Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paper Planning: And other ways in which I preserve my sanity

Let me just be frank here. Half the time, I don't remember what day it is, what the date is, how old I am, how old my husband is, what year I graduated college, and we're not even going to start on when which bills are due.  My husband doesn't really excel in these areas either, but using our combined brain power (When these elements combineeeeeeee... Wait,  you're too young to remember that? Moving on.), we usually manage to run a pretty steady household.

That kicked the bucket right around the time our son was born, my husband went back to grad school, and I started my business. Epic. Fail.

Things fell through the cracks. Who am I kidding? Things fell into the Grand Canyon by the ton.

And that's when I decided to stop fooling myself into thinking that I would REALLY check my calendar in my phone or iPad.

Ladies and gentleman, I went old school.

Meet my Filofax Original A5 in Fluoro Orange....Better known as my Work Lifeline:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Freebie Alert: June 2014 Calendar

Didn't May just FLY by? Well, we still have a couple more days, but it's definitely on the downward slide now!

Head on over to my LPD Facebook page to download the June 2014 calendar for free. Just click the 'Freebies for Fans' tab!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Freebie Alert: May 2014 Calendar!

The beginning of a new month and a new freebie from Laura Prestwich Designs!

Head on over to Facebook to download the May 2014 Calendar, and don't forget to "Like" my page while you're there!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Freebie Alert: April 2014 Calendar!

Hey friends!

Check out the LPD page on Facebook to download this month's free calendar! Just click the Freebies tab and download away.

Here's a preview:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Infertility: Dealing with a world full of pregnant people

You know the feeling. The one where Every. Single. Person that you know or ever have known or ever will know is pregnant. I hear what you're thinking. The grumbling you're doing under your breath. Your hesitation before clicking the "Like" button on yet another "happy announcement." Believe me, I have been there. I've been to Infertile Myrtle Town, Population 1. I get it.

After the first year, when it became crystal clear that it wasn't going to be as easy to get pregnant as it seemed on TV (I blame Sixteen and Pregnant and Maury Povich.), I really started to dread people announcing their pregnancies. It grew from a little sad feeling in my heart to a big gaping wound to a very dark place where nothing could grow, much less a baby. Every gushing status on Facebook was a direct assault on my inability to create a human being. Every sympathetic look in my direction when someone announced a pregnancy in my presence was a reminder that I was "other." I was "broken."

Here we are several years in, and I still feel the little pangs when every day brings two (sometimes even three!) announcements on my social media. I know what you're saying, "You adopted! Why are you worried about that?"  Adopting has nothing to do with infertility, really. Infertility is a thief, stealing all of the ideas and plans you had for how your life would be, how your family would grow. Adoption is the giver. Infertility is about not being able to do something that women have done since time began, to not be able to feel a baby move inside you or see an ultrasound that doesn't have anything to do with endometriosis or PCOS or what-have-you. It's okay to be sad about that.

It doesn't mean I wish YOU weren't pregnant. It doesn't mean I'm not happy for YOU. In fact, I'm now in a place where I can genuinely rejoice in the pregnancies of my best friends and the births of their children. (Shout out to my homie, Audrey, who is the BEST and most thoughtful pregnant person I know! Holla!)  It just means I struggle. We all do. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll tell you that opening Facebook in the morning can be like opening an unmarked package making vague ticking noises.

So how do I deal?

  • We've all got "that" friend on Facebook. The one who says things without thinking (Gosh, getting pregnant was so easy!), the one who shares every single minute moment of their pregnancy every day (You can't stand the smell of water? Nobody cares. Except your mom. Maybe.)  Instead of letting that get under your skin and fester, unfollow her posts on your newsfeed. You can be happy for her and still not have to torture yourself. It's not healthy. (But if YOU are that over-sharer. Seriously? Help us out here. Before you hit the submit button, ask yourself, "Who is my audience? Is what I am saying just blatantly insensitive?")
  • Vent. Journal it, blog it, write a letter and burn it. Do what you have to do to get it out of your system. I've done a combination of all of the above at some point. It helps. The more it goes unsaid, the more isolating it is.
  • Don't feel pressured to comment on every person's posts. They won't notice if you didn't congratulate them. Frankly, YOUR congratulations aren't the most important part of the announcement. That said, if you know someone has struggled/had a loss and is celebrating a pregnancy, reach out. When we announced our adoption, people came out of the woodwork, because they knew how momentous it was for us. It meant the world. But if this person isn't even really a good friend and you're feeling pretty bitter, don't get involved unless absolutely necessary. It'll only rub salt in your wounds and open the door to discussions that you may not be emotionally ready to get involved in, "Oh Em Gee, I just don't know what I'm going to do! We weren't even trying!"  
  • Grace. Do you hear me? Think about this now. I know you're hurting, and even the most Zen/Christian person in the world is subject to the Green Eyed Monster.  But give yourself (and them) some grace. Most of these women just don't know, and thank God! I wouldn't wish infertility/loss on any woman. Not even my worst enemy. Grieve, love yourself, protect your spirit...But don't forget that they are just women. Not better. Not more. Not monsters. Just women. 
  • Be patient with yourself. Even I, after all these years, can get overwhelmed with it. I just take a step back and remind myself of all of the above. I give myself permission to BIO (Bitch It Out) with my friends, and then I get back in there. It's a journey. It doesn't have a road map. It zigs and zags, and I occasionally end up in a place that I thought I'd left year's ago. I just dust myself off and keep going. 

Most importantly, recognize that you must grow from this. Whatever you have to do to grow/heal/progress, you have to do that. For me, it was being honest about what I was going through, instead of hiding it away like a dirty secret. It was allowing myself to stop becoming emotionally involved in every pregnancy shared. 

Once I did that, I was able to start differentiating from the women who were lording their pregnancies over the masses like they were about to give birth to the second coming of Einstein with the face of Channing Tatum and the ones who were just sharing the simple joy of a growing life.

Ignore the former, embrace the latter. 

Clear as mud, right?

If you're interested in more of my posts about infertility, check out "Do's and Don'ts of Infertility."

Friday, March 21, 2014

My BKR Bottles: Hello, my name is Laura, and I'm addicted to a water bottle.

If you're following my business page on Instagram (And why WOULDN'T you?! @lprestwichdesigns), you might have seen a few posts about my latest obsession:  BKR Bottles.

Spring collection 2014, Courtesy of

Monday, March 10, 2014

WAHM Organization: Working from home when there isn't enough time in the day

Every now and again, I get questions about how I manage my time working from home with a child (Riley is 7 months old) and a husband, who is working full-time and in grad school.

After a few years of working from home, I do feel like I've worked out a lot of the kinks that cropped up when I first started. First, let me give you a little background:

Before I began my life as a WAHM, I worked in Human Resources for a manufacturing company at their largest facility in Tennessee. I frequently worked on cross-departmental projects that required a lot of organization and time management, so I got a pretty good base in handling a variety of projects at the same time. While I was working in HR, I was also freelancing as a graphic designer, so that added another layer of multi-tasking.
When my husband and I decided to move back to Mississippi so he could continue pursue his Masters of Nursing, my company asked me to stay on as a telecommuter part-time as I started my design business. At the time, we didn't know that our family would be growing so soon. Now, I'm glad that I had the chance to get comfortable working from home before Riley came home.

Here are a few of the things I've learned while working from home:

1.) Structure is key, but it has to be the right fit:  When I first started working from home, I got up early in the morning and went into the office, so I could be accessible to my teammates during their normal working hours. Because we were spread across two time zones, occasionally, my day would start at 7 a.m. Eventually, as I transitioned out of HR and into my design business, I started working at crazy hours of the night while my husband was on shift at the hospital and pretty much every day. It didn't take long to realize that I was burning myself out and losing a work/life balance.

 Now that our son is here, I have found that it is much easier to work throughout the day as he is playing or napping. I only work at night if I have a time sensitive project. I also try not to work on the weekends anymore, but this means that during my busy seasons, I need to work daily. I try to stay on top of my incoming projects instead of letting them build up like I used to. By staying on top of things, I can prevent myself from going into a work binge and losing critical family time. Some people find it helpful to assign "work hours."

2.) Work where you are most productive:  I used to have an office before we adopted Riley, and frankly, I felt stifled working in there. I wasn't comfortable. I didn't like sitting in an uncomfortable desk chair all day. I hated the quiet. When we converted that room into a nursery, I started working in the living room with access to the stereo and TV. I liked the ability to have some sound going on, but it still wasn't a good fit working at a desk.

We recently purchased a Macbook Pro to prevent computer traffic jams with my husband working on schoolwork, and wonder of wonders...I LOVE working in a more mobile situation. Other designers are out probably there hissing and boo'ing that I don't work with a ginormous monitor and my old design set up, but frankly, for most projects, I find that I don't miss it. If I run across something that I need the dual monitors for or a more powerful set up, I just move to the desk. I will say that my productivity has increased ten-fold since "allowing" myself to move to where I am most comfortable.

Don't be afraid to think outside the box. If you're not comfortable working where you are, then you're not going to work, which will really kill that whole structure thing.

3.) Don't put off until tomorrow what you can get done RIGHT NOW: We've all seen it. The email inbox overflowing with customers and orders and requests for quotes. I know, I know...None of us REALLY like to dive into an inbox bursting at the seams, but it's a necessary evil that gets just plain unmanageable if I keep putting it off.

I check email a few times throughout the day, and I respond to customer emails immediately, even if it's only to say, "Let me put together some information on that and get back to you." Delete old emails. Sort important ones into folders.

In regards to other projects, if you have a project that you're putting off. Stop. Just as soon as you do that for one or two things, you'll get slammed with twenty new projects tomorrow. Take ten minutes and knock out what you can. With kids around the house, I know it's tough. I kill my to-do list during nap times and when Riley is playing, often working in short bursts throughout the day. Some days you just DON'T want to work. It's okay to give yourself a break, but don't give yourself a break for a week unless you want to scramble to catch up. (And if you do that, COMMUNICATE with your clients. Tell them you're taking a "vacation" and wrap up as many things as you can for them before you go off the grid. That's just good business.)

4.) Treat it like a real business:  I know this seems so common sense, but you'd be surprised how many people WON'T treat being a WAHM like a business. Pretty frequently, people tell me it must be nice to "not work" and stay home with my kid all day. Well, it's amazing to have my kid with me all day, but I work, I assure you, AND I do it while caring for my 7 month old. Some people just can't make the connection that you CAN have a successful business from home and be a mom/dad at the same time.

I've found that it's incredibly important to introduce processes learned from working in a traditional office to lend legitimacy to my business and give me some sanity. I have a work-only email address. I have a work-only Facebook page and website. When work is really insane, I also use a business phone. I give people notice when I go off the grid. I treat customer service with the highest importance. I spend time filing and organizing using project management software and an agenda. I have processes that tell me how long it should take to design/order/deliver a certain product.

And DO NOT minimize what you do. If you minimize your business, other people will too. If you treat your business like a hobby, it IS a hobby.

5.) Use the right tools for the job: Find an agenda/organizer that works for you and your business. Use it. Are you tracking your accounts payable and receivable by sticking receipts under your keyboard? Stop that. Get a ledger/excel spreadsheet.  Are you keeping track of how much time you're spending on work? Download a project management app that allows you to track time spent. I guarantee you that you're probably working more hours than you think you are. If you're using a notebook to write down projects, and you're losing track of what's going on. Try using one page per client/per job, or switch to a spreadsheet or other productivity application. I track projects by creating a folder in my project app and then a folder on the desktop of my computer. Everything pertaining to that job in regards to initial sketches, illustrations, mock-ups, everything goes in that file labeled by project title and date. After a few weeks/month (or whenever the project is completed), I move them to an archive.

The important thing is to find a system that works for you and makes sense to at least one other person. My former boss used to call it the "get hit by a bus" back up plan. Who will step in and help you if you get sick? Your spouse or best friend or mom?  Then make a system that makes sense to other people as well as functions for you.

Organize. Organize. Organize.

Now, tell me. What works for you?  What do you struggle with working from home?