Work at Home Series: Dealing with Distractions

A hand holds a magnifying glass, bringing focus to what's most important, to help the viewer in dealing with distractions

Work at Home Series: Dealing with Distractions

This is the third post in our “Work at Home Series.” If you missed the first two, I’d encourage you to check them out: Work Zones and Managing Communication. And don't forget to download the Work from Anywhere Workbook at the bottom of this post!

Distractions. We’ve all got ‘em. I have to tell you that even after years of working from home, dealing with distractions is still the biggest challenge for me.

I also have to tell you that the solutions are not rocket science. They’re common sense, and mostly come down to that dreaded phrase: will power. 

And I admit that after I wrote that last sentence I got lost in my Facebook feed for 15 minutes…

So, if you want to hear from someone about dealing with distractions, I’m your gal! Read on for my hard earned tips and tricks for staying on task and producing at home when there are so. many. other. things. vying for your attention.

Note: If you have kids, you’re likely juggling some level of homeschooling them right now, right? That’s a big distraction when you also need to work. It’s also an extenuating circumstance, and one that we all have to work through right now as best we can. I’ll address some of my thoughts on that process as we move through the steps.

1. Name Your Distractions

Mine might be named something like Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3. Oh, and my phone. Gardening. The notification tones coming from my phone for each message I receive on every single email and social media platform I use. The dog. Netflix. The laundry. The dishes. 

Take a hard look and figure out what pulls you away from working the most. Then move onto the next steps with those specific distractions in mind.

2. Design Your Work Zones to Mitigate Distractions

We’ve already gone in depth on the various types of work spaces in our first post of this series, so you can read that here if you’ve missed it. But no matter what work zone you use, you can be mindful of your distractions as you set it up.

If the kids are a distraction, and if they are old enough, be brutally honest with them about not interrupting you during your work hours. Set up a sign on your door or even on the back of your computer, which lets them know when you are off limits. My assistant has the “blood, barf, and broken bones rule” when she is working. Her kids, ages 10-17, know that they interrupt her at their own risk if their interruption does not relate to blood, barf, broken bones, or anything else related to a grave safety matter. This doesn’t stop them all the time, of course, but it does cut down on the interruptions.

If your kids are younger, then it’s definitely harder. You will likely have to set them up with snacks and Netflix and work in short spurts during the day. And if they need help with schoolwork, you may have to shift some of your work hours to the late evening when they are asleep, if possible. Stay strong, Parents! You can do this.

For other distractions, like the dishes and social media, my biggest advice is this: out of sight, out of mind. Clean the kitchen before you start working, and turn off all phone notifications. Work where you physically cannot see the kitchen (or whatever cluttered space drives you crazy and calls you to clean it!). Setting aside time in my day to catch up on my phone, email, and house chores give me peace of mind when I am focusing on the task at hand. Setting timers and sticking to the time blocks I've set for myself helps me go from one task to another without guilt or frustration because I know what to expect and how much time different tasks may take. 

Good ol’ will power. It takes more when you’re not in an office with the boss around or other coworkers to keep you motivated. Dig deep. You’ve got this!

3. Find Your Sweet Spot

Nope, I don’t mean work with a candy dish next to you. 

One of the biggest lessons my team and I have each learned is that we all have a sweet spot when it comes to productivity throughout the day. Now, if your position requires you to be logged on during set hours, then this won’t work for you, and you’ll have to rely on the other ways to handle distractions. But if you have flexibility about when you work, then finding your sweet spot can take you far!

Maybe you’re a morning person. You work best as soon as you’re out of bed. Or you’re a slow riser but you are most in tune with your workflow starting about 10 a.m. until you break for a late lunch. Or perhaps you are a night owl, and either don’t have kids to drag you out of bed or your kids are old enough to fend for themselves while you sleep in after logging your work hours into the wee hours of the morning.

Whatever your rhythm is, lean into it if you can. Fighting with yourself about when you should be at your desk is not going to help. So find the sweet spot in your day when you are most productive, and prioritize giving that window of time to your work. You will get so much more done in a shorter amount of time!

This also applies to juggling all sorts of routines... even with kids.. Unless your not-a-morning person kid is required to be logged on to their virtual classroom bright and early, let them sleep in and start their day a little later. Pick your battles and all that. 

4. Stick to a Routine

Some of us are more suited to routines than others. However, even if it is loose, give your days some kind of structure. That way when all you really want to do is binge watch that new show on Netflix, you have already set up boundaries for yourself to honor.  So when you find that your brain has started wandering away from work, take a look at the clock and see where you’re at in your routine. 

That doesn’t mean your work day must be rigidly set. Again, work in your sweet spot if you can. Build in time away from your desk, too. If you are lucky enough to be able to work from home, you have been given a gift. Don’t waste it. Use the time you’d normally spend on a commute to take a daily walk, play a game with your child, or meditate. When you’d normally gather at the coffee pot in the office, instead take a few minutes to check in with a friend or neighbor. Schedule in those times, and when you return to your desk you’ll be more focused and less prone to distraction. 

5. Know When to Give In

This goes hand in hand with scheduling time for breaks, but it refers more to those unscheduled breaks. Nothing about our lives is normal right now. Some days, we’re just not with it. And some times the best approach to dealing with distractions is to give into them.

Again, your job may require more structure in your day, but if you need a break, take one when and if you can. If your child is struggling with an assignment, or is feeling a wave of sadness at missing their friends at school, give yourself some grace to ignore the routine, step away from work, and deal with life. Much like attempting to be productive outside of your sweet spot, pushing through with work when more important things--and people--truly need your attention (and that includes yourself!) only sets you up for frustration. Take a few moments to address what needs to be addressed. Breathe, and then regroup.

Tomorrow’s a new day.

Remember to check out the Work from Anywhere Workbook available below, and get on your way to becoming a Work at Home (or anywhere) Pro!

Oh, and if you do actually need a funny distraction right now, check out this Workin' at Home parody video (based on Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer). We're all in this crazy thing together!

All the best,

How to Work from Anywhere

  • Design a Productive Workspace
  • Manage Communication
  • Deal with Distractions
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Sign Up for your Free Work from Anywhere Guide!

Whether you’re a remote work pro or you’re new to this crazy club, our guide will help you work smarter not harder!

CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

1. Analyze your goals  2. Create a custom strategy  3. Execute the strategy so that you see results!

Work at Home Series: Managing Communication

Managing communication can be a challenge, a bit like it is for this little girl speaking into a tin can on a string

Work at Home Series: Managing Communication

Managing communication can be a challenge, a bit like it is for this little girl speaking into a tin can on a stringThis is the second post in our “Work at Home Series.” Today we’ll discuss tips and tricks for managing communication with your team while working remotely. Check out the first post in the series, Work Zones, and watch for the last in the series coming later this week, all about Dealing with Distractions!

Once you have decided where in your home you will be working, the next thing to think about is how you and your team will keep in touch. Your employer may already have tools and resources set-up to help you work at home. Or maybe this task falls to you, to determine how to manage communication and share files.

First, I have to tell you that this can get messy very quickly if you’re not careful, so some of these tips might seem basic. Trust me when I tell you, as complicated as the tools available for remote communication can be, if we stick to the basics it goes so much more smoothly.

Read on for some best practices to follow to make sure that your virtual communication is professional, seamless, and does not annoy your coworkers.

Managing Email Communication

Know when to use “Reply All” on group emails.

Be careful not to drop pertinent people out of your conversation, or you risk creating confusing side conversations, unnecessary repetition, or instances of avoidable miscommunication. However, you can over use that Reply All function. Don't use it if the information the email conveys is not pertinent to the entire group. Or better yet, if you need to make sure a group of people are kept in the loop, consider using other tools such as Slack, where conversations can be shared with a group, but segmented threads can be created within that group, too, so that those who need to know, know, and those that don't really need it aren't inundated with messages. 

Respond to emails from your team members in a timely manner.

A good rule of thumb is to reply within 24 hours of receipt, even if it is just a “Hey, got your message, and I will get back to you on (insert day/time frame).” Since you aren't face to face with your team on a regular basis, responding to email at regular intervals is a key component to successfully managing communication when working remotely.

Stay on topic.

Use clear and concise subject lines in your email so that receivers can quickly understand the purpose of your message, and are able to locate it again if they need to return to it at a later time.

Consider if email is really the best way to communicate your topic.

As mentioned above, business communication messaging tools like Slack might be better suited for your purposes, as they allow you to segment conversations and create threads to keep ideas together. Take a look at your options. For more conversational interactions, email might not be the best choice.

Managing Communication with Video and Conference Calls

Be on time and be prepared.

Treat virtual meetings just as you in-person meetings. Have your necessary documents and files open and close by before the call starts.

Be aware of what is visible on your screen when participating in video calls.

Most of us are doing our best to juggle work and family at home, so there is some room for grace here, but...don’t be that person that carries their screen around with them while they do household chores, attends to personal grooming in the middle of the video chat, or worse. It’s distracting, and can quickly derail the conversation. (Yes, people do these kinds of things…). And if you will be screen-sharing, have only the relevant tabs and files open on your screen to avoid showing the entire audience sensitive or personal information.

Mute your microphone if not speaking.

This is especially important if you must have a side conversation—say your kid interrupts you and needs your attention. Have those conversations off screen if on a video call. Just remember to unmute yourself when you need to speak!

Reduce audible distractions.

This goes hand-in-hand with muting your microphone, but it applies to those times when your microphone needs to be on. Turn off your phone ringer and mute other notification tones on your computer that might occur during the meeting.

Consider the level of security needed for video or conference calls.

Recent news stories about hacks into providers like Zoom must be considered. Password protected calls are best, but do your research before selecting a provider, and set up your account properly to minimize hacking or uninvited participants.

Data Management Best Practices

Pick your communication platforms with care.

Decide what types of communication will be conveyed with email, what will you use tools like Slack for, and how you will hold video or conference calls. Once designated platforms are set up, stick with them consistently so that your team knows what kind of information will be shared through each channel.

Follow protocol when sharing and saving electronic files.

Design an organizational system for storing electronic files, and create standards for using it. Then be sure to save files accordingly, and follow labeling guidelines. If your team has not outlined protocols for where files are to be stored and shared, start that conversation with the relevant decision makers. Nothing can derail a team faster than disorganized files. It wastes time, and creates sink holes in which important information can be lost.

Don't be afraid to use free/inexpensive online platforms for file management.

Google Docs and Dropbox are two common free/inexpensive platforms. Keeping documents organized and accessible can be a chore. Google Docs is great for documents that multiple people need to be able to edit, but Dropbox is better for storing final drafts, records, templates and reports. Think of it like a virtual file cabinet. Create clearly labeled drawers and folders just like you would in a real cabinet, and file documents accordingly.

Managing Your Workflow & Time

Don’t be annoying.

Remember that working remotely often means that people are working at different times of the day. That does not mean it is okay to blow up your team’s Slack or What’sApp message thread at 2 a.m. Jot down items you want to discuss with the team, and consider sending a daily digest of sorts, or utilize remote workflow tools to keep ideas shared and organized (see more below). On the flip side, turn off or mute your notifications for at least a few hours a day and overnight. It is easy to stay in work mode much longer than needed when your house is also your office. Set up times to give yourself mental space to be off the clock.

Create a schedule and follow it.

Set boundaries for the times of day you are working, and when you are off (and don't forget to check out our next post in this series, Dealing with Distraction,s for more about this point!). Not only is it good for your mental health, it is also how you can streamline your productivity, while protecting your precious time with your family or for yourself.

Use workflow and project management tools.

Shared online workflow tools like Trello or Asana are free or inexpensive, depending on the features you need to use. These tools allow teams to share progress on projects, tasks, and deadlines. Some even allow for team calendar integration, and have messaging/chat features.

Keep your shared calendars up to date.

Your team can't see if you're at your desk or peek over the cubicle wall to ask if next Tuesday at 10 a.m. works for you for that pitch meeting, so let them know when you are available by keeping your calendar up to date. Also important: update your availability status icons on tools like Outlook, Slack, and Skype, so your team knows if you are “in” or “out” of the office in real time.

 

Above all else, be flexible. Even though my team and I do this day in and day out, we still run into miscommunication, misplaced files, and forgotten details. It happens. We’re all human, and especially right now—we are all dealing with a lot.

If you work at home, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for managing communication. Leave a comment to share lessons you’ve learned or questions you have for my team! 

Stay well! 

CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

1. Analyze your goals  2. Create a custom strategy  3. Execute the strategy so that you see results!

Work at Home Series: Work Zones

To work at home, a woman sits at her desk in a detached shed converted to an office

Work at Home Series: Work Zones

To work at home, a woman sits at her desk in a detached shed converted to an office
This is where the real estate magic happens when I work from home.

This is the first post in our “Work at Home Series.” Today we’ll discuss the foundation of  working from home successfully: work spaces, aka Work Zones. Stay tuned for the next two posts in the series coming later this week: Managing Communication and Dealing with Distractions!

With most of the US population under orders to stay home as I type this, pretty much everyone not in healthcare, public safety, logistics, grocery retail, or select food service finds themselves at home right now. However, many of us still need to be able to do our work at home. 

This might be the first time you’ve had to work from home on a consistent basis, and perhaps you're unsure how to manage your days. Or maybe you've got time management down, but you're dealing with a whole new experience while working from home: juggling your job with havin’ your kids and significant other there, too.

Here’s the thing, working from home takes a lot more self discipline and structure than most people realize. My team and I work  remotely from our own homes 100% of the time, not just now. So let us give you some advice based on the lessons we’ve learned.

The first thing to consider about working from home is WHERE you will work. Enter: The Work Zone.

Only you can decide what type of at-home work zone suits your needs. You may decide to have more than one! With the kids out of school indefinitely, they likely need to have their own spaces for school work, as well, so these options should be considered for them, too. 

The three most common types of work at home work zones are Portable, Designated, and Separate. Each has its pros and cons, so you’ll want to honestly assess what works best for you.

Portable Zone

This is exactly what it sounds like: a work space that you can pick up and move around.

Works best for:

  • Projects that require very few physical supplies, such as writing, editing, developing web content, or managing teams and projects with software. 

Pros: 

  • Flexible enough to adapt to any given environment. You can take it with you when you move from place to place around your home--or even your yard if the weather would cooperate--and it is very adaptable if you have a small home that cannot accommodate a more permanent work zone.
  • Great solution if the primary spaces suitable to working in your home are in shared areas, like the kitchen or living room, since you’ll want to be able to clear those areas easily for other purposes.

Cons: 

  • Has to be set up and torn down to some extent each time it is used, which can be inefficient. 
  • People who deal with a lot of paper, produce physical products, or who are easily distracted by their surroundings would be better suited for another style of work zone.

Requirements: 

Single container or cart to be pulled out, used, then put away in a corner or closet; laptop; Wifi;. chargers; headphones; pens and notepads; wifi capable printer, and additional supplies stored somewhere else in the home if needed.

A rolling cart serves as a portable office, a great solution to work at home wiithout a lot of space.

Examples: 

My portable workstation is a rolling cart that is fully stocked with all of my necessary tools, so all I need to add is my laptop, journal, and needed files. 

My assistant has a portable lap desk, a folio for her old-school planner, and a bag to carry her laptop, hard copy file folders for open projects, a computer charger, mouse and pad, and pens, and is able to work anywhere in her home or outside with this set-up. 

However, for both of us our portable work zones are not our primary work spaces. We both find that with kids around so much we need the flexibility of having both a portable and a more permanent work area.

Action: Think about what you use nearly every time you work, and those are the items you will want to have with you as you move from work space to work space. Find a rolling cart, or designate an old briefcase or sturdy tote to easily keep supplies together.

Designated Zone

A designated zone is a space set aside that does not have to be put away at the end of the day, However, it is located in a room that serves another primary purpose—i.e. the kitchen, bedroom, or family room—and it does not have a physical separation between it and the rest of the room.

Works best for:

  • Projects or personality styles that are suited to leaving work out to return to quickly as time allows or when working in split time blocks suited.
  • Spaces that need to accommodate multiple people or purposes simultaneously, such as working while keeping an eye on children as they play or also work on their school work.

Pros: 

  • Always ready for someone to get productive quickly, since you don’t necessarily have to put away what you are working on if you’re in the middle of something and have to step away to make dinner.
  • Fits into how you use your spaces. It can be a corner of your family room or bedroom, a built-in desk in the kitchen, or the table in the formal dining room that you never actually use for dining.
  • Creates boundaries between areas in a room, and helps to avoid jockeying with the kids or your partner for elbow room since you would ideally each have your own designated spaces.
  • All of your supplies, such as envelopes or your printer, can be stored at or near your designated space.   

Cons:

  • Not isolated away from the rest of the household, so they do take up valuable real estate within the home.
  • Can also contribute to a feeling of clutter and chaos if they are not kept tidy.
  • May be attractive spaces for the rest of the family to decide to use for their own projects, so boundaries need to be communicated regarding by whom and how these work zones are to be used.
  • If you need to participate in many phone calls or online meetings, designated spaces can be difficult if your children, partner, or pets are not cooperative with your need for them to stay quiet, calm, and out of the way.

Requirements:

Desk and chair; storage for files and supplies; computer or laptop docking station; Wifi; chargers; headphones; pens and notepads; printer; other supplies like envelopes, files folders, etc. 

A designated portion of a family room allows several people to work at home at a time.

Examples:

My assistant's designated work zone, with multiple work stations, serves as an office for her, her children, and her spouse to all work at home. Primarily located in the open area of the second story of their home that they refer to as “the loft,” the space also serves as a reading nook, guest room, and family entertainment area for video games, board games, sewing/craft projects, and watching movies. Not shown is the clean laundry that also usually piles up while it waits to be folded from the laundry room that is just off screen in the images. This is real life right here! 

Action: Look around your home and see what niches are available to carve out for work zones. Keep in mind the types of projects and the amount of surface space you require, as well as your own habits when it comes to keeping your work zone tidy or cluttered. If you’re the cluttered type, and this might cause an issue with your family or your sanity, a separate zone might be a better solution for you, if you can spare the space.

Separate Zone

A separate zone is a space solely dedicated to working, fully separated from the rest of the house by a door, or maybe even in a detached building on the property. It does not have a dual purpose, or if it does, the work space is the primary purpose. 

Works best for:

  • Tasks that require a lot of space for equipment or supplies.
  • Those who recognize that they work best with complete detachment from the goings-on of the family home.
  • When privacy and fewer distractions and interruptions are important.

Pros:

  • Provides an intentional and controllable environment (usually..but even those walls can’t separate you from the chaos sometimes, as this expert learned the hard way while being interviewed on live television!).
  • You can be as tidy or messy as you want. No need to tidy up if it's not your style or is not efficient for your task.
  • When you need to walk away, close the door behind you and leave your work for a while. Easy peasy!

Cons:

  • Literally removes you from the rest of what's going on in the home (this could be a pro or a con, depending on what works for you!).
  • Requires considerable space, and not everyone has the room in their house to dedicate to a separate zone.

Examples:

A great work at home option if you have the space, a concerted detached building on your property is hard to beat.

I am blessed enough to have a separate work space to call my own. My sweet husband converted a storage shed in our backyard into an office for me. I get the best of both worlds! I have the physical separation from my family, which allows me to be way more productive, but I also have the best commute ever: I can walk to work—usually in my pjs, of course!

Action: If you have a long term need to work at home, and you have the room, take a look at your home, inside and out. Is there a room that is really not being used much? How about the garage? Do you actually park in it or is it just used for storage that can be cleared or better organized to open up the space? Or maybe you need to look in the yard. Do you have the space and funds to add a converted shed with power? If you have the space and the budget, the sky is the limit for a separate work at home zone.

 

So there you have it: our run down of the three types of work zones we use to work at home efficiently and comfortably. What option works best for you?

Be sure to check back for our next post in this series, when was share some of the ups and downs of managing communication when we are rarely in the same room as a team. Can't wait to share more with you!

All the best,

CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

1. Analyze your goals  2. Create a custom strategy  3. Execute the strategy so that you see results!

3 Steps to Stay on Budget

My husband and me, seen here during a family photo shoot a few years back, have found that one of the keys to a strong marriage is our mutual commitment to stay on budget!

Stay on Budget with These 3 Steps!

My husband and me, seen here during a family photo shoot a few years back, have found that one of the keys to a strong marriage is our mutual commitment to stay on budget!

Ever wonder how some people seem to be able to stay on budget and make money multiply, while others can’t seem to save a dime? No matter your income or economic status, money is an important tool and resource. Just like any other tool or resource, it has to be used and managed properly for it to serve its purpose. 

If you have a goal to buy your first home, take a vacation, or learn to live within your means and get out of debt, your first step must be to live on a budget. I know, it’s hard! But here are my three steps to stay on budget and meet your personal finance goals.  

1. Track

Tracking your spending is the biggest piece of the budget puzzle. You have to know where your money is going, or you don’t have a budget. If you aren’t doing it already, track every single penny you spend for a month. 

The point of this exercise is to identify areas for improvement in your spending habits. Everyone has an area that seems to make their money evaporate more quickly than others. I have a friend that once had to ban herself from shopping at Target for a long while, because it became very clear to her after tracking her spending that she did not have the willpower to walk through the store and not overspend.

Once you have tracked for a full month, you should have a better idea of where your money is going. To stay on budget, you should continue to track and categorize your spending. However, instead of doing it to identify money drains, you will be doing it to be sure the right categories are being funded and maintained according to your goals.

2. Automate

The second step to stay on budget is to automate as much as you can. Put recurring bills on auto-pay. That way you don’t have to take the time to think about whether or not you forgot to pay something.

In addition to setting up bills on auto-pay, automate your savings, too. The classic advice to “pay yourself first” is a lot easier to follow if you set it up to happen automatically. If you are paid via direct deposit, most employers allow you to split your paycheck deposit between two accounts, so have some money going straight to savings. If you don’t have direct deposit, you should still be able to set up automatic transfers with your bank.

3. Optimize

The whole point of tracking and automating is to optimize your money. Basically, that’s just a fancy way of saying make it work for YOU! How do you do that?

Well, there are the obvious (and smart!) answers, like funding investment accounts. If you are lucky enough to have a retirement savings program at work with an employer match, that should be a no-brainer for you. Don’t leave free money on the table!

Real estate investing is, of course, another way to optimize your money. In the long run, real estate is a great way to build wealth, even if you never have any interest in being a landlord and just purchase your own home and position is to maximize appreciation. 

But to invest in mutual funds, stocks, real estate—even just buy your own home—all of that takes money up front and on a regular basis, right? So it all goes back to budgeting…

There are some great tools out there that help you stay on budget. I am not going to cover them all here, except to say to pick a tool/system and work it! This article has a great round up of current online programs and apps. When it comes to the logistics of managing money, what works for one person may not work for someone else. 

But what always works? Track. Automate. Optimize. Don’t work for money--make your money work for you!

Are you thinking about how to put your money to work by jumping into real estate by buying your first home or investment property? Download my Buyer’s Guide below, and contact me today to discuss how I can help you reach your goals!

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6 STEPS TO BECOMING A HOMEOWNER

Learn what it takes to achieve your Real Estate goals & invest in your future.

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Top 5 Needs & Wants When Home Hunting

A pregnant woman in silhouette on a hill cradles her belly.

Top 5 Needs & Wants

A pregnant woman in silhouette on a hill cradles her belly.Did you know that Americans move an average of every 5 years? And according to USA Today, every year 14% of the population makes a move. That’s a lot of moving!

Not only is moving a big task, it is expensive! If you rent, you’re generally looking at first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. That’s on top of the actual moving expenses, like movers, boxes and packing materials, and utility connection fees. 

For homeowners, you’re shelling out for commissions, loan fees, down payments...the list goes on.

So how do you minimize the headaches and costs of moving, and ensure that you don’t have to do it any more often than is absolutely necessary? 

Easy. Pick the right place to begin with. Know what you want, and more importantly, what you need, now and in the foreseeable future, as you hunt for a home. 

Write. It. Down. 

Go over it with your agent, and realign if necessary based on your budget as well as the current market. But always prioritize before you shop.

To make this process a little easier, I have created this free handy template for you to use to list your Top 5 Needs & Wants. As you consider what to prioritize as your Top 5, I encourage you to think about the following factors.

Price

Of course I am gonna go here. Have you read my blog before?!

Your Top 5 is going to be limited by your budget. Plain and simple as that. And what you can get for your budget will vary a lot depending on market conditions. 

Before you start to narrow down your Top 5, talk to an agent about some items on your longer wish list. They will help you understand what is realistic and what isn’t, based on your budget and the current market.

Location

It is possibly one of the most well known real estate cliches: Location, location, location! 

But the fact is that it needs to be one of the very first things you consider. Where do you want to live? How long of a commute are you willing to have? If you have or plan to have children, what are the schools like? What about the crime rate? Is walkability important to you?

What of all of these things matter to you, and what matters most? Location is the one factor that absolutely cannot be changed, so think long and hard about where you are looking.

House size

How much space do you need? Do you see your needs changing in the next five years? Buy the right size house for how you intend and expect to use it. 

If you think you might need a little growing room for kids or in-laws, plan for that when you purchase. Either buy a little more house than you currently need, or be sure you can handle the costs and headaches of an addition down the road. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are on track to be empty-nesters in the next 5 years, will you really want to have that sprawling four bed, three bath to manage once the kids are gone?

Figuring out the best fit for your situation is a personal process, but it must be considered as you think through your needs and wants.

Lot size

Similar to location, this is one factor that can’t really be changed without moving. Think about what you want for outdoor spaces, and how you intend to use them, before you shop. Hate yard work? Then prioritize a small lot, or be sure you can afford to outsource the maintenance. Love to grow all your own veggies? Make sure a big lot is on your Top 5!

Condition, Features, & Finishes

Lots of people think they want an old house with character. That is, until they start to see the realities of maintenance and repairs...this is not to say that a fixer or “antique” home is not for you. It very well might be perfect. Only you can decide. But I do recommend you think about how much time, money, and energy you have to give to maintenance when considering your Top 5.

In addition to the overall condition, does the home have the types of finishes and features you are looking for? If not, what will it cost to change out the counter tops or add the mill work you desire? Are those finishes even in your budget?

From wish to reality…

So you’ve done some dreaming, and then you’ve given yourself a reality check. You understand you probably will have to compromise, so you’ve identified your Top 5 needs and wants to know what you can and cannot concede. Great job!

Even then, knowing what you need and want for the short, mid, and long term doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to move again. Life happens and changes have to be made. And sometimes moving is absolutely worth the time and money. 

If you are considering downsizing or upgrading, or perhaps you find yourself facing an unexpected move, contact me. I am here to help you sort through it all!

All the best,

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Peace, Joy & Success

A white cup with the word “begin” is in the foreground of a picture of a kitchen table

Peace, Joy & Success

A white cup with the word “begin” is in the foreground of a picture of a kitchen tableWhile I was trying to capture just one more squeeze from my youngest at school drop-off, one of my son’s teachers asked what I did for work. I was totally taken off guard because I wasn't in success mode, so I flippantly said “I help people through the real estate process.”

I could tell she was less than satisfied with my short answer, and so was I. But we both had to go on with our days.

The thought of that abrupt conversation nagged me for weeks. I felt like I failed to share with her that I am so much more than the tasks of my day. I mean, I should be able to articulate the heart of what I do and who I am better than that, right?

But…what is it that I really strive to do? What matters to me about how I spend my days? How do I measure the success of my day when my head hits the pillow each night?

Since I am an entrepreneur, I have the luxury of aligning my version of success with my career. I decided to nail down the goals by which I can measure my own definitions of success, personally and professionally.

My career goal is: Make real estate as simple as possible for people.

My life goal is: Have consistent peace & exude joy.

If I have peace in my spirit and joy in my heart, then I am successful.

When I help people deal with the complexities and frustrations of real estate, it feeds my soul and amps up that Peace & Joy action. For some of us, peace comes in the form of an informed decision. For others it might mean the joy of a tenant application being approved.

As an entrepreneur, no one gives me annual reviews or gold stickers. I have to measure my own achievements and identify areas for improvement all on my own. In real estate, my peace could easily be stolen every single day by whatever curve ball comes at me—and believe me, they do come!

Through trial and error, I have learned that keeping my focus on my professional and personal goals, and sharing my peace and joy under difficult circumstances is always the best option, no matter how bumpy the path may be. 

The other day I ran across my achieve post from last New Year’s. I reviewed my goals for 2019 and I am so happy to report that I met 60% of them! Yay me, right?!

As I answered the questions on my Achieve worksheet, these were the words I wrote:

"For me, the fact that I get to wake up and do what I love every day, and go to bed next to the man of my dreams, and have happy, healthy babies is what I consider ultimate success. Working in yoga pants as often as possible is also a nice perk."

This past year I chased peace and joy over any other form of success. I can truly say I have never felt more balanced, happy, or able to chase these dreams that I’m dreaming.

True success to me is to be able to wake up and acknowledge the gift of each day, to live fully by serving others, and to do what I love and do it really well.

Success is coming fully alive in the work I produce and feeling fully content at the end of each day. Chasing peace and joy have been the key to the lock in my life of being “successful.”

In my younger years I would dream about the future. Dreaming and goal setting for the future do have a place, for sure. But I have also learned to value and cherish the here and now. My daily goal now is to soak up the moments that I am so privileged to be a part of.

How do you view or define success? What are your goals for 2020?

All the best,

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Forming Better Habits for a Better Me in 2020

My family poses for a picture when my oldest children were young--they (and my youngest) are my reasons for creating better habits for a better me.

Forming Better Habits for a Better Me in 2020

My family poses for a picture when my oldest children were young--they (and my youngest) are my reasons for creating better habits for a better me.Well, here we are again, nearing the end of yet another year--and another DECADE! Truth be told, I am not a big fan of this time of the year. It’s cold and grey here in the Pacific Northwest. The holidays can be so busy and exhausting. And now our culture tells me I am supposed to slow down and self reflect on my past and set resolutions for forming better habits in the year to come? 

Ugh. Just—ugh.

I don’t know about you, but that's only fun when there is no pressure. I mean I know I have had some good times and successes, but if I really did take the time to reflect, then I’d have to admit my failures, right? And who has time to talk about that stuff? 

Here’s the thing that has become clear to me recently: I can do better. Without going into too much detail (because it’s not all my story to tell), life has come at me in the last couple of years, and now I realize that I have unintentionally become reactive instead of proactive

What does that even mean, Carmen?

It means that instead of taking control of my time and energy--our two most precious individual resources--I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my days playing catch up, reacting to whatever is happening around me instead of being more intentional with what gets my attention.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m a Mama, Wife, and Daughter before I am anything else—and my family matters more to me than anything—so I’ve not hesitated to drop my own thing to help them with theirs. 

But along the way I have learned that I really do have to put on my own proverbial oxygen mask first if I’m going to continue to be of any help to those I truly do want to help, let alone reach my own dreams in life and business.

Like it or not, I need to set some hard-edged goals to create better habits in order to do better and be better for myself, my family, and my clients. 

So here goes nothing! I’m putting out my three New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 here, onto the eternal public internet, and asking each of you to help hold me accountable. Some of these I’ve already started working on over the last several months, but I want to renew my promise to care for myself with this new year. Will you join me?

1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Okay, I know this is nothing new to most of us, but there are only 24 hours in a day. On top of that limiting fact, I find that the more years that go by, the more sleep I need. This is really annoying to me, because sleeping cuts into my time to get stuff done! 

Since I can’t add more hours to my days, I‘m diligently working on implementing these two tasks:

5:30 a.m. WAKE UP

9:30 p.m. BEDTIME

Admittedly, rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. when I didn't go to sleep until midnight or later is a huge struggle, so I've had to learn to send myself to bed much earlier than I ever have before. But I am beginning to see how much more productive I can be with my limited time when I protect those eight hours and give my mind and body a rest.

2. Move My Body Everyday

There are days when I sit in my car, at a meeting, or at my desk working for hours on end. While my brain is running a million miles a minute, my body is sitting like a lump on a log. Sound familiar? 

All of this sitting leaves me feeling so sluggish. I used to do heavy workouts every single day, and honestly I loved it, but in this current season of life I just do not have the hours in the day to dedicate to that anymore. 

However, there is a lot of middle ground between heavy daily workouts and sitting like a slug. My goal is to move each day. Shifting my perspective on this is helping me see how to squeeze things in where I can.

I try to remember that the goal of moving my body is not to become a supermodel. It is a form of payment for all the amazing things my body does for me without request. And I am giving myself permission to accept that I don’t have to do anything too intense. Something as simple as squeezing in a brisk 15 minute walk while waiting for my kids to get out of practice, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Bonus if I can get in a kickboxing class at the studio up the road. The point is to get my blood flowing, muscles working, and ligaments stretched EVERY SINGLE DAY!

3. Cultivate Healthy Friendships 

If you’d asked 15-year-old me if I thought I’d still have to deal with bullies and mean girls in my 30s, I would have said I certainly hope not! But news flash: they still exist, and for a lot of people high school never really ends. Some people are just mean. Frenemies are a real thing, and man, can they tear us down if we’re not careful. 

People pleasing and modifying our actions to suit someone else's agenda is just not a good option. It can be hard to determine a frenemy from a true friend sometimes, so I’ve come up with two Secret 3 Strikes rules that have been game changers for me. 

  1. I will not call, text, or communicate with someone more than 3 times without reciprocation. I am not a needy person, but I also know that healthy relationships are not one-sided. If I reach out 3 times and someone doesn’t respond, then the ball is in their court. I won’t chase the ball for them. We can still be friends! But I refuse to be the only one working on the relationship.
  2. If someone gossips to me 3 or more times, I become very careful about what I say around that person, and even limit or cease interaction with them if needed or possible. You know that old saying “If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you”? If someone gossips to you, you can guarantee they'll gossip about you, too. And I don’t have time for that drama and negativity in my life. There is a huge difference between venting about a situation and tearing someone else's character apart.

So there you have it, the three habits I want to cultivate even more in my life this year to become a better me.

What are your resolutions and goals for the new year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

And if you’re looking for some inspiration, check out my 3 Important questions to ask yourself.

 

All the best,

Spread Some Holiday Cheer in 5 Simple Ways

A little bit of holiday cheer spread by a small wide-eyed dog sitting on grey chair leaning against a festive red pillow

Spread Some Holiday Cheer in 5 Simple Ways

Small wide-eyed dog sitting on grey chair leaning against a festive red pillow
It’s the little things that matter most when spreading holiday cheer!

How is your December going? Are you feeling the joy? I sure hope so! If you are, I encourage you to spread the holiday cheer to others, because not everyone is feeling it right now. Here are some fun ways to pay it forward and brighten someone else’s day.

1. Play Ding-Dong Ditch with a purpose.

Did you ever play this game as a kid? I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of other kids, and I think we played it every summer. Now that I’m a grown up I can see the downfalls to this obnoxious game, so I figure if the kids are going to do it anyway, let’s do it for a FUN reason! We like to make some chocolate covered pretzels, ring the doorbell of a friend or neighbor, and leave them these yummy treats behind. I’m not sure if this makes me an awesome mom, or a terrible one...

2. Share some hot chocolate.

We have had a nice big snow storm here the last few years, so going to the local hills for sledding is one of our top priorities. Last year there was a family that brought a bunch of thermoses to the snow park and shared hot chocolate with us. It was so thoughtful and generous. I don't normally encourage people to take sweets from strangers, but this would be one of those extenuating circumstances. It made our day even more memorable, and motivates me to find ways to do the same for others that cross my path during this hectic season.

3. Deliver coffee & snacks.

My first born nephew was born six weeks premature. He weighed 4 lbs and the smallest little peanut I had ever seen. Thanks to the amazing NICU nurses and doctors he pulled through, and he is now a strapping young teenager. Even though they had their own lives and holiday stresses, the NICU staff never stopped serving the families around them that needed some extra TLC. Over the years we have made it a point to drop off some extra special treats at the NICU for them on Christmas Eve, as a way to honor the ways they serve others even when it’s hard. Who in your world goes out of their way to help others, and might be deserving of a little TLC themselves? 

4. Hand Out Candy Canes.

This trick came from a young friend that had a very difficult lot in life. She told me that her favorite part of the holiday season was getting a candy cane—such a simple thing, that many of us take for granted. I just about cried my eyes out when she told me, but I could tell that she was genuinely grateful for that little gesture. And it’s so easy to do! Carry some candy canes, and hand them out randomly to people you see who may need just a touch of holiday cheer in their lives. Circumstances are hard for a lot of people, especially this time of year, but a moment of simple joy is contagious.

5. Spend Some Quality Time.

We all show and receive love in different ways. Two very important men in my life feel most loved by me when I carve out quality time with them for talking, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. Time is our most precious commodity. No matter how much money is in your bank account or what our job title is, we all get the same amount of time each day so we need to spend it wisely. Sharing it with those who matter is the best investment you can make with your time, am I right?!

I hope you found these fun little ideas inspiring, and that they spur you on to share some cheer.

Click the button below to download a free printable of this list to keep as a reminder!

All the best,

Want more holiday encouragement and ideas? Check out some recent posts below:

The Ultimate Christmas Checklist

A hand taking holding a cell phone up to take a picture of a christmas tree glowing with white lights, the person savoring the moment instead of adhering to a rigid Christmas checklist.

The Ultimate Christmas Checklist

We are T-minus 19 days until Christmas!

A hand taking holding a cell phone up to take a picture of a christmas tree glowing with white lights, the person savoring the moment instead of adhering to a rigid Christmas checklist.
Remember to take in the beauty of the season.

The holiday season is in full swing. Are you feeling the holiday joy? Or are you feeling bogged down by all of the tasks and to-do’s that come with this season, or with the sorrows and bittersweet memories of missed loved ones and years gone by? 

Well, I am here to help. 

Throw out your never ending lists of things to do, and take a deep breath: here is the only Christmas Checklist you actually need.

Poster Version Dec 6th 2019 Ultimate Christmas Checklist

Want to print this to display as a reminder to focus on what matters? Download it and share it, too!

In case you missed it, be sure to check out my recent post about finding holiday joy.

All the best,

5 Reminders to Find Joy in the Holidays

My son and Mrs. Claus at Disneyland feel the holiday joy!

5 Reminders to Find Joy in the Holiday Craziness

My son and Mrs. Claus at Disneyland feel the holiday joy!

Thanksgiving has just wrapped up, and I am looking at the calendar between now and the end of the year, and--wow.  There is so much going on! It’s hard to admit, but finding joy in the holidays can be hard.

Please note: this post may contain links or referrals.  I receive no compensation for these referrals. I simply enjoy the products/businesses, and I think you will, too.

All of end-of year tasks, celebrations and expectations can add so much pressure to our daily lives. 

On top of the general busyness, there is also all of the emotional juggling that comes with this season.  Complicated family relationships, missing loved ones we’ve lost, or learning to navigate how to be joyful when someone we care for is struggling...it can all seem like a lot, and it can start to suck away at our own joy.

So what do we do to ensure that this season of joy doesn’t become a season of stress, sadness, or tension?

Here are 5 things I try to remind myself about during the holiday season:

1. Every family member matters.

That includes you! What do YOU need this holiday season to stay sane and cheery? Speak up and share with your loved ones. They probably have the same goal of Joy for the holidays, but if you don’t communicate your needs, how will they know?

2. It’s about your presence, not the presents.

Gift giving is definitely one of my love languages, but I would never want someone to go into debt or stress about buying something. Time is our greatest commodity so being present for your loved ones is gift enough!

3. Communicate needs, expectations, and extend grace.

My husband, Josh, and I were raised very differently. When we first got married we saw just how differently we viewed Stuff, Money, and Time management. Over the years we have learned to communicate our needs and wants with each other, and we get more in sync every year. However, it has taken a LOT of grace on both our parts to find our middle ground. Extend grace to those around you this Holiday season. You’ll probably need to be given grace at some point so pay it forward friend.

My family’s holiday journey has evolved so much over the years, and just when we feel confident and grounded in our traditions, the ground shifts again and we need to readjust. Such is life.  Communication and Grace are how we move through these readjustment periods, holidays or not.

4. Leave White Space in your schedule.

Give yourself some space to breathe during this busy season. Learn how to decline events or activities. Schedule time for your priorities, so they actually happen. White Space--or time when nothing is scheduled--should absolutely be one of those priorities. Otherwise every second will be filled; that has proven to be very unhealthy for our family, so I now make it a point to block off times on our family calendar where we are “busy” being not busy. Make no apologies for doing this.

5. Serve a stranger or neighbor. 

This ties into the gift of time idea in #2. This time of year can be really hard for some people, so keep an eye out for a need, and fulfill it with no expectation of reciprocation. You may find more joy than you would expect.

Coming up with a game plan for our holidays has been instrumental in cultivating joy filled holidays for our family. As you work through the remainder of this season, remember that as long as people are involved there will always be punches to dodge, areas to be flexible, and soap boxes worth standing on. I think the key to keeping our joy is having the wisdom to know when to do what.

If you are looking for more resources on achieving a peaceful holiday season, I would highly suggest checking out Learn, Do, Becomes FREE Holiday Workshop. They have some amazing tools.

Please tell me I’m not alone! What are some steps you take during the holidays to cultivate joy?

All the best!

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