We've got access to another successful educational consultant's space this week! Allie Rodman, founder of The Learning Loop, brings us into her home office! She gives us some of her strategies for staying organized whether she's broadcasting to educators from home, or she's traveling and presenting at schools!
ME: You have a dedicated office space at home- describe how you feel in that space and why you set it up the way you did.
A: I have only had my own office for the past year and half. Prior to that, my desk was situated in the middle of our living room, and I utilized co-working spaces as needed. When I had the opportunity to setup my own space, I spent a lot of time thinking it through. I have windows on three sides which lets in lots of natural sunlight, but also allow me to look out at our garden and kids playing in the side yard even when I am working. What many of my clients and partners do not know is that our kids are often smiling or making silly faces at me through the off-camera windows when I am presenting live, and I would not trade those moments for the world.
Collaboration and connection are extremely important to me – even when we are in virtual spaces – so I have been intentional about setting up lights, screens, and microphones that enable me to communicate clearly and build strong and lasting connections through screens. I really miss handshakes, fist bumps, and hugs though.
A fair amount of my office space is currently taken up by books. I am slowly transitioning these to my Kindle to open things up a bit and minimize clutter.
Finally, I was careful to include a large cozy chair – perfect for writing when I want to get away from my desk, cuddling up with a good book and cup of tea on a Sunday morning, or providing an inviting space for our kids to come in and chat or do homework. Our dog, Scout, is also a big fan and spends many hours there.
ME: Did you have a similar system / set up as a school admin when you had an office in the school? Give some comparisons.
A: I have found it important – in all my office spaces – to set them up as “plug and play.” I do not want to waste time plugging in chargers and setting up a bunch of peripherals. I want to sit down and get right to work. Similarly, I want to walk away at the end of the day without lots to pack up. I purchase extra chargers and have them plugged in and ready to go along with wireless keyboards and mice already paired.
If possible, I keep headphones, a coffee mug, blue light glasses, pens, highlighters, scissors, and post-its in each office space as well. My goal is to minimize as much friction as possible when it comes to tackling my action plan.
ME: Do you work in any other areas of your house? Why or why not?
A: I work a fair amount in airports, in-flight, and in hotels to maximize this “dead” time and reduce my volume of work when I am home.
At home, I try to set clear boundaries between my blocks of professional and personal time even if the time blocks are not concurrent. As a result, 90% of my work is completed in my office. There are two exceptions: (1) When I have writer’s block, I will relocate to our living room couch with a lap desk, and (2) When the weather allows, I journal each morning on our back patio.
ME: Your kids have watched you work from home this year. What structures/space set-ups have they learned from you?
A: My husband, Doug, and I are self-proclaimed tech geeks so our kids have always gotten to see that side of us, but it amplified this past year as we experimented with new tech equipment, software, and facilitation approaches. Our kids were often the ones crawling around on the floor helping us setup and run AV checks.
They have slowly learned that “working” does not only mean one is actively presenting, in a meeting, or on a phone call. Our kids did not always get to see my creation and production processes in the way they do now, and I have seen that have an impact on their own work products.
It is not uncommon for me to find post-its on the fridge or back door when they don’t want to forget items for school. We use "Todoist" [on organizer app] as a family for everything from chore lists, to packing lists, to home improvement projects.
Our daughter has tried multiple planners, including kid versions of the ones she has seen me use, but is still searching for one that is the best match for her.
ME: Do you follow similar routines, structures and set-ups when you travel? How do you set up a space on the road - and will you change your set up as you start heading back out?
A: I keep a carry-on suitcase always half-packed with toiletries, makeup, chargers, nondescript jewelry, and a laundry bag. This allows me to quickly add clothes and shoes and get going with minimal prep. My work backpack is similarly half-packed with sunglasses, hand sanitizer, chapstick, adaptors, pens, portable charger, and noise-cancelling earbuds.
When I arrive at a hotel, I have a regimented routine of what gets unpacked and where to allow for the quickest morning prep and pack up.
As I start heading back out, I am continuing to tweak how much I pack, finding the right balance between being fully prepared should I get stuck somewhere and overpacking. I am also even more cognizant of high contact points, and wipes are now a regular item on my packing list.
For high-level productivity tips, find Allie on Twitter @thelearningloop