03 Jun

advice from mums on juggling life, kids, work and professional development

For the last two weeks, my colleagues and I have been running a discussion topic on professional development on the International Librarians Network blog. Yesterday, we published a post pulling together the voices of a number of women we work with on the topic of juggling life, kids, work and professional development.

It’s about a bunch of women who are librarians, information professionals, or academics in the LIS space but it’s a post that has value for women in a multitude of different professions, so I wanted to share it here. Go read it now, whether you’ve got kids or not, because this stuff is not easy and I think it gets just that little bit easier if we’re all in it together.

Although we didn’t explicitly talk about, this post reminds me that

behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back

(Quote via the Instagram feed of entrepreneur, author and speaker Lisa Messenger.)

These women are a big part of my tribe.

Thanks Lyndelle, Katya, Kathleen, Clare, and Kate for sharing about your experience.

#blogjune 2/30

27 Jun

failure doesn’t have to snowball: on blogging

I missed a post yesterday. I also missed a post earlier in the month (although one day this month I posted on my own blog and the NLS7 blog so I had justified the earlier fail in my head).

Those of you who’ve ever run the dieting gauntlet (which I seem to have been running non-stop since I was a teenager) will be well acquainted with failure blow out. You know, when you have one day of eating everything you want and you think, ‘I’ve blown it now so I may as well just finish that family sized block of chocolate and wash it down with some more coke’… And then you wake up the next morning and think, ‘I really, really blew it yesterday so I may as well keep going’.

I think blogging – or failing to blog – can be a bit like that. Especially when we set ourselves crazy goals like blogging every single day for a whole month.

I’m feeling a bit reflective today, as I collate my thesis and put the finishing touches on it, ready for submission on Monday (and ready to hand over to my principal supervisor at 9am today… Ummm why am I blogging now, with less than three hours to go, when I have more thesis work to do?!).

Those of you that have been on this PhD journey with me know that I’ve set and missed a number of self-imposed deadlines along the way. When I started my PhD, my aim was to complete in four years part time. As a part time student, my candidature is six years, but I wanted to complete early for a host of reasons: my job depends on me completing; I’m researching in a rapidly evolving space; I couldn’t handle it taking any longer; etc. Four years came and went at the end of last year, so I missed that target.

I also wanted to complete my thesis during my 2013 sabbatical. Who was I kidding? I started sabbatical in July with data collection still in progress (and, notably, a plate that wasn’t clear of work-work, which it should have been [nobody’s fault but my own, btw]). I did complete my data collection and analysis and wrote close to 50,000 words, but I didn’t finish my thesis. When I wasn’t finished on returning to work at the end of 2013, I realised that meant I wouldn’t be submitting in a hurry, because at that time, I took over coordinating the degree I teach in. And then more work stuff and more work stuff and more work stuff…

As the year rolled on, I set myself a new target: to have my final seminar by the end of 2014. I booked it in, and had to push the date back a fortnight. I submitted my thesis to the panel with a discussion chapter I wasn’t happy with, but I sent it and I got that seminar done.

Then I was going to finish my revisions before Semester 1 started this year. Hahahaha! This year, we got our own degree, moving out of the Master of IT and into our very own Master of Information Science, so that was a big transition to manage. I also took on a brand new unit, teaching undergrads for the first time. In first semester, my team and I taught 175% of our usual teaching load with a lot of new and casual staff. It was a crazy semester. During this semester I did several thesis sprints, each time hoping to complete in a short block of time I’d carved out, like a weekend. Talk about setting yourself up for failure. So I missed all of those ridiculous self-imposed deadlines.

And with every miss, I felt like more of a failure.

The final push came in May when a permanent position was advertised in my discipline and, with the knowledge that I wouldn’t have a chance at the job without having submitted my thesis, I gave myself 37 days to complete my thesis and write my job application (and when I say ‘I gave myself 37 days’, I don’t mean, ‘I took myself offline, into the wilderness, putting all work aside to get my thesis done’. I’ve still had to do all the other things too).

I’ve felt like giving up a number of times. I’ve compromised a lot to get here. I have failed and failed and failed and failed. And not just on thesis deadlines, but on lots of other things that have been impacted by trying to hit these crazy thesis deadlines. If so many people hadn’t invested in getting me here, if my participants hadn’t been so generous with letting me into their worlds at one of the most important times of their lives, I might have given up.

Though I’ve fallen off the healthy eating horse and stayed off it for long periods of time, I have managed to get back on the PhD horse at each fall. Actually, I think it’s more like a bucking bull. But the point is, I set myself up to fail many times; I failed many times, including times where I hadn’t set myself up to fail and I just failed through sheer failing-ness; but I am actually going to finish it.

And so now, 870-ish words later, I’m circling back to the beginning of this post to say this: For me, blogging has been a fickle ride. I love blogging. I have had so much fun this month blogging and participating in conversations. But in other years, I’ve let missing a day or two of #blogjune turn into an epic fail, and I’ve given up. This time around, I’ve given myself permission to miss a day here or there, and the result is I’m back here today, even though I did the blogging equivalent of eating a whole pizza yesterday.

So the point of this long winded and rambling post was that I’m okay with missing a day, and I’m going to try to take that attitude forward. I’m not going to blog every day post-June, but I will commit to blogging once a week. And if I don’t blog one week, I’m not going to let it turn into a catastrophic fail. I’m not even going to apologise for it, because who really wants to read a blog where the author starts out with an apology about not blogging? I’ll leave the chocolate in the fridge. I won’t let one little blow out lead to an enormous blow out. I won’t let missing one week turn into missing a whole month and suddenly into missing a whole year. I won’t give myself the excuse to get the family sized block of chocolate out of the fridge. Because failure doesn’t have to snowball. That’s one lesson I’ve learned from doing a PhD and one I think was worth learning.

25/30 #blogjune

23 Jun

eleven things that are helping me get through a crazy week

It’s crazy town here at the moment* but I’ve got a bit of a kit of awesome things that are helping me get through the crazy. Maybe some of them might be useful for you too (you can’t have my mum though, sorry – there’s a waiting list for dibs on her. Not really willing to share the kids either, but totally willing to share their cute, which you can partake in by following me on Instagram).

  1. 20 minute deep stretch yoga for neck and shoulders with Sara Beth Yoga on YouTube.
  2. The Headspace meditation app, which I’ve been using to learn how to meditate (this works, by the way – I’m one of those people who finds it hard to quiet their mind and I can do this).
  3. The Okapi coffee capsules from Zarraffa’s Coffee for my Nespresso – delicious!
  4. Perfect Potion Sweet Dreams Balm on my temples and the back of my neck at bedtime.
  5. Pomodoros for focused writing (made even better by doing them with a virtual buddy – thanks Kathleen!).
  6. My new to do list manager Todoist, where I’m blithely dumping things to deal with after 1 July.
  7. A little bit of Bulla Creamy Classics Chocolate Chip ice cream every night (and maybe a spoonful or three during the day as a reward).
  8. New comfy work from home clothes courtesy the recent Bonds 40% off sale. Super soft, unpilled jersey tees and harem pants.
  9. A claw hair clip I found in the bottom of the bathroom cupboard – so much better for headache management than a ponytail.
  10. Blogging – it’s so nice to write something other than thesis!
  11. And most importantly, my support crew:
    • my supervisors (every thing seems much clearer after a 10 minute chat. I know people have horrible experiences of PhD supervision and I don’t know how they get through the process without great supervisors)
    • friends who have spent half their weekend reading and reviewing my work (thanks Zaana!)
    • my team, who always deliver and who are always offering to help with work to free up my time to write
    • my friends and colleagues – my personal learning network, really – who send me supportive messages, love via Instagram, and chant my mantra – it’s just one more week – with me
    • the babes, who give me restorative hugs, make me snacks (okay, that one is only Ms 6), draw me pictures for my office, and who make my world shiny every time they step into sight
    • my mum, who puts up with me being an absolute cow (seriously, I’m a nightmare when I’m stressed), brings me a Maccas Coke home every day (I’m pretty much a postmix Coke addict), cooks for me even though she hates cooking, reminds me to sleep and breathe and stuff, and patiently listens to me rant about objects of study even though it’s really boring.

It’s just one more week! Not even! Woo!

* On Monday, I have to submit my thesis and an application for a job that would essentially give me permanency in my current job. And at work it’s the week we finalise grades, and because I had a huge teaching load this semester that’s quite a bit of admin. Plus other things I’m trying not to think about because: THESIS!

#blogjune 22/30

19 Jun

impostor syndrome sufferer? here’s your secret weapon

It seems my post on impostor syndrome resonated with quite a few people. Some people commented on the post; others tweeted me; some people wrote their own posts; some contacted me privately. But the message was clear: I was right in thinking this is a real issue in the LIS professions.

noun_120642Sometimes my impostor syndrome makes me feel like I’m achieving nothing. This is often compounded by juggling too many balls, which makes me feel like I’m at great risk of seeing all of those balls end up on the floor in smithereens. Sometimes (often), I’m already standing on some rather pointy shards. I also feel like I let people down quite a lot – different people (including myself), in different ways, but it’s usually a product of being overcommitted, being physically present but cognitively absent, and having a crazy work ethic (all three impact on my family and friends, while on the work front, it’s the first two that have the biggest impact, although the work ethic results in the other two). More on this letting people down thing later.

noun_35090So because I’m an over-committed fraud of a clown who can’t keep all the balls in the air because I’m there in body but not *there* in mind, I have to remind myself that sometimes I get things done, I achieve things, I make progress, I keep important balls in the air, and sometimes I even smash those balls into another stratosphere. When you’re stuck in a mindset where you think you’re a fraud, your lack of self awareness, your lack of trust in yourself, and your lack of capacity to back yourself can be crippling. And here’s the thing: everybody else is watching those balls flying through the air and thinking you’re a master juggler. So you have to find some way to get some perspective on what you are actually achieving.

I have a secret weapon in the war on impostor syndrome that allows you to get that kind of perspective. It’s called The Done List.

A done list is like a reverse to do list. You know how shitty you feel when you look at your to do list and you’re monumentally overwhelmed by how much there is on there and how little you’re getting done? A done list gives you the opposite feeling.

Done lists can track big stuff, or they can track little stuff. I have two kinds of done lists.

The Done List

I like to make a list at the start of every year of what I achieved the previous year. The big stuff. The important stuff. Not ‘I sent 3095 emails’ (although, it would be kind of fun / scary to count them one year, and I reckon that number would actually be fairly close to it). But things that matter, like how many books I read, what I achieved at work, positive changes I’ve made in my life. Here’s my 2013 done list as an example. This can be a really useful thing to do when you’re heading into a performance review. That was my prompt for my 2014 done list (which I didn’t put on my blog because it’s only half done – ha!).

It’s easy to forget what you’ve done by the end of the year, so you might like to schedule in an hour each month to make a great big list of everything you’ve achieved that month.

The ‘See, you really do get shit done’ list

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 6.09.46 PMI keep a running to do list in Evernote (or I did – I’m in the process of transitioning to Todoist). Sometimes there’s so much on my to do list and my days are so frantic that I feel like all I’ve done is answer email and go to meetings. So when I complete something on my Evernote to do list, I don’t just tick it off. I cut that item out of the to do list and I move it down to a separate list called ‘See, you really do get shit done’. And every now and then I have a scroll down and it’s like a big exhalation. I can see that I really do get shit done. Even if the only time I look at it is to add more to it. It still reminds me that I get shit done.

There are even services that will shoot you an email every day for you to reply with what you’ve achieved that day, so you are prompted to track your progress.

So ward off that inner impostor by telling it that you do get stuff done. Big stuff, and small stuff, and stuff that matters to you in all aspects of your life. Added side benefit: this makes it a lot easier to update your CV and write job applications.

PS. The kids and I searched The Noun Project for images for this post using the word ‘clown’, and Mr 6 insisted we feature Jar Jar Binks, while Ms 6 went for the clown hat.

#blogjune 18/30

I’m running a day behind because blogging is fun and thesis writing isn’t, so I didn’t let myself blog yesterday cause I didn’t make my thesis writing quota. Haven’t made it today either but I’m pulling an all nighter so preemptively rewarding myself with blogging.

15 Jun

my name is kate, and i am [not] an impostor impostor

I find myself talking about impostor syndrome a lot. I talk to my students about it. I talk to other PhD candidates about it. I talk to my colleagues about it. I talk to people I informally mentor about it. I talk to myself about it (not in a crazy way, but in a ‘I’m not listening to you, devil on my shoulder’ way).

Impostor syndrome is, I believe, more prevalent in women, and I think that’s one reason I spend so much time thinking and talking about it: my professional field (librarianship) is female dominated. I’m also an academic, and impostor syndrome is rife amongst the ranks of female academics.

I doubt myself every single day. I doubt the quality of my thinking. I doubt whether I have the right or the cred or the goods to say the things I want to say. I doubt my capacity as a researcher. I doubt my capacity as a teacher.

Case in point: today I found out I’ve been nominated for my university’s teacher of the year award. My first thought: I won’t win it. My second thought: I wonder if I’m actually a good teacher or if I’m just likeable? ‘I’m a really good teacher and I deserve that acknowledgment,’ said no woman ever (or perhaps: said no Kate ever). But today I made a conscious choice to take it on as positive reinforcement, because my inner impostor is particularly strong right now.

When I feel like I need to put my foot down about something (like giving advice – solicited or unsolicited – to someone more senior than me, where I feel like my expertise is needed) I agonise over whether I should say anything. Then I agonise over how to say it. Then I agonise over whether I said it as well as I could have. I agonise over whether I’ll be perceived as an upstart. Then I worry that I went a step too far and start thinking maybe I should preemptively back pedal before the shit hits the fan. Then I sit on my hands or bite my fingernails while I wait to see what happens. Invariably, it’s fine. It ends up being a non-event. My advice is appreciated, or it starts a much-needed conversation, or it’s noted but not taken on board. But I still go through the whole ‘who do you think you are, getting all up in people’s faces’ thing.

I think this is all made worse by the fact I am young and I am a woman. Maybe those two things aren’t even on the radar for the people I interact with. Maybe it’s just me who perceives these two things to be a problem (although I know in some cases it’s not just in my head).

I am not shy; I apparently appear to be very confident; and I am opinionated. So people are usually surprised when I tell them I feel like an impostor too (also, when I tell them I’m an introvert, but that’s a different story). But impostor syndrome can strike anyone. Even those of us who look like we’ve got it together and we’re completely confident and back the shiz out of ourselves. You can be loud and obnoxious about your opinions (as I often am) and still be quaking in your impostor boots. (Also, the impostor boots limit the loudness and obnoxiousness. Can you imagine how annoying I’d be without them? [See, I assume being more vocal means being annoying. Because who would want to hear more from this IMPOSTOR!])

And it effects everything.

Sometimes (most of the time), I doubt my capacity or my right to blog. Right now, I doubt my capacity to get the tone of this post right. I question the choice I’m making to be public about my insecurity. I worry that I’m an impostor impostor, because surely people will read this and think, ‘Pah! You don’t even rate on the impostor scales. Get down off that soapbox and make room for the *real* impostors’.

That’s what this post was really meant to be about: impostor syndrome and blogging. It was meant to be a reflection on a comment someone made on a recent blog post I wrote. The post asked whether people actually care about robust professional discourse, or whether I was off in lala land harping on about something no one else really gives a shit about. And a commenter who I have a great deal of respect for as a professional and a person noted that impostor syndrome can stop people from blogging or getting involved in professional discussions.

I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly made this connection before, in my own head. The connection between the bazillions of blog posts I’ve got sitting in draft, the fact that I’m not sure I’ve got the right or the goods to say the things I feel like I want or need to say, my concern that these posts might be really shit and they’re going to follow me around forever if I hit publish, and impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome can be a gag. It can cause us to sit on ideas. It stops us from blurting out the things we should blurt out. It holds us back as individuals and it holds us back as professionals and it holds our professional discourse back. It undermines our confidence in our own thinking and our capacity to make a contribution to professional conversation.

noun_143497So let’s just flip the bird at our inner impostors and hit publish, like I’m doing right now. And I’m not even going to read back over this for sense-checking or typo-checking and I’m going to be proud of every error you find in this post and every flawed bit argumentation because the single most important thing here is that I doubt this post, I doubt the wisdom of being publicly vulnerable, I’m worried about how men might respond to my gendering of impostor syndrome, I’m worried about using an icon that represents giving the finger, and I’m not even sure I’ve actually said anything worth reading here, but I’m hitting publish anyway. And that’s what matters.

#blogjune 15/30

11 Jun

what i’m reading now: the fun edition

noun_63245I was going to make a concerted effort to get back into reading fiction this year, but it hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean I’m not reading, nor does it mean I’m not reading for pleasure.

So here’s a run down on what I’m reading for fun at the moment, aside from all the #blogjune posts, that is! I’ll cover my professional reading in a later post.


Blogging is *so* not dead.

Everyday, real people fashion blogs

I learned about a lot of really great blogs from my PhD project participants, many of them fashion blogs. Happy days! Here are the ones I read religiously:

  • Styling You is my fav fashion blog, and I also love her beauty posts. I owe Nikki Parkinson for introducing me to brands like Bohemian Traders and for inspiring my 5 minute makeup routine. I pretty much use Nikki’s posts as the source for most of my clothing purchases (along with her daily Instagram #everydaystyle pics) and I love her monthly new beauty products posts.
  • Style & Shenanigans does a mean luxe to less feature and I love her colour of the week posts. Her colour of the week this week is red and the funnel neck jacket in this post is taunting me. Taunting me I say.
  • Sonia Styling is another everyday fashion blogger but she injects some lifestyle content too.

Interior design blogs

  • Apartment Therapy, including a recent obsession with carefully reviewing every one of the 170 entries in the Small Cool contest. I want to move to New York and live in a tiny apartment and make myself a cool tiny space. (Not really.)
  • Emily Henderson just might be the coolest person in the whole world and I love love love her aesthetic.

Lifestyle blogs

  • Brit & Co. for a bit of everything, from craft to fashion to beauty to design.

Sewing blogs

I read a lot of sewing blogs, but these are three of my favourites. It wasn’t easy to keep it to three!

  • Craftiness is Not Optional. Kids’ clothes galore made for and modelled by an adorable brood of little girls. She also sews for herself, but since I’m yet to sew myself any garments, I’ve tended to get more use out of her kids’ clothes posts.
  • Made by Rae. She makes great patterns for kids and women. I’ve only sewn one of her kids patterns – the big butt baby pants – but I’m super keen to try some of her adult patterns.
  • Sew Sweetness is a new find for me. The author just ran a series called Dress Up Party where a whole bunch of great sewing bloggers tested and posted about garment patterns.


News isn’t necessarily fun, but it’s not really work either… My main news source is The Conversation. It’s the one place on the web where I don’t feel like banging my head on my desk when I read the comments (okay, sometimes I still want to slap my hand on my forehead, but it’s more like an urge to give it a moderate tap, rather than slam my head into something hard).


I’ve got just one book on the go at the moment: The life-changing magic of tidying by Marie Kondo. This book has apparently got a cult following and reading it and implementing the systems she proposes is apparently going to fix my life.

So what are you reading?

I’m keen to add some more fodder to my blogroll in particular. I’m looking for more lifestyle, craft and most importantly, interior design. Where are the good Australian interior design blogs? I get a bit sick of seeing products I can’t have <pout> so would love some Australian suggestions.

#blogjune 11/30

08 Jun

outsource all the things

Since everyone is crazy busy these days, I thought I’d write some posts about some of the things I do to save time and be more efficient. I’m calling them productivity ninja tips, and I’ll be cross posting some of them on my teaching and learning blog, too. Today’s post is about outsourcing.

Public domain image courtesy Pascal via flickr

Public domain image courtesy Pascal via flickr

So let’s get started with outsourcing. I’m rather fond of outsourcing.

I try to increase my efficiency by outsourcing as many of the things that don’t need to be done by me – i.e. that don’t require me to use my brain or be physically present – as I possibly can. Sometimes these are things I really want to do (like making the kids’ birthday party invites) but that I know I will obsess over and spend way too much time on.

I also outsource the shit jobs I don’t want to do.

Here are some of the things I outsource, why I outsource them, and what you can expect to pay for these services.


I have a cleaner and I will never, ever not have a cleaner, even if I have to give up buying coffee to fund it. There is nothing better than coming home from work to a clean house. So good. Having a cleaner costs $30 an hour and it takes three hours to clean our four bedroom house once a fortnight. This includes a lot of dusting because we have a lot of ‘stuff’ around the house. The dusting is important because I have bad allergies. We do very little in between, and she manages to squeeze in things like cleaning the fans, doing the skirting boards and cornices, and cleaning the oven at intervals.


I outsource transcription of research interviews. Have you ever transcribed an hour of audio? Me neither, and I don’t plan on ever trying. I am so slow at transcription that it makes absolutely no sense for me to spend my time doing it. I know some researchers find it’s important for them to transcribe their own interviews to really feel like they’re across the data. I’m fortunate to have a good memory and that, combined with written reflections I make straight after each interview, means that transcripts are really all I need. And I can always go back to the audio if I need to. I recently used Interim Business Solutions to transcribe a chunk of my thesis that I dictated while driving from Brisbane to Toowoomba. They did a great job and turned it around super fast. Transcription prices vary depending on a variety of factors like audio quality, number of speakers, and turn around time. You generally pay per audio minute.

Transcription is not just good for research either. A little while back, I paid to have someone transcribe all of the mini lecture videos I have made for my teaching. This meant I had scripts to work from and allowed me to easily edit and update the content without starting from scratch. I think it cost me about $700 to get all my mini lectures transcribed for two units. I’ve since used and updated the scripts twice.


kate2 (1)This post was actually prompted by the job I’m currently outsourcing: creation of avatars for the participants in my PhD study. This one has a back story. Do you know about Fiverr? The principle of Fiverr is that you pay a fiver for everything. I LOVE Fiverr. I also love a particular artist on there who has done quite a bit of work for me. For Christmas, I got avatars made for my team, based on photos I sent her and ideas I gave her for what I wanted them to wear and be holding in their pics. That’s me, over to the left there, complete with lifelike tiny waist and great pins. Thank you, Anastasiia! I found her via Corin, who had an awesome avatar drawn and posted it on Instagram. Fortunately I caught her before she got really busy and increased her prices (every cent of which she deserves, btw), so I managed to get 14 characters drawn at a ridiculous price. Her current rate is still extremely reasonable, with a photo likeness avatar costing $45.

JacquiRight, so that’s the back story, and now onto the current job. My research is heavily grounded in my participants’ narratives and it’s incredibly important to me that I retain their individual presences in the narrative I’ve built around the data. I’m introducing the participants by presenting a social media profile for each person, and Anastasiia is drawing an avatar for each participant. These are cartoons without photo likeness, because obviously I can’t show my participants’ faces, even in cartoon format. I’ve given the artist a brief that includes something that makes me think of the particular participant. At right: the participant I’m calling Jacqui (pseudonym).

My only concern with services like Fiverr is sometimes the prices are really low and I’m uncomfortable paying them. It feels exploitative. For this latest batch, I’ve insisted on paying more than I was quoted. She did the first four, and I asked for some changes, so I have insisted on paying more again for the remaining avatars to make up for the extra work.

Etsy is a great source for getting custom work done, too, like kids’ birthday party invites. I’m definitely capable of doing this work myself, but I tend to spend way too much time on it because it’s fun and I’m a perfectionist. In previous years, I’ve picked a design, supplied a photo and asked for customisations, and you get back a good looking file for $25. This year, I bought a whole bunch of graphic elements on Etsy and then made the invites myself. The graphic elements I bought cost about $15 or $20 in total and included cartoon character versions of our favourite Star Wars and Frozen people, as well as backgrounds.

Web work

I’ve also used Fiverr to get a basic stylesheet created when I didn’t have time to build it myself. My students wanted one for an assignment. It wasn’t part of the assignment, but they wanted to be able to see what their HTML looked like styled, and I can’t justify spending hours on something that isn’t actually part of the assignment. I can, however, justify paying someone else to make one. It wasn’t perfect and I had to do some editing, but for $5 (or the $15 I insisted on paying because $5 is ridiculous) it was pretty damn good. $15 is still crazy cheap but I feel okay about it because I had basically no design parameters and was happy for them to reuse something existing.

Freelancer is another great option for getting a whole bunch of stuff done, though I’m tending to go for Fiverr more these days. When I put a job on Freelancer I find the process of choosing an offer really overwhelming. I’ve used Freelancer mostly to get WordPress themes edited when I want to tweak a theme a bit but don’t have time to mess around. My last Freelancer job involved some CSS and PHP work on a WordPress theme – probably about an hour of work – and cost about $50, which is pretty damn good.

There’s also a guy I’ve had help me with moving websites around, who I’m about to contact again about another job. I found this guy because he makes a WordPress plugin for preparing sites to move servers and he’s done a few jobs for me (including moving a conference website). Again, I’m capable of doing this myself, but I’m slow and it’s more efficient to pay someone. The last move he did for me was a reasonably complex move involving a stack of email accounts moves too and it cost me €80.


I ‘outsource’ bill paying and finance management to my sister. Granted, she doesn’t get paid, but this is a division of labour thing. We trade off on other things.

What I don’t outsource

As far as work goes, I don’t outsource core business stuff that I should be doing myself or that I should be looking for my organisation to cover. I tend to outsource the things that are ‘extras’, or the things that are part of my broader professional life, like maintaining my personal professional websites. It’s just like delegating to one of my team, except it’s a broader team.

I know I’m lucky

This feels like a really middle class, self important post to write, but I think it’s actually important to fess up to how I manage competing priorities because it’s not easy and it has personal impact. Working the way I do and at the pace I do has a cost. That cost can be time, or it can be money, or it can be both. I am by no means flash for cash, but I’m even less flash for time. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty that I can afford to outsource. But the thing is, I make trade offs. If I can claw back a few hours of writing time by paying $50 for some WordPress tweaks, that’s a good trade off for me. It’s about using my time for the things I’m really good at or that I need to do myself, or for the really important things like getting to school assembly when someone is student of the week. And I trade off on things like going away for holidays to fund some of my outsourcing. I’d rather get my house cleaned once a fortnight than go away for a week every year. For realz. Because the cleaning has a much bigger impact on my day to day.

Over to you!

I am currently looking for a designer to pretty up the diagrams for my thesis. If you have any suggestions, I’d be grateful to have them!

What do you outsource?

#blogjune 8/30

04 Jun

real person update

Way back at the beginning of the year, I wrote a blog post about making 2015 my year of being a ‘real person’.

Let’s face it. I’m a workaholic and I’ve sidelined a lot of the things I love to Get Shit Done. As a friend and a family member, I might be physically present, but I am generally cognitively absent, with my brain going a million miles an hour all the time. The kids think it’s hysterical I have an office because I work everywhere. Have phone; will answer email.

I think generally it’s fine to be a workaholic if you love what you’re doing, and I really love what I do. But at the start of the year, I was missing other things I used to do. Reading, sewing, hanging out with my family, and spending time with my friends. Taking days off work.

So I said I would make a commitment to doing the following things in 2015:

  • work weekends as an exception
  • sew one thing every month
  • read one fiction book every month
  • spend time with the people who matter most.

How am I going with these things?

Hmmm. Not so great. Embarrassingly ungreat actually but I’ll fess up despite the embarrassment.

I’ve had two whole days off so far this year. The first one happened because I came home one Saturday after staying in Brisbane on a Friday night, stepped down the two steps from my hallway to my kitchen, and fell flat on my back in the water that was pouring out of the cupboards under the sink. It was very surreal. There was a really loud water noise, which I heard as soon as I opened the front door, and I thought the dishwasher was just very loud. And I thought the tiles looked very shiny and in my head I said ‘Oh, the cleaner must have come. That’s strange’. In the back of my brain somewhere I knew the house was full of water but it didn’t quite translate into a proper thought or an instruction to my limbs, so I ended up having a nice swim, with my laptop in the water beside me (fortunately it was fine – no idea how). So I had that day off because I had to salvage photos and paperwork, get all the furniture elevated, spend hours on the phone to the insurer, organise emergency accommodation, and sob my heart out every time we found some precious thing that was ruined. It’s now four months later and we have just had the final work done by the insurance contractors. I just have to get a broken roof tile fixed and mould on the ceiling removed from where water got in during a storm (and we didn’t notice because the room was uninhabitable and closed up), then we can lay new carpet and the house will finally be back to normal. So that was day off numero uno. Then on the twins’ birthday party day, I spent the day partying and then came home (confession: I did do 15 minutes of work when I first walked in the door cause I had makeup on and I wanted to take advantage of it to shoot a video) and discovered we had a leak at the foundations and the lounge room (untouched by the January flood) was sopping wet. On moving furniture, we discovered it had probably happened in the storm a few weeks earlier as well, because the cabinetry and carpet were full of mould. I got into bed and put a pillow over my head and cried and gave up on working. So that’s the story of my two whole days off. (And as an aside, maybe this isn’t my year of being a real person. Maybe it’s my year of water. Three lots of water damage in five months. Unfun.)

Why no days off? It’s been a crazy semester, and I’ve been madly trying to finish my thesis while juggling a much bigger workload than normal. I’m tired, but I’ve survived it and soon I really will claim those weekends back.

Moving along…

I sewed two things in January, on 31 January, to be exact. I was so happy I got them done. It felt like I proved something to myself (which didn’t last long!).

I read about a third of the new Marian Keyes book and then abandoned it. I have, however, been reading *heaps* of lifestyle, sewing, interior design and fashion blogs, which works really well for me because the content is bite sized. So I am doing fun reading, just not fiction.

And lastly, I haven’t spent anywhere near enough time with my people.

Three weeks ago I was feeling pretty crap about all this. My boss said to me a while back that the PhD not being done is a big cognitive load to carry around. I brushed it off with ‘ah, I’ve been carrying it for years! It’s fine!’ But now that I’m close to completion, I see how heavy that load has been, because it’s starting to lift.

So while it hasn’t been the best of years, and I may not have done the things I wanted to do, I’m okay with it. 2015 will still be the year I become a real person again; it’ll just happen a bit later than I hoped.

It’s so very nearly re-entry time, and I can’t wait.

#blogjune 3/30 (belated)

05 Jan

a year of being a *real person*

A year of being a real person

I think it’s kind of fitting to start my first work day for 2015 with my new year goals post. Ironically though, my goals in 2015 are all about working less and being a *real person* – a three dimensional, present, engaged person who isn’t defined by work.

There are lots of things I want to do this year. Big things. Big goals to hit. Big changes to make. A thesis to finish. A new degree to implement. New units to design.

But when I started thinking about what I wanted to do this year, I realised those big ticket work goals weren’t at the front of my mind. Yes, I totally want my PhD to be done. Yes, it’s also time for me to think seriously about my career trajectory and decide if I’m still following the right dream. But when I thought about what I wanted to do this year, I found myself returning over and over to those things I love doing that fell off my radar in 2014. Not work. Not career. Not PhD. But the little things I love to do that keep me sane and happy.

In 2014, I didn’t read a single book. I went about eight months without sewing, finishing a total of two small projects all year. I did very little non-work writing. I hardly baked at all. I didn’t do enough making, and making is really important to me. Because really, as American graphic designer Saul Bass once said, ‘I just want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares’.

I was pretty much a hermit this year too. I hardly saw my friends at all. I spent a lot of time saying, ‘I’m sorry, I have to work’ to everyone around me, including the twins. I followed my sorries with, ‘It’s just one more year’, and then, ‘It’s just a few more months’, and then ‘I just have to get past this intense phase of writing’, and, ‘My thesis will be done by the end of the year and then I’ll be back in the land of the living’.

Recently my sister called me out on this. She said there will always be a ‘I just have to…’ I realised my family fully expect that, once the PhD is done, I will find other projects that become my ‘I just have to…’ excuses. And I realised that although this is definitely not what I want, if I am not careful, I will do it. Because that’s how I roll. I see the shiny, pretty, exciting things I could be doing as part of my job and I want to do them all. And then I take on all of those things and I lose all capacity to be a friend and a daughter and a sister and an aunty and a maker and a reader and… a person.

2014 was a pretty unfun year. I let the things I love go out of necessity; work was stressful; I got caught up in trying to get myself into a permanent position at work; and I jammed an incredible amount of thesis writing into a very short period of time.

I get to be creative at work, and I found thesis writing to be a creative process too (especially because I struggled with the linearity of thesis writing, so I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about the design of the final document). This helped to balance out the lack of sewing and non-work writing and the fact I didn’t really make anything beautiful at all (except some pretty slidedecks). But no matter how much I get to flex my information design muscles at work, it’s not the same as being creative for fun or being creative for the sake of being creative. I miss reading, I miss sewing, I miss writing for pleasure, and I miss my friends and family. These are things I want to focus on this year.

Doing all of these things means having (or making) time. I know that the single most important thing I need to do to make this stuff happen is to reclaim my weekends.

I’ve been reluctant to set goals for 2015 (and maybe even more reluctant to share them) seeing my 2014 goals were great big flops (more on this in a later post). But I really want to change the balance in my life and I know I can’t do that without giving myself a framework for what I want to change and how I might make it happen.

I questioned whether I should share these goals here. But I think in two ways: with my fingers on the keyboard, or by creating a visual narrative. I sensemake by creating a story in words or images or a combination of both. So writing these things down is about planning and making sense and working out how to get to where I want to be. I’m naming these goals here as a way of claiming them and thinking through how I’m going to achieve them.

I don’t want to set myself up for a series of fails so I’m setting goals that I think are definitely achievable. There are four of them, with the first being the condition for the other three.

In 2015, I am committing that I will

  • work weekends as an exception
  • sew one thing every month
  • read one fiction book every month
  • spend time with the people who matter most.

Work weekends as an exception

Over the last five years, I’ve gradually gotten into the habit of factoring Saturday and Sunday into my work schedule every week. Having a weekend off is currently the exception, not the norm. I don’t mind working weekends to meet deadlines, but I am pretty over working a full day every Saturday and every Sunday. I’m sick of missing out on doing fun stuff and it’s really exhausting.

I made a single resolution last January: to take a day off every week. That seems like a pretty simple, achievable resolution, but it went out the window by the end of January. I had days off, but not as regularly or as many as I should have. And in the second half of the year, I basically worked non-stop, juggling the usual family commitments and curve ball after curve ball on the personal and family fronts with my very busy job and writing my thesis.

I know that shifting my mindset to see weekends as separate from the work week will be the hardest change I make this year. It’s also the most important because all the other changes I want to make hang on reclaiming some downtime.

To help me reclaim my weekends I’m going to do a number of things:

  • Set boundaries and stick to them. Mostly, this is about telling my students I’m unavailable on weekends and then actually following through. Over time, I’ve learned that students generally respect boundaries as long as I respect them too. Once I start engaging during my designated off-the-radar time, I send a message that I’m available. In short, my students aren’t the problem here. I am.
  • Set aside one hour every Saturday afternoon to respond to social media posts and email from students. I don’t feel I can be completely unavailable on the weekends because I know part time students in particularly do most of their study on the weekends. But I can restrict my availability to a certain timeframe.
  • Define types of work that I will and won’t do on weekends. For example, everyday, operational work should fit within my Monday to Friday work week. Unexpected, time critical or one-off work might need to be done on the weekends. For example, I often need to work weekends when I’m marking. I also expect to put in weekend time on my thesis. And I invariably need to work weekends when grant applications are due.
  • Manage my workload better by distinguishing between what actually needs to be done and what I’d *like* to do. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. (Haha! A bit!) I’m also heavily invested in my students and my teaching. I also have lots of interests and a fear of being bored. Together, these things mean I generate heaps of work, all of which I see as important, and all of which I want to execute perfectly. I need to rationalise my workload by looking at what I’ve got on and working out which bits of it actually don’t need doing (and I know there’s quite a lot of stuff that falls into this category). To get started with this, I need to spend some time with my current project list and my to do list and work out what really matters.
  • Ask people to hold me accountable. I’m going to need help to do this, so I plan to ask my family to help me by calling me out on working weekends if I’m doing too much of it.
  • Track my progress. I’ll note my weekend activities on my planner so I can keep an eye on how I’m going with this.

Sew one thing every month

I’d like it to be a garment for myself each month, but that might be more than I can manage, so I’m calling it ‘one thing’, whatever that thing may be. To help me achieve this, I’m going to:

  • Organise my office / sewing room. I’ve almost finished doing this. I now have a cutting table set up all the time. After today, my sewing machine will be out on my sewing table all the time too, and I’ll have all my supplies to hand on my sewing table. Less set up means I’m more likely to sew.
  • Add projects I want to make to my sew in 2015 Pinterest boardThere are a few on there already:Follow Kate’s board sew in 2015 on Pinterest.
  • Track my completed projects on my sewn in 2015 Pinterest board.
  • Work through the tips in this blog post about transitioning to a mostly handmade wardrobe (this is such a good blog post – I highly recommend it) to help me get started with sewing clothes for myself. I’m going to start by working out what my favourite fabrics are (by checking out what’s in my wardrobe) and creating a wish list of items of clothing I want to add to my wardrobe, which I’ll add to my sew in 2015 Pinterest board. Then I’ll plan my first item (I think it will be the Staple Dress from April Rhodes).
  • Use the tips in this post to make sewing more fun (including limiting myself to only one or two projects at a time – having a million unfinished things hanging around is not productive).
  • Buy fabric for specific projects, not just cause I like the fabric. I also plan to go through my stash and sell off anything that’s been there for a while without being used. I have SO MUCH fabric in my stash that it gets overwhelming. It also makes me feel like I can’t buy more fabric when I need something in particular for a particular item.

Read one fiction book every month

Reading for as little as 6 minutes reduces stress by more than 60%

Yep. It’s been proven that reading lowers your stress levels. And it’s just fun. This year I’m going to read a fiction book a month. I used to read significantly more than this, but over the last few years, the number of books I got through each year steadily declined, and then plummeted to 0 last year.

I’m going to make this happen by:

  • Building a 2015 hit list bookshelf in Good Reads. I’ll fill my hit list with the latest offerings from my favourite authors.
  • Tracking my reading progress by adding books I read to a things I read in 2015 shelf on Good Reads.
  • Choosing a tried-and-true, easy-to-read author for my first book – I’ll read the latest Marian Keyes novel The Woman Who Stole My Life.
  • Reading in bed at night. Which means stopping work at a more reasonable time and choosing to read instead of trawling social media.

Spend time with the people who matter most

This is about catching up with my friends – especially those that have patiently stuck it out with me through my PhD, with seemingly unending understanding. I’ve been a shitty friend a lot over the last four years. I’ve been there for the big stuff – for the births and the deaths and the crises and the happiest moments (although not always in the way I would like to have been) – but not for all the little moments. My bestie’s little girl is almost two and she hardly knows me. That’s something I want to change.

It’s also about saying ‘yes’ to the twins as much as possible. It’s about being more available to them so they default to assuming I’m going to be there for the important things, rather than defaulting to assuming I’ll have to work.

It’s also important to me to be a bit selfish with this. I’m a massive introvert and I can’t be endlessly social or I end up exhausted and unhappy. I need to manage my energy and be social when I can and in the ways that work best for me.

Most of all, it’s about being present when I’m with the people I love, so that I’m not half heartedly engaging with them while I answer email, or stressing about what I should be doing.

So that’s my grand plan for learning to be a person again in 2015.

Happy new year! May your year be full of fun, as I hope mine will be too.