Thursday 26 March 2020

Top 5 tips for working from home

Thousands of people across the country (and the world) are finding themselves working from home now. Whilst this is temporary and life will be back to normal after coronavirus (honestly, it will, this will pass), it can be really hard to adapt to working in a home environment, especially when you’re sharing it with the whole family and you can’t just get up and leave the house to get away from it all - and even more so when it wasn't planned!

I’ve been working from home for about 11 years now and I know from experience how hard it can be to stay focussed and productive. So I want to give you some really practical home working tips that, through trial and error, I’ve worked out and realised over the years in the hope that they might help you too… you can survive working from home, trust me!

Your work area: If you have the space, establish a work area - whether it’s a proper desk, the dining room table, a piece of board over your lap Roald-Dahl-style, whatever. That way you can walk away from it (or commute, if you will!). It’s important to be able to get work out from under your nose at the end of the day. If you can’t physically shut a door on the room you work in, make sure you clear and tidy your work area at the end of every day. Even if that just means stacking paperwork into neat piles, putting the lid of your laptop down and putting your pens in a pot, it will make it feel less intrusive when you walk past it during your days off or evenings, and it’ll make everything feel more controlled (in an already chaotic time). Working from home is all about creating divides between work-life and home-life. That’s easy to achieve when you work in a different building, but you have to consciously make the effort when you work from home - otherwise home and work can blend and you’ll never be able to switch off properly. At a time like this, when we can’t just go out whenever we want, that’s more important than ever.

Get yourself comfortable: Make sure you’re working in enough light - whether that’s natural light (ideally) or an improvised table lamp. If you find yourself frowning or working in your own shadow because the window is behind you, that’s far from ideal. You might be improvising with a dining chair that’s not the right height, so if that’s the case make sure you sit up straight (I’m world class at hunching over my desk, so I know how easy it is to end up with backache and a stiff neck at the end of the day!). Stand up and walk around the room at regular intervals. And don’t make yourself too comfy: whilst it might be tempting to put the coffee machine on the table next to you, it’s better to keep it where it is so that you’re forced to get up and move to get yourself a drink! But remember, chances are you’re going to be working from home like this for a few weeks, so make yourself comfortable and create an environment that’s as pleasing to work in as you can.

Keep to regular hours: If you’ve got very young children or others in your home that need attention I know this can be really hard. When I first started PhotoFairytales I worked from the kitchen table and my daughter Amy was very little. Even little things like her interrupting me to ask for a biscuit would cut through my concentration and it would take time to get ‘back in the zone’. If your children are old enough to understand and cooperate, try working in hourly chunks that mimic their own school routine. At the end of each hour you make yourself available - and maybe even have a 15 minute ‘playtime’ with them. That way they have a routine, the same as you. You might find yourself getting up a bit earlier to do some work before they wake up, or working later after their bed time - but just make sure you’re not tempted to dip in and out of work when you shouldn’t be. Turn your phone off, turn the laptop off, make yourself step away when you’re ‘out of hours’. When you go out to work there are structures to your day: the commute, the lunch hour, the clocking off time. But when you work from home those things can get blurred. You might not be able to stick to the same hours as usual, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of routine (having a proper lunch hour is a good place to start). Maybe think about setting an alarm on your phone to remind you when to ‘go home’ at the end of the day: bzzz bzzz, home time!

Happiness is still important: Bring in a bit of what my Amy calls ‘the aesthetics’… put a nice plant by your workspace, get yourself some nice pens to write with, a pretty pot to put them in, a nice ‘work’ mug. Whatever little touches you can add that makes the environment more pleasant to work in. Chances are you’re going to be working from home for a few weeks, so you may as well make the best of things.

Dress the part: It’s so easy to just work in your pyjamas - or even get so engrossed in work you forget to brush your hair or teeth (I’m speaking from experience here, trust me on this). So, every morning make sure you get dressed just as you would if you were going to work (I mean, you don’t have to do the full shirt-and-tie-power-suit thing, but dress like someone might be coming round to the house and you wouldn't want to be caught on the hop). It sounds crazy, but the act of getting properly dressed makes you feel like you’re going to work. And it means that in your downtimes like the weekends and evenings you can still get that relaxed feeling. For example, I work from home but I never wear slippers during the day. I have a pair of shoes that I never wear outdoors, but they feel like shoes and that makes me feel different - and act different - during the day. They’re less comfy - so at the end of the day when I’ve finished work I take them off and put my slippers on - and that’s my sub-conscious indicator that tells my brain it’s now relaxing time! (I’m confessing all my secrets here, you do realise that?!)

Bonus tip: This one is all about distractions… How houseproud are you? Do you make the beds every day? Keep the carpets hoovered?  Keep things basically tidy at home? If not, you might want to get on top of things a bit. It’s hard to keep focussed when out of the corner of your eye there’s a pile of dirty plates in the sink. So every day, allot 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening to do a swift tidy. Make the beds, do a sweep of the rooms and pick up anything that doesn’t belong - even if that just means chucking stuff in a box until later, just get it out of sight. I’m not suggesting you do a full clean of your house, just a straighten up. Rope in other family members and get them to pull their weight too. It’s easy to get distracted by housework when you’re supposed to be working - personally, I find the washing is the main culprit for this: I’ll find myself dashing to the washing machine to get the next load on, or get it pegged in the garden while the sun’s shining. That’s fine, it gives me a reason to step away from my studio and straighten up and switch my focus - but I draw the line at shoving the hoover around when I should be answering emails. That sort of thing can wait - when I’m at work, I’m at work. You’re spending a lot of time in your home right now so keep it organised, delegate chores if you can, only do housework during out-of-hours - a tidy home is a tidy mind!

Also, does your phone constantly ping and buzz with notifications from social media? These might be a nice distraction normally, and you might have a routine of checking your Instagram or Facebook account during your lunch break, but they can cut across your concentration if you’ve got your phone beside you because you’re working from home.  Think about switching it off or muting the notifications - you’ve probably got enough distraction going on in your home with kids and partners interrupting you, so you don’t want to add to it with notifications that an old school friend has just seen a squirrel in their garden (or whatever)!

Above all though, remember this isn’t going to be forever. It’s a strange moment in time that we’ll all remember, but it will become a memory and life will go on.

Stay in, stay safe.

Sarah x

Wednesday 25 March 2020

I'm open as usual at PhotoFairytales!

I know that with the shops shut and everyone being told to stay home, it's now more than ever that people need to be able to rely on online shopping for lots of items. Just because we can't see friends and family in person, doesn't mean that birthdays, anniversaries, and 'thinking of you' gifts can't still be sent to loved ones. I just wanted to reassure you that it's business as usual here at PhotoFairytales: I'm well, I'm open for business, I'm creating and dispatching all orders as usual and within the normal turnaround times.

Business as usual at PhotoFairytales...

If you need me to send a gift directly to a loved one that's easy - just enter their delivery address when you place your order and I'll send it direct to them for you. If you'd like me to enclose a gift message for you I can do that free of charge (just pop the details in the 'special instructions' space in the shopping cart). Don't worry about the price being revealed either: I never enclose invoices with orders, so they won't see!

Worried about gift wrap? Don't worry, just let me know and wherever possible I'll wrap the gift in pretty tissue paper for you too. I'm offering this free of charge at the moment wherever possible, however there are a few items on my site that may not be available for free gift wrapping as they're created on my behalf by other suppliers - it may still be possible to offer gift wrapping on those items, but there may be a small charge. If you'd like gift wrapping please contact me before placing your order and I'll be happy to confirm whether this can be done free or will be a charged service.

Need to send someone a card? I've got lots of gorgeous cards for all sorts of occasions on the site, and they can all be personalised too - so you can request personalisation on the front of the card AND a personal message on the inside of the card. Plus I can send it direct to the recipient for you too.

Self isolation doesn't mean you are cut off from everything, or that you have to miss important dates. Even if you just want to send a 'thinking of you' style present to someone you can't go to see in person, or send something to help raise their spirits and bring some cheer, I can sort that out for you.

Whether it's a special occasion, friends or family - I've got loads of great gift ideas for you! No matter whether it's a birthday, anniversary, arrival of a baby, or just a 'best wishes' style present, you'll find lots of really unique and creative gift ideas on the site that are all available today.

A note about me personally - as I said, I'm well, open, creating and dispatching as normal. Absolutely no one is allowed in my studio other than me: I'm keeping everything clean and my handwashing is unsurpassed! Like most of you, my family are now working from home too and are absolutely behind the cleanliness regime - we're all in this together!

I now have a dedicated page on my site with updates about dispatch and deliveries during this time - you can find it under the Delivery & Info tab at the top of the website. I'm here to help, so if you have a question about anything please don't hesitate to get in touch.

I feel it's super important for both you and me to try to keep life as normal as possible. I want to thank you for supporting my micro business - I know we're in worrying times at the moment, but I won't let you down and your continued support is MASSIVELY appreciated. We're all going to need each other that little bit more over the coming weeks. Just because we're confined to our homes and apart, doesn't mean we can't all be together. I'd love to hear from you, so if you fancy a chat do head over and find me on Facebook.

And finally... as Gisele, the owner of Mir Skin Care, said to me the other day:
"Micro businesses are the safest, goods pass through a limited number of (thoroughly washed) hands and the business owner is in full control of every process."
And she's absolutely right!

Stay home, stay safe - shop online, support micro business.

Sarah x

Monday 16 March 2020

9 Fabulous Last Minute Mother's Day Gifts: don't panic!

I know that the news over the last few days might have pushed Mother's Day out of your mind a little bit. If you've left it a bit late, don't worry - I've got you covered! I appreciate that there's probably some of you that won't be able to visit your Mum this Sunday either - but I can help with that too!

Some of the last order dates for Mother's Day have now gone - but I've got a roundup of 9 brilliant last minute gift ideas here that your Mum will love: all personalised and handmade to order, just for her. Plus...

  1. If you need me to send direct to your Mum for you, I can do that - you can fill in an alternative delivery address when you place your order
  2. If you need me to enclose a gift message for you, I can do that too (no charge) - just pop your request in the 'special instructions' box in the shopping cart and I'll sort that out for you (applies to the items shown below)
  3. Worried about gift wrap? Don't worry, just let me know and I'll wrap the gift in pretty tissue paper for you too (also free of charge) - again, just put a message in the 'special instructions' box in the shopping cart to let me know (applies to the items shown below)
  4. And no, I won't enclose an invoice or sales details that show the price!

Order any of these items before midnight tomorrow (Tuesday 17th March), and I'll get them completed and dispatched in time for Mother's Day for you!

  1. I'm Kind of a Big Deal - personalised, range of colours, from £15.95 (only 10x8" size now available in time for Mother's Day)
  2. Vintage Housework Print - personalised to order, £15.95 (other designs available)
  3. Blue Heritage Plaque - featuring any wording, £17.95
  4. Cook's Conversion Chart - personalised, range of colours available, £15.95 (only 10x8" size now available in time for Mother's Day)
  5. Mama Bear Wooden Star - strung with ribbon ready to hang, choice of colours, £15.95
  6. SuperMum Print - can feature any name/title, fully personalised, £15.95
  7. Grandchildren Tree Print - available in a range of colours, personalised to order, £15.95
  8. Our Mum is Never Wrong - personalised print in a range of colour options, £15.95 (other designs also available)
  9. Wooden Announcement Gift Heart - custom made and beautifully gift boxed, £14.95

There, panic over! Send your Mum something truly unique to cheer her up this Mother's Day and remind her how much she's loved.

Sarah x

Will coronavirus affect post deliveries?

Some of you might be feeling a bit anxious about whether Covid-19 will affect the delivery of your orders: from PhotoFairytales or anywhere else. I just wanted to reassure you that deliveries are continuing as normal and are unaffected.

Coronavirus Covid-19 - post deliveries continuing as normal

A couple of days ago Royal Mail announced that they'll be making a slight variation to the way that the deliver parcels and any items that require a signature on delivery: they'll simply be keeping themselves slightly distant and will sign for deliveries themselves.

So, when you have a parcel delivered the postie will probably prop the package by your door and knock, then stand back a couple of steps. They'll wait for you to answer the door and retrieve your package, and if it requires a signature they'll do that for you (so you won't have to handle any devises to sign yourself). If you don't answer the door for your parcel, they'll take it back and leave a 'while you were out' card in the usual way so that you can rearrange the delivery.

I've put full details on the Delivery Information page on the PhotoFairytales website - but if you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to get in touch with me!

Sarah x

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Free Handwashing Poster - let's beat coronavirus!

Yes, the news about coronavirus is indeed a bit worrying at the moment - the number of cases seems to be increasing daily. The advice from government and health officials is simply to wash your hands as often as you can. So with that in mind, I've created 4 free posters for you to download and print - because whilst some family members and work colleagues will have no problem remembering this, others may need reminding!

You can access them as many times as you need, and print as many as you need.* The free printables are A4 size. For best results print on glossy, photo paper - although they will print nicely on standard printer paper too. To access the prints, click here or on the image below:

Free Hand Washing Poster Printable - let's beat coronavirus!
Free Hand Washing Poster Printables - let's beat coronavirus!

I've designed a couple of the posters with children in mind - giving simple instructions for handwashing. Display a poster in the bathroom, downstairs loo, or in a nursery or school toilet to remind little ones on the best way to keep their hands clean.

Free Hand Washing Poster Printable - let's beat coronavirus!
Free Hand Washing Poster Printables - let's beat coronavirus!

The other two handwashing posters are somewhat simpler: just friendly little reminders to wash your hands. Put one up in the hallway so that everyone who enters your home is prompted to wash their hands.

If you want something more permanent (and let's face it, keeping your hands clean is important at any time - coronavirus or not!), why not get one of these handmade wooden hanging plaques made especially for your home? Prices start at only £10.95 including UK P&P, and you can have any wording you like on the signs.

Wash Your Hands Wooden Plaque Sign

Strung with twine and ready to hang up, you could display the plaque at the end of your banister, in the bathroom, or anywhere that would work best to remind everyone.

Wash Your Hands Wooden Plaque Sign
Wash Your Hands Wooden Plaque Sign, from £10.95

Current advice is: 

  • Wash your hands when you enter your home
  • Wash your hands when you sneeze, blow your nose, or cough
  • Wash your hands when you go to the toilet
  • Wash your hands before eating
  • If you can't easily access handwashing facilities, use hand sanitizer which contains at least 60% alcohol

Stay healthy,
Sarah x

* Please Note: The posters are for personal use only and not for resale. Copyright belongs to PhotoFairytales. You are welcome to display the posters in your home or on commercial premises if you wish.

Tuesday 3 March 2020

10 Great Mother's Day Gifts for every Mum

Before you know it, Mother's Day is going to be here (March 22nd) - so if you're stuck for a gift idea for your mum, fear not: I have some brilliant ideas for you! PLUS: click on the 'Competitions & Offers' tab above for my 10% discount offer!)

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum

Whether you're searching for a present for a brand new mummy, a special granny, or simply the best mum in the world - you want a gift that reflects just how special and loved she really is. And what could be better than a unique present that's been made just for her?! Give a thoughtful, meaningful gift this Mother's Day that you know she'll treasure always...

1: Mother's Day Gift for: NEW MUMMIES
That first ever Mother's Day is so important - one of these gorgeous handmade board books is perfect for mum and baby to snuggle up and read together!

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Personalised, handmade baby board book - various designs available, £27.95

2: Mother's Day Gift for: PROTECTIVE MUMS
It might annoy you when she tells you to put your coat on or eat your vegetables, but you KNOW she'd do anything to protect and cherish her little cub!

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Wooden Mama Bear hanging star, choice of colours, £15.95

3: Mother's Day Gift for: MUMS WHO LOVE A GOOD CUPPA
There's not many mums out there that don't enjoy a daily tea or coffee, so what about treating them to their own special mug that they can use every day...

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Personalised Mugs, range of designs available, £13.50

4: Mother's Day Gift for: GARDENING MUMS
Does your mum enjoy pottering in the garden? She'll love this practical fork and trowel set, personalised with any wording and presented in a gift bag.

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Personalised Garden Fork & Trowel Set, £17.95

5: Mother's Day Gift for: PROUD GRANNIES
Any nanny or grandma will adore this special print featuring all her treasured grandchildren - personalised to order, just for her.
Grandchildren Family Print, various colours available, £15.95

6: Mother's Day Gift for: SENTIMENTAL MUMS
If your mum loves nothing more than reminiscing over pictures of you (or the grandchildren), she'll love these wooden photo blocks - spell any name or word, lots of colours to choose from too.

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Handmade Wooden Photo Blocks, various colours available, from £6.80 per block

7: Mother's Day Gift for: MUMS WHO LOVE FLOWERS
A bunch of flowers will last a few days, but this pretty floral handmade wooden block will stand on her shelf or windowsill for years to come. Lots of other designs available too.

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Handmade Freestanding Wooden Block, various designs to choose from, £18.95

8: Mother's Day Gift for: THE HOUSEPROUD MUM
If your mum ever complains about the amount of housework and washing that needs doing (show me one that doesn't!), she'll love this vintage style personalised print, and it'll definitely raise a smile too!

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Housework & Ironing Championships Personalised Print, other designs also available, £15.95

9: Mother's Day Gift for: MUMS WHO LIVE FAR AWAY
Not everyone can spend Mother's Day with their mum, so why not send her this extra special personalised wooden heart - a heartfelt present, gift wrapped and with a personal message too.

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Personalised Gift Boxed Wooden Announcement Heart, £14.95

10: Mother's Day Gift for: THE MUM WHO HAS EVERYTHING
If your mum is hard to buy for, why not treat her to a custom-made print featuring her very own family tree! A truly special and original gift that she will adore.

10 Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for every Mum
Personalised Family Tree Print, various colours and sizes available, from £18.95

Don't forget a card! I have some lovely personalised gift cards to choose from that will be the perfect finishing touch for your gift.

Personalised Mother's Day Greeting Card
Personalised Mother's Day Card, various designs available, £2.99

Sarah x

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