This is how I work

I read this here, and while no one has nominated me I thought I’d like a go.

Location: Alton, Hampshire
Current job: I lead Communications, marketing, brand and whatever else comes my way needing a solution at a healthcare organisation.
Current mobile device: iPhone XS
Current Computer: MacBook Pro… Old for personal, brand new for work.
One word that describes how you work: Logically (well, as logically as possible).

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I could say I’ve ended up where I am right now by accident, but I think that would be a little unfair – I’ve definitely put plans in place at some point which have led me here.

I began wanting to be a journalist at around the age of 11 when I realised that basically I could be nosey and engage in my favourite hobby – finding out about things I have no real need to understand but for some reason find insanely interesting – and have other people pay attention to me in the process.

I set about trying to get some work experience with people like the BBC who back then said “what? You’re 11!” and sent me packing. So I set up my own thing, solving my problem of not being able to see what being a journalist was like and my village’s problem of not having any kind of media attention, and won an award or two along the way.

In truth, a combination of jumping to solve problems and really struggling to say no to anything that had “opportunity” written on it and was roughly aligned to my skills has got me where I am today.

Take us through a recent workday.

I don’t really have a typical work day because my work is so varied and because I tend to enjoy variety. If I’m in London (or further) my day will start with a harsh reminder that I’m not a morning person at around about 6am. Having completed the minimum possible ablutions required and thanking Past Nic for laying out clothes that vaguely go together, I set off for my train at 6.55am.

I’m behind my desk by 8.45am, where it’s time (if I didn’t do it on the train) to check through my emails and find out what fires are greeting my today. That’s one of the things about working in PR – planning the night before is all well and good, and certainly ‘good’ for productivity – you just never know when someone is going to do something silly and derail your day.

Most days are a healthy mix of meetings, calls and trying to get the actual work done in between.

At the moment, I’m trying to get into the habit of going for a work at what would be “lunch” time. Not leaving your desk is the negative flip side of the positives of switching to using Huel when you’re away from home.

I’ll head for the train at about 6.25pm, home by 8 – and then it’s either gym, reading, TV, popping out with friends or something like that. I’m safe if I head for bed by about midnight, and then it’ll be time to do it all again.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?

I love gadgets, tools and apps. I don’t think there’s any that I couldn’t live without though. I’m quite adaptable.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack?

I didn’t know I was supposed to have one. I’ll need to work on this.

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

The last year or so has made this the biggest challenge as I’ve led my team through almost a 100% personnel change and had to do most of the roles myself for a short while too – and all at a time where the business was a bit ‘manic’ too.

I’m a big fan of Trello and that’s where I keep my “master” to do list as well as the terrifying thing I call the “Team Roadmap” (it has everything we’re doing or might want to know about on it, it’s huge), but nothing beats a paper list.

Paper lists have the super power of allowing you to ‘scribble out’ when you’ve achieved something. There’s no better reward.

What’s your favourite side project?

I am without side project right now. I’m going to say reading. Alongside going to the gym, I’ve let my habit lapse over the last 3 months and I’m not really sure why. Conscious effort to repair it activated.

What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?

This one’s easy. There’s a link up top to the books I’m reading in 2019 and what I thought of the ones I’ve already done.

I’d recommend you read what you enjoy, abandon books you don’t enjoy and remember that audiobooks count as reading too.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve been asked to write an answer to something like this before and it stumped me then just as much as it does now.

There’s two bits of advice that I’ve more learnt than been told – and I’m sure I’ve been told them in one way or another – that I’d want to pass on.

The first is that no matter what situation you’re faced with, you can rest assured that the human race has been dealing with – and surviving – pretty similar things before. The universe will look after you – just let it.

And the second, which almost feels contradictory when it’s this close, is to get on and do stuff. It doesn’t even really matter what, because doing something is definitely better than doing nothing.

17 principles of success

I’m a very competitive person and never more so than when I am competing against myself. So I’ve always been quite keen on setting myself goals – and I’ve usually found that setting goals for myself has meant I’ve delivered them, and not setting goals has left me feeling a bit, kind of, lost.

Last year was the first for a while that I’d not really set myself any specific goals, because I didn’t need to. I was getting married in November, so the year was kind of geared towards saving up for that and making it happen. And it did. It was good, and I delivered on the goal I’d never set.

But now it’s almost April of 2019, and I’m seeing the increasingly light days and nights and wanting to “get shit done” again. I’ve always had a really clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, why and – after a short period of reflection – usually why too.

But at the weekend I was looking at Napoleon Hills’ 17 principles of personal success and I found myself getting stuck at the very beginning.

Lesson 1: Definiteness of Purpose

I feel like I’m between purposes. Like everyone who has ever logged into LinkedIn or Medium, I know there are various guides on how to find your purpose and tomes on how important having a purpose is. But I’ve never needed their advice.

I’ve never needed to “find” my purpose before – because it’s always been something that I’ve just known. It’s been obvious.

I said on New year’s day that my theme for 2019 was ‘simplification’ and that’s still true now. I’ve delivered a chunk of simplification in the first 3 months of the year, and there’s more to do – but simplification in and of itself is not, as perhaps is obvious, very purposeful.

In fact, it occurs to me that the simplification I’ve already done might have actually created the gap I’m now noticing.

So this week, I’m going to focus on trying to reach into my brain and find out what exactly it is. Because it must be there, right?

Brexit: I only care because I really don’t anymore

I thought I’d run out of things to say about Brexit, until this week when my personal tax statement fell through the door and – of course – the first thing I looked for was the contribution I’d made to the EU.

Straight away, I noticed the EU was at the bottom the list of where my hard-earned had gone and that, in total, I’d contributed less than £100.

And all of a sudden, I had a new opinion.

Not a rare event more generally, but with Brexit – after three years of exclusively feeling despair and hoping that I’d somehow develop a long lost Irish relative out of nowhere – something new developed.

I just don’t care enough about something which costs us so little and, really, is only concerned with things that I don’t really understand, don’t need to really understand and ultimately don’t really want to understand.

A good many people feel that the political part of the EU was seeping into areas it shouldn’t have, and that’s fine and a perfectly valid concern – but in the most part, terrible reporting of what the EU, and Westminster politicians being happy to place blame elsewhere, was actually responsible for was driving some of that.

And even if those concerns exist, from where I’m sat there are easier, simpler things we could be doing that would make a much bigger positive difference to our lives than occupying ourselves with a big, poorly understood and all-consuming activity like Brexit.

Like many things, it just feels like a complex ‘thing’ has been reduced to simple solutions for the sake of a parliamentary system that encourages diametric opposition at all costs and broadly newspapers which don’t have time to deal with complexity.

We could be solving social care. We could be finding ways of creating new homes that meet people’s needs and don’t piss off everyone in the local community along the way. We could be incentivising better pay through tax breaks which wean people and companies off of needing state support, rather than paying welfare.

We could just be enjoying having high unemployment, a relatively strong economy and trying to work out why we’re not getting more productive anymore.

It seems to me we’ve got our priorities wrong. But we’re where we are. And given we are where we are, and that I don’t really think we should spend any more time on this… Maybe no-deal would be best?

Whatever happens, we need to find a way of getting some brain space back and turning our national conversation onto something else that will actually impact on our lives. And maybe we will.

After all, when Brexit is done with who is there left to blame?

Oh, someone else will sort it

Coffee shops are fascinating from every perspective. I think so anyway.

Firstly, I reckon the shop someone plumps for when faced with a choice between all of the ‘chains’ and an independent (or more) says as much about their personality as their star sign of MBTI ever could.

But inside them, too, there are all aspects of human nature on show – at their best, and their worst.

There’s the groups competing to consume the fewest calories when out for lunch, the one who doesn’t care what anyone, and the mother (or father) who just – just – wants a few moments peace.

Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in coffee shops – I did work in and run them for 4 years, so I’ve kind of got an excuse – or maybe I’m just paying attention to the wrong things.

There’s one aspect above all that I think most closely resembles human nature – and that’s when someone moves dirty items from one table (unoccupied, but dirty) to another (unoccupied, but otherwise clean).

Walking to the kitchen area, or finding someone to hand the tray to would probably take a very tiny amount more energy and effort. But still, almost universally, we chose not to do this – and instead simply shift the problem elsewhere. Someone else will deal with it now.

There’s been effort put in, and the short term goal has been achieved – they get the table they wanted – but overall it’s all been a waste of time.

Because there’s still the same number of dirty tables.

And that’s a little bit like life, and the choices each day. We’re all to often, by nature perhaps I think, focused on the short term aims – not the long term goal.

One day, we might want the table they’ve just dirtied.

What would I even stockpile?

Over the weekend, the snow – and the fact that it turned to ice, trapping me (yes, I’m exaggerating) at the top of a hill – got me thinking about stockpiling.

Leaving aside that stockpiling and panic buying seems fashionable, the fact that I found myself without easy access to a supermarket – and thus with only a limited choice of food – made me consider whether I was sufficiently well prepared. No deal Brexit or, indeed, global warming.

But then I got thinking. And frankly, it’s all just too many questions. What would I stockpile? What do I actually value and need access to? Is the point of stockpiling to survive (why bother) or to ensure you can access the things you like?

All in all, it meant I failed – because I didn’t do anything. I’m stockpiling inaction, and relying on the UK’s existing stocks of “oh, it’ll probably be OK”.

Helpfully, someone else has done the worrying for us. There’s a list of what to buy on, of course, the FT.