Weekly Round-Ups

How Do You Fit It All In? #2

The second instalment in a series in which I answer the ongoing question “How do you fit it all in?”, which people ask me when I tell them what I do.

Last week was especially busy and I’m not even sure why. Sometimes things just go like that. I also find it difficult to work efficiently when I have a lot of meetings and calls scheduled, and last week was full of those. 

Monday

I got up at 6 to go swimming. I’m trying to fit in at least half an hour’s swim in the morning before work, on top of the half an hour I do at the end of each day. When I got home from that I cleared up the mess from the previous day’s indulgence with the BFF (she came over, we had a picnic, there was wine).

I started work at 9am. Normally I begin with whatever’s urgent for that day, then I spend some time on my emails, then I move on to other stuff. On Monday however I wasn’t sure if there was going to be some urgent stuff in my inbox, so I cleared my emails first. Happily that wasn’t horrifically difficult.

The rest of the morning was spent queueing up content for a couple of clients. Over lunch I tried to work out how the hell to run Perl on a Mac, and failed abysmally. I’m still getting used to this whole new OS thing. I made a quick run to the garden centre to pick up some extra stuff I’d missed on Sunday – notably a huge bag of compost, which somehow still wasn’t enough for all the plants I want to pot. At 1pm my cleaner arrived – she does the communal stairwell in my building, because the other neighbours aren’t able to do it and I really hate hoovering stairs.

Monday afternoon was spent on business admin, like it usually is, and then some client calls in the late afternoon. At 5.15 I finished my last call, grabbed my bag, and walked to South Kensington to take a potential freelancer to dinner. We went to Muriel’s Kitchen, which does a very nice quinoa burger.

Dinner ended at half eight, and I walked back home via the gym. I finished my evening swimming session at ten past ten, hit the showers for five minutes until they closed, then came home, collapsed into bed, and fell asleep immediately.

Tuesday

I got up at 6 and went swimming again – so far I’m loving this routine. Swimming makes me happy and provides a nice way to wake up that doesn’t involve too much caffeine. Then I came home, ordered some compost to arrive on Wednesday, had breakfast, and pottered around the flat for a bit. I am currently addicted to peppered mackerel fillets drizzled with the balsamic I brought back from Modena.

After breakfast I worked solidly until 1:50, then I went out for an hour or so. I arrived home just after three and did some administrative stuff for one of my clients.

Tuesday is blog writing day, so I queued up posts for the following week and updated my Buffer for the month. This also reminded me of some of the things I still had to do, so I added those to my to-do list. I’m currently trying out Omnifocus as a to-do list manager and I quite like it. I prefer paper really, but since right now I’m working from a tiny desk shoved in the corner of my kitchen, I don’t have enough room to spread out sufficiently for that.

At some point I moved from the kitchen to bed, taking the laptop with me. Friends was on in the background – the binge is going well, I’m now on season 10. What will I do when it’s over?

When I looked at the clock it was 6.55, which meant it was almost time to go to choir. I toyed with the idea of not going because I was feeling fuckitty, but I dragged myself out from under the duvet, put some clothes on and went to rehearsal. That lasted until 9.45, and I hung around for a bit afterwards catching up with people before heading home. I got back at half ten and went straight to bed.

Wednesday

I was naughty and skipped swimming in the morning. I woke up just before my alarm was about to go off at 6, but I couldn’t seem to make myself stand up, so instead I stayed in bed a bit longer and got up at 8.

While in my half-asleep state I always persuade myself that this will make me feel better, but it never does. By the time I got up I felt like I was behind with my day already, and I downed an entire cafetière of coffee to try to get a similar buzz to what I’d get if I went swimming. It’s inferior but adequate.

I wrote some more blog post related stuff, then did some client work, then had a break for lunch. Over lunch I read a driving theory book, because my test is in about three weeks so I should really learn all the things before then. My compost arrived while I was reading, so I took a quick break to pot some plants, then came back upstairs and ordered even more compost because apparently the four bags I’ve used so far aren’t enough.

3pm was driving lesson time, so I headed out to Fulham to drive around behind the football ground. My instructor likes me more when I haven’t had several cups of coffee, but never mind.

The driving lesson was OK, but when I got home I was exhausted from being nervous + caffeinated for two hours, so instead of doing all the other things I was meant to do with my afternoon, I downed a large glass of wine and went to bed.

Thursday

The thing with saying “I’ll take one day off from my routine” is that it’s all too easy for one day to turn into two, and then six, and then you’re not in a routine anymore. On Thursday morning I woke up at 8, having slept badly and turned off my alarm.

I spent the morning doing client work, some of it preparing for a call I had in the afternoon, in which I’d decide on article titles for the upcoming month with my client. Over lunch I did a bit of work on my next book, mainly shuffling chapter titles around and trying to work out the best order for everything. In the afternoon I had my client call, which finished at 4, and then I created and sent my invoices for April.

In the evening I went to a “unicorn sacrifice” wine tasting event at The Good Wine Shop in Chiswick. A unicorn wine is a wine that’s hard to find, so a bit of a one-off. Some of the wines we were tasting had under 100 bottles made; in some cases we were drinking one of only 12 bottles available in the UK.

I had a very pleasant evening and met some nice people. Most of the people there knew a lot about wine; I don’t. I’m still towards the start of my wine journey. The guy sitting opposite me said that tasting unicorn wines at the beginning of learning about wine is “like starting reading English with John Donne”, which I thought was a perfect analogy and sounded like exactly the kind of thing I’d do.

I walked home after the tasting so I could get in my minimum miles for the day, and went to bed as soon as I got home.

Friday

I hardly ever oversleep. I can’t remember the last time it happened, but normally it occurs when I’m both exhausted and getting ill. Although I’d been wine tasting the night before, I wasn’t hungover; we were all quite moderate in our consumption. I’d turned off my alarm because I didn’t want to get up at 6, but I normally wake up between 4 and 8 anyway so I wasn’t concerned.

Somehow I woke up at 10, though, which was a bit of a problem because I had a meeting across town at 11.30.

I jumped out of bed, downed a coffee, threw on clothes and make-up, and headed out, arriving at my meeting with a minute to spare.

I’ve been thinking about taking out membership at a co-working place, not because I want to co-work myself but because it might make sense for my business. Bohemiacademia is now getting to the point where I have to decide whether I’m going to take the next step and start growing it properly. The next step would be to hire someone, either part- or full-time, to whom I could pass off some of the more day-to-day tasks so I can focus on overseeing things and the business admin side. Although I’d be happy for them to work from home, it would make sense for us to meet up and have a co-working day once a fortnight or so, especially for the first few months.

Client meetings are another aspect that’s growing this year, as well as reviews of digital forensic equipment which involves someone bringing their forensic software / hardware to London and demonstrating its capabilities to me. So I thought it might make sense to have a space where I could co-work with a freelancer sometimes, hold client meetings, and view demos of forensic equipment.

Currently I use Breather for client meetings and forensic demos, and I love them because the rooms are great and very private. However, they’re quite expensive so I wouldn’t want to use them as a co-working option.

One of the Breather locations I’ve used.

So, looking to save myself some money in the long run, I set up meetings at two co-working spaces on Friday. In the morning I looked at work.life in Clerkenwell. I was slightly put off already because my friend has been having a nightmare with their finance team, but I decided they were worth a look.

Things I liked:

  • They offer a mail handling service with unlimited names (I run several companies, so this would be handy).
  • They make it easy to interact with other freelancers via Slack (useful because sometimes I need a freelancer for a one-off project.)
  • If you sign up to be a member of one of their locations, you can also use the others.

Things I didn’t like:

  • The environment reminded me of the ad agency I used to work at; it felt very corporate. Lots of people will love the “We provide breakfast on Mondays and beer + pizza on Fridays” thing, but it reminds me of a time when I hated my life, so I don’t love it so much.
  • It was quite noisy and the meeting rooms weren’t very private. Although some of them were along a slightly quieter corridor, they all had glass walls, which wouldn’t be great for forensic demos since people walking past might be able to see your screen, and if you’re demoing potentially sensitive information, that’s the kind of thing you don’t want.

After looking round work.life I grabbed brunch in a coffee shop, then I went to a meeting in a Breather room. Tom from BlackBag demoed their MacQuisition product, which was very interesting. During the conversation, however, I kept thinking how inappropriate the co-working space would be for this kind of thing, for the reasons I’ve detailed above.

A Breather room

After my BlackBag demo I went to look round another co-working space: Labs in Holborn. I liked this even less than work.life.

Pros:

  • It felt less corporate and more like I was just hanging out in a coffee shop.
  • Their meeting rooms were a bit more private, especially the upstairs ones.

Cons:

  • Although they do offer a mail collection service, the receptionist I met seemed very spacey and I’d worry about my post going missing.
  • Connecting to the wifi was a major pain in the arse. You had to download an app, then sign up as a freelancer, then you got a code to use the internet. I hate adding random apps to my phone, and also my phone sometimes doesn’t allow me to download apps when I’m on a 3G connection. The app took ages to download and wasn’t very user friendly at all. It took several minutes for my laptop to connect to the internet even after I’d entered the code.
  • The food was expensive and the coffee was bad.
  • In the early evening the upstairs morphs from a coffee shop into a bar, so at about 5.30 there was a sudden influx of loud music and shouty people, which doesn’t make for a great working environment.

Looking round co-working spaces made me realise I don’t want to become a member of one. I now have three options if I decide to hire my new employee:

  1. Get them to come to my house and co-work once or twice a month. Pros: free. Cons: a bit weird?
  2. Hire a Breather room when I want to co-work with them. Pros: private, nice space, good wifi, free coffee. Cons: expensive.
  3. Start renting my own office space. Pros: control, privacy, less expensive than co-working. Cons: long contract, and I won’t want to work there most of the time.

Seems like I have a decision to make. Advice / experience welcomed.

In the evening I went to my friend’s house, intending to stay for one drink, but of course I stayed until 11pm and got home at midnight.

Saturday

I allowed myself a lie-in because my body is feeling a bit angry. My internal organs have been temperamental since the Melting Organ Fiasco of last year, and the hospital say they need to do more tests, but my GP is being a bit of an arse about sending me for them, so I may have to go private. I’m probably also going to anonymously send him a copy of this book.

I woke up at 11, spent some time studying for my driving theory test, then cleaned around a bit and went to pick up some bricks for the area outside my house.

Normally on the last Friday of the month I analyse my finances for the month that’s just been, and plan my finances for the following month. This Friday however I didn’t have time to do that since I was running around London having meetings, so I did it on Saturday instead. I use a technique from Sarah Von Bargen’s Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is course to structure my finances; I started at the end of last year and so far it’s working well for me. (You can find my full review here.)

By the middle of the afternoon I still wasn’t feeling great. My friend was having a party for her 72nd birthday in the evening, but I decided it’d be more sensible to skip that and get an early night, which I tried to do. Unfortunately my insides decided to make that impossible, so I ended up being on the phone with doctors until 2am.

On the positive side, at least I got to stay at home in bed and I didn’t have to spend all night hanging out in hospital waiting rooms. On the less positive side, they want me back in hospital soon to do more tests. They’re not sure if my body’s trying to kill another organ, or if they accidentally damaged some nerves in my lower spine when they did surgery, or if there’s damage to the middle bit of my nervous system (not sure if that’s right? anatomy isn’t my bag) left over from the previous Angry Organ. So, yay. More hospital.

Sunday

I allowed myself a lie-in in the morning. I’m typing this at half past twelve; so far I haven’t tried getting up, so we’ll see what happens when I do that. Ideally today I need to do some laundry, go to the supermarket, and possibly strip some wallpaper, but I think I might spend the day in bed writing instead.

Update: I got up. I did the laundry, cleaned the flat a bit, and then went back to bed. Following some more phone calls with doctors, I’ve decided to take it easy for the next few weeks. This will probably be my office for most of May:


A note about Breather: the links in this article are affiliate links. They didn’t ask me to review their rooms and they didn’t offer me anything in exchange for a review. I just used them because I found them on Google, and I loved them and would recommend them, so I went on their website and discovered an affiliate link I could use when I recommended them in this post. If you click through and book a room via the link in this post, I’ll earn £35, which would be very welcomed. You won’t pay any more for the room than you would otherwise; it’s just Breather’s way of saying thank you to me for recommending them.

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