Social Sanity

My dose of social interaction here in Oklahoma has been quite limited since I work from home. I totally catch myself talking to my dog…and myself,  and my unambitious appearance is questionable from time to time. I often dress like…how do I put this…well, like back in in the ’80’s when I was 5 and decided to dress myself for school. I look like a mismatched mess juuuuust about everyday. Here’s an example from a few weeks ago:

Whatever – it was comfy! But comfiness aside, I need social interaction once a week or else I fear that I’ll go a little crazy. Though working from home was an absolute blessing these past 2 years, it got lonely even with teleconferencing from time to time.

As today’s the 1st day of 2015, it’s time for a fresh start. I’ve got some new ambitions lined up for myself. I even have a new office job lined up here in Tulsa, starting Monday, January 12th! More on that later…but I’m thrilled ;). So, with this little New Year’s day off I decided to packed up my laptop and head over to my favorite coffee shop here in Tulsa – The Coffeehouse on Cherry Street. Sean’s home watching football, but I just needed to hear the faded cadence of new voices, soft laughter, the scream of an espresso machine, and casual greetings from business executives. Here’s the scene right now:

It’s great to be here. Coffeeshops are always a little slice of heaven for me. They’re a cozy reminder of how adorable people can be, especially when I people watch (without being creepy…). Wanna know what’s going on around me? You know you do:

To my left sits a woman who appears to be mid-30’s, dressed in her scrubs. Let’s name her Deborah. She looks like a Deborah. Deborah’s enjoying her lunch, and I mean really enjoying it. She’s alone, but she feels free to put down her fork after each bite, and 3 times so far she has proclaimed how scrumptious her lunch is.

“Oh that’s delicious!” that’s one…”Mmm!”…that’s twooooo…”MmmMmmMMM!” haha…and that’s three. She looked over at me (probably cause I looked over wondering if she was talking to me…or…herself…and was quickly on the verge of giggling). Deborah giggled. “Sorry!” she apologized. “I forget I’m in public sometimes, haah!” I laughed, smiled, and said I totally understood. Deborah’s funny. You enjoy that sandwich, Debs!

Then there’s the guy across the room sitting at a table against the wall. He’ll be Steve. Hi Steve. Steve is also talking to himself. This is like…The Talk To Yourself Corner. Love that I’m not the only one who does that from time to time! I think Steve appears to be proof reading something. I won’t judge. He’s reading in a low octave with minimal lip movement…so that maybe, just maybe, no one will hear him that way. Well, Steve, I do hear you. And I’m going to put in my head phones now because you’re just a liiiiitle distracting. Good luck with your paper though, buddy!

Then there’s a cute little couple over there to my right. What should we call them? Hmmm…Joanie and Mitchell? Hah! I’m funny. Joanie has short brown hair, about my color (a GORGEOUS color, might I add). Anywho – she and this guy Mitchell seem to have had a nervous start to their meet up. I think they like each other, but seem to know each other professionally. They’re talking quiet loudly so the whole corner of the coffeehouse can pretty much hear them. They’ve talked about a lot of work stuff, but the conversation has morphed into travel experiences, what their families are like, etc. I feel like they need a good laugh – that’ll break the tension a little, right?! Nothing I can do about that though. Best of luck, Joanie and Mitchell! I’ll cheers my new cup of Peach Jasmine tea in your general direction when you’re not looking.

Annnnnnd I spilled my tea.

Well…that was fun! I think I’m back to being balanced and social sane again. Whew.

Tonight, it’s back home to slow cook some beef stew for the weekend. More on that recipe later. For now, I’m grateful for the few hours I filled with social sanity.

Happy New Year, friends!

TOP 5: Tips for Working Remotely

My friend Brenda recently asked me for my top 5 tips on working remotely/working from home. Well my goodness – if that’s not a perfect excuse for a blog post, I don’t know what is! Thanks, Brenda 🙂 Here they are:

1) Get OUT!

Stella

You have a lunch hour…so USE it! I take Stella along for a walk or run most days between 12:30-1:00. That gives me another half hour once I’m back to shower and grab a quick lunch from the kitchen. Easy peezy! We usually only do a mile or so, but it’s enough to get our muscles moving, hearts pumping, and spirits RISING! It’s also a good excuse to see people…you know…to have human interaction. Probably sounds a little weird to say that, but when you go for long stretches of no work-related travel and you’re home all the time – it’s awesome to have little doses of conversation here and there. I’ve met more neighbors working from home than my previous job where I had a long commute. Like Ms. Campbell – she is this precious older lady who lives down the road from us and keeps a BEAUTIFUL garden and front yard. When Stella and I are out, she loves to say hello and tell us about how her children are. I just love throwing little moments like that into my day.

2) Chore Temptations

That sounds like an oxymoron. Right? Who’s actually tempted to do chores?! Well, it actually kinda happens – you’ll be tempted to get things done while you’re home like laundry, dishes, errands, etc. You can totally do it all, just be sure to designate certain times of the day for that. I’ve gone grocery shopping at 7:30 a.m. plenty of times. High five to the Safeway in the Hillandale Shopping Center of Silver Spring! They’re open early. Noon – 1:00 p.m. is also a good opportunity to do laundry, vacuum (haha…not that I actually dooooo that during lunch, but just sayin’…it’s an option!), and any other chores that you’ve been needing to get done. Then there’s the whole lack of a commute thing! Between 5-6pm used to be when I would sit in traffic, trying not to cry. But now I get to start working on dinner, tidy up the house, or even hop on the local Metro by 5:30 to meet up with friends for a happy hour in the city if I want to! It’s AWESOME!

NSS Coffeehouse3) Coffee Shop Escapes

When it’s appropriate, spice up your week with a morning, afternoon, or even a full work day at a local coffee shop. It’s a great way to be among people again, and simply to get out of the house. Now, I’m on the phone constantly since I work remotely so it’s very important to treat myself to a coffee shop day/half day when most of my phone calls have been made or reserved for other days of the week when I’m home in my office…where it’s quiet. No espresso machine hissing and screaming in the background, no loud table-side neighbors to my left or right who will audibly overpower any attempt at a phone conversation, and no name calling from the Batista who has drink orders up at the counter:

“SUSAN!….SUSANNE?….SUUUUSAAAANNE!”

“Emeeeeiltalnooh?….Emil……Emaa….ummm…..MOCHA LATTE WITH EXTRA FOAM!?!?!!?”

…which is why it’s good to keep those visits numbered. But when you do decide it’s a good day to plug in your headphones, plan your work travel efforts, crank out emails, and go crazy with your fancy excel spreadsheets – then it is SUCH a treat to be among people in an environment like that again. My favorite place to go in the Washington, D.C. area is Northside Social, located in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, VA. Without hesitation – it’s my favorite coffeehouse in the area. For breakfast you’ve gotta try their Cheddar Chive Scones alongside an Iced Mocha. Or if you’re a little hungrier – order their poached egg sandwich on a honey wheat flat-bread with lightly seasoned frisee, cheddar cheese, and thick, divinely smoked bacon. For lunch? No hesitation – their white bean pesto soup is my favorite. It’s served with a fresh slice of white bread – perfect for dipping in the soup. So yeah…it’s definitely good to get out once in a while :).

4) Connect with Coworkers

If you work remotely for a team of people – be sure to reach out to them. This is an effort that took me longer than I expected to get used to. In a normal office environment, I would simply hop in from one co-worker’s office to another and ask questions, verify things, or even let questions come to me as I waltzed in to snag some chocolate/candy up for grabs. It was great! But when you work remotely – you need to be a little more proactively social. I am a big advocate for asking questions ALL the time in the professional workplace. It’s a great way to make sure that your ideas and daily expectations are in line with what’s needed from the team. Taking away that daily interaction presents a few obstacles, but luckily that’s what IM, cell phones, video conferencing, and email are all for! Staying connected will help you to feel like you’re not on an island where your only co-worker is your dog ;).

5) Stay Organized

Keep a checklist every day. Along with that checklist, also be sure to keep track of what you accomplished each week. If you make the transition from working in an office to working from home…try to record your progress of each day. Then put them side by side and holy moly….you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish with no interruptions!

Working remotely has changed my life. It’s been an absolute blessing to focus heavily on my tasks at hand, have a quiet space to think creatively, and also have the professional tools to stay connected with one heck of an amazing team as well. I’m so grateful for the time that I’ve had working from home over the past year and a half!

Your turn! For those of you who work from home/remotely – feel free to share your suggestions as well! What’s worked well? Or, for those of you who are considering making this kind of professional transition, what questions do you have? Feel free to comment below!

Happy working.