My desktop (non)essential

Why flowers help boost my productivity

I’m lucky that in my job all I really need is a laptop, decent wifi and a phone. Access to a printer is always beneficial but I do not really require any specialised equipment.

My office is our kitchen – I work from the kitchen table most days. It’s also the table that my daughter completes her homework, we eat all our meals on and where my husband reads the newspaper from. It is the hub of our home. This means that my working space has to be transient – it is my ‘workspace’ only during the 9 to 3 hours. Everything that I use must be removed from the table before and after those hours for our normal family life to exist.

My usual set up – flowers and mug my (non) essentials

My set up isn’t pretty – it is functional (please see my blog post – my new tech set up for further details) but I work in a creative area and actually need a bit of ‘pretty’ at my workplace to help inspire me.

Ten years ago I would have laughed at what I’m writing now – when I worked in a pretty ordinary office but now I find that if I have a small bunch of flowers above my eye-line when I work, really lifts my mood. Flowers seem like such a luxury to me and when finances are a little tight, it seems an extravagance too far but a 99p bunch of daffodils is just the ticket. I’m so happy when Spring rolls into town – daffs, tulips, blossom etc… I’m not fussy!

Blooms never fail to inspire.

I am waiting with bated breath on the influx of peonies and hydrangeas. They are very expensive but I grow peonies in my garden and I’m desperate to succeed with hydrangeas. Is there anything better then cut flowers from your garden?

What’s your (non) essential item that helps life you when working? I’m also rather fond of a cup of tea from my Emma Bridgewater mug.

Other recommended reads that may be of interest to you:

My current favourite ‘work’ podcasts

What I listen to
when I need inspiring

I like to listen to the radio while I’m working. I think it is because I miss the hum of an office and hearing snippets of other people’s conversations. Normally I have BBC Radio 4 on but in the past month, I’ve found myself switching it off. I’ve just had enough of the ‘B’ word (Brexit) and I’ve really got into podcasts.

This is very new to me – I was shocked when I heard someone swear on it (I know…) and actually winced because I thought it was radio. Anyway, after listening to some complete trite, I’ve now hit on a wave of good ones that help with stuff about this blog, inspiration and organisation. I particularly like downloading them and playing them in the car whilst I’m waiting for a dance class to finish or before school pick up.

You are probably well aware of all of these and if you have a recommendation – please let me know. I need more podcasts!

Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon – I realise that I have mentioned it before but I really love this podcast. Not all the guests and sometimes her questions can feel a bit too ‘fangirl’ for me but all kudos to her – she has great episodes. It tends to be based around a person with strong social media, but the guests always have guts. They’ve got drive, passion and have a way with words. Please listen to Sara Tasker and also Jameela Jamil. Both episodes had me hooked.

Goop x – I didn’t think I would like these, especially as I had unsubscribed from the Goop newsletter (too much wishy washy stuff for my liking) but the conversations held between Gwyneth Paltrow and her guests are fascinating. I found the Oprah one extraordinary (but too long) but I’ve enjoyed them all. I really liked the one with Stella McCartney because she is a business leader that I’ve admired since her Chloe days and she never really comes across well in print media. Here she discusses her career, the juggle and is displays a fine English wit!

The Little Chapters podcast
I always enjoy the conversation of this podcast

The Little Chapters – Two wonderful women (Kayte Ferris and Jessica Rose Williams) chatting about their businesses. I found the freelance and money podcast particular useful. They are very honest and highlight areas such as how they cope with wanting to work and childcare really well. I like their viewpoints and no-nonsense attitude.

I think I’ve already mentioned in the past how much I enjoy Sara Tasker’s Hashtag Authentic podcast and can recommend the episode about freelancing and money management with Niki Groom (Podcast episode 55)

I like Allie’s gusto attitude on this podcast

A friend has recently mentioned The Purpose Show by Allie Casazza. This is a business related podcast where she discusses how she created her organisational businesses and makes it work with a family. It can be a bit too ‘churchy’ for me but I’ve enjoyed a few of the episodes.

Lastly, I have started to listen to On the Make by Josephine Brooks which focuses on how you can create a successful side-businesses. I’m finding this particularly useful because although I do not see this blog as a ‘side business’ (ie one that will generate an income), I do want to plan my blog posts in advance and get a bit more ‘with it.’ This blog allows me to treat this as my side hustle.

What are your favourite work related podcasts? I’d love to know as I’m a bit obsessed!

Ps: I’m also listening to Slow Burn – Watergate files which has nothing to do with work but it is an in-depth investigation into what really happened. I’m pretty clueless about American history and this is fascinating.

Ms I Can Do It All (my thoughts on Emotional Labour)

Or…why I am my own worst enemy.

It has been a busy month – World Book Day, International Women’s Day London Book Fair and my daughter’s birthday. For a freelance book publicist, this is a lot of work in a very short space of time and include party planning for my daughter’s birthday, a lot of mental energy required. With my husband also working in publishing, it means that both our schedules are stretched.

Last week I found myself getting more and more angry with my husband. He was just getting himself ready for the Book Fair – sorting out his clothes, paperwork etc… he leaves on the Saturday and returns on the Thursday evening. Whereas I was commuting between London and our home in Leicestershire, staying overnight just twice. This was in a bid to give our daughter a little stability, but also because I didn’t want to be away from her for too long.

My busy London week meant I spent a lot of time at the train station
My busy London week meant I spent a lot of time at the train station

That isn’t something to get cross about until I realised that I was also organising childcare, dog care, cleaning the house, organising all my daughters extra curricular activities and getting all the laundry done so that she had everything she needed a week in advance. Plus getting myself prepared for the most important week for my business.

Technically it wasn’t his fault, it is just the way our household has been run. I ‘semi-retired’ when we moved to the countryside to settle Amy into the area and I wasn’t earning much. It made sense for me to take on the running of the house while he was at work. Now though… my business is growing year on year and I’m still doing the grunt work in our home. We hadn’t really discussed this and how he could start to help – I assumed he would realise and he assumed that I was handling it. He hadn’t appreciated my workload and the mental energy required.

Commuting to and from London during the week meant long hours...
Commuting to and from London during the week meant long hours…

I wouldn’t say there was a row but I simmered about it before telling him that I’d had enough. I told him that I couldn’t believe that he was just going to leave on the Saturday and assume that it was okay. He was shocked at my outburst but immediately offered to help. But guess what I did? Yup, I refused and told him I could do it. Argh!!!! No wonder he was confused.

Am I the only one that feels by admitting that I need help that it makes me a failure as a wife and a mother? Because that is how I felt – I needed help because I was drowning under the To Do list and needed a lifeboat.

Fed Up by Gemma Hartley is worth a look at after reading the article I mention
Fed Up by Gemma Hartley is worth a look at after reading the article I mention

If I’m not explaining this feeling very well then I fully recommend that you have a look at this article by Gemma Hartley about ‘Emotional Labour‘. It sums up everything I feel/felt. I even forwarded the article to my husband to help clarify my thoughts. (yes, he did read it…eventually)

So after a week away, we have come up with a new way of working our household which involves:

  1. A shared calendar – I now put all of Amy’s activities, school trips and my work meetings in one online calendar that we can both see.
  2. List sharing – one for food, another for birthdays etc… with initials by who is doing what.
  3. At the weekend we plan our meals for the week – this is really useful because it reminds us who will be home or if there is a late meeting etc…
  4. Job delegation – what we expect the other to do during the week. I’ll do the laundry but he will help with the ironing, takes the bins out and cook dinner on a Thursday. (Weekends – we both cook)
  5. Sharing the cleaning schedule – I follow the Organised Mum Method (do give it a go – it has changed my life) and he is now aware of what needs to happen each day.
  6. I will tell him about incoming work deadlines so he is aware that I may be looking for extra support at home

None of these are really that major but I do think that I need to be able to ask for help and learn to accept it. We are learning that our roles in the home are ever-changing and that we need to take a moment every so often to make sure the other is okay. I also need to get over the fact that a lot of time, I will be the one that says what needs doing because I’m at home. My husband isn’t a mindreader and I need to remember that!

Other reads:

How I work: Lizzie Woodman

Lizzie Woodman – blogger and freelance writer

I first came across Lizzie Woodman from another Instagram account and was immediately taken by her effortless style, wit and calm nature. Based in the Cambridge area with two boys, she works from home and juggles life/work like the rest of us. I was delighted when she agreed to feature on my little blog! She takes gorgeous images and shares her thoughts on matters of the day with articulated thought. She works with numerous brands on her blog and never fails to inspire me. Please do have a read and go visit her blog and Instagram. You won’t be disappointed.

  1. Name : Lizzie Woodman

2. Name of Business: Lizziewoodman.co.uk

3. What do you do?

I’m a blogger and freelance writer. I also help businesses with their marketing and social media – taking photographs, writing captions and press releases. 

Lizzie works from home and her gorgeous cats are featured on her account

4. Where do you work?

I work from home. I have a big desk in our open plan kitchen space, but usually prefer to perch in an armchair with my laptop. My two tabby cats are usually close by!

5. How did you get to this point in your career?

I fell into freelance writing after starting a blog in 2014. I’d been a stay at home mother since 2009 and craved some creativity that didn’t involve glitter and PVA glue. Blogging taught me to be a better writer and photographer – plus it helped me believe in myself. My first paid work was for sponsored posts commissioned by brands for my blog. Over the last couple of years this has blossomed into writing for other people too – from ghost-written blog posts for big brands to writing product descriptions and helping at influencer events.

6. The best part of my job is?

The flexibility. I do all the school runs and can take time off to be with my children during the holidays. I also love meeting new people. I’ve met and interviewed so many people over the last couple of years and it’s been fascinating.

Her clients include brands such as Fat Face and Joy where she creates content for her blog and Instagram account.

7. The worst part of my job is? 

Getting lonely. I miss chatting to colleagues – which is probably why I spend too much time on social media. I also find it tough to motivate myself. When you’re a freelancer you have to be your own best cheerleader all the time. Picking yourself up after a disappointment can be tough and it’s not for everyone.

8. Favourite time-saving trick?

Ignoring the housework until the children get home. I don’t like wasting my work day putting on loads of washing and cleaning the shower. I tend to get my chores done when the boys are busy with their Lego after school. 

Lizzie’s Instagram is well worth a look!
@lizzie_woodman

9. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3?

Don’t try and do it all. It’s easy to think you can move mountains while your kids are at school, but in reality, it’s a very short day. Prioritise the things you really need to get done and try not to feel guilty about everything else!

10. Favourite social media accounts/blogs?

I’m addicted to Instagram and it also forms a big part of my work. Creating a beautifully curated feed is like my shop window and helps put me in touch with people. I try and write about three posts a week for my own blog, Lizzie Woodman. I find Hannah Gale’s blog very inspiring. 

Other posts you may like to read:

How I work: Jenna Bissell from That Mum Moment

My Freelance Story: Lizzie Woodman

The joy of freelance: How to be Freelance

My new work from home computer system

How this set up has made me happier

My Apple Air laptop lasted me around 8 years of solid use. When it started beeping at me and refusing to start, I rang the Apple Helpdesk to be told that there wasn’t an option for fixing it and I should upgrade. I then started using my husband’s MacBook as my main computer – it was really heavy but the screen was a decent size and this has worked brilliantly for me in the last two years. The downside was it was set up for my husband – so I had to use memory sticks and email a lot of things from my phone to be able to use them on the computer. No linked iCloud for me. It was also too heavy for travel which meant I would use my iPad instead but if I’m being honest, I couldn’t get nearly as much work done on my iPad than I could with my laptop. Adding a bluetooth keyboard did help but it was something extra to lug around.

How I used to travel and work with an iPad and bluetooth keyboard
How I used to travel and work with an iPad and bluetooth keyboard

So I decided to bite the bullet and visit John Lewis on Oxford Street when I was last in London. I knew they would have a good range of computers for me to look at and wouldn’t be intimidating. I really do not get excited about tech – it is the end to a means and I find the Apple store too daunting.

I was looking for a new laptop that had a decent sized screen (anything small really does give me a headache and sore eyes) that I could use at home and whilst travelling. I’m also an Apple devotee – simply because I have always had a good experience with them and a lot of people in publishing use Macs. I’m programmed to use them!

My previous way of working - with a huge MacBook that belonged to my husband.
My previous way of working – with a huge MacBook that belonged to my husband.

My heart sank a little when I saw what was on offer – small screens only for laptops or I would need a desktop one. Neither appealed because as mentioned previously, I like to work in my kitchen during the day. I don’t have an office because although technically I could set one up in a spare room, I like being in the kitchen. It really is the heart of our home. Its warm in the winter (hello Aga!) and weirdly cool in the summer. It also has viewing points to the front and the back of the house so I can see any deliveries arriving.

So I need tech that I can put out in the morning and put away at night – my husband’s laptop was brilliant but still not right for travel. After a long conversation with the chap at John Lewis, he suggested an Apple Air laptop but also a monitor that I could plug into the laptop. A bit cumbersome in the morning but really the best of both worlds. I’d still be flexible with my workspace but I would have a screen that wouldn’t give me a headache. Monitors are very slim and lightweight nowadays and I could stow one away each night without much bother.

I went away and thought about it for a long time. The extra incentive was that John Lewis was running a 0% interest loan on Apple products with a small deposit. It wouldn’t be a huge outlay of cash instantly – which defiantly appealed to me. Plus they could deliver for free. No lugging of expensive equipment for me!

My new set up with Apple Air laptop and a Dell monitor.
My new set up with Apple Air laptop and a Dell monitor.

So that was what I did – I visited my local John Lewis in Nottingham and bought an Apple Air (the new one but in grey – I wasn’t about to spend an extra £100 for Rose Gold!), an adaptor to plug the charger, monitor and memory stick into and a Dell monitor. Why Dell? I went round the displays and lifted them up until I found the lightest. They all seemed the same to me and that was the best way to differentiate them.

Oh my I do love my new system! I’ve been able to take my laptop out with me but when at home, its plugged into the monitor quite happily. I’ve had zero headaches. Result!

This system means that I can have a mouse and a keyboard.
This system means that I can have a mouse and a keyboard.

Extra exciting is my husband has now linked up my bluetooth keyboard and mouse as well! This means that when at home, I can use the keyboard and mouse and not really use my laptop. Its just a hard drive powering everything else.

So my advice when looking for new technology when working from home:

  1. Write a list of all the things you need to be able to do
  2. Go and see an expert – find somewhere that you feel comfortable. I didn’t get any joy from just looking online.
  3. Don’t buy instantly, go home and have a think.
  4. Measure everything – lift everything so that you know that it all works.
  5. Find a spot in the house that you can put it all away each evening so that you can switch off from work each evening.

And that’s it! This isn’t sponsored at all by Apple or John Lewis but I hope it might be useful if you are looking at tech solutions. What do you currently use?


Here is what I now use:

Looking to know more about how I work? I wrote a blog post last year that explains my work! Please click here.