Written procedures: the painless method

You've probably heard lots of business bloggers talk about how important written procedures are. I know I have. And honestly, as good an idea as it sounds, it also sounds like a lot of work!

But I realised it doesn't have to be. Here's the method I use to develop written procedures for my biz.

First, I write down each step that I can remember in a text document. Yes, I'm a bit forgetful at times - isn't everyone? As I go through the list of steps, other steps that I've left out will come back to me, and I'll stick them in where they belong.

I'll re-read the list, and check that I've put in everything. If I've missed something, I'll add it in.

Then, the next time I'm doing that particular task, I'll keep that file open on my desktop while I'm doing it. This allows me to a) remember what order to do things in, and b) add in any notes that I couldn't when I was writing the procedure in the first place.

I can also add in any 'if this happens, then do that' comments for certain steps. For instance, if my client's web hosting doesn't use cPanel, I'll have a different procedure for installing WordPress than if cPanel was available.

Every time I do the task from that point on, I refer to the list I made at the beginning. Each time, I not only follow the list of steps, but I also add any changes or comments to the file for next time.

Sure, setting up written procedures takes a bit of effort at the start. But the time you spend on doing it will save you time in the long run.

But why?

What if you need to take on an employee? Or you're going on maternity leave, and someone needs to take over for you for a few weeks? Wouldn't it be easier to direct them to your written procedures than having to explain everything yourself?

I thought so. :-)

How to work with kids in the house

Kids make things interesting. And when you run a handmade biz, you have a lot of supplies that they can make a mess with, or hurt themselves with.

You're not just sitting at a computer typing all day. You're using scissors, needles, hot glue guns, possibly even toxic chemicals if you're a soap maker.

But you NEED to make your product, or you'll be out of business! So what do you do when it's not desirable - or safe - for your kids to be around your work?

It may look daunting at first, but I know some of these tips will help you work out how to work with kids in the house.

How to work with kids in the house

  • Work when they're sleeping. This one's the most obvious, and the one that I'm guessing a lot of you already use. Get up early, go to bed late, or work through their naps.

  • Work when they're out of the house. My husband took our kids to a playground this afternoon to give me a break. So I'm writing this blog post while they're away. :-) In the past, I used these times to sew my nappies, work on websites, do bookkeeping, and whatever other biz tasks I need to work on.

  • Work when someone else is there to look after them. These would be times when your kids are at school, kindy/preschool, or with a friend or relative. Are you lucky enough to have parents or parents-in-law close by who will look after your kids? By all means, seize the opportunity!

  • Put your baby/toddler in a carrier on your back. If you have a baby or toddler, sometimes you can get work done with them riding on your back. They're out of your way, and bigger ones can even see what you're doing - without getting their little fingers into your work! This is an especially good tactic if you have a clingy one who's teething or just needs some extra time with Mum.

    I used a handmade wrap based on a Hug-a-Bub, a handmade Mei Tei, and an Ergobaby carrier. But you can use whatever carrier you like!

Do you have any other ideas on how to work with kids in the house? Please share with the rest of us!

Kids and home biz: Bringing them together

Did you start your home biz so you could be home with your kids? I'm betting you did. It's a common reason for starting a home biz.

But do you feel sometimes like you're spending more time in your office, sewing room, or workshop than you spend with your kids? And you're not sure how to get that balance back?


Most blog posts about this topic say things like you need to set boundaries, or your work will overtake the rest of your life. And delegate tasks to a virtual assistant, so you spend the most time on what earns you money, and less on things that don't. Both of which are true! But what about a solution a little outside the box?

What about involving your kids in your biz?


Put yourself in your child's shoes. Every morning (or afternoon, or evening - whatever time you work at home) your mum or dad goes off into this room of the house that you're not allowed into. They shut the door, and for a couple hours, you don't see them.

They could be doing anything in there! What if it's fun, and they're not letting you in on it? What do they do in there by themselves?

Kids are curious. Just think of all those awkward questions they've asked you in public. They love to learn new things, and to show how competent they are.

What if, instead of locking yourself away every day, you brought them in to help you once in a while? This way, they get to see what you're doing, and spend time with you while you do it.

How your kids can get involved in your biz

  • Modeling children's clothing

  • Product testing (toys, books, other children's items)

  • Packing orders & going to the post office (I know mine love putting things in the postbox!)

  • Stuffing envelopes

  • Unpack & help put away new stock

  • Stocktake - ask them to count how many of a certain item

Older kids, of course, can help in more advanced ways. They often want payment for their services, however. ;-) Younger kids are usually happy enough to just help Mum or Dad with whatever they're doing.

Do your kids help out with your biz? In what ways?

How to kill creativity

I'm participating in the Cheeky Visionaries Biziversary & Launch Party! Amanda Sue Howell's business is turning 5, and she's celebrating with the launch of 30 Days of Creative Abandon. 30 Days of Creative Abandon is a 30 day course created for makers, who are looking for new ideas to set them free from artist's block!

Look, I'm going to be honest here. I had an awful time working out what to write for today. So I'm going to tell you about all the things that have been conspiring against me to stop me doing anything creative.

How to kill creativity

  • Children. I have kids. Before I had them, I loved doing crafty things. Sewing, knitting, crochet, baking - those have been my mainstays over the years. After the kids came along, I slowly let my creative hobbies drop by the wayside. I found it nearly impossible to knit with a toddler around. Harder than trying to knit with a kitten in the house! But now that they're older, that excuse is becoming less valid, and these other ones are taking over.

  • creativity and procrastination My son's birthday present, finished just hours before he officially turned two.

  • Procrastination. It's easy to want to do something, and then say 'I'll do that later.' But later never comes, does it? There's usually a deeper reason for procrastination. Figure out what it is and you just might get past it.

  • creativity and mobile games My boys in their stocking caps, made in between levels of Candy Crush.

  • Mobile games. Oh dear. Do I really want to admit to how many hours I've spent playing mobile games in the last week? Let's just say it's been excessive. It's so easy to lose track of time when you're staring at your virtual farm. Those kinds of games are fun, but I'm not sure they're helping me to be creative with anything other than extending my tablet's battery life.

  • creativity and apathy This afghan took me six years to finish, because I lost interest in it part way through.

  • Apathy. Sometimes you just don't care enough to create. Fine for a little while - everyone needs a break sometimes - but sooner or later you've got to get back on that horse. Humans are creative by nature. And there are HEAPS of ways to be creative. My husband writes computer programs. My older son builds with Lego. My younger son loves music. Find something you enjoy and start creating it!

  • creativity and insecurity I'd love to do pottery, but I'm afraid I'd mess it up!

  • Insecurity. Feeling like you're not good enough leads to procrastination and avoidance. But creativity isn't necessarily about being GOOD at something. It's about making something and having some fun.

  • creativity and duty The nappies I used to make in my handmade business. Over five years, my feelings on sewing went from love to hate.

  • Obligation. When I had my handmade business, I started out loving what I did. And then over the next five years, that love was replaced by duty. I felt like I HAD to sew my nappies so I'd have something to sell. Doing something because you have to, not because you enjoy it, is a sure fire way to kill any enjoyment that might have been there. Just think about doing the dishes. Laundry. Cleaning the toilet. Do you enjoy those? Most likely not. Because you HAVE to do them.

  • So those are my major blocks to creativity. What are yours?

    Can you homeschool when you work from home?

    Today was one of those days. You know the kind. When getting your seven year old to do anything feels like pulling teeth. And your three year old pushes your buttons all day long so that when he finally falls asleep for a nap at 6:30 pm, you don't wake him because you like the peace, even though you know he'll be up late because of it. And through it all, you've been trying to think about blog posts and Facebook and finding new clients or customers, but you can't actually DO anything because the kids are taking up all your time. And sure, many of you are looking forward to the first day of school (or rejoicing because it's already come). But for those of us who homeschool, it's a different story.

    My kids are with me about 90% of the time. They get up in the morning before I do, and go to bed between 9 and 10 pm. My husband works nights, and often doesn't get home till 11:30 or midnight. I am an introvert. Therefore, my sanity slowly slips away bit by bit the longer I go without alone time. So for that hour and a half between the kids being in bed and my husband getting home, I breathe a lot easier. I get things done that I can't do during the day.

    You can homeschool if you work at home. I've done it for two years. I know other business women who homeschool and have done it for longer. How do we do it? Here are a few strategies I've used to be more productive when the kids are always at home.

    How to work around the homeschool

    • Work at night/early in the morning. You can get a lot done when the kids are in bed. And you can eat all the good snacks while you do so. ;-) Just make sure you still get enough sleep, okay?

    • Hire a babysitter. Do you know another homeschool family with teenage kids? Ask if they'd like to earn some pocket money by babysitting your kids while you work. They can come to your house and play with the kids (useful if you have a little one who's not quite ready to be away from mum), or you can drop them off at the other family's home.

    • Put on a video. Now, we all know that too much television is a bad thing. But a video a couple of times a week is hardly too much (unless it's the extended version of The Lord of the Rings). Let them watch something fun (or even educational!) while you write for your blog.

    • Send them outside! Provided they're old enough, playing outside without adults is actually good for kids. Remember all the fun we used to have playing outside? I'm sure my mom still doesn't know half of what my brother and I got up to when we ran around our seven acres. We had a ball, and she had a bit of peace and quiet for a while.

    • Leave your partner with the kids while you hide in your office/sewing room/stock room. Since my husband works nights, he's home until after lunch time. This means when I need to, I can fire up the laptop in my office and work in there, with the door shut.

    Do you homeschool? What other ways do you get time to run your business? I'd love to hear your ideas! (I may need them!)

    Public Transportation for Dummies

    I need to get my rant on! All my previous public transportation rants have been aimed at the system. This one's at the users. Funny how your perspective changes when you have insider information. Not that I don't think the system still has problems - it certainly does, but some of the users just beggar belief.

    1. Be at the bus stop on time. Yeah, we all run late sometimes, but it's how you handle being late more than the being late itself. If you're running for the bus as it's pulling up, and the bus stops for you, don't then slow to a walk. The driver's been nice enough to stop for you even though you aren't technically AT the stop hailing the bus, so at least do him/her the courtesy of hurrying up (at least a brisk walk) so everyone else can get to where they're going reasonably on time as well.

    2. Hail the bus. Come on, it's not that hard to stick your arm out for a few seconds when you see your bus driving toward you. It avoids confusion all around if you just let the driver know you do actually want to catch the bus! Your driver is (probably) not psychic. Simply standing by the bus stop as the bus approaches does not constitute 'hailing' the bus. It just means you're standing by a bus stop. Anybody can do that. And sitting on the bench talking on your phone just means you're talking on your phone. How is the driver supposed to know you want to catch the bus if you just sit there? My own rule of thumb is to hail until I see the bus's indicator start flashing. Only time you can get away with not hailing the bus? If you're married to the bus driver and you've discussed earlier the potential for you and your kids to be out at a particular bus stop at that time. ;-) (But even then I think I still hail the bus, if only for Caleb's sake because he's still learning.)

    3. Have your ticket or money ready when you get on the bus. It's a waste of everyone's time to stand there at the driver's seat digging through your handbag/pocket/wallet, counting out your money, realising you're 10 cents short, and then go rummaging through another pocket for the rest of the change. Your bus driver is often trying desperately to keep to the timetable. Every second you stand there looking for your money or your ticket is another second you're holding up everyone on the bus. And don't try to pay the driver with a $50 note, because you just look like you're trying to scam a free ride.

    4. Hang up your mobile phone when you're purchasing your ticket and actually tell the driver which ticket you're purchasing. Or you may just end up with the most expensive one on the list for failing to pay attention.

    5. If you throw up on the bus, don't laugh about it and then use your mobile phone to post on Facebook that you threw up on the bus, and then announce to the whole bus that you just posted to Facebook that you threw up on the bus. Head. Bang. On. Desk.

    6. Don't whine at the bus driver that the bus is an older one. Believe me, when given the choice, no driver picks the ones with stairs and crap air conditioning. They all hate them too - not only are they hideous to ride, they're hideous to drive.

    7. Be aware of which buses are express services. And then don't complain if you go to the bus stop, hail the (express) bus, and it doesn't stop for you.

    8. When it's time to get off the bus, do it expeditiously. (Yes, we watched Oscar this weekend.) Don't sit there playing with your mobile phone and wait till the bus starts pulling away (after sitting at the interchange for up to a full minute) to jump up and say 'Hey! I wanted to get off the bus!' because that'll just annoy everyone. If you're lucky, the driver will only mutter under his/her breath. If you're not...well, can't say I didn't warn you.

    9. Those signs on the back of buses that say to give way to the bus when it's pulling away from a stop? OBEY THEM! Seriously, your little Nissan Micra (or whatever it is you drive) against an articulated bus? Who do you think is really going to come off best in that match? It won't be you, I can guarantee it!

    10. Oh, and if you fail to give way to a bus (which in Australia you are legally obligated to do, by the way), you look like a complete idiot if you then honk your horn at the bus every time you go past it at another bus stop. Because you ARE a complete idiot who just can't let it go.

    I've been working on this one for a while, in my head at least.

    And I'm probably gonna annoy some people with it, but what the hey. This is the space for MY opinions - if you don't like 'em, don't read 'em.

    There's much debate about the current health care system in certain parts of the world. Namely, there are many politicians and lay people in the US who want to have a nationalized health care system. And there's a lot of people who definitely DON'T want that. And now, having lived in both types of system, I can see points on both sides.

    I don't use the system here that much myself (I've seen a GP a whole 6 times in the last 5 years, and really most of those appointments I didn't need in the first place), but I've got some thoughts on how to make any health care system better. The answer isn't to make everything private, or make everything public, like many people seem to think it is. No, the solution rests squarely on the shoulders of the consumers and practitioners who actually use the system. We can make any health care system we're currently in work better by doing one simple thing.


    Too many people today go to a doctor when they have a cold, to get a prescription for antibiotics. But antibiotics only kill bacteria, not cold VIRUSES. And any first year medical student knows this, but of course they like to play God and be able to write down that they did something for the problem. You're better off taking a high dose of vitamin C (till you start getting the runs - that's how you find out you've had enough) than going on antibiotics. All the antibiotics will do is put some money in a big pharmaceutical company's coffers and strip your gut of all its bacteria, good AND bad kinds alike.

    Too many women assume that hospital is the only place you can give birth, and the stories of quick babies in the media, where baby comes out before mum gets to the hospital, are portrayed as 'horror stories.' I just don't understand how it's horrific to have your baby come out the way nature intended, with no instruments, no drugs, on their own terms. Intervention, in most cases (except when medically indicated) only causes more problems, leading to more interventions. The solution? Educate yourself about birth. Even if you're not planning a home birth or freebirth, read up on what to do if the baby arrives before you have a 'professional' there to assist you. It is ALWAYS a possibility. And open your mind to the possibility of home birth, do some SERIOUS research about it, and you'll find that home birth is as safe as OR SAFER THAN giving birth in a hospital (except in extreme life-threatening circumstances).

    Third point: prevention. Stop eating crap! And I'm pointing the finger at myself here as well. We have a 24/7 shop across the road from us that sells chocolate, chips, soft drinks, ice cream...you name it, if it's sugared, they've got it. And ever since we moved here 28 months ago, it's been far too easy to go over there and grab whatever it is we're craving. So I know first hand how hard it is in our society to cut out the junk food. But it's gotta be done if you want to prevent yourself getting sick. And who among us likes being sick, except hypochondriacs and those with Munchausen syndrome? Do you know that most of our chronic ailments these days can be prevented? Diabetes, cancer, arthritis - all of these respond well to a fresh food diet. Meat & eggs, fruit & vegetables, nuts & seeds, dairy if you're not lactose intolerant, and the occasional whole grain.

    So there you go. Three ways to make any health care system better. But of course it's never gonna happen, because it won't make anyone any money.

    How to make pajamas.

    Step one, get the baby to sleep.

    Yeah, so one of the patterns I bought yesterday was a pajama pattern. Kid to adult sizes. Of course if I cut out the smallest kids pattern, it becomes much more difficult to use the same pattern later for a larger kids size. At least the adult size is a separate one, and Darrin & I wear a similar size.

    Anyway. I found some flannelette (minus the 'ette' for the Americans) in Big W the other day. They just sell big chunks of it there, not on a roll or anything where you can get a custom length. So on the label it had some suggested uses - cot sheet, baby blanket, toddler pajamas...hmm, I like that idea. Bought the pattern yesterday, started pinning out the pieces this afternoon after Caleb went to sleep (because the only uncluttered surface in the house at the moment is the low table in the lounge). And whaddya know, the piece wasn't quite long enough for all the pieces. So off to Big W to get a second bit.

    And in the instructions and on the back of the pattern envelope I see mention of "interfacing." If I've ever heard of this before, I wasn't paying attention, so off I go to Google. Ah, so it's the stuff they put in the edging of clothes that falls apart so I end up pulling it out. And possibly also what I burned onto the bottom of an iron once. Supposedly it makes a stronger garment if you use it in certain places. But I kinda don't feel like going back to Spotlight and getting interfacing, especially since it'll have to wait for payday anyway (Thursday).

    So. I've got enough fabric with some to spare, and I've got all the pieces pinned, now I just need to cut them out. And decide about the interfacing, of course.

    Oh, also, this project is going to be my first one with buttons. So I get to try out the button hole thingy on my sewing machine. Eventually.

    The lazy mum's guide to feeding babies.

    Well, first off, the most obvious thing is breastfeeding. Washing, sterilising, mixing, and heating bottles of baby formula just sounds like too much work, especially in the middle of the night.

    And on to solid food. I said I don't like the idea of buying mashed food for Caleb, and I still don't. I said I was going to prepare all his food myself. Well, I started that, and then I got sick of running the blender or food processor and having to wash the bits. Not to mention the fact Caleb likes to grab anything that comes toward his face, including the spoon, so the food gets thrown just about everywhere. Just really a lot of hassle I don't want to deal with.

    So he's definitely interested in food now; he tries to grab stuff off our plates, mimics us chewing when we're eating, all that stuff. And he's eaten newspaper, so he understands what you're supposed to do with food. He's just an independent little one and wants to feed himself.

    Fair enough. So I'm letting him feed himself. I give him a chunk of banana, he bites on one end and mashes the rest into the high chair tray/his fingers/his hair. I give him a (cooked) carrot stick, he bites on the end and mashes the rest, same as the banana. He seems to like both.

    Next up is either broccoli, watermelon, or avocado (all of which are in the fridge at the moment). Got a sweet potato too, but I don't want to roast it when it's hot, so that can wait a while. Besides, can I really offer my baby something I can't remember if I've ever eaten myself?

    The official name for this practice is Baby-led weaning. More about it here.

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