Balancing work and family is no easy feat- especially when small kids can vocalize their needs at such alarmingly loud rates. So in the life of our family, it takes a lot of planning to ensure a certain level of sanity and order. Right now I am working on a couple of really big projects- some interior design client related projects, getting my house finished and styled for an upcoming shoot, and a few media projects. And we're having a baby… a pretty big project in itself : ) It's hard work and absolutely a balancing act, muscles I continue to train on the regular.
So today I thought I would share some of my top practical strategies learned from trial and error (flat out failure!) personal experience and from listening to material from people I admire, of how to plan for a productive week. Some of these tips might be helpful if you are working outside the home, run a part-time home based business, or simply want to stay on top of running a household and family duties. Whatever your season of life, I really hope some of these might be helpful to save you time and find you more peace!
1. SPEND TIME ON PAPER BEFORE YOU SPEND IT IN REAL LIFE
I was introduced to this concept by Michael Hyatt in this podcast on creating more margin. The whole concept is that similar to a financial budget, you spend your time on paper before you spend it in real life. I have found it so helpful to have an idea of the best way to spend my time during a week- knowing that of course it might get thrown off by the natural (and very crazy) rhythm of family life- but with a plan in place there is at least a roadmap. Lord knows I could not drive anywhere without my gps- think of this as a gps for your time. You can download an awesome excel editable schedule template from Michael Hyatt here.
The beauty of planning your week on paper (or colour coded on your iPhone!) is that if something comes up, as a former business coach Carla Wood taught me, you can move that block of time somewhere else- so those tasks don't get forgotten about and you can still feel a strong sense of order and commitment to the things that are important.
2. START WITH THE BIG ROCKS
You know the story of the big rocks? I didn't either, my friend Sarah had to teach me. Basically the idea is if you fill a jar with pebbles but then try to fit in large rocks after you can't. But if you put the large rocks in first and then pour the pebbles on top the smaller stones will fill in the gaps- same jar, more in it.
Use this concept in planning your ideal week. What are your big rocks? Picking up the kids from school, prayer time, blogging, client appointments, book keeping, marketing, social media strategy, writing, kids play dates / activities, house chores, caring for a sick family member, etc. are all things that come to mind. Make a list of the "big rocks" in your life. Depending in your season of life it is going to look totally different from mine or Michael Hyatt's and don't compare. This is YOUR ideal week.
Now schedule these big rocks in time increments on your schedule. Running out of time? Consider if there are any big rocks you can give away- either to staff, hired help, or another family member. I'll speak more on this later.
3. THEME YOUR DAYS
This has proven to be the most important strategy for me in remaining sane and saving time. In the early days of my business I was a glorified courier who also did interior design (or so it felt)! I was ALWAYS driving. I would try to schedule appointments with clients in some sort of strategy- but in the end I always went wherever the biggest crisis was and I basically spent most of my profit margin on gas. Now when possible, I only book appointments on Wednesdays and Fridays and of course somewhat geographically.
In my business, if I do not set parameters and boundaries on meetings, I would never get anything else done, OR I would do them at midnight when everyone is sleeping (like I used to do) and burn out so hard so fast (which I absolutely did not that long ago).
This is a typical week for me: Mondays- book keeping and business planning / forecasting. Tuesdays: personal appointments and kid stuff, blogging, correspondence, content creation. Wednesdays: consultations, client meetings, sourcing, site visits. Thursdays: personal appointments and kid stuff, blogging, correspondence, content creation. Fridays: consultations, client meetings, sourcing, site visits.
This really works for me as the change of activity is strategic- for example, being at a computer all day can mentally drain me- but I know the next day is on the road, dynamic and fast paced, meeting people, engaging in a lot of my strengths- but this can really physically drain me, and I look forward to the next day that is typically a bit more home based / less physical.
This concept of giving a theme to a day can also be applied to stuff around the house- laundry, groceries, cooking etc. etc. again it is the concept of once the tools and what not are out, you can be more productive by doing the same kind of activity in the same bulk of time.
Still running out of time? This next strategy is AWESOME…
4. AUTOMATE, DELEGATE, DELETE
Stu McLaren put it so well at the Platform conference, "to work less, you must automate, delegate, and delete tasks." Let's spend some time on this one as it is an awesome strategy.
As I mentioned in point 2 with the big rocks, you might find after writing your list and plotting it into a schedule you have completely run out of time. The metaphorical jar of a week only has so many hours. So you have two choices- cry or change (lol, not really).
Stu argues you have 3 options- automate, delegate or delete. This is totally applicable to business stuff and stuff around the house / with your kids. Here are some ideas from my personal experience:
Automate: I have to work on this one a bit more to be honest- but in my work life I have started to use a tool called Infusionsoft which is a great email manager and I'm creating systems that will automate a lot of my most frequently asked requests- for example, I get a lot of emails regarding what to expect from a design consultation / what are the fees. Infusionsoft will help to collect information from potential clients in a way that will cut down the number of back and forth emails I typically take to finally provide them with pricing or an available time. It will make booking an appointment with me automated to to a certain degree- this is very exciting for me as a time saver!
Think of automating things like car service appointments, house maintenance stuff, kids doctor's appointments- where they are put in the calendar MONTHS in advance and you set a reminder and don't have to think about them at all.
There are also great social media apps like Meet Edgar and using HootSuite to schedule and automate certain social media posts- I have yet to fully dive into this but I know I have to.
Lastly I am really contemplating automating my groceries- meaning I order them online and they get delivered. I wrestle with the idea as it is a luxury- but I find grocery shopping a draining experience and always takes me much longer than I intend- and I have yet to develop strategies to streamline it- I ALWAYS forget something important, even if it's on the list.
Delegate: By necessity with 4 kids I have gotten really good at this. I delegate lots of stuff in business- majority of accounting, anything website / tech related, ordering and admin stuff I have a virtual assistant, etc. In my home life we have a part-time nanny who is incredibly helpful with laundry, cleaning, and school pick up and drop off. The cleaning and laundry support, while yes a luxury, is so extremely helpful with a family as large as ours.
Delete: This one was REALLY hard for me but has proven to be a game changer in my pursuit of peace and balance. It's hard to delete. It just is- especially when you have done something the same way, or you feel like the world might look at you different and judge you for no longer doing something. But YOU HAVE TO. In my life, it means I am VERY selective about the kinds of interior design projects I take on. If I know I don't have time for it based on my other big rocks- that potential client gets referred to a trusted colleague. For our family, it also means we are pretty selective in the kinds of after school activities we participate in and what we do on the weekend. Because you can't just keep filling up your schedule (i.e. your jar) without expecting something to burst.
5. SCHEDULE IN MARGIN
This is really really essential. Things will go wrong- a child will get sick, an appointment will run late, life will happen. You also need to rest! For our family, weekends are very precious. We try when possible to only schedule one thing on the weekend (not including Church on Sundays). It is really important for my family to have this buffer time and margin, and I sometimes forget I am 6 months pregnant and push myself physically WAY too far. So schedule it!
This is beyond the scope of this post but scheduling sleep is essential too. I try to be in bed by 10pm now, so I can rise early. This has been a game changer for me as well- I had no idea how much I was suffering (I knew I was suffering though!) from lack of sleep. Forcing myself to get it has been really influential in my quality of life.
Another important thing to do is not compare yourself to others- someone who has grown kids, or is single, is going to have a very different ideal week than someone like me with really small kids at home. BUT- I challenge you to also push yourself in way- rather than having a defeatist attitude about time, look carefully about HOW you spend it, and if it is really being spent in the BEST way for you.
What strategies do you employ to plan for a great week? Love to know in the comments below.
If you are time strapped this weekend but really want to take in some culture, support local talent and pick up a few trinkets for your house, here is my 30-minute guide to the Artist Project. Big time caveat- I think to really take it all in, chat with the artists, relax and have a coffee, etc. you need at least 2.5 hours, you could easily spend 4 hours plus (there are some cool interactive art battles and other features that I could not take advantage of but wish I could have). There's also a fun (unsupervised) kid area to let the littles blow off some creative steam.
Here are my essential stops at the Artist Project if you might be short on time- but not short on love for art!
SHANNON DICKIE booth 117
Stop here for: Large and small scale slightly abstract paintings.
Don't miss: Talking to her about her feelings on our relationship with digital media. Drawn to moments of people in motion, she uses blur to not only imply the motion of a figure, but also associate the digital image with a faded memory. Love that!
Cool fact: Her work as appeared in national publications like House and Home.
MARIE-JOSEE BERGERON booth 209
Stop here for: Beautiful abstracts.
Don't miss: She has several prints for sale starting at $350+. Gorgeous intricate abstracts, wish I had more budget to get a few large scale pieces.
Cool fact: In parrallel to her artistic practice, she has created a unique painting program that focuses on intuitive, abstract painting.
TONY KOUKOS booth 207
Stop here for: Beautiful photography from around the world
Don't miss: Looking at the custom carpet on the floor of his booth
Cool fact: Tony's work is regularly used by all the design superstars in Toronto: Brian Gluckstein, Sarah Richardson, and he makes some time for little old me too : )
KELLY GRACE booth 414
Stop here for: vintage pin up style, really nostalgic feeling paintings
Don't miss: Adorable small pieces- really cute series on the Wizard of Oz, find items at the $100 mark.
Cool fact: She's got gorgeous hair!
IAN BUSHER booth 422
Stop here for: Urban, edgy but playful abstract pieces featuring animal silhouettes on metal.
Don't miss: Pieces backed with reclaimed wood- I grabbed 2 for my son's room, love the mix of wood and metal. Priced at $100- fab value.
Cool fact: Ian and I filmed a pilot together for HGTV years ago when Ian was working full-time as a general contractor.
JAMES KENNEDY booth 713
Stop here for: Graphic cut outs of continents and other structures into unique pieces of steel
Don't miss: This bridge image above- so cool in person. The shadows become part of the piece as well. James is my favourite new find- I hope to commission something for a client in the future!
Cool fact: It starts with the steel- James finds unique pieces with particular pattern and texture to build his pieces from.
LAURIE FOOTE booth 902
Stop here for: Peaceful pastel super charming acrylic and oil paintings
Don't miss: Her sweet small canvases that depict figures on white backgrounds
Cool fact: Small canvases make for great little fillers in small wall areas or vignettes on a shelf.
Artist Project runs this weekend, closes Sunday at 6pm at the Better Living Centre at the Ex. Love to know what you brought home!
Today, I thought I'd spread some sunshine on this little corner of the internet. Spring is coming. Here are my favourite items coming to Indigo this spring.
Who doesn't love colour on toss cushions- changing out pillows is one of my fav things to do with the season change.
This mug- so cute.
This Fujifilm Instax Mini camera is just so sweet- excited to test mine out!
And how beautiful- fresh flowers is my favourite way to keep motivated in freezing weather- SPRING IS COMING!
If you are living anywhere north east-ish in North America, you have likely been hibernating (or wishing you were) because it has been FRIGID cold here. Like -45 degrees with the wind chill cold. Like why do I live where the air hurts my skin cold. All sarcasm and hyperbole aside, the freezing temperatures can be very dangerous so I do pray you and your loved ones have all been safe and warm this weekend.
In light of all this cold talk, I thought I would share some important considerations regarding adding a fireplace to your home. A fireplace provides ambient light, physical warmth and such a cozy feeling that I argue they are essential in every home. Whether you are planning a major reno or want to add one into an already finished space, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. GAS vs. ELECTRIC vs. ETHANOL CANISTERS
There are three major kinds of fireplaces sold on the market (for simplicity sake I am taking wood burning out of this discussion).
A gas fireplace runs on natural gas. Similar to a gas range in the kitchen, it's instant heat and an actual fire flame. So you go from zero to 172 degrees in seconds. It's efficient, it's lowest cost (post installation) of them all, and it's awesome. It is always my first recommendation to clients where appropriate.
Electric models you hang and plug in and they provide heat via a fan. The "flame" is fake, and they are big time energy $$$ suckers. BIG TIME. Where space or venting prove to be problematic they can be an adequate alternative but I prefer gas when possible.
Lastly there are ethanol canisters that you insert into a fireplace cavity that provide an actual flame. The flame from personal experience isn't exactly roaring and the heat output isn't as much as gas and pretty expensive in the long run. It's a solution if you want the ambiance of a flame but aren't picky about the heat output.
The kind of fireplace you go with is largely impacted by space which leads me to…
2. VENTING & INSTALLATION RESTRICTIONS
For electric fireplaces you don't need to worry about venting and less about space- this is one great advantage to them. Some electric fireplaces are super skinny, very slim and quite attractive like this one in the Delta Chelsea Ottawa. You should be careful that you don't install the thing too close to a curtain or something that can combust as the fan on the unit pushes hot air out in a fairly focused direction. For gas there are several considerations to consider.
If you are planning a custom home renovation your credible designer, builder, HVAC technician will worry about this for you. But if you're planning on adding one to an already finished space here's what you need to know.
The same way you need a fan in the kitchen to pull all the bad fumes out of the home when you are cooking, same applies to gas fireplaces.
For a gas fireplace being installed to a non exterior wall (meaning it's in the middle of the house for example), you have to allow for the cylinder venting which takes up about 12" of space once framing is considered- so if you are adding a fireplace into an already finished space you will need to consider this space footprint in your planning. You may have to consider a bulkhead on the ceiling or wall if the venting has to travel far to an exterior wall. Confirm all measurements and venting pathways with your contractor and licensed HVAC team.
In my small living room I was really concerned about the space a gas fireplace would take up (as I don't have space to lose!) but the beauty and functional purpose of a fireplace won out for me. Speaking of beauty…
3. FIREPLACE CLADDING
There are a multitude of materials you can use to clad a fireplace- natural stone probably being the most popular in my opinion. What you need to ensure is that you follow your fireplace's installation guide on how far to place combustible materials (like a wood mantel for example) away from the flame in the case of gas. Another consideration is that if you are putting a TV above your fireplace you want to deflect the heat away either by using a mantel or recessing the fireplace into the fireplace structure. Again, ensure you consult installation guidelines carefully to ensure you don't void product warranties and of course ensure safety.
You can really create a gorgeous focal point in a space. In the photo above we used Erth Coverings Silver Fox large strips.
My fireplace is clad in Paloform concrete tiles which I have been literally dreaming about for 5 years so I am so excited to finally have them in my home : ) If your style is modern these simple tiles will likely be up your alley.
In my home with 4 small kids safety is of course a big priority. It has become a huge priority too for the regulation boards in both the US and Canada. If you did not know, there is a new US and Canadian safety mandate for all gas fireplaces to now include a safety screen after too many children got burned. On my model, the Marquis Infinite, the screen is basically invisible due to its seamless design- which from a design point of view for me is amazing.
If you need an after market screen consider Anvil Fireside– beautiful handcrafted iron designs made in Canada as pictured above.
5. SEE THROUGH vs. NON SEE THROUGH
I am a big fan of the see through fireplace like this one from Marquis. Where space is a luxury, you can create a really fun focal point and open sight lines. The openness of a see through fireplace is your major consideration factor. Make sure whatever is on the other side of the fireplace is attractive, and does not need to be private.
I LOVE my fireplace and the thing is on daily at our house- we have been particularly thankful for it during this very frigid cold spell. I hope these tips are helpful- designer / builder friends I would love your opinion too- have I missed anything crucial? Love to know in the comments below!
On February 19, 2015, Artist Project kicks off with its annual Opening Night Party, followed by an exciting three day art fair that offers attendees the unique opportunity to meet and buy art directly from over 250 emerging and mid-career artists. In its 8th year, the show welcomes more than 15,000 seasoned art collectors, first-time art buyers, gallery dealers and interior designers to the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place, Toronto.
Now that my own house is finally post dust phase, I'm looking forward to discovering some new artists and connecting with some old friends.
This is a great event for first-time art buyers to explore various forms of art at accessible price points. I am also desperately in need of some prints for several of the empty frames that currently are hanging as place holders on my walls. Can't wait to shop!
The kind people at Artist Project have given me 2 tickets to the Opening Night Party at Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto. To enter this contest, click on the link below! Value of contest is $60 Canadian and open to anyone who can make it to the party in Toronto next week. Contest closes February 18, 2015 at 11pm. Good luck!
Photo by Lisa Canning Interiors of a recent art installation by Artstall.
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