Finding ease when the world is in chaos

Disclaimer: This is a post about how I am doing things, in my own particular life circumstances. I hope you find something you can take away to apply to your own life, but this isn’t a ‘step-by-step’ or ‘how to’ post. It’s a personal story.

My word for 2021 is ease. Ha! Soon after announcing that to the world in my first January newsletter, the news was made that schools in my district in London would be closing again. Then that was widened to include all London schools. Then, one day after kids had returned to other schools around the country, all schools in England closed.

So, single parent. Working full time. Two kids at home, also full time. Up to 5 hours of home-schooling per day. Plus the mental energy expended by a global pandemic, a pending divorce, an attempted coup in the US… the list goes on.

Er.

This is not feeling very ease-ful to me!

BUT I am already feeling grateful that I chose this word to guide me this year, because I feel like I am going to need it more than ever. Here are a few ways it is already steering my thoughts and helping me to ease in to 2021.

Dramatically lower expectations

The most obvious way that this is coming in to my life is by allowing me to dramatically lower my expectations.

Last week was my first week of this new situation. I still have help – my parents and I are in a support bubble, so I was able to get a full day of childcare from them, plus two additional chunks of time so that I could do client calls and take our cat to the vet.

In theory that means I should have had 3.5 days of working full time alongside 3-5 hours of homeschooling and… something had to give. Without the work, our bills don’t get paid. So, schooling was the thing that’s been cut.

I felt tortured about this decision for about a day. And it was a long, horrible day. I still feel guilt around it, like I should transform into this parent who has at least 4 arms and two brains – one to work and one to help facilitate my children’s learning. Other parents were sharing their darling children’s work and I felt like I was just incapable!

Then I gave myself a sterm talking to. I am not incapable, this situation is impossible. I ran it through my ease filter and made a new plan.

My son is 6. He knows his phonics and is good at maths. He is curious and loves science. We doesn’t love reading on his own yet, but we read a lot at home, he listens to loads of audiobooks, we talk about stuff all the time. He will not fall behind. If he does, he will catch up. We will do some stuff. Just not all the stuff.

I talked to my son’s teacher and told her that we would be doing one class and submitting one piece of classwork each day. She completely understood.

Dramatically reprioritise

Once schooling was clarified, the next thing to look at was work, and self-promotion.

Work that is paid is prioritised. Client work, publisher work, digital products that earn money.

Next I looked at my various marketing channels and where I was directly getting either enjoyment or paid work.

  • This blog: Does bring new newsletter subscribers, but there is a wealth of back content here already, and writing blog posts take a lot of time, which I don’t have. Therefore, this will likely be the last post for some time.
  • My newsletter: I love my newsletter, but I also think most people on it right now are there for the personal stories, not to hire me. Therefore I am scaling that back to monthly (it is currently bi-weekly).
    HOWEVER, I had been about to launch a new email, and I’ve decided to go ahead with it. This contains a content challenge for people to use as inspiration for their social media, blog posts, newsletters, podcasts – whatever it might be. The content prompts for this are already written, and the newsletter takes minutes to build, so this remains. You can sign up here if you’d like to receive them.
  • Instagram: I love Instagram. I’ll still be there and I might do more live videos talking about working life with kids in the mix, as it’s a nice way for me to connect with people and feel like I’ve got some colleagues to chat to! BUT I also have some thoughts about my screen time, which I’ve talked about a bit more below.
  • Twitter: I spend a lot of time on Twitter right now on the days I’m doing my in-house role. It is definitely a source of new clients for me, so I likely will find a way to bring it into the mix once that contract ends, although I’m not sure how yet.
  • Facebook / LinkedIn / Pinterest: I enjoy Pinterest, but don’t have the time to dedicate to it right now. Facebook and LinkedIn are both channels I loathe, so expect very little communication from me there for the moment!

I had a lot of new projects that I wanted to launch this year, and I will definitely continue with some of these, but I don’t have any brain space to think about or plan them out right now, so they’re currently all on pause. I’ll pick them up in a couple of weeks and see what’s looking doable.

Turn devices on and off

This house now has unlimited screen time for my kids. They want to play the ‘school game app’ (a game website we got a login to during the last lockdown)? Cool. They want to watch Netflix for an extra hour? Cool.

They watch too much TV. I feel guilt around how much how much TV they watch. But also, them watching TV means there is silence in my house and I can get focused work done. So, for right now, those screens remain on.

That said, they do also do loads of other stuff. Lego, experiments that cover the bathroom in water, elaborate scenarios involving their imaginary brothers and sisters – they play really well together at this age, which I am so grateful for. As long as I’m not trying to force them to learn, they find something fun to do.

On my side, I’m trying to turn my phone off a bit more. I’ve already got it on permanent silent mode, which is infinitely better than getting distracted constantly by the class Whatsapp messages.

I’ve also decided that this year I’m going to turn Instagram off at the weekends. I have barely read anything since the year started, and it’s because I’ve got caught in that cycle of picking up my phone to do a specific thing, seeing a message on Instagram, and then getting caught scrolling for FAR too long. I don’t want to spend my limited time that way right now. I’m back to carrying my Kindle in my back pocket instead of my phone.

Every day’s a school day

We are only doing one piece of school work a day, but we are doing them 7 days a week. Why not? I feel like it would be difficult to get my son back into school work on Monday after a weekend off, and anything that makes life feel easier right now stays.

I’m also planning to work for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoons while the kids watch a movie. Taking that time to give myself a bit of space on the other days feels good to me, rather than catching up in the evening or trying to cram every weekday minute full of work.

Will any of it work?

That, I don’t know. We are currently only one week into this new situation so not long at all. But it feels like a good set up. And my word for the year: ease, is a good filter for me. Am I making life easier or harder for myself? Does this work I’m taking on feel good, will the money I earn from it make life easier? Or does it feel like it’ll tip me over the edge?

I’m writing this almost like a reminder to myself of how I felt when it was terrifying and exhausting, but also pretty new. How will I feel when we are three, six months into this thing? Maybe I’ll come back and update this when the virus is finally over (it will be over one day) to let you know how it all panned out.

How are you making things work (or not!)?

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