I’ve written about managing our news intake in the pandemic, before. I remember writing a post around March 2020 on this, and perhaps I’ve also mentioned it in subsequent posts. I think it is actually helpful for us to be reminded of key themes as we continue on this journey, especially at key points in the calendar.
I’m revisiting the idea of managing news intake so that we stay informed but don’t become overwhelmed by it all, because we’ve crossed over from the Christmas holiday and new year festive season to being in that ‘new year, new start’ mode.
Some of you may not have had a break from work. My special thanks, gratitude and appreciation goes out to all of you who are front line workers. Some of you may be full time bloggers so perhaps you’ve not had to shift gears or mindsets so much. I personally blog as a ‘hobby’ (although, who knows in pandemic times it may be something I’ll have to look into at some point in making it a ‘side hustle’ but for the moment it’s all done in my own time and I don’t earn anything from it). I have a full time job wherein in ‘normal’ times I’d be heading back to the office, but for the time being I’m (thankfully) working from home.
Yet, at this time of year I need to keep on top of what is going on in the news at least on a local level. I may need to pick up a work laptop soon, I may need to travel in and make arrangements for that, and there had been talk previously of working part time in the office, which I am not keen on myself, but I still need to stay informed with what my employer and what the government are saying.
Perhaps you also are shifting gears mentally as we make our way through the first month of this new year. It always takes a bit of getting used to. Maybe at this time you will have to engage a bit more with the outside world for your job, or if you need to take your kids to school and so forth. Maybe you’ve started upping your news intake.
It’s good and important and perhaps vital in times like this to stay informed of what the pandemic situation is, however, we need to maintain a healthy balance between that and protecting our mental and emotional health.
It can become all too easy to become caught up in things and to jump from one news story to another, allowing ourselves to become overwhelmed and emotionally burdened by it all.
So this is just a friendly reminder to you to hold things in a balance. Keep informed but don’t allow yourself to get sucked into over checking the news because it does impact you whether you realise it or not.
Take care of yourself, remember your wellbeing and that of your loved ones, and seek to be informed in a healthy, balanced and productive way. x
Do you remember the start of your year, in 2020? What were your personal thoughts about the well rounded, almost ‘perfect’ 20-20 year that stretched ahead? Did you have any goals or plans that you wished to pursue, or that seemed likely, that because of the pandemic have been interrupted or cancelled?
As someone living and working in the UK, at the start of the year much of the talk in the news centred around ‘Brexit’ – Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. Regardless of the politics and whether or not you have any particular feelings towards this (which I understand many of you living in other parts of the world may not), there was a feeling that there would be implications for our personal lives on some level.
As such, I optimistically started 2020 thankful for my steady job, and beginning to brainstorm European countries that I have not yet been to that I would like to visit in 2020, before any potential future travel restrictions that might be caused by Brexit! Ah, how little did I know back then!
Needless to say, none of those travel plans materialised in 2020, and not because of Brexit, but because of Covid! Wherever in the world you may be, I am certain you’ve heard of that. I am thankful that I have travelled quite a lot and enjoyed traveling on my own as well, so although my plans never materialised for travel in 2020, it is no great disappointment or inconvenience.
However, I’m not the only one who had plans at the start of the year that did not come to pass. Perhaps you did too. Maybe you planned to get married this year and that had to be called off or at least postponed to less uncertain times. Maybe you considered relocating or buying your first home, changing job, or taking a risk, visiting friends or family or doing something that due to the pandemic has had to be put on hold or cancelled altogether.
Some of you may be in a place of real turmoil, or may know others whose lives have been shaken in 2020. It is heart-breaking to hear stories of people who are mourning loved ones because of Covid, who have lost their jobs or face uncertainty with their income, who are struggling with mental health, loneliness and depression on a more intense scale than they might have been before because of isolation, uncertainty and anxiety.
The bad news hasn’t stopped some people from experiencing joys in life, but sadly this has not been the case for everyone. I know of people who are expecting babies this year, who have got engaged, and even couples at church who managed to get married as planned this year, albeit with a few less people in attendance. Some have still managed to get away on short holidays or breaks, or explored the world of ‘staycations’. Others have enjoyed working from home, time with family, or time to enjoy hobbies that they previously had little space in their calendars for.
We have all come through this year differently, with shades of light and dark along the way, but it is unlikely that you have not been touched or impacted by the pandemic in some way, even if that is inadvertently.
And because of this, I write to reach you and encourage you, as a small offering of hope.
What are some of the ways that many of us here may have been impacted? One thing that I know many people face is a change of routine. Routines have changed in terms of where we work, whether we are able to work at all, being able to socialise, see friends or family, where we can eat, where we can go, and what we need to be ‘on guard’ for.
No longer is our routine when leaving home characterised by a final check of whether we have money, keys and phone with us; instead, we have the additional ‘check-list’ of whether we have our facemask, hand sanitiser, maybe even gloves with us. We have to be even more mindful of our interactions, our distancing, our shopping and disinfecting habits than we were before as we realise how much of the day to day things we took for granted in seemingly more ‘care free’ days.
Whether your life and routine has been slightly or significantly impacted, there is no doubt that you have had changes to adapt to this year.
It’s a word of solidarity to say that you’re not alone. We’re all facing change in some way.
So what do routines and self-care have to do with each other? So much. If any of you have also suffered with times of mental health challenges, then perhaps you also know the importance of routines to help get you through those tough days. Routines do not save us (as you will know if you have read my blogs on faith before, I believe that only Christ can save us to the uttermost that we need), but they can provide a sense of stability in uncertain times.
If your routine has been changed this year, and you are facing unexpected changes due to the pandemic, try to establish new routines that provide you with a sense of comfort, predictability and even joy.
There may be things from your previous routine that you miss, and others that you are glad to see the back of. I personally do not miss the daily commute to work, and instead enjoy lingering unhurriedly over my morning cup of coffee.
Think of some of the things you are thankful are no longer part of your routine in this season, and take a moment to write them down, to be grateful or simply ponder them, however small they may seem to be.
Things such as no longer having to face rush hour traffic if that is the case for you. Of no longer missing out on time with your children, perhaps. Whatever it is, take a moment and appreciate that even in unsettling times of change, some changes have been a blessing to you.
Next think of the positive changes to your routines that you may not have even noticed before. Think of ways in which you can establish and build upon these to bring in a greater sense of wellbeing into your life as you persevere through this ‘pandemic year’. You may have lost a lot this year, or may feel unsettled and disrupted, but are there any things you can incorporate into your day that will help you?
A friend of mine has been incorporating regular walks into her new routine, and enjoying the peace of nature, something she wouldn’t have had so much time for before. Maybe you’re stuck at home in a high rise flat in the city and can’t enjoy such things on a regular basis, or at all in this season of your life, but perhaps the routine ritual of your morning breakfast / work out / coffee / crossword or whatever it may be is something you can look forward to.
Routines help take some of the mental pressure away from our minds. With fewer decisions to make, we can be more present in the moment, more able to enjoy the gifts of the day, and routines can help to ‘free up’ certain areas of our lives to do this.
I know that many people deeply dislike the term ‘the new normal’, so I won’t use that here, but in what ways have you adapted and brought in positive changes into your daily life?
Routines don’t have to be rigid, but having something predictable to look forward to in our day to day lives can help ease the burden and promote self care in these changing times.
“All the best laid plans of mice and men….” and all that ! 🙂
How are you all? I hope everyone is muddling through this pandemic as best you all can. I apologise that I have been absent for some time, and I understand if anyone has not noticed, because who can really keep up with things and keep on top of everything these days?
I had actually written several posts on surviving the pandemic, and you may have read a few of them – however, I have many more that I had written in advance and saved, ready to post. Yet, I’m wondering if I’ve missed my moment with them as lockdown has been in the process of easing around the world at different times.
To catch you up on things, I’ve been fairly busy with work, researching and writing reports on best practice for easing work restrictions and in reinstating public health related services – a bit of a change from my normal subject areas, but it’s been good to feel a bit ‘useful’ in helping with the Covid-19 effort, knowing that there are so many people going so far above and beyond by putting their own lives at risk in the health care services for example, among many other areas, but it’s a good time to encourage each other that all our efforts, big or small all add up to help our communities.
I’ve also had a brief stint joining a larger effort as a volunteer on a helpline to check in on people who are ‘Shielding’ due to their health conditions during the pandemic, and to see how the Council can help them. Despite sometimes feeling nervous on the phone, I must say I enjoyed it and felt a real sense of connection with people in the city that I would never otherwise have had any contact with – some doing really well, and others struggling, but relieved that there are avenues for support. It also gave me the opportunity to speak on the phone to a variety of people which was a novelty since I’ve been in lockdown in my flat for three months now without any human company.
I’ve been valuing the chance to slow down and invest more in my relationship with God and in daily creativity and have ventured outside for a few walks although recently the fear of going outside (being a ‘visible minority’ and all) has been a factor on top of the coronavirus that has seen me become a bit more of a ‘home bird’. We’ve had some quite sunny days here in Scotland, it’s been sweltering at points, but today is ‘dreich’ and rainy so venturing outside wouldn’t really have been in my plans anyway 🙂
I have also been engaging with some excellent teaching and resources on Creative Christianity and the outflow of creativity in our identity as image bearers of the Living God, The Creator of all things. It has been wonderful, a real breath of fresh air as it is not something that I usually hear taught, especially with looking at craftsmanship and creativity throughout the Word of God – amazing! 🙂
Other than that I’m hanging in there as many of you are also doing. I hope you’ve been finding deep pockets of joy throughout this pandemic, and I know that for many it has been very hard with job losses, financial worries, grief, health struggles and family or relationship challenges….sending as much love as my tiny heart can muster up – knowing that the Living God has boundless Love for you and just longs for you to reach out to Him.
I pray that this next season (can you believe we’re almost entering July?!) finds you well, safe and healthy and resourceful in a time of communal challenge and change.
This is more of a ‘life as it happens to be’ learning as I go type of post, rather than an article of helpful advice (although I’ll try to include helpful tips where I can), quite simply because this is an area of on-going learning and development for me.
The different spheres in which we move, and live:
Some of you out there may have particularly unique or fascinating jobs that don’t quite fit a predictable ‘pattern’ of set hours or locations. Maybe your work involves traveling across the world, through different time zones and maybe some of you could get called to work at any time of the day or the night. However, I imagine that most of us who are working adults tend to have a set number of hours for which we are paid to work each week, and in set locations. Even if you work from home and / or run your own business/s, you tend to wake up on a Monday morning (if Monday is a working day for you) knowing where you are meant to be and what you are supposed to do (although, first thing on a Monday morning thoughts about the latter might be a little foggy! : – ) ).
It’s important to have that delineation between work and leisure time, and this may be a particular challenge for people who work for themselves and / or work from home for the most part because the physical and psychological space between home and work will tend to be less defined.
Why is it important to have this distinction? Obviously our lives involve elements of ‘cross-over’ in many respects, however, we need a basic degree of separation in order to protect our own mental and emotional well-being, in order to know when to stop, when to rest, and when to work.
‘After work’ time:
Once we have ‘downed tools’ for the day, we move from one sphere of living into another. For me this involves completing work tasks, ‘powering down’, physically leaving one building to make a short commute to get home. That is quite a clear demarcation for me, as it will be for many of you, with the travel time in between allowing us to mentally process the sphere from one part of our day and life into the next.
Making the most of my time is an on-going lesson for me, and perhaps for many of you. I have quite clear ideas of what my life priorities are, and how I would like to spend my time. I set goals not only at the start of the year, but also try to do this for each new month throughout the year, and on the whole I manage to spend valuable time on each of the areas of life that are most important to me, and that are within my grasp to be able to do so.
However, isn’t it often the case that we can feel ‘rushed’ in our lives and unable to fully give as much time and attention to what we want to do? Do you ‘wait for the weekend’, for your next holiday, or even for retirement? I personally don’t think that’s a way that I want to be living my life, when each day is packed full of opportunity. It’s just that sometimes we aren’t able to make the most of each of our days. Why?
What considerations to we need to take into account that might be hindrances to fully living the life we want to lead?
At work, I’m getting more opportunities to use my project management skills, and to work with others as part of a team to be involved in the implementation and progress of new initiatives. I do like a good plan, and when it comes to successful planning and project implementation at work this can be particularly satisfying. Often projects can fall by the wayside because of poor planning and a lack of comprehensive discussion and brainstorming between the right people. At the moment it seems that I am involved with a good team on a particular project, who have introduced a new project planning tool which is particularly good for assessing progress and making people aware of tasks and relevant deadlines.
When it comes to work, and my work has been quite varied over the years, I am always either ahead of time or on schedule with work tasks and projects.
However, when it comes to all the things I want to do, enjoy and achieve before or after work, I tend to be far more lenient on myself. Does this also ring true for you?
For starters, we are but human, and our bodies and minds need rest and refreshing. We also need to eat and sleep, and preparing a meal takes time, and the window of time between getting home, doing what is needed to sustain us, and then going to bed is relatively small.
Learning through different approaches:
I used to have an idea in mind of the different things I would want to do after work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly do them all, so at one point I would try to set aside specific days for different things such as exercise, playing my violin, going to my prayer and study group, writing, art and creative pursuits, photography, reading, devotional time and so on.
I then tried the approach of ‘going with the flow’, since I already have a very clear idea of the different things I want to spend my time on, and ideas of new things I want to learn and do and people to spend time with.
Yet, the reality of things meant that ‘going with the flow’ of how I felt often resulted in me whiling away an evening eating dinner and watching TV or getting distracted by the online world of YouTube, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending time doing this to wind down, it’s just that I would feel a little disappointed when I knew that I wanted to be more productive and spend at least a little time doing other things.
I also tried the idea of doing things for a small amount of time and then doing something else. This tends to work quite well for me especially at the weekends, but not always so much on a week night.
Sometimes I think that I’ll do certain things in a week without having any set time or day, and at times this works out for me.
I’ve been working on writing a novel for 12 years, and I’ve been making good progress, however, even with writing being so important to me and a real passion of mine, I sometimes get a bit ‘lazy’ about it, feeling that I need to have longer stretches of ‘set aside’ time to really get going. If you are interested in this aspect of my life, take a look through my posts from last year and the year before when I had my own personal writing retreats, taking time off to just work on my novel and my writing, which was hugely satisfying but also took me out of the ‘real world’ for a time.
One year I marked in my diary set aside writing time every evening – even if it was just a few minutes a day. Suffice to say, this didn’t work for me, and perhaps I didn’t like the self imposed constraints. It is nice to do things spontaneously, but at the same time, we don’t approach work goals that way, so similarly personal goals and dreams need to be worked towards, and time and effort needs to be put in. I don’t want to reach the end of a day, a month or a year, or my lifetime and feel that I ‘frittered’ away my time being distracted by what’s on the TV or the internet, when I have so many dreams to fulfil.
Yet in order to do all these wonderful things, to live the lives we want to, we also need to factor in those practicalities I mentioned earlier of eating well, getting the right amount of sleep, exercising to stay healthy and having time to wind down, relax and do nothing, or just enjoy a good TV programme!
Lately I’ve been aware of the beauty in life of being present in the moment, and enjoying the process of my life, of ‘being’. Enjoying the colours, and aromas of cooking, enjoying staring into space and daydreaming, of not getting stressed if everything I want to do isn’t done, and trying to do some of the important things to me each week.
It can be hard for all of us to keep on top of things at times. We need to do all the practical things from day to day, to maintain our homes, and possibly for many to look after other people as well. I’m all too aware of not letting myself get ‘burnt out’ precisely because I have been in the past, which might be partly why I realise the importance of also spending time doing things that are important to me and life enriching rather than only doing things for other people, while also knowing that helping others thrive is an important part of life too.
A learning curve….and I’m still learning….
As I said at the start, I’m still learning. Being mindful of what is important to me, however, and giving myself the opportunity to take time for these things (even if it is just five minutes at a time) has helped me to make far better use of my time than if I hadn’t spent time reflecting and thinking about things.
I find blogging very satisfying, and life enhancing, and I am glad that I have managed to sustain a regular writing ‘habit’ if you could call it that (although I personally don’t see it at all as a habit, so much so as simply pursuing something that I enjoy doing and hopefully encourages other people). If I didn’t put in the time to do this, maybe I’d just have whiled away my time mindlessly on things that don’t really come up in my priorities in life, such as watching TV, although that’s ok as long as it isn’t the only thing we do with our non-working time.
I’ve found that it has also benefited other people who have told me that my words have brought encouragement to me, which means so much to me. Do you realise that your own gifts and talents have an impact not only in your own life but the lives of others too. You are making a difference in the world.
When we know what is important to us that is perhaps the first step towards making the most of our time. We will find a way and we will keep learning along the way.
Over to you:
Can you relate to any of the thoughts I’ve expressed in terms of your own life and learning? Do you have any ‘pearls of wisdom’ to share with me, and other readers? What are you blessed to be able to spend your time doing, and how would you like to make better use of your time? Do you have any ideas of how you can do things better?
Thank you so much for taking your time to read this and hopefully it has also been time well spent for you. Be blessed. x
As I often say, life happens in seasons. There is a natural ebb and flow to our daily lives, just as there is to the oceans, and just as in nature things take time to blossom and bloom and grow so too do the happenings of our lives.
In our working lives things can be similar. Most of us will be familiar with the hectic and busy spells when it seems we just don’t have enough time to get everything done. Sometimes we have a good balance between being busy and productive such that we are able to efficiently handle all of our tasks without becoming overwhelmed or overburdened.
At other times, when we are neither ‘run off our feet’ nor at a satisfying level of productivity, we find that we may be in a ‘lull’ while in the midst of things. Not in the middle of being busy, not in the middle of chaos or activity, but just in the midst of things while waiting for the next stage to unfold.
Casework can bring a regular and predictable dose of activity whereas larger and longer term projects can occur in ‘fits and starts’. At times the work is non-stop, while at others there is a process of waiting. Waiting, perhaps for information or actions from other people, departments or parts of the process. Waiting for development in certain areas. Waiting for a number of reasons.
Being busy all the time doesn’t necessarily equate with being productive. During the ‘lull’ periods we may actually have the opportunity for deeper and strategic thinking, planning and preparation. We may be tempted to ‘fill our time’ and we may risk doing so unnecessarily.
As with work, projects and plans, life also sometimes has its ‘lull’ periods.
We probably rarely appreciate them. So many of us are creatures of activity, of habit, of getting things done. And yet when we find that we have ‘too much on our plates’, too much to do and not enough time we wish that we were ‘in the midst of things’ with some time to catch our breaths, to think and reflect, to pause if not to stop.
Are you ‘in the midst of things’ in your life just now? Are you waiting for the next thing to happen or come your way so that you can keep busy? Don’t waste this season, this natural lull, this pause. Think of it like a ‘rest’ in music. It is but for a moment, and sometimes the silence can be as profound as the sound. Notes will fly your way again, soon enough, perhaps all too soon, and you will naturally anticipate the next rest, the next pause, the next brief moment of silence.
When we are in the midst of things what do we do?
Are you living in a quiet spell in your life just now, longing for something to happen but not knowing how to make it so? Does if feel that life has somehow naturally slowed and that you are being brought to a place of pause? So many things can make us feel this way. Times in our lives where we are not able to fill up our time with activity. Perhaps you are a parent of adult children who have recently ‘flown the nest’ and you are in the midst of things waiting for the next but not quite yet and your home and heart is filled with silence and aching. Perhaps you are working on a project and you can’t move on to the next stage of it until you receive input from other parties to do their bit, because after all it is all connected. You chase things up, you plan what you can, but right now at this moment in time, you simply have to bide your time. You could choose to fill up your time with other things but it would mean doing so because of the need to feel busy rather than because it is the most efficient or effective thing to do. Maybe you are between jobs, and although you diligently search and apply for jobs as I once did you can’t force the process or make that big break happen just because you want it to – you have to bide your time in the midst of things, use your time wisely and wait. You can’t force one season to change to the next, life doesn’t work that way as much as we sometimes want it to. Maybe you are in a stage of your life where you know what the next milestone is that you want to reach but you can’t make it happen. Sure, there may be things you can try and you can do, but you can’t make things turn out just as you want them, you can only persevere and do what you can do and hope and wait. Are you waiting for a life partner? You can try to meet people, but you can’t force the hands of fate. Are you setting up your own business? There are many things you can be doing but there are times of waiting too until things take their shape. Are you in recovery and working on your health? Are you laid up in hospital or on a sick bed knowing that the process of healing will take time and you simply cannot do all the things you want to do….at least not yet? Are you preparing to move country and start a new life, but you have to go through the process of paper work and various formalities and while you have done everything you can you just need to wait for the response, the go-ahead, the ‘green light’?
Life is full of ‘in between’ seasons. Times when we are ‘in the midst of things’ and waiting for things to really get going again. That’s ok. You can’t force a bud to blossom and bloom and grow. It will happen naturally. And at times in our lives we can work hard and do everything that we can do, but we can’t push one season of life into the next. Sometimes, we just have to be in the midst of things. Waiting to sell a house, waiting for a baby to be born, preparing for the next stage of a project, abiding in the silence of your ’empty nest’ when your chicks have flown, waiting for that prayer to be answered.
Are you in such a place? Can you learn to be? And if we must do something, what can we do?
In the silence of an empty nest, can you invest in yourself?
In the pause between one stage of a work project and the next, can you educate yourself, seek out training, develop your skills, research what others are doing so that when the time comes to progress to the next stage you will be better equipped?
Are you wondering about that ‘next season’ of life? Can you find ways to make the most of the one you are in? Even if that means slowing down to savour and enjoy and appreciate it? Maybe what you really need is the quiet space and time to process some deep thoughts, to reflect on what you’ve been learning, and what you might need to think about in the next stage of your journey.
When you are in the midst of things, it may seem like a time of undue quiet, but it can in fact be a place of deep growth. What will you do in the midst of things today?
The start of a new year can bring with it fresh hope and vision.
Having dreams and vision for the future is an important if not essential part of life.
For most of our lives we are taught and encouraged to consider the future, the ‘what next’ of our life. When you were an infant perhaps the people in your life talked about and imagined what you might become when you grew up. I remember when my friend who is a few years older than me had her first baby and she asked me to be his God-mother. I was fairly young myself at the time and hoped and prayed that in a few years time I would know how to be a good God-mother. We delighted in him as a baby, and then in his younger sister when she was born, enjoying the lovely baby and toddler stages that they were in.
Yet we also talked about their characteristics, their likes and dislikes and imagined what they would be like as they grew up. Would they be musical, artistic, good at sports, kind and caring, studious? Would they be like their mum or dad? We all in our hearts wonder ‘What will be?’ for ourselves as well as for others. Many parents have big dreams for their children, while others say that they just want their children to grow up to be happy and healthy and kind people regardless of what they do or who they ‘become’. In all likelihood when we were little ourselves the adults around us would have made similar comments as they wondered who we would turn out to look like and what our likes and dislikes would be.
By the time children can walk and talk and play, adults begin to ask them ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. Sometimes the child will reply with a confident answer such as a doctor, an astronaut, a fire-fighter, a ballet dancer, pop-star or an artist, while others may not be so sure. Adults may then say something like ‘you’ve got a long time to think about that’ and so the child will go back to playing and having fun in the moment.
Most of us pass through stages of teenage angst when there are so many questions we ask of ourself and of our identity at a stage where we really begin to make decisions that may in fact shape the future direction of our lives at least in the short term.
We choose subjects to study at school and are asked what we hope these will lead to. We need to consider the practicalities of the next stages of our lives such as passing exams, going to university or college or starting an apprenticeship or job. We need to think more and more about the adults that we will be in society and questions about the future are almost constantly asked of us at that stage of life. ‘What do you want to do?’. There is an expectation that we will soon need to figure out what kind of contributing members of society we will be and we may have to put some previous dreams aside such as those of being an astronaut or a pop-star.
As we move through the next stages of life, for example making our way through university as one possible life choice, we are then faced with more exams followed by questions of what we will do next. Soon we will need to be thinking seriously about passing all of those exams, graduating and finding a job.
Inevitably we will need to think about other practical things such as getting a job, supporting ourselves and perhaps other people in our lives, paying bills, renting accommodation, getting a mortgage and the list goes on.
In our younger days we might dream of what we will do as a ‘grown up’. Perhaps these dreams will involve achieving certain goals, traveling, having a career, finding love, getting married, having a family of our own and so on. I imagine very few children and young people will be thinking so far ahead as to dream about their retirement and what life will be like then but maybe I’m wrong. We like to think about the years when we are ‘in our prime’ and able to do all the things we dream of doing. However, perhaps in retirement people come to appreciate the ‘here and now’ a bit more.
For some people I know, their early twenties were characterised with ‘achieving’ or being blessed with passing those milestones that many of us long for: finding love, getting married, going on adventures, achieving goals, starting a family.
My life hasn’t been so straight forward. I have dreamed of all of those things but finding someone and having a family of my own are still in the ‘someday’ or ‘maybe if’ realm of not yet. I have however done well in school, obtained two first class degrees, graduated, gone through the difficulties of finding a job and renting accommodation to now being in the stage of life where I am settled in a job I enjoy, with good friends, having travelled a bit, and with a home of my own. That’s a very short version and it certainly hasn’t been an easy or straightforward process but I’m glad to be where I am now. I watch my friends’ children grow up and I watch other friends getting married and starting families. And one thing I have learned is that people always seem to be thinking of the ‘what next’ and when they finally ‘arrive’ there it isn’t necessarily quite what they had imagined.
I have friends who when they were single longed for the ‘next’ stage of life. When they got married they found challenges that they had not expected and spoke of how they sometimes missed their more ‘carefree’ single days. Friends who longed for babies when they finally became parents then talked about how they were always tired and busy. So soon they take for granted the things they once only longed for, things that some of us still don’t know if they will be part of our lives, our ‘what next’.
Can you relate to any of this? Practically speaking, life keeps moving forwards and we all need to consider the ‘what next’. Yet, could it be that we do this in the wrong way or to our detriment? Some people have found their ‘sweet spot’ in lives where things have worked out just as they hoped or dreamed and they are enjoying ‘the good life’. For many of us it isn’t quite so straight forward.
So the question I’m asking of both you and I is that although we practically need to prepare for the next step and the next as we move through life, do we ‘live too much in the future’?
Do we miss the fact that the stage we are in may have been one we had previously only hoped or dreamed of? Do we fail to realise that there is something inherently special about this time of our life right now even with the contrasts of light and shade? Do we always have to know or think about the next stage of our life? Do we enjoy and appreciate what is happening in this season? If like me you have had some notable tough times in life you know that sometimes life has you pressed hard up against a wall, so to speak, and you can’t think of the future. You can only do everything you can to get through the day, the moment. You’ll someday see the lessons in your trial, but in the midst of it you don’t even know if you’ll make it, and your dreams feel somehow crushed, an impossibility.
I’ve been there, I know how disappointing life can feel. And so I appreciate being out on the other side at last. Sure, I haven’t had all my dreams come true, but what about the here and now?
When you’ve been through some tough times and the future seemed uncertain as to whether or not you would even make it, when you eventually do weather those storms and the sun begins to shine you appreciate the ‘little things’.
That’s my challenge to you and I today. While we may have dreams and visions for the future, while we may be working on plans, let us also take the time to appreciate the good things in our life right now, things that we otherwise might just take for granted if our heads are always in the ‘not yet’ or in trying to figure out and make sense of the past.
We are all on a journey, it doesn’t stand still, so while we might have hope for the future let us also have appreciation of the Gift of the present.
Well, I’ve made it to lunchtime! And I am so glad that I decided to come back to work today, with it being a Friday. A one day working week is the perfect way to ease back into things, and although there are a few people in, it feels like one of the quietest days at work I’ve seen….definitely the quietest day of the year and of the decade so far! 😉
I think the build up and anticipation and taking the first steps into a routine after the holiday season are usually the hardest part of the whole process of going back to work, and once that’s out of the way, everything else seems more ‘doable’ and manageable.
I struggled through the night with this cough, sore throat and cold, but other than a brief ‘coughing fit’ on the train here this morning, I have had quite a pleasant start back to work, especially as things are so quiet. Quiet not just at work, but the streets and train were also void of the usual hustle and bustle of working commuters. Lovely! 🙂
I expect that this will be quite a different scene come Monday, with those who took the extra day off coming in all at once, which is why I and the others who have come in today will be appreciating this much gentler start to the new working year. With it being so quiet, people have pretty much just kept to themselves, and I’ve had a couple of chats to colleagues who I hadn’t seen in a while, but a quiet day allows everyone to get the tiredness, grumpiness and adjustments out of the way with as little fuss as possible, to have an easy start as we go through our inboxes, remind ourselves of our tasks and begin preparing for the next full week ahead, without all the ‘new year’ madness that will likely ensue when there will be far more people in, most likely grumbling about being back at work.
I’m pleased to say that I remembered my password, and that my ‘Welcome back’ email from my 2019 self was extremely helpful, and will probably be even more so next week when I really get into work as I have given myself detailed instructions as to what I’ll be taking forward. I can’t recommend this highly enough; ok, so maybe you don’t have to write to yourself in a ‘Back to the Future’ kind of way, but at least leave yourself helpful notes and instructions as you will inevitably have forgotten the minute details of what you were doing pre-holiday season.
A one day week really does feel like a nice ‘stretch and a warm up’ before the real exercise begins. I don’t envy people who will be starting back on the Monday with the stretch of a whole week ahead and little quiet time to properly adjust. I’d much rather have this gentler start than the extra day at home.
However, on the bright side, for anyone who is starting back to work on Monday, at least you’re ‘in the same boat’ as almost everyone else, and you’ll all be experiencing similar feelings, and so you’ll all be going through the post holiday adjustment at the same time, which may bring about a sense of camaraderie.
This morning I remembered a day years ago when I was sick the day before a job interview (for a job I didn’t get, and probably wouldn’t have been happy in anyway), and it gave me a sense of gratitude and relief that I have a job I enjoy, that I feel settled in, and that gives me a sense of stability in my life. I’m glad to be far from those days post-graduation of job-hunting, interviews, and doing volunteer work and temping in ‘dead end’ unfulfilling jobs to tide me over, while not knowing where I would end up.
It is a good perspective to have to be grateful for the jobs we have when facing those ‘first day back nerves’, or if we feel negative about leaving the holidays behind – because, really many of us are very blessed in having regular employment with fair working conditions and I am thankful for that as I begin a new working year.
Coming back to work also reminds me that there are a lot of ‘niggly’ things that we face on a day to day basis that we need to be careful to keep in perspective and not let them spoil our attitude.
For example, our department pre-Christmas released an organisational structure with everyone’s job titles and grades on it, and of course with me being on holiday today is the first chance for me to see it. Often in my team, because I work well and efficiently, I am given a lot of work to do, and sometimes I am given responsibility to take over work from other colleagues who may have let things slip, and have completed pieces of work for other managers because I am industrious, efficient and work to a high standard. However, the new structure clearly reveals that even though I am often doing more work or being asked to pick up other colleagues work, I am being paid less that those team members. There is a organisational-wide review happening, however, the point I am trying to make is that back at work we may be faced with issues that we had forgotten about, not had to deal with, or been able to take a break from while on holiday.
These issues may not necessarily be to do with working more and to a higher standard while being paid less than colleagues, they may be to do with other things such as team dynamics, communication with managers or staff, who controls the temperature on the heating / air conditioning / thermostat, or whether there is enough space for your lunch in the fridge! It could be anything, and my point is that we need to be careful not to let either these significant or smaller issues take away our peace of mind, or nudge us into having a negative perspective.
It is important to take a step back, take in a deep breath, and remind ourselves that we are more than our work, we are more than what we do or don’t do when we rest, and we can’t live our best lives in 2020 if we allow ourselves to fall into the comparison trap.
I’m reminded of how Jesus said to Peter, ‘what is it to you?’ when he was concerned with John’s situation in comparison with his, as they talked and ate after Christ’s resurrection. And it is good to remind myself that I am working for The LORD and not for man, and that humility and gratitude is a good starting point for continuing on this walk with Him, knowing that He will grant wisdom in every circumstance that I will face.
So no matter what you believe, remember that you will be stepping into an environment where your inner responses will be challenged. Be mindful of this and gird yourself with the determination to walk through 2020 with gratitude, grace, dignity, respect, diligence, positivity, good humour and excellence.
As they say, “don’t sweat the small stuff”.
So go out there, and make a difference for the better, and remember just to take it one step at a time! 🙂 x
It’s your last day of work before the holidays – but before you rush out the door, there are a few things you can do to make your working life that bit more pleasant when you return after your break.
After some time off work, especially if it’s an enjoyable or longer period away from the office (as it’s my realm of work, this is mostly geared towards office workers), it is quite common to feel a little bit disoriented on your first day back. It’s good to prepare in advance for this.
For example, you might forget your password to log into your computer, and you might find that you have a deluge of emails clogging up your inbox.
Here are some handy tips to alleviate these problems:
Before you ‘clock out’ for the holidays, respond to any outstanding emails or correspondence that you have, and make a note of anything you need to follow up on for when you return.
Delete any unnecessary emails and clear out your recycle bin and junk mail folders.
Unsubscribe from any ‘alerts’ (such as Google alerts) or correspondence, newsletters, etc. that aren’t too important – you can always make a note of what you’ve unsubscribed from and re-subscribe when you come back to work. That way you won’t be inundated with unnecessary emails to sift through after your holiday.
For the remaining emails that you need to keep in your inbox, create sub-folders and categorise these according to task / work-stream, etc. and ‘flag’ any items that are priority items for you to look at when you get back.
You’ll be likely to forget your password to get into your system, so keep a reminder with you (not at your computer) with some hints as to what it is (don’t write down your actual password). You can also keep the number of your work IT support service handy so that if all else fails you can call for help on your first day (but bear in mind you probably won’t be the only one!).
3. Clear your desk
As keen and eager as you may be to rush out the door as soon as you possibly can on your last day, don’t leave your workspace in a mess, because it won’t be the most pleasant of things to come back to after a relaxing break. Instead, tidy up any clutter, bin any rubbish and keep things clean, neat and tidy. File away any paperwork, and make sure confidential information is securely locked away or safeguarded. Maybe even write a ‘welcome back’ note for yourself to come back to! 😉
4. Tie up loose ends and update your colleagues
Try to complete any outstanding assignments well ahead of your last day so that you won’t have to be stressing to get things done at the last minute and you can relax and enjoy ‘winding down’ before the holidays. Create a ‘task list’ for yourself for when you come back to work and if you are leaving earlier than other colleagues who may have to pick up work for you when you’re on holiday, then make sure you have a chance to chat with them beforehand, email any updates and make sure that everyone is informed with what to do and that a plan is in place so that things keep running smoothly in your absence.
5. Create a plan for yourself for your first day back at work after your holiday
This will make the transition back into work more seamless and you won’t be sitting around feeling confused as you try to remember “what’s my job again?!” 🙂
6. The gift of giving
If you are leaving a few days or more before your other colleagues, try to be sensitive to this even if you are ‘super excited’ that your own holidays will start soon. You could do something nice for them, even a simple kind gesture, such as bringing in some chocolates or festive treats for your colleagues and leave a note or a card wishing them well and thanking people for any things they have done through the year that have been particularly helpful to you. Say goodbye in some way, and leave on good terms with everyone.
7. Out of office.
This may well be your favourite ‘task’ of the day – putting on your ‘out of office’! That sweet sensation of knowing you will be ‘free’ for the next so many days, or weeks, to relax and do just what you like. As well as feeling good, putting your ‘out of office’ on is important in keeping other people updated as to when you will be away and when you will come back, and it will also be helpful for others if you can provide them with alternative contact details for someone who can assist them when you are away.
So, that’s that! Or perhaps I should say, “That’s a wrap!”. Enjoy ‘winding down’ for the holidays, and have a peaceful, stress-free and wonderful rest when the time comes for you. x
It’s nearing the end of the first full week of December, and I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to feel quite ‘Christmassy’ now. Christmas lights and trees and markets have been going up around the city since mid-November, but it’s only now that I’m beginning to catch the holiday feeling. This probably has to do with the fact that having not had time off work for summer this year, I have annual leave days to use, which means…..tomorrow is my last working day of 2019! (“Yay!” 🙂 ).
Last working week of 2019:
This week has been surprisingly interesting for my last work week before the holidays. I attended a training session in a beautiful office building that I hadn’t been in before in the city centre. Added to the fact that I was really engaged in the training and will have some new pieces of work to take forward, and the ideas I’ve generated so far have impressed my boss, I also had a great view of the central square and the ‘big wheel’ and Christmas markets from the window of the training room!
I’ve been tying up loose ends, and am well ahead of the game. It’s given me the chance to do some preparatory work that will help my boss so I’m pleased to be rounding off the year with some more quality work contributions. I have another external meeting tomorrow, and then probably some notes to write up, and then it will be time to wrap things up (just to be Christmassy about it 😉 ) and down tools for the winter.
Being ahead of schedule with my work has given me the chance to also go over my work logs that I keep for myself from this past year, and take a look back and assess the work I’ve done this year, and it is a good feeling to see that I’ve actually done some great pieces of work and have broadened my skills base as well as having helped out and contributed to other teams. Ok, so there may not be any pay rise, but there is a personal satisfaction in knowing that I have done my best and have gone above and beyond and have brought in some great results for my team and for wider strategies and can start 2020 on a positive note and with some new projects to get stuck into.
Health-wise this last week has been a bit of a challenge at times – other than the standard coughs and colds, I’ve had some other physical pain, and had to push through some of the c-PTSD challenges I have, so I am looking forward to the chance to give my body and mind a rest, to ‘reboot’ and spend some time in reflection and enjoying this Christmas season so as to be ready and prepared for a brand new year. It is a significant step forward for me to be writing in this way as a few Christmases ago I was in a very bad place emotionally and mentally – the depression and undiagnosed (at the time) trauma, made me feel that there wasn’t even a future to look forward to at all. So, this year is a bright change to be looking forward hopefully, and I am blessed to share a glimpse of it with you 🙂
The Christmas tree has gone up at work today as well, and it is beautiful. I’m so glad I get the chance to see it before I finish up tomorrow.
Over to you:
As you near the end of the calendar year, do you have any plans for looking back to review how your year has gone from a work perspective?
Whether you work from home, blog full time, have your own business, work for a charity, do voluntary work, work for a large or small company, or do something entirely different, it is a good time of year as you conclude projects and prepare for the new year to look over how far you have come and what you have achieved.
Even if it has been a difficult year for you work-wise, the challenges also present an opportunity for you to reassess how you do things, whether you are in the right place, whether you need to make a change and how, if there are any developmental opportunities for you and what lessons you can take forward into 2020 to help you learn, grow and thrive.
So, what have you learned from your working life this year, and what lessons will you take forward into 2020?
It’s 12th November 2019 as I write this. We’ve already heard it so many times now: “I can’t believe it’s November already!”. People tend to say things like this a lot, commenting on ‘how fast’ the year has flown in. It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose, but we’re undeniably bedded in now in the latter part of the calendar year, and before we know it people will be saying “I can’t believe it’s 2020!”.
This means that ‘before we know it’ we’ll be in the midst of the Christmas, festive, holiday, New Year (and other, depending on what this time of year means to you) season.
It’s a good ‘survival’ tip to plan ahead a bit so that things don’t unexpectedly creep up on you and you find that anxiety is knocking on the door of your heart.
Let me break this down a little, just to give us all a bit of perspective, and help us to visually see what and where we might gain from a little bit of forward planning. Keeping it simple, here is a visual representation of the next few weeks ahead:
Tues: 12th November (today), 19th, 26th
Wed: 13th Nov, 20th, 27th
Thur: 14th Nov, 21st, 28th
Fri: 15th Nov, 22nd, 29th
Sat: 16th Nov, 23rd, 30th.
Sun: 17th Nov, 24th
Mon: 18th Nov, 25th
Sun: 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th
Mon: 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th
Tue: 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st
Wed: 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th
Thur: 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th
Fri: 6th, 13th, 20th , 27th
Sat: 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th
Maybe you float through your days, and planning isn’t much of a priority, but personally as someone who has anxiety (and who also incidentally can be a bit forgetful), planning is pretty essential for me, and I like to break things down into smaller more manageable ‘chunks’. Together with the fact that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I like to make the most of the time I have and to do things well, and encourage other people, so that’s another reason I need a bit of an idea of what’s ahead of me, and what I need and want to do, as well as how this fits in with the needs and expectations of others, and my general obligations.
I’m not sure what the next few weeks ahead look like for you, but here are some of the things that I personally will need to factor in and begin thinking about and preparing for:
Finish up work projects (I’m usually ahead of schedule as I am just now, so I can relax with this one, considering nothing new or major lands on my plate) and tie up any loose ends before the office closes for Christmas.
Complete my personal work review which is just something I do for myself and is not a requirement, as it helps me to see just how much I have been involved with, what I have learned, and how to go forwards. Sometimes we fail to realise or appreciate just how much we have accomplished in a year, and it’s good to review that at the end of the year.
Support colleagues / team with anything we collaboratively need to accomplish / tie up.
Take annual leave that I have remaining from mid-December.
End of November, early Christmas work lunch out with colleagues.
Mini reunion with friends visiting from another part of the country, but just for the day.
Christmas dinner out (mid December) with a couple of close friends.
Catch-ups, exchanging gifts and doing some fun Christmassy things with various friends before we head our separate ways for the holidays.
Plan and carry out some acts of kindness to help those less fortunate, and encourage others with ways we can all help.
Personal Devotions, Church and Fellowship:
Only six more Sundays before Christmas, so it would be nice to spend some time in advance really preparing myself spiritually, thanking God and reflecting upon the year gone by, and prayerfully looking at what is ahead. The Centre of Christmas and of Life for me Is Christ, so it is important that He Is my Focus throughout this whole season, filled as it is with distractions aplenty.
Connect with friends, encourage others who are struggling this season, and participate in the many beautiful events celebrating Christ, as He leads me.
Prepare for Birthdays, Christmas Presents, gifts for God-children, friends’ kids, and prepare / recycle things to create Environmentally Friendly Packaging:
Pack and plan for a short holiday to see Christmas markets in Europe – finances, clothes, etc. all to be prepared.
Hospitality and Home:
Decorate, have people over for festive fun.
Pack and prepare for visiting family.
Reach out to support friends who are grieving or struggling this year.
Other bits and bobs: plan some crafts, use up coupons before their expiry dates, send things in the post on time, and create a photo book of memories for 2019.