical ingredients for a peaceful retreat don’t always include effective credit card readers. In fact, throughout Africa, card readers and the handling of them in shops can be a little bit of a problem.IPENGUINYEAFRIKA_20180706

At this adorable souvenir shop we had the following experience with the card reader. The line was not reliable, and so the communication between the card reader and the authorizing computer was taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r…so, the clerk took the card to another reader, BEFORE receiving a “not authorized” code, and started trying to authorize it through that reader. At that point, literally the sale of over $200 (I fell in love with a silver penguin charm) could have been approved twice, creating a double charge to my account. In fact, this has happened to my husband once.

Now, my husband stops the clerk, and patiently waits for the “not authorized” receipt and keeps it in his wallet, and in cases where he can, he doesn’t make the purchase. Which is what we did. No cute little silver penguin charm. But, we did wait for two not authorized receipts and my credit card did not receive duplicate charges.

Those in the know, know!

 

 

 

 

Socks: I love you

20180626_093427
Smart Wool socks

I really love good socks. I L-O-V-E socks. Everyone gets socks from me in their Christmas stockings, I look at socks online, in stores, and at booths, and I talk about socks all of the time. I really love quality socks. I know that a lot of people like funky designs on their socks and I like that too, but a well-engineered sock gets me excited!

A well-engineered sock has features–features that solve problems. After all, socks were invented to solve problems, right? Socks were invented to keep your foot from blistering in your shoes, as well as keeping your shoes from dying a pitiful, uncleanly death from foot perspiration.

A poorly-engineered sock is truly irritating, both literally and figuratively. Poorly-engineered socks have caused many toddler meltdowns from my oldest son who is now 34 years old, and I am still suffering PTSD over one of those episodes. They also twist on your feet while you are walking, or they slip down under your heel. They also make your foot uncomfortable because they are too small, or too large. The yarn that they are woven with might suddenly break, creating holes. The type of yarn might not provide breatheability, or warmth. The weight of the yarn as well as the pattern of the sock might be too thin, or too thick.

You can see that we don’t give sock designer-engineers enough thanks. A perfectly engineered sock should come in sizes — Germany does that particularly well. I can get a sock that is just right for my foot, for my husband’s foot, and my giant-of-a-middle son’s foot. I can’t easily do that in the U.S.

The U.S. does have an excellent wool sport sock that is washable and durable. I do absolutely love this brand of socks, and I in no way have been compensated to feature this brand. I love this brand because of how well it is engineered. After I sat on the plane next to a designer for this brand, I really started believing in this brand. It is a pricey sock for the average person, however, these socks are durable, comfortable, and convenient to use. All of those factors reduce the overall cost of this sock. The brand is local to Coloradoans, it is sold at Nordstrom as well as from their own boutiques and online. It is Smart Wool — the perfect name for this product.

I hurt my foot over a week ago here in South Africa, where it is winter, and chilly, and uncomfortable. Part of healing my foot is wearing my comforting Smart Wool socks. They provide support, warmth, and since I purchased them in happy colors and designs, they lift my spirits a little. Also, these socks aren’t the thick wool socks that won’t fit into your shoes. These socks fit, stretch, and launder. I have many other socks that I love, and maybe I will write about them — especially my cotton athletic socks from Germany. But right now, I am grateful for my comfy wool socks.

 

P.S. I will debrief my 5-week packing for this trip when I get home. Lessons learned and successes to celebrate!

 

Travel: One Suitcase-5 Weeks, pt. 1

White 'IT' Suitcase
This is the suitcase — not too big, but definitely a checked bag.

Goal: 1 suitcase for two cities, 5 weeks

Week 1 Frankfurt, Germany: Build around Brooks, Ltd. LoDo Shirt

This is the second blog planning my packing list for travel to Frankfurt, then on to Johannesburg, South Africa. I am using my inspiration shirt, named after Denver’s Lower Downtown, hence the ‘LoDo’ part of the shirt description. LoDo is where Brooks, Ltd. atelier is located and is also the part of town you see college students, out-of-towners, and business folks mingling together at restaurants and venues.

I might have mentioned that I have “packing anxiety” and that has driven me to plan this trip well in advance. So, I am testing out my one-suitcase bullet wardrobe plan, beginning with five ways to wear the LoDo shirt while working, drinking kaffee, and shopping in Frankfurt, Germany. Oh, and I should tell you, I am going to be eating like a German foodie.

Here’s the bullet list for 5 choices for the first week of five weeks on the road:

  • Lilac cotton zip-front LoDo shirt, that doubles as a lightweight jacket
  • Navy slim-legged pants (J. Crew)
  • Black leggings
  • Jeans
  • Silk floral shell — vintage from the 80s
  • White lightweight cotton turtleneck (think of the movie ‘Something’s Gotta Give’)
  • Black vintage Chanel Logo T-shirt (best all around T-shirt ever)
  • Black ballet neck tea-length dress
  • Black waterproof loafers (Hunter)
  • Black logo tennis shoes (Coach)
  • Silk print scarf
  • Black scarf
  • Rhinestone necklace (J. Crew)

These five choices easily fit into the suitcase with plenty of room for next week’s challenge– 4 weeks in Johannesburg!

LoDoShirt Week 1_04172018