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How to work at home and get stuff done

What’s a typical day like at the Jefferson Center? Spencer and I work at home to manage the business and I am also a remote, full-time employee. We’ve learned how to structure our day to get the most work done, but we are always learning new tricks.

If I answered that question last month, this post would be quite different. Then, I worked full-time for Swift Communications as well as supporting our young business while Spencer focuses full-time on the business and the ranch.

Serving the Savory Network

On April 11, I officially switched careers. After almost nine years at Swift, I left my friends there and joined the Savory Institute as the Savory Network Coordinator. All of my work is now focused on advancing Holistic Management. Having a singular focus really increased my productivity as there is synergy between my tasks. I do not feel pulled in  many different directions (or as many). My  impact is local through our work with the Jefferson Center and global through serving the network of hubs of the Savory Network. The Jefferson Center is one hub in the global Savory Network. There are ordinary folks like Spencer and myself working in many regions of the world to provide training, consulting, project management and on-going support to farmers, ranchers and land managers. We are committed to serving our own regions because we are deeply rooted in them. We understand the challenges they face. We are here to provide help when Mother Nature laughs at our plans (which happens!) and help re-plan, as many times as needed. This makes the Savory Network unique and why we wanted to become part of it. We believe it will take all of us working together to build a bright future for our children. We believe this is the network, the people to make it happen.

 

Starting as the Savory Network Coordinator

My new work day started with a business trip to Boulder, Colorado for on-boarding work at the Savory Institute  (SI) headquarters. I’m well acquainted with Denver International Airport as I flew to Colorado many times in my work with Swift. But Boulder is different. It moves at a different pace, looks at life through a different lens. Maybe it is because of the many meditation centers and yoga studios there? Maybe because of all the fresh, local food available everywhere, the many hiking and running trails, but whatever the source, the city feels clean, fresh, open, relaxed, serene and aware. What a perfect place to headquarter an organization focused on restoring health and vitality to the land.

The Savory Institute doesn’t just teach Holistic Management, they live it. Employees are treated as whole human beings. Wellness is valued. Family is considered. The team uses a platform developed by Savory Institute Director of Research and Knowledge Management Andrea Malmberg. The platform is called Life Energy and it is used to track and manage the wellness of a whole (a person, a family, a business). It allows each person to take an assessment and then create a plan that actively takes their life in the direction they want.

“It’s like grazing planning for humans,” Andrea said with a smile.

Once a month the SI team reports on their wellness. My first team meeting was this update from the team. I’ve never experienced such a holistic approach to team management, but then again, I’ve never worked for a holistically managed organization. It feels right. It feels healthy. Being part of a healthy organization and believing in the work we do each day matters. It’s the difference between dragging yourself to work or jumping out of bed excited to start the day.

The SI team is lean and energetic. Each team member is part of the organization because they believe in Holistic Management. They bring their energy, passion and entrepreneurial spirit to work each day. The work is meaningful and the goals…well enormous (to impact 1 billion hectares of land by the year 2025) and yet there is laughter and fun, joy and focus.

The office is very Boulder. It has a zen room. The kitchen is stocked with EPIC bars and products (heaven!), local honey and organic tea. The team works together in an open space of the quaint brick house turned office. It is within walking distance to downtown Boulder and its collection of restaurants, book stores, shops, breweries and yoga studios.

I stayed in a house two blocks from the office. Each morning, I laced up my running shoes and hit the quiet streets, winding my way up to the Flat Irons and some elevation before a day in the office. I passed at least 10 other morning exercisers (I did actually count) and hardly any trash on the streets. It is a unique place.

Creating the Perfect Day with work at home

As a remote employee and entrepreneurs, Spencer and I have to be intentional and structured in how we create our work day in order to get everything done that is required to reach our goals. Living in a small community, (much to my surprise) and having a child means that we are involved in several extra-curricular activities such as the Resource Conservation District Board, forming our local food hub, working with Modoc Forum and Ag Magazine and volunteering at Maezy’s school. Being connected to our community is part of our context, so we thoroughly enjoy this work, but it does take some creative scheduling. Here’s how we do it.

Inspired by the Perfect Day Formula, we learned about from our favorite self-improvement source, we divided our day into three parts.

Morning. Afternoon. Night.

Groundbreaking, right? It gets better.

What you do during each of these segments matters.

  • The morning is about control. This is when we have the most control over our day and our actions. Do work during the morning that is most critical, the highest priority. For us the day starts at 5 am. I begin with meditation and tapping. Spencer starts with coffee and computer work. I then move into writing and reading related work because it requires the most focus. Right now I am working through the Holistic Management online courses. It is an awesome way to start the day–hearing from Allan Savory, Byron Shelton and Chris Kerston. I also use the early morning hours for blogging and writing. Maezy gets up at 6:50 am. Spencer makes her breakfast, I help her dress (otherwise we might go to school with fairy wings and glitter everyday) and she and Spencer leave for the bus and the ranch at 7:45 am. I start work at 8 am in the basement office. I’ve found it is important to have a distinct place for a home office to create structure and focus.
  • The afternoon is about navigating chaos. Setting yourself up for success knowing that the day will include curve balls. My work day is filled with projects, documents, plans, calls, emails. The best way to stay focused through so many competing priorities is to script the day. I know what I should be doing at each hour.

A typical work day for me now includes ample Skype time. Yesterday I was on a call with my friend Molly in Malawi and then one hour later I was Skyping with Emilia from Hilo Sagrado Foundation in Columbia. Working in a global context sure keeps things in perspective and for this I am grateful. The communities in Columbia and Venezuela that Emilia works with are suffering from years of drought, so much that animals and children are perishing. They are looking to Holistic Management to heal the land and provide again for these communities. Despite these huge challenges, I am happy to be part of this conversation and working on sustainable solutions. With large tasks or small, plans go off track, priorities shift, especially as the day progresses. That’s ok. Adjust and re-plan. But do plan. It makes a difference. I break up my day with exercise. I am training for a half marathon in August, so I follow my training schedule each day (crafted by my friend Stephanie). I also step away from the computer to eat, so that I can do so slowly and preferably in the fresh air. For the Jefferson Center, I manage our business, keep our books, promote and plan our events and manage our marketing. Right now we are focused on our Field Day and we just completed this special assignment for the Savory Institute and the World Day to Combat Desertification.

[kad_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/1sEPRTtVq5g ” ]

 

We set up a weekly meeting for the Jefferson Center, where we have an actual agenda and go in depth on all things business. We needed this structure because we were having too many half-conversations about business mixed with personal. Spencer spends daylight hours at the ranch when he is not on the road consulting or training. He reserves computer work for mornings, late afternoons and as needed. Our goal is have mostly finished the workday when Maezy gets home at 4:15 pm. Sometimes she has to help me in the office, or she goes to the ranch with her dad.

  • The evenings are for what matter most–for us that is family. Once Maezy is home from school we spend time in the garden and at the ranch together. We do not talk about work. We may take a hike, a horseback ride, or work in the garden. But most importantly we are outside and together. Food is a big deal in our family. We do all our cooking at home from scratch (the amount of restaurants in Fort Bidwell–one–make this easier) and enjoy making dinner together. We take turns playing cards with Maezy, helping her practice Spanish and the piano or sometimes we all cook together. Maezy makes some mean guacamole.

Our days are far from perfect everyday, but this structure moves us toward our holistic context. My goal is to shift more work to earlier in the day (4 am start anyone?) so that I can spend more time outdoors and at the ranch.

How do you manage your day? Let us know so we can all improve together!