Inspired By…Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind + Design for MiniKind

Oh, you guys, I am so, so excited today! Today is the first installment of what I hope (fingers crossed) will be a regular series here on the blog, “Inspired By…” This series will cover people from all walks of life that are doing cool things out in the Universe and inspiring me with their gumption and all around awesomeness. Hopefully these interviews will also inspire you to try a new way of doing something or possibly to try something new altogether!

Today’s post features one of my favorite people on the Internet, Erin Loechner. You may have heard Erin’s name around here before, and that’s because I work as Erin’s research editor on her child-focused website “Design for MiniKind.” Erin is also the author of the award-winning website “Design for Mankind” and has been featured on the Huffington Post, Apartment Therapy, HGTV, and Lucky and Glamour Magazines. She’s pretty incredible, is what I’m saying, and she was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her workflow, priorities, balancing life with new motherhood and how “slow blogging” changed her perspective. Thanks Erin!!!

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Last year you had your first child, your daughter Bee. How have the demands on your time changed since her birth? Has your work schedule changed dramatically? Were you prepared for the change?
Oh, the demands of motherhood. You know, I’m only nine months into this gig, so I don’t know that I have a lot of really sage advice on this subject. But, I do know that I value my time much more than I ever did pre-Bee. And it’s not because there’s less of it, really. It’s just that, suddenly, there’s this urge to create something meaningful and honest and authentic – something that I’ll feel proud of. Something that I feel will justify the time spent away from my family and this beautiful new creation. I know it all sounds so very dramatic, but it’s true. I never want Bee to look at my work and think, “This was more important than me?” Perhaps even more so, I never want to look back on my own work and ask that same question.

So I suppose the answer isn’t that my schedule has changed as much as the work itself has. My priorities and yes’s and commitments look very different now – but I think for the better. I hope for the better.

It’s a change in myself I didn’t anticipate. I’d assumed that new motherhood would force me to become more efficient and flexible and task-oriented, and although it has to some degree, it’s also done the opposite: I’m becoming more thoughtful and engaged and slow-paced. I’m quite liking the change.

What does a normal day look like for you? Is there a “normal” day? How much flexibility do you allow in your schedule from day to day?
I’m a creature of habit, so I do have a “normal” workday. This is a pretty clear picture of how it works around our house during the week (minus Bee’s morning nap because, sadly, she’s dropped it already!), but on weekends – all bets are off!

I do try really hard to be flexible and take advantage of the fact that my job is mobile and most deadlines are self-imposed. Today was beautiful outside, so I ditched the to do list and headed to the zoo! I’m a pretty dedicated worker bee, so it feels nice to give myself the day off every now and then (even though I generally end up making up for it with a late night!).

What tools do you use to make your workday more efficient? Are there any applications or web-based tools that allow you to organize your life a bit better?
I’m a big fan of the traditional to do list on paper, but here are a few of the tools and techniques I love, love, love.

You’re a proponent of the “slow blogging” movement. Can you explain what that is? How has living that philosophy changed your work and home life?
Sure! Essentially, I’m doing my best to turn the inspiration faucet down a bit. I love that my work is so heavily rooted in visual culture, but I think that with the rise of Pinterest and various social bookmarking tools, we’re losing an essential element to creativity: the story. I’ve always identified with writing as my first love, so I’ve been focusing on sharing the details and struggles and stories of today’s creative projects, rather than simply sharing an image and moving on to the next bigger, better thing. It’s a challenge to re-train myself to think deeper and write with more meaning, but I’m really enjoying it.

The added benefit, of course, is that the philosophy is trickling into other areas of my life. I’m becoming a slower, more thoughtful responder in conversations and I’m seeking out more purpose and intention in my own creative work. It’s been a welcome change.

What advice would you give to another working mom who is trying to figure out this work/life thing? What advice was given to you that you found helpful? What about advice that missed the mark?
The best advice I can give is to take a moment, breathe deeply and re-list your priorities. They’ll likely look a lot different than they did pre-baby, so write them down (and, if you’re like me, limiting them to just three might help. I tend to get overwhelmed easily!). My priorities are listed here, and I can’t put into words how much the act of listing them helped to navigate this whole work/life balance thing. I’m a big proponent of setting realistic expectations and placing value on things that matter to you (that might not matter to other women). It’s the reason I have dust bunnies that scatter my floor, but always make time to take long, leisurely walks with Bee.

In terms of advice I’ve received, the most helpful thought was when a girlfriend shared that what you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day (so choose it wisely!). Luckily enough, my schedule allows for lots of family time in the morning, and I feel so grateful that I get to start my day with the priority that matters most in my life. I often look back and remember those mornings where I hit the ground running, answering emails and drafting articles until midnight. It was a productive time, yes, but not a time I remember accomplishing things that truly mattered in the long run.

And you know, I haven’t really been given a lot of advice that’s missed the mark. Advice is little more than one woman’s perspective, and I think we can all learn something from each other, even if it doesn’t particularly resonate with us at the time. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I’ve never been one to turn down the opportunity to listen to another woman’s story.

*Photo Credit : Woodnote Photography*

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