Alternative Workstyle Tip 1 – Embrace Your Stuff

In my post “5 Tips to Be More Productive in Your Alternative Workstyle”, I summarized the top tips that have helped me be more productive and satisfied in my alternative work style.  Each day this week I will focus on one of these tip.

Embrace Your Stuff

We all have additional obligations outside of work, and those of us who turn to an alternative workstyle do so in an effort to better juggle those obligations.  When we work a traditional 9-5, it’s fairly black and white.  Non-work-related obligations fall before “clocking-in”, and after “punching out”.

Working in alternative workstyles creates far more gray areas than we ever could have imagined.  Workload and obligations have to be accomplished in a more constrained schedule.

When I started working outside of a traditional office, I naively thought I would tackle this problem be setting “consistent work hours”.  In fact, I think one of my original tips on our Duncan+Coleverria website was this very tip.  I really should delete that tip: it’s  unrealistic and perpetuates this false idea of an easy work/life balance.  But I digress.

Stuff happens.  A lot.  Especially in the summer.

If you’re like me and are the “primary caregiver” of kids during the day…

  • kids have to get to and from school/camp,
  • they need to eat…at least three times a day,
  • food preparation has to be cleaned up…at least three times a day,
  • sick kids have to be cared for,
  • kid drama has to be dealt with,
  • playdates have to be scheduled, carpooled and (yikes) sometimes managed,
  • and on and on.

“I can’t predict where and when each drop will fall, but I know I want to avoid the waterfall”.

None of these things predictably fall before 9 and after 5.  But what I can do is “plan” for these constraints from a 50,000-foot-view:  whatever work I plan on the days I’m primary caregiver will get interrupted.  If I need uninterrupted time to complete my work, I need to make other arrangements.

I think people generally underestimate these constraints and are caught off-guard when they inevitably present themselves.  I know I was.  I thought I could work at home as the primary caregiver and neatly carve out “work time” and “home time”.  The “old” me would plan for the “optimal” day – you know, those days when everything goes just right.  I would be home at 8:15 from dropping off kids, would leave to pick them up at 3:15…That meant 8 hours of productivity if I didn’t take a lunch break!  Of course this assumes:

  • kids get up on time,
  • they actually eat what you’ve given them,
  • they get dressed without hassle,
  • they have a full day of school and after school activities,
  • Nobody is or gets sick
  • Nobody forgets their lunch
  • I’m not hungry for my lunch
  • It’s not vacation/minimum day/parent conference/class party/field trip day

and on the productivity front, it assumes:

  • no phone tag
  • ideas flow
  • decisions aren’t complicated
  • my internet connection doesn’t flake on me
  • my computer doesn’t “upgrade” on me and then lock up
  • I don’t mess up – everything I do, think, say, and write is exactly right

I think this actually happened once, yet I hold it up there like that is THE WAY to work.  Every day.  I had this belief “I’ve got my regular work hours, just like the 9-5ers, so I’m set”.

Ultimately, however, I’d end up feeling frustrated, unproductive, and frazzled because the reality is:

Stuff happens.  A lot. Especially in the summer.

Trying to mimic a 9-5 work structure outside of the 9-5 is unrealistic and naive.  So start embracing the “stuff” because in an alternative workstyle, it doesn’t go away in the 9-5.

List out all your stuff

The key to embracing your stuff is recognizing ALL the stuff you have going on.  Otherwise, when it comes up, they are unplanned distractions and will end up infuriating you.  List out as many as you can think of, planned, potential, big or small.

Summertime brings a different dimension to the constraints, with vacations, varying schedules, later bedtimes, and visitors.

And don’t underestimate the need for downtime.  Our days can make us feel like we are the ball in a pinball machine, constantly bouncing off one project/need/decision to another at lightening speed, never knowing what’s going to hit next.  It is exhausting.   If you’re like me, and need regular recharging to be productive- if that’s part of your stuff, put it on the list!

Tomorrow we will use this list to help with Tip 2-Work Within Your Own Unique Work Rhythm.

About Lisa Duncan | Alternative Workstyle Enthusiast

Completely and totally passionate about work flexibility, love helping other businesses succeed, aiming to change how we think about workplace. Co-Creator of the digital workplace,, Co-Founder of, #huffbost blogger. [Duncan Coleverria]
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