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 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.

How I Work: Jenna Bissell from That Mum Moment

That Mum Moment
Jenna designs amazing cards for parents

I am so pleased to be featuring Jenna from That Mum Moment on the blog today! The more time I spend on Instagram, the more I love it. I came across Jenna’s brilliant account during a scrolling session and was instantly hit by the colour, wit and okay, the leopard print of her designs.

She also must be super-human, launching That Mum Moment when her daughter was barely a year old and she has a regular job as well. I struggle to blog more than once a week whilst working on my business so kudos to Jenna. She also has great taste in podcasts. See below for Jenna’s How I Work!

  1. Name of Business?

I decided to name my brand after those times I really felt like a proper mum and “had That Mum Moment”. You know the times, you’re kicking off about someone else parking in a mother and baby space or you’re eating leftover fish fingers from a plastic plate. From those moments came my collection of brightly coloured cards, all inspired by the reality of parenting along with fashion and Instagram. Like me, they like to tell it how it is with a little humour and a *some* bad language thrown in, but please don’t tell my dad!

2. What do you do?

Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal is an inspiration

Nowadays I’m striving to become a ‘Multi-Hyphen Mum’. I’m obsessed with Emma Gannon’s book,  ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ and I’m just about to read it for the second time around. Similarly to Mother Pukka’s Flex Appeal it taps into the idea that we can design a career that works for us rather than a standard 9-5 at a desk Monday to Friday.

I now work at home 4 days a week as a marketing manager, with some travel. Working at home is super flexible and I have the stability of a monthly income. I have one day with my daughter in the week and fit That Mum Moment and Etsy shop around her afternoon nap and some evenings.

3. Where do you work?

Jenna works from home in her spare room

The day I actually started the brand I was sat in a coffee shop overlooking the beach, listening to one of my favourite podcasts by Not Another Mummy’s Alison Perry. From there I went on to take over our dining room/playroom, until earlier this year when I discovered Marie Kondo and organised the hell out of our spare room. I now have a really inspiring space that ‘sparks joy’ and my cards are super organised and easy to pick and pack.

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

I studied journalism way, way back, before Facebook or Instagram existed. I vaguely remember the course helping me with my writing but more than anything I loved the design modules. Playing around with Macs was so alien to someone who had been brought up with PCs and floppy disks (man, I sound old). While my shorthand was fairly sh*t, I adored the combination of writing and design. From there I worked in marketing and freelance writing for nearly 15 years which has given me all the skills I needed to set up That Mum Moment.

I created That Mum Moment in 2018 after having my daughter a year earlier. Motherhood hit me like a tonne of bricks (hands up if you’re a control freak?!) and I was trying to navigate the ‘new’ me. The cards are inspired by those moments when you need someone to tell you you’re smashing it. While it’s a bit old school, nothing is better than receiving a card in the post, knowing how much effort your mate has gone to, to choose a card, buy a stamp and remember your address. I want the brand to empower parents (mainly frazzled mums), champion self-care and encourage others to pass on those good vibes.

5. The best part of my job is…?

A design from Jenn'a range of greetings cards
One of That Mum Moment cards

Imagining the smile on people’s faces when they receive one of my cards gives me all the feels. I’m a bit of a softie at heart and adore the thought that something as simple as a card will bring two friends closer together and make such a difference to someone’s day.

6. The worst part of my job is…?

I love working on That Mum Moment but it can be tough finding the motivation to carry on in the evenings or when my daughter has a nap. Sometimes I’d much rather sit on the sofa with a biscuit and cuppa or glass of wine. I combat that by committing to projects that put me in my discomfort zone but also excite me. Last year I designed, printed and sold a christmas card collection within two weeks. This never would have happened if I hadn’t said yes to a collaboration with Jane from The Mama Social.

7. Favourite time-saving trick?

The myth is true. Having a child makes you more productive. There’s less time for procrastination when you need to get sh*t done. I like to set myself time slots to complete work rather than wasting hours jumping in and out of tasks or getting distracted by an Instagram rabbit hole.

8. Best advice for anyone working 9 to 3?

Create boundaries and don’t be afraid to say no. If someone requests a meeting, unless you really need to go, set up a call. Something that can be discussed on the phone for 15 minutes could eat up half of your day if you organise a meeting. More recently I’ve started ‘no phone Friday’ with my husband. We put our phones in a different room from 7pm and it’s the ultimate in boundary setting for those who treat their phone like their third hand. While I realise it makes me sound like a massive w*nker who’s possibly addicted to social media, it works for me. It’s so good for my mental health and I love the feeling of detaching from the outside world once our little one goes to bed on a Friday.

9. Favourite social media accounts/blogs:

I hate watching Instagram stories with the sound on. I much prefer accounts like Hannah Gale who shares her witty account of motherhood, fashion, tasty food and TV recommendations via text. I also have a thing for podcasts, they’re an amazing way to get in some self-care when I’m driving alone. My current faves are Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon, The Emma Guns Show and How to Curate your Life.

Please go and see Jenna’s account here: www.instagram.com/thatmummoment

Her shop can be found here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThatMumMoment

How I manage time-sucking clients

Clock image by @sonjalangford
Time goes by…so slowly photo by @sonjalangford

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog and Instagram for these first initial weeks back after Christmas. I’ve been really busy with work and clients. Actually, scratch that, I’ve been really busy with clients which has meant I have been busy with work.

My clients are lovely but a lot of them do not understand the principles of publicity. This is absolutely fine as it is a random industry where you cannot ever guarantee media coverage and therefore a solid return on investment. I pride myself on working really hard for my clients (I sweat blood) and getting them a satisfactory service where their product is featured.

But this does take time – lots of chasing and looking for niche angles. I do spend a lot of time reading books, magazines, blogs and on social media scouting for new places that would suit my clients products. I really love it and I am very lucky that I get to call it a job.

Recently though, I’ve been finding my 9 to 3 getting a little stretched and I’ve been running out of time on some projects. Looking back over my diary (which I keep for work schedules) I can see that my days have been filled with talking to my clients every day. Each call can last an hour. So I have not been factoring in these calls when I agree to work on certain projects. These calls have been eating into my work time – i.e. getting the job done that they are paying me for. Argh!!!

Here’s what I did:

  1. I told them. I said that the calls were taking me away too much from the work. The calls were over-riding the projects.
  2. I set up an agenda for the daily calls which was agreed in email the night before. Unless urgent, we stuck to those agenda points.
  3. The calls could only last 30 minutes at the very most. 15 minutes were preferable.
  4. I sent a catch up email each evening so they could see my progress during the day. This was 3-4 lines long.
  5. We agreed a time to speak every day – normally from 9.30am as this gave me time to assess any incoming overnight emails.

And that’s it! Nothing fancy but it has made such a difference! I’m focused, my client is reassured that I’m working and they can see my progress. Have you had this issue? I’d love to hear your tips because I’m embarrassed to say that it took me at least 10 days to figure out why I was running behind and getting stressed!