Snoskred Plans, Packages Laugh.

brown cardboard boxes on brown wooden floor
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Last week I told you about taking back the reins – also known as the f**k Gladys plan. Painting was due to begin Monday so on Sunday night I thought I better check where my packages of incoming stock were located.

Hilariously 4 of them were in Erskine Park, which meant they would turn up here within 48 hours. And of course I did not have my usual studio space to process them.

The plan was not to touch them until I got the studio back, but that plan never works out for me. Tuesday they arrived, Wednesday I began processing them, and then the 5th box showed up as well as a box of stock from Melbourne.

The studio has been painted however we were not 100% happy with the work. Normally I would ask the person doing the work to fix it, only that person managed to step in paint and walk it all over my pristine teal carpet which turned into two hours of scrubbing the carpet to fix it, so we decided it would be safer to do our own touchups. We did the walls yesterday morning and I have the skirting boards to do over this next week.

Once we completed our painting touchups, I turned my attention to the two remaining boxes which needed processing. Managed to finish them all that day.. so I’ve just got a lot of admin to do now adding them to the website. Over 100 new to us products.

For the first time in a long, long time, we took Sunday off together. We definitely need to do that more often. I’ll share some more pics of that in our next post but for now this is a waratah we found in our travels. :)

Uncategorized, work

Taking Back The Reins

silhouette photo of person riding on horse under twilight sky
Photo by Arvind shakya on Pexels.com

When we did the business tax in June, my accountant had said to me – well you did carpet in the studio, you did a new laptop and phone in 20/21 – I want you to start thinking about what you want to do in 21/22.

I said I already know – I would like to get the studio painted. But to do that I would need to close the studio and take everything out of the room. Maybe I could shut down over Christmas? But would it cost more to get a painter then? Would there even be anyone who would be willing to do it?

It has now been 4 weeks since we were locked down for 7 days, and there are no signs we will be let out anytime soon. Our area, the Shoalhaven LGA, was doing well. Then we got a couple of cases right before regional NSW was due to be let out of lockdown on the 10th of September.

Personal wise, we actually do extremely well during lockdowns. Home is our happy place and where we like to be. We’ve got everything we need here and whatever we don’t have we can easily get.

Business wise, we had switched to click and collect or post only before we went into the lockdown. We had planned to reopen the studio to workshops and customers on the 14th of September. I particularly miss my Thursday morning ladies. We laugh so much during those sessions!

Even if we had been let out of lockdown, snap lockdowns could happen at any time a regional area gets a case. That makes planning things incredibly hard, especially when you have to organise catering, milk for coffees, tidying up the room ready for people to come in, etc.

So this latest addition to lockdown was a bit of a kick to my mental health. On thinking about it, what was really bothering me the most was feeling like I had no control over the situation. I need to take back the reins.

Then we were told that businesses would be fined for serving people who are not vaccinated. How they plan to implement this, I have NO clue. Why I get to become the vaccination police I do not know. I don’t know how it is going to work. I actually don’t really want to know, either.

I’ve decided we are staying click and collect until the end of October regardless of what happens. That way I am not subject to the whims of our Government Overlords. If NSW overall does come out of lockdown mid-October there will be a couple of weeks for me to see what happens with the new system(s) in place, and decide whether or not I as a business owner even want to open myself up to dealing with it.

If I decide I do not want to deal with it, we will stay click and collect until the end of the year and then reassess the situation. This is my business, and I am in charge of what happens here.

In the meantime, everything has been emptied out of the studio. One carpet tile around the border of the room has been removed. Preparation for painting begins 9am tomorrow. I absolutely am not doing that myself. :) One of the Thursday ladies has a husband who paints. Colours have been chosen but I will keep that a surprise for a later post.

Hope you are all well! :)

COVID-19 2020, work

With One Click

In this room on my personal computer, I am always just one click away from being able to log into Facebook. I never ever have done it on this computer, and I never, ever will.

This room is my private sanctuary away from work. As much as I hate it, my personal Facebook has become completely wrapped together with work. There is no way to separate the two from each other.

Thus the only place I will log into Facebook is on the work computer. And when I am on the work computer, I do not have time to be scrolling through my newsfeed looking for updates from friends and family, as few and far between as they would be.

If I get up from this chair now and go into the other room to look at my Facebook, what will I see?

I will see a lot of posts from local businesses. I will see a lot of posts involving Hawaii. I will see posts from zoos. I will see photos of landscapes and animals and flowers. I will sometimes see a post from family or friends.

BUT..

If family or friends post something I don’t like, I will snooze them for 30 days. If when they are un-snoozed they post another thing I don’t like.. I will click “the button” to stop seeing posts from them in future.

I won’t see any conspiracy theories because every person/business I know who has ever posted one, I have clicked “the button” to stop seeing posts from them.

I won’t see any political posts because every person/business I know who has ever posted one, I have clicked “the button” to stop seeing posts from them.

My Question Is –

Why haven’t Facebook come up with a way to separate out business from personal? Probably because they don’t care or they don’t see how much of a problem it can be.

Until they fix this, I’ve had to take what I consider to be pretty extreme measures – separate laptops, separate phones, without Facebook on any of the personal devices – to separate work from personal.

internet, work

Half A Job, Snoskred

One of the problems with being accessible to other people is the constant interruptions they can provide. If I lived in a cave without a mobile phone or laptop and could focus in purely on tasks that need completing I can only imagine the huge levels of shiznit I could get done in a day.

But I do not live in a cave. I live in the world. And we all struggle with interruptions these days, don’t we? I hope so, I hope it is not just me. But for me interruptions cause a specific problem – the half done job.

I’ll give you a specific example so this makes better sense. Every piece of stock in our workplace has a home, and if we take the extra moment to put it back home when we’re done with it, we’ll know where it is the next time we need it.

Most of our stock has two parts – the canvas, and the kit. The kit contains vital sparkly parts without which the canvas cannot be completed. All our kits are put away in alphabetical order into storage compartments, like this –

One day a customer had asked me to show them the sparkly parts of a kit. It was the last one we had in stock. I went and grabbed it, showed it to them, and then they chose to buy something else. So the sparkly parts got put down somewhere. When someone else wanted to buy that kit, I couldn’t find the sparkly parts and for the life of me I could not remember what I had done with them.

Whenever I can’t find the sparkly parts, I search for a while hoping I will find it. After a bit I get frustrated and even though I know I am going to be mocked and snarked endlessly I ask The Other Half for help. And he always says “Half a job”. And the worst part is he is right.

Eventually we did find that missing part sitting on top of the mailing bench but it took far more time than it should have – and this was not the first time it had happened.

I don’t always have time in the moment to consider the future time when I will be looking for this thing. I need to deal with the customer who is here on the spot and I don’t want to stop and think about putting things back in their home in that exact moment. But I also needed a new plan. And thus, the no half measures box was born. Can you see it in the photo above?

In Breaking Bad, Mike tells a story of a time he took a half measure.

Mike tells Walt a story from his time as a police officer, when he confronted a chronic wife abuser . Mike intervened, and almost killed the wife-beater, but gave in when the abuser promised to change his ways. Shortly thereafter the man beat his wife to death. Mike’s mistake was to take a half measure when he should have taken a full one. “No more half measures, Walter,” he says.

from the Breaking Bad Wiki.

Out of all the characters in Breaking Bad, Mike is one of my favourites. And now Mike sits on the mailing bench reminding me never to do half a job – this box is where things go in the moment when I don’t have the time to put them back where they belong – and every so often when I have the time I can go through it and put things back where they live.

The fish tank is a story for another post. :)

work

Reclaim My Time

In the blink of an eye, it is July.

I sit here and type on my new lappertopper which does not have Facebook. It does not have email. There is nothing business related on this computer. It purely has a web browser, discord for chatting with friends and for gaming, and a few of the games I like to play.

Next to me is my new phone which has a new personal phone number. Only three people in the world have that phone number – my parents and The Other Half. Again there is no Facebook, no email, nothing business related.

The old laptop is now the work laptop. It is locked in the work safe with the work phone and the work tablet. This is the path forward. This is the way to reclaim my time, but this did not happen overnight.

This is a process I began back in April when I made a decision to purchase a new phone as my current phone was starting to have less battery life. At that time, I decided to get a new sim card for the new phone and use the old phone – which was still functional – for the business.

I got the new phone but I had to wait for a case, the screen protector and other accessories. The new phone stayed in the box. I had no idea what was coming, but I personally hate change so I kinda sorta put it off for a bit. One day it was time. The only thing I installed on the new phone was discord and a game I like to play called Egg, Inc.

When 6pm arrived, I would shut the work phone in the safe. I’d still be accessible to people via the laptop in the evenings until I shut it down and went to bed – but when I went to bed I took only the personal phone. When I woke up in the morning I was not greeted by work messages and work Facebook and work emails. It was the best feeling!

I enjoyed this feeling of freedom. Of being able to *choose* my work start time. When I turned on the laptop I could choose not to open the email and not to open Facebook – if I wanted. I could have breakfast and enjoy my morning coffee in peace without trying to answer the myriad of messages and emails people sent me overnight.

top view of a person holding a cup of coffee on a wooden surface
Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

You know most people get in the car and go to work and start at a certain time. I used to do that exact same thing. Why did I think now that I wasn’t entitled to my own personal morning routine, just because I have my own business? Why did I think I wasn’t entitled to evenings? To my own personal space? Even shower time was me mentally putting the trains on the tracks ready for a day of work.

So it was very clear to me what the next step of this process was – the business needed a laptop. Work needed to be done purely in the studio. I needed to commute there from the recliner after finishing my coffee and have a set start time – and a set finish time.

A new laptop was purchased and this time, I did not waste any time setting it up. I could see freedom just on the horizon there, it felt like I could reach out and touch it. That first night when I locked it in the safe, and went to my laptop which now had nothing work related on it – no Facebook, no emails, no spreadsheets, just Discord, games, my personal browser.. that was an awesome day. And a bit of a scary day at the same time.

To begin with, I really just needed some time off. I needed to zone out, to watch television, to read books, to just *be* – oftentimes the first thing I would do when I closed the studio would be to sit and stare into space while my mind mentally parked all the trains of the day.

I’d been working all the hours of the all days since July 2019. 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Yes, even Christmas Day. If someone messaged me, I usually replied right back. You don’t realise how that constant interruption steers your trains off their tracks until it stops. Constantly being switched on and in business mode, you can do that for a certain amount of time but eventually you do start to burn out.

The Other Half and I played actual games together in the evenings. I watched entire episodes of television without a single message from anyone causing me to pause the show and go to check if something was in stock or track their package to see where it was or answer a question I’d already answered many many times that same day.

I started getting back into cooking dinners – for the most part since Covid began we’ve been supporting a local business by purchasing meals they would cook for us. We do still buy dinners from them but we’re starting to make our own meals a few nights a week.

It is unfortunate that the way Facebook is, you cannot have a personal Facebook and a business Facebook. I never get to read my feed anymore because it is on the work computer or phone and during those hours I am working. It is impossible to use my personal Facebook without seeing work messages, so I choose not to use it at all in my personal time and space.

I have always been reading your blogs but I rarely leave comments anymore. It is not you, it is me. I always want to comment, I often open up the form, but most of the time I find it hard to write the comment. I think there is still an element of brain burnout.

Similarly I do not know how many times I wanted to write a post here but would end up staring at a blank page. It is time now, though. I need to start doing the things I used to enjoy so much before this “hobby” business took over.

So you will be hearing more from me soon. :)

work

It begins..

in the morning before I even get out of bed, usually somewhere between 7-7:30am. I check my phone and there will always be several messages – Can I have this product, can I have that product, how much do your products cost from a new customer (that is a standard Facebook question that customers can pick from a list) what hours are you open, is this still available..

Most of these questions I can easily answer from the comfort of my bedspace. Some of them require the computer, or for me to go and check stock manually. I usually put those things off until after my shower. But sometimes if it is just a quick task – like sending a link or photo I can’t send from my phone, I might run out and do it, pre coffee, pre shower.

Once showered and caffeinated, it is time to survey my vast domain. I set the cameras up on my tablet so I can watch the front door wherever I might be in the house. What needs doing right now, urgently? Are any packages due?

What is on the to-do list for today? Which customers are due to appear and at what times? What household chores are due to be done today? Does the dishwasher need emptying and filling? What is for lunch? What is for dinner? What admin tasks do I need to do?

Lunch is usually crackers with egg and tomato. I like to try and take an hour long break here if I can. Back in the pre-COVID days I used to nearly always manage it.

Since Scomo declared puzzles to be an essential item and my products are very nearly a puzzle, I am now lucky if I can get a whole half hour without someone asking me for something. You would think I would just say.. that can wait until I’m done with lunch. But that is not how I like to roll.

Maybe what I like is just not going to be a good plan going forward. Maybe people can wait a short while for a reply. Maybe I can set my business messaging system to give an away message at the lunch hour. Maybe the constant interruption of my trains on their tracks is making work harder than it needs to be.

When it is time to prepare dinner I like to listen to a podcast as I do it. I have the tablet with the cameras on in front of me, so I can see if a customer appears. At the moment I am re-listening to the Breaking Bad Insider Podcasts, and also to the Better Call Saul Insider podcasts, and sometimes the latest Clear + Vivid with Alan Alda.

Dinner time, we like to watch an episode of Seinfeld together.

If I am very lucky in these current COVID times, I may now have the evening to myself without any phone beeping and customer wants and needs. It is unlikely though. Most nights there will be a few customers who need things.

Two nights a week we do a business related ZOOM chat for two and a half hours with some of our customers who would normally be here in the studio on those same nights. This week I was so exhausted I very nearly called it off, but I don’t want to disappoint people. So I struggled through it.

Some days – like yesterday – I receive my last request from a customer at 10:15pm. This customer is ordering two items. At the end of every day I’m truly exhausted – whether it is from the constant interruptions to my trains of thought, actual work and effort, or just the brain fog of our current circumstances I cannot be certain.

The dryer is beeping. I ponder whether I should rise and put this stock aside before I go to bed – one of them is hanging up on the wall and I will need a chair to get it down, or whether I should answer the urgent beeping of the dryer.

I’ll save the getting down of stock for the morning. And it will be early, again. Because I chose to do a delivery run in the afternoon to customers who are self isolating, word is out that the studio will be closed for nearly 5 hours. Thus, 10 customers are coming to collect things between 9-12. It will be a miracle if they don’t overlap.

Unlike having an actual workplace where you go to do work and then return home to do.. life.. working from home = working pretty much all the time. I now believe I need to change this before I reach burnout status. The first change is to set actual working hours.

I’d like to say 10-6 for all the days going forward but there is always going to be queries in the evenings and first thing in the morning.

Maybe if I say 8am I can do a quick check in and answer any overnight queries and then put myself back to “away” for the next hour and a half, and claim that time as me time.. but then if I need to do a post office run I usually like to go as soon as they open.. you see things are not as easy as just setting hours.

I could try 8-4 as working time with a quick check in before bedtime, but then you miss people being able to drop in on their way home from work, and I like to have some me time in the morning as well. There are consequences to every option.

Maybe better to-do listing is the answer.. I don’t know. But one thing I do know.. in the first three months of this year, the business has done as much turnover as it did in the last 6 months of 2019.

It is getting busier. I am seeing many new customers, many of whom were referred by current customers. All of that is great.. it is just I am not sure how to make it work so I can separate work from home more.

I’m going to go and enjoy a rare evening off, if I can. Lets not jinx me now, but it has been nearly an hour since the phone last beeped at me. Good Friday Night, maybe people are eating fish and chips and watching teevee? That’s what I would like to do, watch some teevee. :)

work

I’m not normal, this we know already.

You would have thought after my post last week that Friday would have been a huge day of parcel arrivals here in Snoskredland. Rather sadly it was not. I can’t remember if anything did arrive at all, my feeling is that it didn’t. On Monday a couple of parcels dribbled in but luckily they contained much of what I had been waiting for.

I’ve been in customer service for much of my lifetime. In my experience, most people, when they lodge a complaint, are not especially nice about it. I’ve learned that if you can be polite, friendly, and even funny if possible, the customer service folks will appreciate that and tend to go the extra mile for you. Thus far anytime I have lodged a complaint the package arrives within 24-48 hours.

What does a complaint from me look like? Something like this –

Dear Post People,

Could you possibly extricate my package of 6 lions from wherever they are hiding out and send them home to me as I expect they are getting quite hungry by now.

Alternatively, let me know if they have escaped and eaten all the staff at your facility, though I suspect I would have seen something like that on the news but then again, the media these days a story like that could get ignored in favour of Aldi’s sale item that will change your life.

Thank you very much in advance!

Yes that was an actual article on the day I wrote it – checking back today I saw this article. It makes me wonder how much Aldi are paying for this – or alternatively whether the writers at news sites simply don’t bother to look for actual news anymore.

The customer service agent who received my note about the lions appreciated it so much that he actually called me. He said it made his day and he had to call and speak to the person who wrote it to update me personally. And he gave me bonus points for using the word extricate. We had a lovely chat, which made my day in return. I’d mostly spent it constructing tricky triangle boxes and rolling stuff up to go in them.

What is the point in getting angry and writing angry things when that rarely achieves anything? Much better to do a little creative writing and try to give those poor customer service folks a smile. They really need it, I can vouch for that.

My lions package should arrive today. Fingers crossed anyway. :)

work

Dropping It Off

Have you seen this Pakman letterbox out and about in your travels? Probably not because unlike me, you are probably not walking the local streets doing a letterbox drop. It is quite a marvel – allows your postie or couriers to drop in a parcel and only you can retrieve it. But it is an Up Money marvel selling for around $499.

You know it has been years since I did this kind of thing, 28 years to be approximate. I was a Christmas Postie for 2 years when I was 16/17 and only quit after a dog bite. I would have kept doing it because I enjoyed it, but I developed quite a fear of dogs after two attacks.

One was the dog of a friend when I visited which was much more a mauling than a bite. I ended up in hospital after that one and was on crutches for a week. I still have nerve damage and the scars from that attack. The second was while working as a postie and that was the last day I did that job. After that I did have a fear of dogs for a long time. Eventually I mostly got over it thanks to some wonderful dogs I made friends with.

I don’t enjoy letterbox dropping. The thing I really don’t comprehend is how can anyone put a No Junk Mail sticker on their letterbox.

First up I am never lucky enough to get junk mail – we never seem to have someone who delivers it here. Secondly, just how cut off from your local community do you want to be? How do you find out about new things happening if you won’t let any of the folks who take the time to make a flyer and bring it directly to your own house communicate with you? It is your loss.

There should be perhaps another sticker – no commercial catalogues, local flyers accepted. You can always make your own sticker!

We are making our own down money version of the Pakman. I am here most of the time to receive packages but when I have a day off I would like to be able to go out without worrying about possible package deliveries and things being stolen.

Speaking of receiving packages..

Looks like the package deities might be about to smile upon me. I mean some of those things now in Sydney have ONLY been stuck in Melbourne (AKA The Package Black Hole) for an entire week. And those things now in Melbourne will likely arrive around this time next week.

Annoyed Snoskred, work

The New Setup Part 2

Following on from the previous post – Above you see the Kitty Nirvana which has some of their toys and their kitty litter enclosure.

I can use this mobile screen above to block this area off, if I don’t want folks to see it. At the moment it is blocking off the drying area and my private lounge area –

The drying area is a suntrap for the kitties and they have cat towers to recline in and enjoy the sun here. Usually one or the other is in the round basking area – in the next photo you see Happy has made her way there.

My area is screened off from the bright sun area – too much light gives me a headache. I have my recliner, the other half has his Ikea chair, the treadmill is back behind me near the curtains out of the way.

My candle shelf has been moved here from the entryway. I got rid of all the DVD covers of movies, they have all been stored in special bulk dvd storage folios. I kept the DVDs that are series, at least for now. The DVD shelves moved into the studio where they hold arty things now. Looking at this photo I see I still have some cord hiding work to do here.

My much reduced books have a small bookshelf here in the corner – these are the ones I don’t have in digital format. Everything else which I do have in digital format has either been sold or donated.

And now a couple of studio pics. We did a lot of work in this room. There are four tables all of which are fabric covered and I will be getting plastic covering for those arty things we will want to do which are messy. For now the arty stuff we are doing is not messy. There are 14 chairs all of which were re-upholstered in a gorgeous teal and blue fabric.

One of the studio walls is devoted to kits I have in stock or photos of kits on the way, with a couple of posters in between.

This has been a huge effort and I couldn’t have done it without the awesome Other Half, of course. Now we’re all set up and things are going pretty well. I have some dedicated regular students already and the kits sell very fast, oftentimes even before they arrive here. If only Australia Post would get their act together I would have more stuff I could sell. :)

Home, work

The New Setup Part 1


– Our new entryway –

When we were creating our home business where people would be coming into the house regularly, we thought carefully about how we could separate our private areas from the “public” areas. We’ve always made use of “door curtains” to keep the heat in the parts of the house we were heating so we thought we could use curtains to do this job quite effectively. It has worked out well thus far with one painful exception – more on that later!

Above you can see the curtain that leads to my lounge area. I don’t go through that one at all, I consider it like a brick wall that cannot be opened. This is partly due to the lamp and coat rack which sits in front of the curtain, and partly because I prefer to go the long way around.

Now it is like you have walked in the front door – here is what you would see if you did. Some art on the walls which I am loving the position of right now but I do have another artwork in mind for this area once I create it. You see the kitchen benchtop and the mat that marks the studio entrance – more on that below.

In this case you see right through to The Other Half’s office area – but if you were coming here to visit the studio you would not see that at all, it is screened off by the curtain you can see –

This curtain screens two ways – when nobody is popping in, we use it to screen off the guest bathroom and toilet – we no longer use them, they are purely for visitors now. When people are visiting, this curtain swings across to block off the hallway – otherwise known as Other Half World. His gaming room and home office are down this hallway as well as the laundry and our bedroom/ensuite etc.

Behind that curtain the toilet and guest bathroom are patiently waiting for their next visitor. I’ve got some lovely reed diffusers in these rooms that smell like coconut and mango, it is heavenly in there.

Also in this area, we have used curtains to “hide” a couple of shelving units. This one above hides all my tupperware containers. We’ve also made signs to let people know these doors are private areas – the spare bedroom and linen closet which actually holds no linen but contains things like the breadmaker and other appliances.

And this shelf curtain which hides our medicine baskets, oven trays and casserole dishes. This sofa can be used by visitors if they want to take a break from the studio and sit down on the lounge to drink their coffee/tea/hot chocolate. We keep rugs on it so the cats can’t fur it up, we can take those off in a second if we need to.

At the studio entrance I have used this mat to remind people to watch their step. The studio was once a garage and there is a small step down into it which we have mitigated with this rubber ramp mat from Bunnings.

We have used another curtain to block off the kitchen from the areas behind it. This is where the painful exception happens – the dishwasher door is right next to the curtain and twice I have unloaded the dishwasher and left the door open intending to return and fill it..

I’ve then gone off to do something else and forget the door is open, when I go back through the curtain I hit the door with a leg or ankle. Two bruises thus far, I am hopeful that will be enough to learn not to do that again. :)

On Wednesday I will show you a little more of what we’ve been up to here. ;)

Home, work