Work less, do more, live better (@timeshighered)

botanical-garden-gazebo-1430498-mI am SO EXCITED to be reading this piece in Times Higher Education – over the last year I’ve been seeking to work in a healthier pattern (although ironically this week has been a 6 day-week & I need to do some more over the weekend so that I can take a week off… to write a book proposal … carefully planned this is though!)

Great Intro:

Some years ago, I heard that a colleague characterised me as “someone who didn’t work weekends”. This description was not meant as a compliment. It’s true that I make a concerted effort to keep something approximating normal working hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. But I haven’t always worked like this. As a postgrad, I anxiously counted my hours and consulted with fellow students, worried that I wasn’t spending enough time at my desk. Eventually, I allowed myself one full day off weekly. When I became a lecturer, I stayed in the office until seven or eight in the evening, in part imitating the working patterns of my new colleagues, and continued to work weekends. Yet when I reduced my hours at the desk some years ago, my productivity did not decline. Instead, my mindfulness to follow regular hours means that my productivity is the same as or even greater than it was before, when I worked 50, 60 or whatever hours it was per week.

Further down, there’s a series of historical figures, and their living styles (most were writers)

The common feature in these workday schedules is walking, bipedalism, that form of locomotion that distinguishes us from the other primates. Walking and thinking seem to go together so naturally that perhaps it’s walking that made us thinkers. Aristotle famously taught while walking along the colonnade connecting the temple of Apollo and the shrine of the Muses. That link between philosophy and walking has stuck and was memorably parodied in Monty Python’s sketch about the Philosophers’ Football Match. Rebecca Solnit, author of Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2000), concurs that walking is good for thinking: she concludes “a desk is no place to think on a large scale”.

Exercise and sleep are highlighted as of key importance to being creative (and I’ve certainly been working on my sleep), and then  How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (2007) is quoted: 

His suggestions are simple: write and do your research daily in small blocks of time (schedule it in and don’t cheat on that schedule); keep track of what you do in that time; stay attentive to your writing goals and, ideally, get yourself a group that will help you keep to these goals. You might protest, what good are small blocks of time? But small, regular amounts of work build up to significant productivity. A few pages often make a big difference. If you were learning how to tap dance or play the French horn, you wouldn’t set aside one full day a week for practice or cram it into your Saturday afternoons; instead you’d practise for short periods, daily. Why should research and writing be any different?

As academics, we are used to research, so we should research our own habits (oh yes – and being ‘completely detached’ from the good and the bad of a job – is key) -

It is in our best interest to not only be productive but satisfied with our work, because work is vital to our identity and self-definition. We need work not just to put bread on the table but to feel of use, to serve, to contribute, to make and to connect. But the long-hours culture and the cult of busyness saps meaning away, as we tick through never-ending “to do” lists, becoming chronically tired and working less efficiently with each overtime hour.

There’s mention that even in the factory shorter hours have demonstrated increased productivity .. and I remember this from my research in the Second World War – it was SO essential to get arms out, that an extra day was added to the ‘week-cycle’ … productivity went down! And, even in times of crisis, this is key:

Before, Red Cross workers put in as many hours as necessary until the job was finished. Now the Red Cross recognises that workers need breaks in order to be able to respond effectively to the humanitarian crises they face.

Yes, yes, yes… (read full article - and also the opinion piece Know Your Worth).

30 Things: Living Life to the Full

Circulating on Facebook

Circulating on Facebook

This year I’ve been particularly working on “living life to the full“, and after hearing about a young man who has died today, this  article came into my inbox – the first is:

  1. Remember you will die. Maybe even today. Don’t forget that. Don’t forget to be thankful for your health. For the ability to walk. For the time you get to spend with the person you love. For your siblings. For whatever it is that you have today. It’s not yours, it can be stolen away at any moment. So while you have it on loan, cherish it.

Read the full post… most of the rest are worth thinking about too.

My ‘Done’ List…

I find my ‘Todoist‘ app wonderful, but sometimes, especially for someone who is motivated by a feeling of achievement, have to celebrate what have done these past couple of years! How do I recapture this sense of joy that I got from the one run I made on my own on a surf board in Australia in 2007!

nVri7K8

In summer 2012, I searched, bought and moved into ‘my first house’ in 6 weeks flat, starting a new job in Durham on 1st September 2012.

CODEC

So, CODEC constitutes 80% of my working week. I moved up for a contract until August 2015. I have signed a new contract to August 2018, although it is still funding dependant, but there are promising leads for that! It’s been a difficult couple of years with lots of challenges, moving offices, seeking to find friendships outside of college… so I’m thinking of a few of the things I’ve done:

BUSINESS: DIGITAL FINGERPRINT

It was getting to a stage where I was spending around 120% of my working time on CODEC, so at Christmas I started to re-focus and re-address, with renewed vigour – to own the label given by a radio station ‘thought leader in digital culture’. Taking on some business coaching to develop Digital Fingerprint – which needs to provide 20% of my income, with a USP that people think it’s worth getting me down (usually down) from Durham.

THAT ‘KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON’ THING

In June 2004, I passed my PhD viva ‘with no corrections’. I keep promising to get it written, and this year have actually allocated some time, and am fighting to retain it!

  • Interviewed for LA Times and a German newspaper re ‘Keep Calm and Carry On
  • Started the conversion of PhD thesis to book, with help from Dr Martin Polley (who was my PhD supervisor)
  • Met with Henry Irving, who is working on a publishing history of the Ministry of Information.

HEALTH, FITNESS & WELLBEING

A few final thoughts on this. As someone with declared mental issues, I am thankful that these are managed through medication and exercise. Life has to be more than work, right … although I’ve not managed to really “just sit still” – always something to do, read, think about… or sleep to be had!

  • Swam a lot, gained yellow belt in karate (nearly ready for orange, apparently), with a few Body Pump/Jam thrown in + lots of walking through London, etc. Plans to walk lots of the local region have not yet exactly taken off, aside from a one day hike!
  • Learnt 250 words of Brazilian Portuguese (in the last month) using Mind Snacks.
  • Made it on holiday to Marrakech, and off to Portugal next week. Some visiting of family & friends (not enough) – with a few National Trust and Alnwick visits thrown in + Merry/Bryony ordinations, and a handful of visitors in this direction (those who can get over how far away it is)! Not enough simply hanging out with friends, though I get some great chats with friends on FB, etc… especially Mel and others who try and get me to slow down or sit still…
  • In the first year I painted house, a lot, furnished on a shoestring, and this year have been having a better go at gardening (3 raspberries so far!).
  • Counselling and coaching sessions are always hard work, but worthwhile. Sourced and shared stories on Beyond Chocolate.
  • Making participating in ‘Faith and Fellowship’ housegroup from Carrville Methodist Church a priority, whilst thinking about if/where might want to be on a Sunday (Tuesday at College = my main service).
  • Been learning to switch off earlier in the evening, seeking to not spend all evening working, nor up late with TV/book. Hmmm…
  • Dealt with a number of technology issues – just had 4 extra MB of RAM put in laptop – SOOOO much faster!
  • Decluttering, including kitchen cupboards (I used to hoard).
  • Streamlined finances, paid off debt to parents, still working on Student Loan (2016!) .. and of course mortgage!

Once the PhD is turned into a book, a couple of articles written, paperwork has been scanned, photo albums complete, and a bit of a digital declutter, then everything becomes forward looking.

This is not necessarily comprehensive & I reserve the right to add things if I remember them - this post is for me really!

Female Self-Sabotage

self-sabotageReally interesting article – and I want to be able to find it in future so…:

Self-sabotage can take obvious forms, like self-injury or addiction. But for most of us, we work against ourselves in far more subtle ways: being perfectionists, avoiding conflict, procrastinating, focusing on the trivial. In the case of my friend, a seemingly noble quest to serve others communicated to her superiors that she was a nice enough woman capable only of handling trivial tasks.

Many women first learn the art of self-sabotage when they’re growing up. Heidi Grant Halvorson described a studycomparing the way in which bright fifth-grade girls and boys responded when they were presented with challenging material to master. The brighter the girl was, the more helpless her response tended to be. Grant Halvorson said, “The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty – what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.”

Read full article.

 

“Women on Your Bookshelf” by @MaggiDawn

maggi-dawnI saw this post come through my feed earlier today, stuck a bookmark on it (I was being focused on #bigread14 … for which I do need to Skype Maggi to get a recording of Evensong – and which I’ll be reading alongside Maggi’s Giving It Up!) and thought, great to go and look back at next week – and then tonight realised that I was mentioned on it (just published in time!), which is a great encouragement to go to sleep on – especially looking at some of the other women on the list!!

 

[VIDEO] 2 Minutes to Eradicate Self-Doubt?

Spotted this heading around Facebook (thanks Merry), although not convinced it is this simple … but this is part of the reason that I like the extras on films… it shows the need for failure, etc. to lead to success (‘instant success’ is very rare). It also reminds me of past coaching advice … focus on excellence, rather than perfection. OK is often “good enough”:

We all hide in closets?

This has been going around Facebook over the last few days – “we all have closets” – and we don’t need to compete about whose closets are “hardest”, they are all just “hard” [and we don't need to make it harder for each other?]

It would be easy to mock people for not understanding the “politically correct hoops that I’d brought with me”, point out where they fell short, a lot harder to meet them where they are and understand that they are trying.

“That is their story, not yours”

[BOOK REVIEW] Am I Beautiful by @ChineMbubaegbu (with @beyondchoc)

am-i-beautiful-post-cat-6I ordered this book as soon as I knew it was in the offing .. and then was even more chuffed to win a copy through the following tweet:

‘Beauty is … learning to love ourselves as God made us … and then turning that love out to our neighbours!’ @drbexl

So, what follows is potentially rather vulnerable (as is Chine’s book) – for some reason, it’s easier to share about depression (that invisible illness), than it is about feelings about my body (which is clearly visible!). I was going to review the book anyway, but hear that those who benefit from @beyondchoc are often too embarrassed to share their stories, so here’s part of mine…

I’ve never been skinny (in the way the world would like us to be), but after joining the gym at 18,  my brain capacity improved no-end, with the side-benefit of being pretty fit, although I joined Slimming World in 2006… which I think mucked up my brain pretty thoroughly. In 2008, on a trip around Europe I got a chest infection, piled on the weight, and never quite found a way to lose it. At the end of 2009, tired of beating myself up (and never really becoming a ‘dieter, aside from that spell with Slimming World) I went to a session with the Beyond Chocolate sisters, and then to their roadshow the other weekend, sharing how they have sought to free themselves from the diet/body obsessed mentality of our culture, learn to accept that we come in a range of sizes and shapes, and that our bodies, if not buffeted by society’s strictures about “should”, “must” and “will-power”, and the odd things that we eat because diet companies say that they are good for them… will settle into where it was designed to be. Since going in 2009, I stopped piling on weight, though I’ve not shrunk … but one step at a time…. Watching a range of women of all shapes and sizes, writing down things that they say to themselves, and then saying that publicly to the person next to them starting with “You” was pretty powerful… we would never dream of saying such things to other people!

So, with that, and with my time with Hannah Jean, and an assorted collection of inspiration online, I sat down to read this book, particularly interested in the Christian perspective on this topic, and finished it in one sitting. A brief extract:

When we look in the mirror, as many as 8 out of 10 of us are not happy with the reflection peering back at us – and more than half of us will be seeing something that is not a true reflection of what we look like. Eve was really lucky in the Garden of Eden as she had no one to compare herself to. We, as twenty-first century women, are not so lucky. The advertising, media and entertainment industries bombard us with images of an ideal towards which we strive as the ideal moves further and further away from us and becomes less and less achievable. As a result, many of us are living with this constant feeling that we have failed; that we are inadequate and undesirable. This can affect not just what we see in the mirror, but how we relate to the outside world.”

I’d like to read it again more slowly, but a few thoughts:

  • We are all (men, women and children) made in the image of God. (Have you seen the wonderful UGLY Models Agency?)
  • We need to be honest about our struggles, and build each other up (not beat each other up with ‘diet tips’).
  • Our bodies, and our feelings about them, should not stop us from fulfilling our God-given potential in this world… nor from standing-tall and confident!
  • Why are we spending all that energy worrying about ourselves/our looks when we could be using that energy becoming ‘world-changers’.
  • The difficulty of looking at ourselves naked in the mirror… without the covering of clothes (as did Adam & Eve), and the story of Kjerstin Gruys who took 12 months without a mirror (love these vintage pin-ups on her blog).
  • Some are prepared to wait for eternity to feel beautiful, but the Kingdom of God starts now, so seek a true picture of ourselves, and be satisfied with it now..
  • How much do we spend on hair and beauty products … and would we bother if no one could see us?
  • “… just because I don’t feel beautiful, it doesn’t mean that I am not beautiful. Feelings have never been given the task of seeking truth.”
  • We cry over the shape of our bodies, we go to extreme lengths to get them to a shape that conforms to our own perceptions of ‘beauty’ which are so strong in our culture…
  • The world tells us that we should constantly be dissatisfied with our image – Romans 12: 2 says otherwise.
  • We have been conditioned to believe that external beauty = lovableness … so if we see images of Jesus, they are always ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ type images … but people turned their faces from him… was any of this to do with a lack of physical beauty?
  • Wow, the pain that Chine went through in getting corn-rows of relaxants into her hair … to conform to an afro-carribean standard of beauty.
  • Food is never just about ‘eating’, it’s either under or over eating .. especially when food forms the basis of so much of culture.
  • The dangers of living in a comparison culture – we could be happy with what we have – but we see what someone else has and it seems better, more attractive than ours/us.
  • The single life, feeling the need to ‘be beautiful’ – despite Christian culture saying its about the beauty within, see few Christian men praying for a ‘Plain Wife’…
  • The moment of putting up a new Facebook photo, and waiting for people to ‘Like’ it… a form of affirmation.
  • What can we do to change things for the generations to come – how do we ensure that they don’t suffer the same mental traumas that we have…

The only thing I’d really have loved to have seen changed in the book was where at the beginning/end of each chapter there’s an image of a conventionally beautiful woman – of the kind we see in health & fitness magazines … I would love to have seen a collection of different women there! An inspiring read for many women (and men) who are caught up in our culture’s obsession with ‘the body’ and dieting… and yes, let’s talk about it…

And a thought from my own book (coming February 2014):

In 2010, a Home Office report warned that the “drip-drip” exposure to sexual imagery – including pornography, “lads’ mags” and sexual imagery in advertising – was distorting young people’s perceptions of themselves. They reported it was “encouraging boys to become fixated on being macho and dominant, and girls to present themselves as sexually available and permissive.”[i] Too much emphasis in porn on ‘the perfect body’ is leaving young people unhappy when their own bodies don’t match up.[ii]


[i] ‘Should children be taught that porn is not real?’, Vanessa Barford & Nomia Iqbal, BBC News Magazine, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20042508, 24/10/12

[ii] ‘Internet addiction: Cybersex and pornography’, Helpguide.org http://www.helpguide.org/mental/Internet_cybersex_addiction.htm#Internet_pornography

As Chine says, she’s not got this all sorted either … but we don’t need to be sorted to share each other’s journeys. And yes, I still go to the gym, but I tend to go to classes that I enjoy and swim a lot!

BOOK REVIEW: @SheridanVoysey “Resurrection Year”

Sheridan Voysey - Resurrection Year

Today, this book, from someone I have been incredibly privileged to come to know over the past couple of years, is available for sale:

Having received this book, I settled down to read a chapter before bedtime. A couple of hours later I turned the final page of this beautifully written story that had truly drawn me in with it’s honest insight into a agonizingly difficult journey. The depth of emotion is deeply felt – we share times of both joy and bleakness, with particular authenticity given through original diary extracts which have that unfinished rawness my favourite blogs do. Several sections of the book are eminently tweetable, but this is not a story of simple soundbites: choices are stark and unpleasant, the doubts are heavy, and the questions about suffering and why prayers had gone unanswered are deeply painful.

Read full review on The BIGBible Project.

School Grounds & Outdoor Play with Mary Jackson (TEDx Talk)

As I sit looking at my garden, which some activity has happened with – inspired by Mary Jackson on her last visit (and more planned once my book is finished) – it seems an appropriate time to check out Mary’s recent TEDx Talk at the University of Southampton (she also spoke at Greenbelt 2012):

Last time I met with Mary she’d been helping teachers to teach scientific material using Angry Birds… even I would like to learn more science then! Connect with Mary Jackson on LinkedIn.