Do you ever feel like nothing is quite going according to plan? That in between the business trips, deadlines, and personal crises things are slipping through the cracks? Or that stress is wearing away at your ability to stay healthy and travel? When that happens, how do you hold your household together in stressful times?
Welcome to the last 8 months of our lives.
We were all set for a relaunch of From Home and Back (formerly Jetsetter’s Homestead) last August. Newly married, Jim and I had a great content calendar lined up. We were ready to share our home remodel project. I was excited to produce content about upcoming travels across nine countries. And we wanted to continue to talk about managing a household as two consultants who are often hundreds of miles apart.
But life had other plans for us. So many of them!
- We never anticipated that our general contractor would walk off the job, never to be heard from again. Or that she would leave us with thousands of dollars missing from false invoices and unpaid vendors/subcontractors.
- And we didn’t know that we would be left holding the bag for thousands more in property damage and repairs of poor workmanship.
- We couldn’t predict that the project phase we anticipated wrapping up around Labor Day 2018 would still be incomplete 8 months later.
- Nor did we know that in the past six months, illness would strike our house several times. Not winter colds. No… the kind of infections and immune disruptions that result in weeks of reduced capacity and a couple of hospital visits.
- We certainly didn’t think that the long-term contract that Jim anticipated starting when we returned from our honeymoon in early December would never get finalized. Or that he’d still be working short contracts waiting for the right long-term opportunity to pan out.
- In the midst of this all, we left the US for five weeks for a belated honeymoon – and had to juggle all of this from several time zones away with less-than-reliable shipboard Wi-Fi for much of it.
- And we also tackled all of the “good stress” that comes with life – marriage, parties, holidays, a new dog – all of the happy things that still throw a monkey wrench into the best of weeks.
At the time all of this was happening, we did not have any idea how we would cope with all of this. But we somehow survived the worst part.
There are a few things we’ve done that have helped us manage. While not total solutions, they’ve gotten us through the struggles and back on track.
1. Eat well and exercise to manage stress
The single most important thing we’ve done is focus on our health during stressful times. While that seems like an individual pursuit, it has helped us minimize stress to eat well and exercise. It didn’t prevent a nasty bout of the flu, multiple respiratory infections, or pneumonia. It did however help us bounce back faster. An added plus – I’ve lost almost 30 pounds.
2. Use on-demand and home delivery services as much as possible
Time has been more valuable than ever as we juggle contractors, work (or looking for it), and travel. As much as possible, we’ve tried to streamline processes. AmazonFresh has saved us hours of grocery shopping (get a free trial to try it) or Prime Pantry (also available on free trial for a month). Delivery services like Favor, Caviar, and Door Dash have made meal time easier when neither of us has time to cook.
3. Hold household “stand-up meetings” at least once a week
With both of us coming from project management backgrounds, we are familiar with the stand-up meeting professionally. We have implemented this for our household too. The idea of a stand-up meeting comes from Agile processes where a brief daily meeting helps prioritize needs and keep things moving forward. We have regular stand-up meetings to go over calendars, to-dos, and individual needs each morning. These often include things like “what are we doing for lunch or dinner” and “what times does the dog need to play outside so we can be on calls”. Sometimes we don’t need these daily, but they can help hold your household together when a lot is going on. And remember how we’ve been working on getting healthier? A nice neighborhood walk is the perfect way to hold these on the move.
4. Keep a central to-do list and synchronized calendars
In line with the stand-up meeting, we also try to keep a central communication and scheduling function. This lets both of us make quick decisions when confronted with potential plans or potentially conflicting needs. It also keeps us from duplicate purchase or household deadlines falling through the cracks.
We used Hub for this for two years but are in the process of moving everything to Slack since my work calendar is no longer shareable with third-party apps.
5. Make weekly date night sacred time
We are a big fan of date night as one time a week that we can put household issues and life stress aside. Our focus is on spending time together and doing something fun. Most important, we try to avoid conversation about any of the otherwise serious topics that are clouding our week. Lately the weather has been nice so patio time with the pup has
6. Don’t be afraid to pull in the pros in stressful times
Let’s get real for a second. Sometimes managing stress or keeping the household running requires more than just a few apps and communication tricks. That’s when it might help to bring in the pros. We haven’t been afraid to reach out for a lot of outside help that has ranged from an attorney to help us through the contractor debacle to a personal development coach. And we’d be in deep water without interim household help we’ve found through TaskRabbit and via individual recommendations on NextDoor and social networking groups. One great resource turned out to be my employee assistance program through work. They offer a variety of resources that were available at no charge (other than the usual cost of my employee benefits).
Thankfully, things are SO much better now. We are about to get back on track with the last phase of our remodel with a new competent contractor. Our individual health has improved so much. And Jim has several promising opportunities for the future to consider.
I’m grateful for google docs, dog walkers and sitters, friends who pick up the slack, light rail that comes close to our house, being able to refund flights and move things around due to family emergencies and federal shutdowns. This is the beginning of the fourth year of TH’s Seattle-DC commute and two years of my remote job and still remain together.
We do keep a to do list that changes from week to week, but its on paper and I like referring back to it to see what we’ve accomplished.
I think we are likely to skip the standup, and TH hates trello, but we’re good at moving stuff up and down list as priorities shift.