With a huge family of 8, plus in laws, it is not optimal for us to work in the living room. It gets noisy and there are people walking around all the time. What we have though, are ample rooms for everyone to share quite comfortably and we are very grateful for that. I never liked the idea of having a home office in the bedroom but that’s the only viable option for now. Suddenly, I’ve found myself managing 3 jobs, all of which are intertwined and which I am deeply passionate about. The only way to keep everything under control is to have a good system going!
I decluttered the room and carved out the far corner for my work station. Thanks to my vegan daughters, we are very mindful about purchasing new items and try to reuse what we can. I asked if any of them had a spare desk and one was all too happy to let me adopt hers. She finds it too bulky as her laptop has replaced her books. I like it as I can keep everything nicely tucked under the desk. A clutter-free desk helps me think better!
With a nice big desk, I needed a proper computer! My laptop doesn’t serve its purpose of convenience as I am mostly working from home. Besides, it is getting too old and is not very reliable. I nicked the Mac from the study room as it was under utilised. The hubs bought it years ago for the kids to share, but now that they are in Uni/Poly, they have their own laptops.
Ah, so nice to have a large screen.
You may be wondering why I need 3 screens, but ever since I started using them, I can’t do without them anymore!
Before, I would use my phone to snap photos of particular screens and toggle between them. With the luxury of multiple screens, I can watch a YouTube tutorial on my iPad and follow the instructions step by step on my Mac. I also need to look at different documents at the same time and this makes it so much easier. I keep my Whatsapp open on the iPad mini as I’m constantly receiving work texts as well as texts from the family.
Kate’s desk is at the other end so we have our personal space to do our work yet we are in the same room so that I can keep an eye on what she’s doing and I’m within easy reach when she gets stuck with her homework. However, it does get frustrating when I’m trying to concentrate and she comes to me every 10 minutes!
I’ve found a way to get around it as best as I can, by segmenting my work into 2 categories – “full attention” and “easy work”. I try to finish the former when she’s in school and do the latter in the afternoons where it’s a to-do lists of small tasks. It’s harder when she’s on HBL and needs more help with her work. With the time crunch, I’m forced to focus intently and get my important work done while she’s on her live zoom lessons. If I need more time, I’ll tell her that for the next hour, she is not to disturb me. Thankfully, she’s old enough to understand and comply. Sometimes, I get a pleasant surprise when she returns and tells me that her sister has explained everything nicely to her 🙂 These days, it’s the little things like that which turn my days from good to great!
The last thing I needed was a set up for my zoom sessions. I can’t have anyone walking in and out of the room while I’m having a staff meeting, giving a talk or recording my courses. I set up a small table just behind my work station so that the screen has the wall view. This Macbook was a hand-me-down from my sis-in-law and although it’s not functioning well, it still works for zoom meetings.
I’ve also discovered the joy of tending to plants when my Spurflower finally blossomed after 7 months! Watching the delicate purple flowers open one by one brightens up my day. I read up a bit more on plants and discovered that some plants, like these snake plants or “mother-in-law’s tongue” help purify the air and are easy to manage. Perfect!
We never intended the wardrobe doors to be used as a whiteboard, but Kate finds it so much more fun than writing on paper. She also pretends to be a teacher, which is something she’s been yearning to do because her teachers said that she’s too short to answer the questions on the classroom board. Knock yourself out, girl!
We start our days at 7:30am and after breakfast is when I do my most difficult work which requires a lot of thinking. We stop at 11:30 to prepare lunch. By mid-afternoon, I’m ready to take a brain break and happy to play with Kate or be her student. I’ve found that factoring time in between to do something physical or creative helps me to focus better and be more productive after the short break.
During the day, I move around the house a lot. Cooking in the kitchen, sitting with a child in the living room or hanging out with them in their rooms. My newfound love is this super cute pink iPad mini paired with a white smart folio. I use it more than my phone as I get urgent texts throughout the day and I can type with the keyboard and it’s easier on the eyes with the bigger screen.
They have revolutionised the capabilities of the mini with advanced machine learning functions that even doctors, pilots and architects use it to quickly pull up real time graphics and information like scans and weather conditions. My girls were happy to hear that it uses 100% recycled aluminium and that Apple’s global operations are carbon neutral.
I’m still exploring its many new features and am most excited that I’ll be able to slip this tiny little device in my handbag when I give talks instead of lugging along my heavy old laptop!
I’m learning to embrace technology to help me work more efficiently and I try to tune out after 6pm and go into zen mode. This has been one of my best decisions in 2021 as it is all too easy to blur the lines between home and work when you are working from home.
I have found my peak rhythm, put in place proper systems and I schedule in time to recharge. This makes both work and family time more enjoyable than doing both while being fully present to none. I have to be intentional about it, and I feel a lot more in control now even in the midst of WFH and HBL.
Michelle Choy is an Occupational Therapist and mum of 6. She is co-Founder of The Little Executive, a nurturing centre developing resilience and executive function in children. She is a Parent coach and Award-winning blogger and is regularly featured on national TV, radio and print media. She is at the same time proud, yet humbled to be awarded Singapore’s 40-over-40 inspiring women 2021.