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Smart Work Story With LAUFT Marketing Content Writer Julie Achtermeier

Julie is a die hard freelancer and joined the LAUFT team in May. As a storyteller, she's got quite a few of her own, including being diagnosed with cancer when her children were just infants. That diagnosis led her to vow never to work for a stressful corporate job again. Remote work empowered her to be more present with her family, while also taking better care of her mental and physical health.

How would you say work has changed for you in the last year?

The last year has been challenging with the whole family being at home. I have two teenagers who had to learn online for much of the school year, and my husband has been working from home for 13 years. All of a sudden there were four of us and two dogs trying to be in the same space 24/7, and I've definitely had a bit of cabin fever and felt like the walls were closing in. As a writer I don’t work well with noise and interruptions, so I’ve had to adjust working hours and expectations to find the quiet I need to be productive.

How do you stay motivated to do your best, smartest work?

I remind myself every day that I’m saving 2+ hours a day by not commuting, and that’s huge when you have a family. Tweet This!

I actually spend fewer hours in “work” mode because I can get right down to it rather than spending time getting prepared to leave the house - making sure meals are planned, kids are set, and then commuting.

Having the flexibility to start late, or early depending on other demands makes me grateful every day that I have the freedom to create my own schedule. 

How do you find the harmony as a remote worker?

I can take my work anywhere and that’s a huge bonus when you have kids in sports. My son is a goalie for a competitive hockey team, so it’s not unusual to see me working at the rink between games. Before the pandemic, we travelled a lot to hockey and baseball tournaments, and being able to work from anywhere meant I could keep up with deadlines, whether I was working from a hotel room, coffee shop or at the rink. My daughter is a figure skater who trains four or more nights a week, often starting as early as 4pm, when I’m not quite done for the day. I would take a break to drive her to the rink, grab a coffee at a quiet table, put in my ear buds and get back to work.

Is there anything in particular that you love about working remotely?

Flexibility is everything for me. It means a lot less stress and gives me back the power to control my day, which means taking care of myself and my family. I gave up a corporate career shortly after we had our son who was six months old (and my daughter was four), when I wasdiagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Spending a year doing chemo, radiation and having three surgeries really took a toll on me and my family.

I blamed the stress of a demanding job and working long hours in an office for making me sick, and vowed to change how I worked and lived. Tweet This!

I’ve spent the years since as a freelance writer, working on my own schedule, which was the best thing for me and my family. Finding the LAUFT team was a special moment - I can produce great work with the freedom to manage my time and be part of a great team again. 

Is there anything in particular that you find challenging about remote work?

I struggle with the distractions at home when everyone is around. I like a quiet, tidy workspace which is almost impossible with a busy family at home. It’s no wonder September is my favourite month - the kids go back to school and I settle into a routine! 

What personal strengths have you been tapping into more in the last year?

I have a bit of a dark sense of humour and drawing on the funny side of life has helped me get through difficult times. My husband and I both laugh quite a lot, often at our own expense, and it’s a great tension breaker. It helps me not to take life too seriously. Our kids have inherited our sense of humour and some days it’s like a comedy routine in this house! No matter how hard we try to avoid them, life will throw us curve balls. You can either catch them and throw them back (I like to whip them), or let them clobber you. 

How good are you at asking for help?

Not very (laughs). I don’t like to bother people so I tend to just do things myself.  But, I’ve learned that if I start to feel overwhelmed, it’s not a weakness to ask for help. I am getting better at saying no when I’m already overloaded, so I guess that’s something. (Tweet This!)

What does mindfulness mean to you in the age of remote work?

I try to be present every day and not wish the time away. Tweet This!

When you’re busy, it’s always tempting to think life will be better when things slow down, but everything came to a grinding halt during the pandemic and I realized how much I missed the hockey games, baseball tournaments and skating competitions. I'm more aware now that if I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s up to me to carve out the downtime to recharge so I can enjoy the busy times - because they won’t last forever.

How important do you think it is to be emotionally available and aware and how do you put that into practice?

I have a pretty good handle on the emotional impact that life-altering events can have after fighting cancer myself and losing two close friends and my dad to the same disease. It’s critical to accept that there are times we can “suck it up” and times we can’t. Being able to identify when I need guidance and support is critical to staying mentally healthy. I don’t bury my feelings - I identify them, deal with them in the moment and move forward. If I’m having a bad day, I just say it like it is, often with some dark humour.

Is there a book, podcast or resource you’ve enjoyed that you might recommend to our readers?

I love listening to podcasts. My favourites are Ten Percent Happier, Ted Talks and CBC’s The Current. Two recent books I would recommend are: Atomic Habits by James Clear and Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun (a great read for GenX women). 

What does Make Smart Work mean to you?

It means being efficient and using time wisely throughout the week as a whole. We all have days where we’re distracted, unproductive or tired so I try to focus on how the week went, not how every minute of every day went. Some days don’t go so well, so I don’t dwell on that. At the end of the week, if I feel like I was productive and checked off the boxes on my to do list then I know I was working smart.

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