Work Life Balance at Christmas

Joyce and I have made the decision to close the business for a few days over Christmas for the sake of work life balance.  Actually, that’s not true, we’ve agreed that unless the work is already in the diary, from the evening of 22nd December to the morning of 4th January, we’re not taking any more work on.  I have one student to see and one small proof reading job in that time.  It’s time for some Us time.  I last opened an email connected to my school work on 19th December.  So, there’s the first commitment broken, that was supposed to be 18th December.  It’s the morning of 21st December and I’m already fighting the guilt.

Work life balance is a funny thing, especially if you are in any way self-employed, if you work in education, academia, or any of those other industries where the assumption that your good will means that you will go far beyond your job description.  Already, I have a list of at least 5 tasks to be tackled over our ‘leave’ and 4 of them are career or business related.

The See-Saw of Work life balance

For all of us, but particularly for the self-employed, balancing the see-saw (teeter-totter for my American friends) of work/life can be very hard.  There is a strong temptation to say, well, if I just do a half day on my emails, I can get a head start on the first day back… That is the thin end of a sticky wedge.  Yes, most of us went into self-employment to do what we love, but it is too easy to spend the quiet times on the bits we don’t love.  I’ve just spent nearly two full days catching up on the accounts.  Yes, it needed to be done, but did it have to be done right now, in the run up to what is left of Christmas?

Prioritisation

Often, I work with my students on managing both their study and their personal time, in the full knowledge that I could always be somewhat better at it myself.  There are many charts, apps and tables you can use to help with this – just google it, or look at Stella Cottrell’s Study Skills Handbook, a great investment for academics and students alike (The link is to Abe Books, other book sellers are available).  My favourite tool, however, was originated by Dale Carnegie.  I probably don’t have the copyright to reproduce the tools here, so let me just ask the pivotal question.  In your planning, do you consider what is important, or simply what is urgent? It sows the seed in our minds, that if something is only urgent, but not actually important, perhaps there is no need to do it at all?

Take a Beat

Unplug by Jess Bailey via Unsplash

So, as we run up to what is going to be a Christmas like no other (I write this while the news that we are in Tier 4 is still sinking in), I am asking you, telling you, maybe even begging you, to think about what is important, not what is urgent.  For me, this will be Zooming family and friends, going for walks, digging fresh spud and picking fresh Brussel sprouts for our Christmas Dinner.  It will be sitting through the Dr Who New Year special with the young members of the household, because they enjoy watching it with us.  It will be taking a breath.  So, by all means, contact us for mentoring, proof reading, or whatever else it was that is urgent that we can do for you, but also, sit down for five minutes to make important plans.

So This is Christmas???

So This Is Christmas???

Well what an amazing year we have had, who would have thought last Christmas that we were heading for a pandemic?

I know it would be easy to speak about all the things we have missed but I thought 🤔 let’s take a look at some of the pluses, yes there have been a few

Zoom  Skype  Teams  Messenger  to name a couple of online, face-to-face platforms.

Jane and I have transferred all of our university students onto Zoom, which has been a great success. The majority of our students are on the autistic spectrum so meetings on the Internet are much easier than face-to-face

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But it’s not just our university students, one of the many hats  Jane wears is as a schools governors clerk, they too have moved on to Zoom. Jane has also recently joined the Federation of Small Businesses  and is Zooming  along to several of their network meetings.

For myself I am seeing my private clients on zoom as well as attending Twilight networking meetings every other Thursday evening https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/

Another good thing that has been happening is exercise,  Just how many adverts have we seen in the last year to join online exercise classes. Not that I’m saying we have participated in any of these because we haven’t. What we have been doing is going out for walks  Admittedly we did far more walking during the first lockdown than we have been doing recently but that is because our workload has greatly increased. Not only have I been doing more mentoring,  but Jane has been undertaking far more proofreading  than ever before

What about actually meeting face-to-face with family and friends,  I for one more than ever greatly appreciate those rare occasions. Whether that’s having a socially distanced barbecue  in our back garden or unexpectedly meeting old friends while out on a walk 

Personally, I also like the new way our doctors surgery  is operating. I phone  them, the receptionists asks a few questions, then I’m either phoned back to say there’s a prescription sent to the chemist, or that the doctor will phone me, or the doctor will see me, and I’m given an appointment time. I for one hope this system stays in place after the pandemic is over. No more sitting in germ  infested waiting rooms.

Some things have not changed though, for instance about every eight weeks Jane and I cook, freeze, and take up to Derbyshire 70+ meals  for my old stepdad.  We fill his two freezers  and normally we would spend the weekend with him. Of course, currently this is not possible under the Covid-19 restrictions. So last Sunday Jane and I did a 12 hour, 600 mile round trip,  spending just 45 minutes with him, unloading the car, filling the freezers, and then sitting in his shed  while he stood in the doorway of his kitchen  chatting to one another through our various facemasks  and shields. 

With just under two weeks to go before Santa comes to fill our stockings  we are busy ordering those last-minute presents  off of the Internet. Though very limited I suspect we will meet with a few of our family over this Christmas. So, it just leaves me to say;

Have a very, very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 

Ethical Dilemmas: Can you fake it till you make it with integrity?

This blog was partly inspired by communications I’ve had with close friends and family about confidence, imposter syndrome and the rational knowledge we have skills, whether we realise it or not.  My best friend, Lou, has launched a new career as a photographer, while also changing her day job, and we talked about the gender issues connected with confidence, and whether those thoughts still hold in the 21st century.  In that 2-hour meandering way that best friends do, we came to the conclusion that you just have to fake it till you make it.  But how do you do that with integrity?

Integrity

Now, I have to say, I have a roller coaster ride relationship with integrity.  In my Civil Service days, I hadn’t even considered the need for it, and was quite happy to get down and dirty with and against my colleagues, stealing placings and whatever it took to hit target.  Now, I see integrity as an ideal that, as soon as you accept that it can never be reached, you get a lot closer to attaining.  It is impossible to get through life without telling small fibs, these are called tact and discretion.  Nobody needs to know everything, all the time, indeed, if they did, it would be disastrous.

Integrity is about the small things.  If you say you will be at a meeting at 9am, be there at 8.55.  If you promise somebody some work in two years’ time, and then fall out with that person, as has happened in my working life once or twice, do the work anyway.  Be the bigger person.  You don’t have to become their best friend again, just keep your word to the best of your ability and move on.

Fake it till you make it

Photo by Ruthson Zimmerman on Unsplash

But what about that old career adage, ‘Fake it till you make it’.  The problem is keeping control of the fakery.  Dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have is all very well, but is it ok to tell people you already have that job when you don’t?

Well of course not.  Is it OK to display confidence in your knowledge when you still have information to check?  Yes, within limits.  I always had more respect for my trainers when they answered one of my notoriously nitty gritty questions with ‘I’ll check that over lunch and get back to you’ than waffled on with what was obviously a shaky answer on a very narrow foundation.

Imposter Syndrome

There are times when you have total integrity but it feels like you are faking it.  This is really the epitome of imposter syndrome.  Here is mine: I am the world’s leading academic researching Joyce Grenfell.  This is, at the moment of writing, a true statement, and has been for the last 5 years.  There are 3 other experts on Joyce Grenfell: Janie Hampton, Maureen Lipman and James Roose-Evans.  None of them are academics and none of them have done any active work on Grenfell for nearly 2 decades.  Therefore, the statement is true because I am the ONLY Joyce Grenfell academic in the world.  Other academics acknowledge the validity of my claim to the leading academic in this field,  but it feels like a lie. So, we can say then that imposter syndrome is when you have integrity but it feels like you don’t.

I’ve been very fortunate in that I have a Joyce CoomberSewell who has, throughout our married lives, coached me in my continuing journey to building a stronger relationship with integrity, taught me skills to fake it till I make it with that integrity still in tact and has booted imposter syndrome out of my life on a weekly basis.  If you would like her to do the same for you, CONTACT US today.

Meaning Making Machines

I have just successfully survived my final review for my Masters by Research.

Tracking The Timeline and Impact Of Inequality Between Autistics And Non-Autistics In The United Kingdom From The 19th Century To The Current Day

So now I have until mid-February to get my final draft in,  ready to submit at the end of March.

So why am I telling you this, how does this link to Meaning Making Machines and why did I wait until I was in my 60s to go to University?

As a 6yr old in infant school child my desire was to be allowed to have a reading book, but to attain this I had to correctly read some flash cards. One fateful day I was called to the teachers desk, my turn had come once again. Out of all the cards there were two I consistently read wrong, COME and BECAUSE, those dreaded words. My teacher must have felt very frustrated and smacked me on my bottom.

And in that moment, I created my Meaning: “I am thick and stupid”. I then set my life on the track to prove that that meaning was completely correct.

I became the class clown at school, to hide how thick and stupid I was. I left school at 15 so as not to ‘fail’ at any O levels I might have been expected to take.

Due to my mum getting me an interview at the factory where she worked, I started work straight from school. However, within a year I became pregnant even though at that stage I had considered pursuing qualifications as I really enjoyed my job.

Once I went back to work, in between having more children, I always chose basic, factory, potato picking, shop jobs as I believed I was too thick and stupid to attain anything else.

As I got older, I used my thick and stupid meaning as an excuse to not be responsible for my actions.

For example, in my early 40s I became a Doctor’s receptionist, a job I thought was far above my station. One of the responsibilities I was given was being in charge of the prescriptions which came out from the back office. This also included filing them in alphabetical order, this was way outside my comfort zone. ABC is fine but AA, AB, AC etc is a real challenge. One day a gentleman asked for his prescription, he gave me his name, I went to the box, removed a prescription and handed it to him. Within a few short seconds he was laughing hysterically. By an alphabetical error I had given him his brothers prescription for Viagra……

Of course, I went straight to my thick and stupid excuse. It wasn’t my fault, fancy the manager giving such a responsible job to a thick and stupid person.

A few years later I decided to try and get an English GCSE. After every 2hr lesson I went to learning support to have the lesson explained more fully. The gentleman I saw suggested I met with an Educational Psycologist for an assessment. The outcome showed that I am very dyslexic but have a higher than average IQ. Oh! and I attained a ‘B’ in English 😊

Now you would think that would be the end of my thick and stupid excuse but remember, humans are Meaning Making Machines. Something happens, we make it mean something, then we collect our bias history to keep that meaning in place.

I continued to believe that I was thick and stupid even though I had papers to prove I wasn’t.

My A-ha moment…

came during a Landmark Forum course in London. https://landmarkworldwidelondon.com/  I shared my thick and stupid stance. I was asked when did I last feel this. I replied ‘at lunchtime when in the lift with others. I had said the floor number I thought to be correct and of course it was another floor number’. The leader asked for those in the lift with me to raise their hands, he then asked them if they had said I was thick and stupid. They of course said no, I quickly replied ‘but they thought it’.

The Landmark Leader then asked me when I had first thought I was thick and stupid. This I quickly related to my school flash card debacle. We then looked at my thick and stupid history and how I had used this to keep my “truth” in place. Of course, that smack given to me by my teacher could have meant a thousand different things, but I chose it to mean I was thick and stupid. No ‘truth’ there at all, just me being a Meaning Making Machine, which all humans do. Something happens, we make it mean something, then collect history to keep it in place as ‘truth’

So now in my 60s I have passed my Bachelors with a 2:1 and I am nearly finished my Masters by Research.

Now what will be my next challenge??? If you have suggestions, contact us