Dreams

I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to going back to work tomorrow.

I’m not.

But, I’m not sitting around dreading it either.

I’ve never had a dream job. Even as a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Whilst I was at school, trying to decide whether to go to university or not, I didn’t know what course I wanted to do, because I had no idea what I might want to do in the future. By the time I left university, I still had no idea.

It’s taken 35 years for me to start figuring out what i’d really like to do.

Although, looking back, there were times when I toyed with the idea, I just didn’t know how to get there.

I guess part of me has always thought that a dream job, was just that. A dream. Not achievable for those of us who are just ‘ordinary’ people.

But why should it stay as a dream? Why not chase after it?

Whilst I was walking along one of the Algarve’s many beaches last week, it struck me that I finally know what I would like to do.

It may not happen over night. It may even come under a slightly different guise.

But what I do know, is that it feels right to chase after it. To throw (almost) everything into trying to achieve it.

It’s not going to be easy, as I still need to earn a wage while I’m chasing my dream. There will be some multi tasking, hard work and lot’s of juggling involved. But I need to make sure I dedicate some time to focus on my plan for the future.

However hard it might be to chase my dreams, everything seems to be pointing me in this direction. And the difference this time, is that I really do feel ready to work hard for it. I want to do something that gives my life more meaning. To wake up each morning looking forward to going to work. To look forward to going back to work after a week off.

So you may be asking yourself why I’m not dreading work tomorrow? And the answer? I have a plan. Which is ironic. Because I’m rubbish at planning anything outside of my occasional social life. I am slowly but surely, creating a plan, and starting to work towards achieving my dream.

And that makes going back to work tomorrow, all the more bearable.

Solo Traveller

When I first went on holiday on my own 3 years ago, I received a mixed reaction from friends and family. Some said good on you. Others thought I was crazy. Won’t you be lonely? Aren’t you scared going alone? Why don’t you find someone to go with?

The answers to those questions at the time were:

  • I don’t know, as I’ve never done it before
  • Yes
  • There aren’t many of us singletons left in my friendship circle, and why should no one wanting to leave their husbands, wives or their children, stop me from going to sunnier climes?

This time around, fewer people asked those questions. In fact, the comments I received were a lot more positive:

  • I wish I was brave enough to go away on my own
  • Have a great time

Perhaps people’s mindsets are changing. More and more people seem to be going off and doing their own thing, whether that’s because they are single, or simply because they want to visit places their partners don’t really fancy going to.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the easiest thing to do. It pushes me way out of my comfort zone. But I like to see how far I can push myself. Where are my limits?

When I arrived in Portugal this week, I asked myself the questions my friends had asked me 3 years ago. My answers this time were:

  • No, I now love my own company. Plus the beauty of the modern world, means I can stay in touch with friends and family back home, if I want to.
  • I am always a little apprehensive about travelling alone, but I try to avoid putting myself in the face of unnecessary risk. Plus, I have now been living in London for 3 years.
  • I didn’t even try to convince anyone to come with me this time. Well, ok, just the one, but I was truly looking forward to escaping, having some quiet time away from the madness of work and London, and spending some time working on where I want to be in the future, and the steps I can start taking to get me there

So here I am, in sunny Portugal, sitting on my balcony, alone, but not lonely, enjoying some time away from the rat race, relaxing and exploring, watching the sunset and wondering just how many trips I might be able to squeeze into this coming year ✈️☀️🏖

Albufeira – photo taken today by me

Self-Care Sunday

After the wobbles of last week, it’s been a beautifully chilled weekend.

Whilst some of the immediate work pressures have been lessened, there is a lot to do over the next few months, with lot’s of evening meetings coming up.

I knew I needed to get some self-care bonus points in the bag to help get me through the next couple of weeks.

The first thing I did this weekend was to get my haircut.

Whilst I’m trying to budget carefully at the moment while I get used to the extra expense of renting the flat on my own, there are some things I’m not prepared to scrimp on.

Getting my haircut at my favourite salon is one of them. It took me ages to find a hairdresser I liked after I moved to London. In fact, half the time I ended up traveling back to Northampton to get my hair cut at the salon around the corner from mum and dads house.

I find some hairdressers so stuffy. I always feel so uncomfortable when the hairdressers are overly manicured and immaculately dressed. Thankfully my hairdresser in London is lovely and normal. We spend most of my appointment chatting about the great outdoors as opposed to gossiping.

I spent Saturday afternoon catching up with some housework and found some time to bake a banana and chocolate chip loaf to put in the freezer, ready to devour next time I have friends or family come to stay.

I woke a few times last night (thanks to my delightful cat who decided to play with her toys right outside my bedroom, and then tried to sit behind my head on my pillow 🙈), and had hoped to sleep in, but my cat was having none of that either.

As if butter wouldn’t melt…

So I decided to get up and make the most of my early start. By 9 o’clock I had my running kit on and was heading out for an early jog. It was so nice to be out and about whilst London was still half asleep. The park was empty except for the odd runner and a few sports teams starting to warm up before kick off. Every time I go out, I’m able to run a bit further, and my body is loving the exercise. I used to convince myself that walking was enough, but I realise now that it’s not. Walkings obviously good for you, but getting my heart racing, breaking out into a sweat and noticing the difference in how my body feels, is fantastic. It’s giving me so much more energy throughout the day, as well as helping me to sleep better.

After my jog, I carried on my workout at home, by cooling down, and lifting some weights. This time last year, I noticed my arms had got really big (and not in a muscly kinda way). That’s when I first realised how much weight I had piled on. Whilst I haven’t lost as much flab from my upper arms as I would like, they are slightly more toned. Hopefully now with jogging and eating better, hopefully it won’t be long until they start to look more how I would like them too.

I’m super pleased that I booked my holiday before Christmas, as this is giving me extra motivation at the moment to keep exercising, knowing its only a few weeks until I fly out to Portugal. On top of that, two of my best friends get married in the first half of the year, a month apart, so with two hen parties and two weddings after my holiday, I’m hoping that will give me the motivation I need to keep me focused on my new eating and exercise regime well into the summer months.

After my workout I decided to get some more self-care in the bank, with some pampering.

My brother always buys me really good beauty products for my birthday and Christmas. A couple of years ago he brought me Ren Flash Rinse 1 minute facial which has become one of my staple beauty products. It is what it says on the tube, a 1 minute facial. So even when time is short, there is no excuse not to treat my skin.

Another great product my brother brought me last Christmas was GlamGlow’s Poutmud fizzy lip exfoliating treatment, which is fantastic at this time of year when the weather and central heating are playing havoc with my lips. Like REN Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial, it’s really quick to use and leaves lips super smooth.

With my workout and pampering complete, it was time to head off to Westfield to do some much needed pre-holiday shopping. Thankfully, I had some vouchers to use, so I came away with some lovely new holiday clothes without suffering from buyers guilt.

I then made it back home in time to pop outside to my terrace before it got dark, to see what state my plants were in. I love gardening, but as soon as the winter weather creeps in, I tend to neglect my poor plants. But it was lovely to get out there this afternoon to tidy up and deadhead the plants that haven’t realised it’s winter yet. A perfect way to end the afternoon.

So after a topsy turvy week, it’s been a productive weekend, with lot’s of self-care. I’d love to sit here and say I’m ready for that week ahead. Whilst my body maybe, my mind would really like another day or two at home not worrying about work. But at least I’m getting closer to my Algarve Adventure ✈️☀️🏖

New Year, New Goals

It’s that time of year again when we take time to look back at the last 12 months and to look forward to the next.

I reflected on much of the last 12 months in a blog I wrote earlier this month called Turning 35, so now it’s time to focus on the next 12 months.

I’m  not one for making new years resolutions. Resolutions always sound like they should involve giving things up. I don’t feel the need to give anything up, so instead, what you will find below, are the 5 things I would either like to achieve, take a break from, or improve on in 2019:

  1. I will be cutting down on my social media time in 2019. Facebook, Twitter, 2 x Instagram accounts, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Pinterest, LinkedIn. Why is it as human beings we have the inability to just click into one app and be done with it? Why does clicking into an app lead to us scrolling through the latest updates, and then moving onto the next app, and the next, and the next. Before we know it, at least an hour of our precious day is gone. Whilst there are some apps I couldn’t live without (Whatsapp for one, and my Mindful Gingernut Instagram profile which links in nicely with my blog), do I really need to use mindless apps such as Facebook? And I guess I question why I need 2 Instagram accounts? And Linkedin too. I struggle to ‘get’ Linkedin. Spending my limited free time browsing through posts from work colleagues old and new, is no longer appealing. I do know of people who have been headhunted through the app, but these are few and far between. This week alone, I have spent over 7 hrs on Facebook and Instagram, which is just ridiculous. I could’ve achieved so much more with those 7 wasted hours! So from the 1st January, I will be deactivating my Facebook account, taking a break from my personal instagram account for the first 6 months of the year, and will more than likely be taking a break from Linkedin. This should free up some time to focus on other things, such as reading more books, and joining some classes in order to meet new people and to make new friends. After 6 months, I will reflect back on whether I have missed either app, and if so, look at ways I can continue to use them but in a more mindful way.
  2.  In 2019 I want to find some more London friends. Ok, so I have been saying this for the last 3 years, but in 2019, I really need to get off my backside and do something about it. I love my friends dearly, but not many of them live close enough to pop in for a drink on a Friday night, or to grab dinner after work mid-week. I love spending time on my own, but likewise, I love to be sociable too. Just before Christmas this year, I went to a wreath making workshop. Whilst I didn’t exchange numbers with any of the ladies at the workshop, it did give me hope that I hadn’t lost the ability to talk to new people. So in 2019, I’m going to put myself out there. I’m going to enrol on some courses, learn some new skills, and hopefully, make some new friends.
  3. In 2019, I want to eat healthier and to exercise more. Whilst I wouldn’t say I have an awful diet, I have spent the last couple of years eating oily curries, bigger portions, and lots of naan bread. Now I will be cooking for one more often, I will have greater control over my diet. I want to eat a wider variety of foods, giving my plate more colour, trying out new dishes, and filling them with more vegetables. What i don’t plan to do is to give up my favourite foods however ‘bad’ they may be. What I am going to do though, is make sure I eat them in moderation. When it comes to exercise, I love walking, but struggle to fit this into the working week, especially during the dark evenings. I know once the nights get lighter I will get out and about more in the evenings, but I can’t put my fitness and health on hold until then. I live in between two of South West London’s biggest parks. There is absolutely no excuse for me not to take a run around either of the parks during my lunch break on the day I work from home and again at weekends. I do like to work out from home, and lift my weights and do some strength exercises at least 3 times a week, but I definitely need to do something that gets my heart racing. I would love to join the gym again, however, the nature of my day job stops me from doing anything on a regular basis at the moment, and for me, if I am going to join the gym, I need to be able to commit to a regular routine. So, for 2019, I aim to continue to work on my strength exercises from home, and to work up to jogging around one of the local parks 3 x per week. Although this will be one of the harder challenges I set myself, with a little bit of determination and motivation, with any luck, I will be jogging around those parks in no time.
  4. In 2019, I want to travel more. I have always longed to travel, but i’ve either never had the money or the courage to do it. Money is still tight especially as I face renting on my own for the first time. But what I do have is lot’s more courage. Ever since I took my first holiday alone in 2016, I have longed to take another trip. So yesterday, rather than wait for the new year to begin, I booked my first holiday of 2019, which will see me heading to the Algarve in February. Whilst it won’t be at it’s warmest in February, I’m looking forward to exploring somewhere new, taking my laptop and some books, and just spending a few days relaxing, reading, eating freshly caught fish, and writing more blogs. I hope this will be the first of a few breaks in 2019.
  5. Last but my no means least, I want to spend 2019 focusing on my wellbeing and self-care. It’s only in the last 6 months of 2018, that I have become more aware of the need to look after myself mentally as well as physically. There have been so many times over the last 3 years, where I have been so consumed by work, that I forgot to check in with myself to see how I am. Work has often left me with little free time to do the things I enjoy. It has left me exhausted and mentally drained. This has to change in 2019. In the last 6 months, I have learnt so much about myself as I begin to take greater control over my life and my mind. Yet there is still so much more to explore. I want to spend 2019 reading into and practicing different wellbeing, mindfulness and self-care techniques in order to find out what works best for me.

These goals shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve with a little bit of thought, motivation and determination, yet at the same time, if I get these right, they are things that could really change my life. So much of the last 3 years have been focused on work and other people. It’s time to shift the balance a little, so I can focus a little bit more on me and what I need in order to be a happier more balanced person.

What are your goals and aims for 2019?

Working From Home and Prioritisation

After a crazy week, I’m grateful to have a day at home to relax today.

With a full on working week last week, a trip to the solicitors on Friday and a lovely day walking around London with mum yesterday, my body and mind are in need of some R&R today.

For the first time in 3 years, work is starting to feel relatively settled. Our company has been through a lot of change over the last 3 years, and on top of that, around a year ago, I was asked to start managing a side of the business I knew very little about. It’s been a tough ride. But finally after a year battling to understand the role, and getting myself into a position where I could competently manage the team around me, I feel like good progress has been made.

On top of that, I have been working with the team to get through an external assessment for this area of the business. Not too much pressure then! Last week saw us meeting with the assessors and submitting our final pieces of evidence. We won’t know until next week how we have done in the assessment, but through a lot of hard work and determination I am confident that this area of the business is in a much better place than it was, and my management of this area of the business has improved tenfold.

It has been hard putting other areas of my work on the back burner whilst I focused on the assessment. One of the most important things I have learnt over recent months, has been how to prioritise my workload better. For me it’s simply being more aware that it’s ok to say no to some things. And those things I can’t say no to? I say yes, but I am learning to give more realistic timescales in order to get the work done.

In addition to learning to prioritise, the other thing that has changed my day recently, is the ability to work from home more often. Under new leadership, we are taking the time to understand how we can help and improve staff wellbeing, whilst still getting the job done. Working from home once a week has changed my working life, which in turn has changed my home life for the better too. Our office can be like a whirlwind at times, with the phones ringing non stop, constant queries from the team, in addition to meetings. This can make it incredibly difficult to get the day job done. There have been times over the last 3 years where I have ended up working 12 hour + days, as well as working at weekends, just to stop myself from drowning. But working from home has changed all that. Having that one day a week to work from home means that I get at least one full admin day per week. It is often broken up with phone calls, conference calls and still the odd emergency to deal with, but because I have no other distractions when I am at home, I can manage these situations a lot better and still catch up with my administration or to work on projects.

Working at home also gives me that much needed reflection time. One of the early sessions I had with Beth  we discussed the importance of finding time to reflect. This was also reinforced at the Level 3 Award in Leadership and Management course I completed recently. When I am working out of the office, whether I’m at home working in silence or with the radio on in the background, or in a coffee shop with the day to day hustle and bustle going on around me, I get far more opportunities to be present and to reflect on the work I am doing and how things are making me feel.

Working from home also gives me the time and space to plan. This may seem quite a simple process to some people, but when you work in an open plan office constant distractions, with few quiet spaces leading to a lack of opportunity to move away from the chaos of the office in order to plan effectively, it makes planning extremely difficult. This of course then has a knock on effect to the rest of my work. I find that planning on my day at home enables me to have a lot more focus during the week, which in turn is helping the rest of my team. By being much more organised and less fraught, I can already see the difference in my team who have themselves reacted positively to these changes. They too are benefiting from more opportunities to work from home, and are a lot more productive as a result.

Despite only having the opportunity to work from home for a couple of months, I can already feel the difference this is making to my wellbeing.

All of this combined, is helping the team (as well as us managers) improve our work life balance. I acknowledge that my job is never going to be solely something I can do from Monday-Friday 9-5, however, I am no longer working 12 hour days or weekends which quite frankly, is bliss.

Family time

After a hectic week at work, I returned home this weekend to spend some much needed time with the family.

I love living in London, but I am slowly learning that I need to take regular breaks from the chaos that comes with living and working in the city.

As soon as I reach the M1 the air changes, as does the scenery. With that my mind clears, the stress lifts and I feel energised.

Although we are now in September, the weather was beautifully warm this weekend, which also meant getting lots of sunshine.

When I first used to return home after moving to London, I would pack my weekends full, catching up with friends as well as family. However as much as I want to see everyone, it just wasn’t physically sustainable. I would return to London feeling more tired than when I left. By the middle of the week I would be frazzled and felt far from rested. So now, as much as I still feel guilty at times, I try to have a weekend of seeing family or friends, rather than both.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to escape from the city this weekend. Sitting at home in my parents garden, I switched off from work and just enjoyed sitting in the garden, letting the sunshine soak into my skin, eating good food, and catching up with my family.

I felt truly relaxed, a feeling I haven’t enjoyed in weeks.

And now, sitting back in my London flat, enjoying a glass of wine, I feel rested and relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead.

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