Tag: Work

Taking Time

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” 
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

I am bad about this to the point of commentary from my colleagues who point out when I have not taken a holiday, especially in periods of high stress and hectic projects and encourage me to book my next holiday. It’s a very strange, but very nice thing to be encouraged by bosses to take time off regularly–it’s antithetical to the American work culture (according to Forbesless than a quarter of Americans take all of their available vacation, and I KNOW I am personally one of them).

Time off is built into British work life and I’ve had the experience of bosses policing my requests–not because I was asking for too much time off, but because they thought I wasn’t asking for enough. It is assumed that regularly scheduled holidays, even a three day weekend every couple of months or so, keeps workers more balanced and productive. I have been amazed to observe how holiday time is respected. On one occasion, early in my British working life, I checked my work phone for emails on a day off, saw that an urgent request had come through and immediately responded. The recipient thanked me and then scolded me for breaking my holiday to provide him with something he himself had stated was important, and forbade me from responding to anything else until I was back in the office. This was astounding and confusing to me!

I’m a big believer in time off. But I’m also a badly inconsistent practitioner.

Over the past year I’ve been working on a contract that’s been deeply interesting and rewarding. The work is challenging, the people are nice, the location is great, and there’s a lot to do (which is something my hyper personality requires). But it’s also been a hectic year with constant surprises and challenges, with a stream of unexpected projects and short deadlines. Because I was running a small team, I genuinely was afraid that if I took time off, I’d be responsible for balls dropping or delays, or…oh I don’t know. I had a vague sense of dread about being out of office that I couldn’t shake.

At a certain level this is fundamentally egotistical. The world spins on without you, and it’s important to be reminded of this fact.

Paradoxically, my feelings were also mixed with a sense of Imposter Syndrome because…the world spins on without you. Because I was managing a big contract and wanted so badly to do a good job, I think a part of me was strangely afraid that people would cope without me in a crisis, and what would that mean? Also, please note, fundamentally egotistical.

Last September Jeff and I spent a week in Greece and it was one of the most relaxing and restorative breaks I’ve ever taken in my life. It may be a silly thing to say about a fairly standard holiday, but it felt like a profound experience at the time. I needed it badly, felt great after I got back, and the sense of refreshment stayed with me a long time. When I was back in London I was emotional balanced, better at my work, and much better equipped to handle the flow of projects. We were in our 30s and this was the first holiday Jeff and I had ever taken that didn’t involve family or friends of some kind. There was no agenda, no purpose to the trip except to press pause on life for a moment and the positive effect of doing so was intense.

And then, like an idiot, I waited nearly a year to take significant time off again. It showed. I was getting anxious and overwhelmed by things that would not have phased me in a more rested state. I had to expend more energy to focus and concentrate than I needed to. My anxiety was ratcheting up.
“I think…I need a holiday,” I mentioned tentatively to a coworker during a coffee break.
“YES, YOU ARE LONG OVERDUE,” was her disconcertingly swift and loud response.

Et voila. I booked two weeks off and we went to Prague for one of them. Ironically Jeff was summoned back to work this week due to some crises but we’re now looking at what mini breaks we can take through the rest of the year to get in the travel that we have been reminded we desperately need and thoroughly enjoy. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying the surprisingly great summer weather, wandering through my favorite neighborhoods, and indulging in some vintage scouting. I’ve still be checking my work phone more than I should, but I’ve

There will always be a crisis you don’t expect, there will always be an unanticipated hiccup that your coworkers will need to deal with. They will. And your work will still be waiting for you when you get back. The world spins on, after all.

 

Weekend Links

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

What another week of news, and once again I can’t keep up–but we’ll do our best to recap along the way. We are past the Fourth of July and therefore officially into summer. I have switched to my “summer” sunglasses (aviators), purchased a linen shirt (which I duly report back on in my next shopping update), and all my drinks are iced. Consider me ready for the season.

I’ve put together a list of (mostly) poppy and fun links for your reading pleasure and I’m going to try and get a few additional posts together because I am officially on holiday! Jeff and I are going off to explore a new city neither one of us have been too, and I am going to do my best to try and unplug from work. Historically, I am TERRIBLE at this. (It doesn’t help that there’s an awful lot going on, a new contract to move into, and annual budget season to contend with…and shut up, C., you’re not helping yourself!)

Filing this under things I didn’t realize weren’t already federal crimes.

Anyone got a few cool million to spare?

Crissle returns to Drunk History!

Our country is broken.

Broken.

I accept this to be true.

Oprah for queen. Oprah for everything.

Noted and worthy beauty blog Temptalia breaks down the recent launch of the latest “big” brand and one, for a change, I have no interest in at all.

Good riddance, it’s a miracle he lasted as long as he did with that much scandal and bad behavior just…out there.

Jog on, indeed!

No duh.

I love writing on writing.

Long live the battle queens of the internet.

This piece from Slate hit me so hard this week that it actually took a full day to process. This passage deserves a block quote:

I am sad, above all, because the damage being done now no longer feels like it can be stemmed—let alone reversed—with a single election. This will last decades. The downturns my generation has already weathered—the 2008 crisis that hinged on obscure derivatives traded by a privileged few, robbing wealth from millions—were only the beginning. Education is now a luxury. Pensions barely exist. Health care is under threat. Retirement is, to those my age, a cruel joke. We’ve been waiting. For recovery, for relief, for some semblance of an American dream we can access.

It is clear, now, that there was nothing to wait for. In the time we’ve been waiting, the rich have only gotten richer and angrier and whiter, but it will never be enough for them. The good-faith ideological battle some thought right and left were waging turned out to be no such thing: Modern conservativism was never about small government. Or personal liberty—for women and people of color, anyway. It wasn’t about fiscal responsibility: The GOP passed a tax plan that has blown up our national debt, which is projected to reach 78 percent of America’s GDP by the end of this year, the highest it’s been since 1950. And Republicans are still not happy. They will pretend that this crisis they created will require “sacrifices,” gutting services poor Americans desperately need, like health care. The poor and disadvantaged will die.

Meanwhile, those in power will celebrate how much they deserve their wealth and how little anyone else deserves.

Finally, there are still children separated from their parents. You can donate to RAICES, KIND, and the ACLU to help.

A Few Acts of Self Care

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” 
― David Mamet, Boston Marriage

The universe has been particularly kind to me lately, kittens, and I’m still enjoying one of the longest running streaks of solid mental health and overall life balance I’ve had in years. However, due to one of my team members being on holiday, plus suddenly getting involved with an unexpected event planning job, plus some additional projects at work, PLUS the fact that we have a short work week this week thanks to the bank holiday…well, things are good, but there has been an uptick in stress.

Because I’m on deadlines for big projects that I genuinely love working on, I don’t want to get knocked off my game due to something within my own grasp like self care. So here’s a short and by no means complete list of ways I’m keeping myself sane during a busy spring:

Self-medication with friend chicken encouraged.

Schedule some long phone calls with friends. Katarina and I make time for a decent hour on the phone once a week and it’s always a highlight for me. We range from girl talk, to work, to writing, to politics, to love lives, and normally at least half of it involves inside jokes that have lasted nearly two decades now. X and I don’t get to talk as much but keep up an almost constant text conversation to make up for it. It’s medicine for the soul.

Take a walk. Now that it’s light out later in the evening, I’m trying to walk home from work most evenings. It’s about a three mile jaunt and it’s amazing how much it’s been helping step away from a work mindset at the end of the day. Spool up a podcast or an audiobook, and get your cardio in!

Spend some time by yourself in a non-standard location. Go out for a meal with only yourself at a new restaurant, wander through a new area of your city or neighborhood. On that walk home I mentioned, I’ve been trying to vary up my route as much as possible and I’ve discovered some hidden gems in my area of the city as a result. It’s refreshing to go exploring.

Clean something. We had our annual apartment inspection by the landlord this past week and used it as an excuse to do some deep cleaning, a bit more thorough than our weekend tidy ups. It’s cathartic to feel like your space is in order…even if the feeling is temporary and fleeting because cleaning is a Sisyphean ordeal.

Find a small way to save a bit of money and enjoy the sense of responsibility and control it gives you. I changed my route to my normal workspace in a way that combines walking and a single bus trip, the fare of which is lower than the Underground during morning rush hour. Since I’m walking home most days, my weekly travel expenses have gone down–it’s not revolutionary, but it’s nice anyway.

Do a bit of healthy food prep and chop up some vegetables that you can use later in the week for snacking or cooking. It will make it easier to make healthy choices when you’re in a munching mood, or when you need to throw together a meal.

Read, physical print if at all possible. I live my life online, for work and for a lot of my free time. Switching up a screen for an actual page really helps me enjoy reading better and allow myself to stay focused on a single piece rather than jumping from piece to piece the way that online reading can encourage.

Take a break! I am the worst at remembering this, but a 10-minute break to make a cup of tea or stroll around the block can help me completely reset my brain.

How do you keep yourself level when your To Do list gets a bit nuts?

Weekend Links

“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.
― David Bowie, Changes

It’s been quiet around this parts, pumpkins, because work has gotten insane again. All of my routines are messed up right now, my organization and health are completely out of whack and the house is a mess. Jeff is in no better shape as we are in the thick of accounting busy season and the man is working absolutely painful hours at the moment. A+ adulting happening here in the Small Dog residence, let me tell you! However, the sun is out today and I’m determined to repair damages with several loads of laundry, a deep clean of the bathrooms, and a general prep for the coming week.

It’s not all stress and poor self care, though! We’ve actually carved out some fun time over the past two weeks that has been much needed. I loved Black Panther and wanted at least another half hour of Winston Duke’s character cracking jokes and telling Martin Freeman to stop talking. In other news, teenagers will save us from ourselves, and maybe society isn’t falling into wreck and ruin!

Here are your links and tell me how your are spending your weekend. Plus, if you have any self organizational tips that I may benefit from, share them in the comments!

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The only cure for misinformation is education.

I love Fashion Weeks across the globe, but this piece from The Cut asks an important question about the (predominantly) women not on the catwalks.

This cow took its life into its own hooves.

The intensity of the conspiracy theorists active in the world today genuinely terrifies me. Some people are actual garbage.

The FT reports that American arms manufacturers bet wrong.

There is a lot of writing about there about the crisis of modern masculinity (some of it really smart, some of it really bad) but this editorial in the wake of the Parkland shooting is still pretty affecting.

Ugh, I need to stop falling in love with brands. They inevitably sink into mess!

 

Weekend Links – Remember, Remember

“November–with uncanny witchery in its changed trees.”
– L.M. Montgomery 

Howdy pumpkins, it’s November! This whole year truly has gone by in a blur, before you know it Christmas will be here. Yikes!

This weekend I’ve had to bring a few pieces of work home with me, but a rainy Saturday morning is making want to stay indoors for now anyway so I don’t resent it too much. It’s been a busy few months with this contract of mine but very rewarding ones.

It began this week.

Well, Kevin Spacey finally decided to come out…in response to allegations of sexual assault of a then-minor. Tom and Lorenzo were not having this, and I’m firmly on team TLo for this one.

Some of my favorite puppets sum up what’s going on in the world of YouTube and how that may affect creators.

The great and good Christine of Temptalia–the venerated beauty review site that’s more than extensive enough for its writer to qualify as a beauty editor in my eyes–has written a comprehensive post on how to reduce your beauty consumption with a “no buy” or “low buy” challenge. Inspiration for the intelligent beauty consumer, particularly as we move into the season of holiday releases and bombardment style marketing.

I’m not convinced we need a reboot, but I’m living for the casting anyway.

Mackenzie Horan and founder of the challenge has launched her third 101/1001 list! I’m a bit behind on my own goals, so this is a perfectly timed kick to get me back on track.

The kids aren’t just alright, they are goddamn awesome.

It was Halloween this week, so this article on the popularity of death masks seems apropos.

So…the void. Kind creepy.

The Pyramids hold yet more secrets, I’m delighted to say!

An exiting Twitter employee decided to deactivate the President’s twitter account and we had 11 minutes of questions as a result. I’m not giving this story too much attention. I find it a source of near-constant anxiety that in any normal presidency, if a tape of a conversation was leaked about a president sicking the FYI or DOJ on their enemies it would be a constitutional-crisis provoking scandal. Somehow this man is allowed to tweet it publicly and this is somehow fine.

This guy can exit, pursued by a bear.

Unless of course, this guy’s whack-ass theory proves true and saves us from the previously linked monster. (Spoiler, it won’t.)

These ladies, though, restore my faith in humanity.

US Kittens, there was a minor media scandal here in the UK this week!

I for one would like to salute Mashable for the heavy hitting journalism and dedication showed in putting together this very important post. #femalegaze

This oral history of the Brandi and Whitney Houston’s Cinderella is wonderful. And the story of Whoopi Goldberg refusing to wear fake jewelry is a life lesson for all of us.

A (hopeful) gender and sexuality story from the Weimar Republic. It’s nice to remember that history is a pendulum and swings towards good as well as bad.

ETA! Album of week: Stillness in Wonderland, by Little Simz

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

Spending Diary, Vol. 3

“Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.”
― Françoise Sagan

This was a good week personally but a bit sloppy financially. I started a great new gig contract, and worked towards an amazing opportunity with a magazine that hopefully will pan out soon. Fingers crossed! I had another big (planned) purchase this week and so planned to use the results of my kitchen audit to keep grocery shopping to a minimum in order to use food items we already had in the house as the basis of most of our at home meals.

A little planning goes a long way for me and disruptions to my schedule, even welcome ones like starting a new client contract, can throw me off. I did a decent amount of meal prep, but wasn’t as organized overall as I should have been and so even though I cooked plenty, I didn’t pre-package as I should have. Getting out the door in the morning therefore involved a couple of extra steps, which were all too easy to discard. And now that I’m in a client office all day and coming home later, my willpower to be productive in the evening has been a bit…lacking.  I ended up using over a quarter of my monthly cash allowance on food on the go–definitely one of my Achilles heels.

Therefore this weekend we’re both of us doing some shopping and prep together to do better next week! But first, I’m eating doughnuts following the Womens March in London.

 photo 2017-01-21 13.07.58_zpsq2c0pne0.jpg

Sunday
We were naughty and decided to grab Indian takeaway, but in order to justify it, we switched up our normal order to ensure we each got at least three meals each out of our spend, which took care of several dinners this week.
Food: £30.00

Monday
Months ago I signed up for early access to Hamilton tickets, which is opening in London at the end of this year, and buying opened up today. Our show date is months and months away, so there’s no quick emotional payoff, but I managed to score non-nosebleed seats for a fairly reasonable price!
Travel card renewal: £33.00
Hamilton tickets: £115.00
Coffee (cash): £2.75
Quick grocery run (cash): £6.00

Tuesday
Alas for an absent mind and a need for toiletries. We’d made it as long as we could using up our travel sized contact solution bottle, but had run out and so a Boots run was needed.
Coffee (because I left mine at on the counter leaving the house, cash): £2.90
Contact solution and facial cleansing wipes: £14.30

Wednesday
This was the first of a stretch of days where I really failed to get my ducks in a row.
Coffee again (cash): £2.90
Lunch (cash): £9.60

Thursday
I got a better start to the day but had to do another Boots run when we realized we were out of yet more things in the bathroom, like cotton buds.
Boots run for toiletries: £18.50
Lunch: £4.20

Friday
Breakfast (cash): £4.80
Lunch: £4.20
Snack: £.80
Pharmacy shop for, ahem, feminine articles: £3.50
Date night: £23.00

Saturday
Doughnuts to recharge after the Womens March in London: £30.00

Total: £301.25