Get More Time Back In Your Day

I don’t know about you, but since working from home over the last eight months, I have 100% suffered from screen fatigue. At the start of the pandemic, how to be productive was top of mind to help me navigate this new virtual world. However fast forward to November, I am now experiencing tiredness from the constant video calling. It’s got to the point where even some of my non-meetings, which are meant to be fun and informal, are beginning to feel like meetings. The social calls, the casual 1:1’s, the impromptu how-the-heck-do-I-solve-this-problem kinda calls, still have an element of planning to them. They each require you to send over a meeting invite, set up a new VC link, whilst also making sure your room and your appearance both are relatively presentable, and any other distractions are kept to a minimum. At the same time, you are trying to do your job in one space which has no boundaries between your home and work life. I am also currently working in the world of recruitment, so on top of these video calls with colleagues, friends and family, there are also candidates and interviewers thrown into the mix. Now, that’s a lot of mascara I go through, I’ll tell you that much!

Of course video calling has been essential in helping us to cope and stay connected. It has also aided some of us to continue working throughout the pandemic, but there is no doubt it is also very time consuming and tiring. I’m pretty sure I spend on average at least eight hours of my work week, solely on video calls. Maybe like me, you too have felt the need at some point to always be visible online to your team, fearing you’d be seen as slacking if you weren’t. I created this expectation that I had to respond straight away to that email, or instant message via Microsoft Teams/ Workplace/ Slack, whatever it may be, despite this memo never coming from my employer. In fact, I feel quite lucky to say it has been quite the opposite. I have had open conversations about the reality of working from home with my managers and team, who each have related and encouraged healthier and smarter ways of working. Of course there are still elements to working from home which are more convenient than office life, but by no means is every day a walk in the park. From wifi issues, home distractions, loneliness, screen fatigue and working more intensely, it can feel difficult and disheartening. If you can relate to any of these things, I wanted to share with you a few tips that have helped me claim back time in my day, and improve my work-life balance.

It all comes down to smart planning. With daylight hours getting shorter, I ensure that I make time for a walk and some form of exercise every single work day. I plan this around when there are no meetings (and in my case, interviews) coming up, so that I am less likely to be distracted and interrupted. Just as I used to utilize my commute into work to practice mindfulness, I continue to plan time in for me. I do my best to get at least 30 minutes fresh air a day, with the incentive of getting some steps in on my FitBit. I also love podcasts and am back into the habit of listening to these on my walk. I am still loving Sibling Revelry if anyone needs a recommendation!

Every day I also block out my lunch break in my diary for two reasons. The first being so no one puts in any additional meetings, and the second so that I remember to actually take a lunch break. I work best in quiet spaces so my work days tend to zoom past, however this means that I physically need a reminder to take a break. I also try to avoid working lunches, and go to a different room to eat. I’ve found that the change of scenery makes a huge difference to my mindset.

Block out your time as much as possible. Whether you can introduce a no meeting day rule (so you can actually do your job), or no meetings on a Friday after 4pm, make your day work for you as much as you can.

Be honest and set expectations with yourself and your manager. Do you really need to be at that meeting for the whole hour, or is your time better spent only joining for the first or last 15 minutes? Although you may be conscious of building and maintaining relationships at work, some things can be better summed up in an email, rather than a meeting. If you find this is happening regularly, feed it back and discuss it with your team. The chances are, everyone else is also thinking the same thing.

It’s important to acknowledge that we most definitely aren’t in the same working world that we were in back in March. Therefore I encourage you to feel empowered to break or reshape some of your old working habits, as we continue to work remotely.

I’d love to hear your tips on how to claim back time in your day, feel free to share with me in the comments below!

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50 Things I Learned At University

1. Locating your on campus secret take-away after a night out is a must. Mine was known as “The Hatch”!

2. Cooking dinners in batches and freezing leftovers is such a time-saver.

3. Do not skip your turn taking out the bin. There will 100% be maggots if you do.

4. Going back home in the Winter you realise just how warm your actual house was, and you will never complain about the heating at home ever again!

5. If you decide to go back home when you are feeling ill, it will soothe the soul and get you back onto the road of recovery!

6. Pay the delivery charge and order your food shopping online.

7. Find a local Costco or Bookers if you can. You will save your wonga on bulk buys!

8. Student discount shopping nights are fun, but then you realise as a student you’re kind of poor so can’t afford as much as you think.

9. Every night of the week can easily become a “Student” night out.

10. Every year I returned back to university for Fresher’s Week, only to realise I can’t attend any of the events and just spent it going to the local pub instead.

11. You do not need to start finding a house for 2nd or 3rd year until after Christmas. There will always be enough housing!

12. When you do start to look for a house, either pick to be close to campus or close to town. Don’t go really far away just to save money.

13. Do a lucky dip to decide who gets what room.

14. Whoever had the smallest room the year before, gets the biggest room the year after!

15. Put yourself in charge of the utility accounts and bills. It’s a pain to make sure everyone pays, but at least that way you can avoid fines.

16. Make sure you enjoy your new town/ city! Go out to eat, see a show in the local theatre, go to gigs etc.! You are only there for a short period of time.

17. Don’t dip into your overdraft if you don’t have to! It’s a slippery slope.

16. Prepare food to have at home after a night out in advance. Or just get cheesy chips. Cheesy chips are life.

19. Make time to see your school friends at their university.

20. Check in on your home friends even if they go off the radar. Leaving home is hard. Check in.

21. Make the effort to call your family.

22. Missing your 9am lecture isn’t the biggest deal.

23. Make sure you do try throughout your whole degree. Although 40% may only be required to “pass” first year in the U.K., it will make second year a lot easier.

24. Not doing well in a subject? It’s time to grow up, admit it and do the work. Find a buddy to help tutor you, go to the library or stay at home more. Wherever it is that helps you focus the best, make sure you study!

25. You don’t need to buy every text book.

26. If you do buy every textbook, you don’t need to buy it first hand.

27. Have a think of what you actually want to do after your degree in advance, rather than hoping for the best.

28. Put yourself out there and join societies.

29. Not everyone will like you and that’s fine. You will not like everyone either.

30. Stand up for yourself and find your crowd. You are awesome – remember that.

31. Not everyone finds a big group who will be their “friends for life” at uni. Remember, it’s better to have a few good ones than a whole bunch of fake ones.

32. Club nights can be lethal and somewhat overpriced.

33. Take photos. Even if you don’t want to. It’s fun to look back on.

34. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

35. You don’t have to be best friends with the people you live with.

36. It’s okay (ish) to skip some lectures but not seminars – that is way too obvious!

37. If you drink the supermarket’s cheapest wine for long enough, you will not realise just how bad it is. Until the next morning…

38. You can wear whatever the heck you want on campus.

39. It is perfectly acceptable to stay in your dressing gown all day at home.

40. Pre-drinks always beats going out.

41. For your own sake don’t plagarize.

42. A set of speakers and a deck of cards is all you need for a good night.

43. Free pizza and Krispy Kreme sales on campus may come at a price of charity donations or local campus elections.

44. Always back up your work.

45. “Spotted At [insert your town] University” was like a discount gossip girl.

46. Napping is a part of university culture – I think I missed out here!

47. Group assignments will still be a pain just like when you were 14 years old.

48. Never compare or look up the answers after an exam. File them away into a little box away in your mind and crack open a cider instead.

49. The weekly fire alarm drill test will give you a mini heart attack every week!

50. University will go by really quickly. Before you know it it’s 4 years since graduated …

There are still so many things I could have added to this list! I hope you enjoyed this post and will subscribe, like and comment if so!

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Opening Up About Mental Health

I’m not one to complain a lot and it’s not often that my cheery disposition disappears. However, I’d like to consider myself as an honest person and that’s why I must admit to myself out loud that my 2019 has so far been incredibly difficult. To say otherwise would be a lie. I really second guessed posting this piece as it’s perhaps the rawest and most real piece I’ve written to date, leaving me feeling quite vulnerable. Unfortunately life isn’t always so dreamy and light and I truly believe that it’s so important to identify and talk about these difficult periods, as well as the great moments in our lives. Despite the highlight reel we so often present to the world, life can be very tough and overwhelming; words that also describe my 2019 so far. Within these first few months of the new year, I’ve been faced with two people near to me being diagnosed with Cancer as well as a family friend whom was living with depression, sadly taking their own life. With one event happening after the other in only the space of a month, I’ve become painfully aware of how fragile life is. I’m not sure if it’s grief, the process of digesting what’s happening around me or both, but I know that this has been one of the toughest periods I’ve faced in my adult life so far. This has been externally evident too by my many mood swings; flipping between feelings of shock, despair, confusion, sadness, anger, helplessness and loss of control. Over the last few weeks I have been searching the internet hoping to find some words of comfort to ease this anxiety that I’m currently feeling during this period in my life. But somewhere between the frustration of not knowing what to google and overthinking, I now find myself here writing this piece. I find it very difficult to write in my “normal” style when I’m not in a clear headspace, (major props to those who can) so in the past I have opted for not writing at all. However this year I made a pact with myself that no matter what happens in 2019, I would not allow life’s challenges to stop me from writing, as I allowed it to do last year when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, for fear of “bringing people down”. I know that these pieces really help me on so many levels and so I also vowed to myself that I would not just write these “real” posts, but share them with others. Mental health is just as important as our physical health and I hope that by writing my own thoughts and feelings down it will hopefully spark others to examine and speak out about their own feelings. After all, if I – a talker, am not prepared to share my thoughts and feelings, how can I hope that others experiencing similar scenarios (who may also be of an introverted personality), to do the same? I need to be the change I want to see in the world, right?

The word “Cancer” is in itself so heavily weighted and emotionally charged. When you hear the word you uncontrollably begin to imagine the worst as a wave of sadness overcomes you, let alone when it’s a family member or two you may know are battling this awful disease. To my surprise, after a few hours of hearing the news that my aunt had cervical cancer, I quickly adopted a logical mindset. I suspect that this was a coping mechanism to provide support to those around me; the human mind is clever that way. I thought to myself: What are the options? What are the facts? What do we know is certain? This would help me prepare myself and my family for what is to come as well as to be in a mentally good place to support my aunt. The next day I found out that my brother’s future mother-in-law had pancreatic cancer. I was grasping at straws, trying to find some light at the end of tunnel, the right thing to say. Meanwhile the pit in my stomach grew dull, the lump in my throat was rising as I was fighting to hold back the tears which if I let them escape in that moment, I’m not sure when they would have stopped. This was all too much and plain unfair to happen at once. The overarching sadness in the room was confirmed by my family’s silence, and if you know me and my family, silence doesn’t come naturally. I only allowed myself to really cry when it was just my boyfriend and I as this moment wasn’t only about me, there were other family members who needed my love and support more than I did in that very moment.

A month soon passed and everyone’s spirits had been slightly raised as treatment was underway for both of my respective family members. Things weren’t great but there was a glimmer that they may be ok. I was sat at my desk at work desperately trying to complete tasks off my to do list before lunch time, when I was then given the tragic news that a family friend had committed suicide. Before I knew it, my legs were carrying me out of the office. I reached for my phone to message and call my boyfriend and a couple of my best friends. Looking back now I know that I was experiencing a fight or flight response. I felt dizzy, sick and my palms clammed up. I had an insatiable need to cling onto life. I felt like running or punching a boxing bag. I imagined quitting my job on the spot so that I could go ‘live’ my life and not “waste” my time on my to do list. It wasn’t a realistic or rational thought to suddenly quit my job, where I am happy and making good progress, but in that moment I was confronted with clarity of what was important to me. At the same time I was also lost for words despite the flood of emotion I was experiencing. One of my best friends had their own history of depression and reliving that period still remains raw for me. She was one of the first people to come to my mind and I felt compelled to reach out to them on so many levels. I also felt like screaming out in anger as I was furious at the cards 2019 had dealt so far. What was the Universe trying to tell or show me? How is any of this fair? How many more things needed to happen before we could all catch a break, I wanted to yell! The strongest emotion of them all was the immense sadness that overcame me for the family friend themselves who felt that there was no way out of their black and dark hole. Who so tragically chose a permanent solution to a somewhat temporary sadness. For the family who were left behind. The only comfort I could provide for myself was the hope that he was now resting in peace and was pain-free. This news also came a few days after Mike Thalassitis a reality TV star from Love Island had also sadly taken their own life. There was so much media coverage about him and the importance of opening up about mental health. I hoped that this provided the same relief and support to my own family friends. I was saddened to learn that 12 out of 16 people every day in the UK who take their own lives are men. Suddenly my want to write and share this post became even more important, no matter how small my blog may be.

Over the last week I have felt guilty for feeling so sad and frustrated at the world, considering that this isn’t directly happening to me but around me. I’ve felt that I didn’t have a right to be upset to some degree. Or at least that everyone else has a much more of a right than me and I should just ‘get on with it’. Trying to find the balance between “carrying on as normal” – the British thing to do and talking about it as much as possible with family – the European thing to do (I’m of Polish heritage if you didn’t know). Over the last month I’ve become so acutely aware and appreciative of life, that all I want to do is to live in the now, soak up every day and appreciate the small things like when it doesn’t rain, that I had a conversation with someone new today and that I am able to and want to still be here both mentally and physically. I’ve tried to continue with my routine as much as possible, whilst making allowances for some breathing and resting space. I’ve made sure that I allocate time to do things that make me happy. To spend time with those who are dear to me. To not deny myself of seeking happiness. To be vocal and honest with myself about how I’m feeling, no matter how confusing or emotionally overwhelming it has been. I am so grateful to those who have been there to just listen, even when they didn’t know what to say.

I’ve also become aware just how resilient and incredible people really can be and I admire the strength I’ve seen from others around me. Should you find yourself in one of life’s inevitable dark moments, I hope you find the strength you may need to carry you. Although life can be at times unfair, it will keep on going on no matter what you do. It doesn’t give special treatment based upon your bank balance, age or status. I hope this post encourages you check in with yourself and others around you; to open the conversation. Sometimes it really is enough just having someone to listen to you, even if they don’t have the answers and when things do get tough, remember that even in the darkest of times there is light. No matter how much you may feel it, you are never alone.

I’ve listed some charities below you may wish to read or to share with a friend. It’s time to break the stigma.

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Embrace You| A Masterclass with Jessica Creighton

I naturally have an optimistic, hopeful and ambitious perspective on life; an outlook that has driven me to want to connect, learn and share with others. Naturally when beginning my blog I knew that I wanted Natalia Talks About to be a space that encompassed this, by sharing my “thoughts on daily life” as a woman in her 20’s. Over the last year, I’ve been focusing a lot of my attention on consistency, seizing the present moment and more recently the importance of self-acceptance. This is a lesson that perhaps most of us may have struggled with since our teen years. I’ve recently found myself drawn to podcasts, blog posts, YouTube videos and discussions all focused on how each person’s journey has led them to a similar destination to self-acceptance and positivity. Whether it’s mantras, affirmations, goal-setting, being authentic or simply being unapologetically you, it’s pretty clear that we all know that there are ways to get there, but truly recognizing that we are enough can be a lot easier said than done, right? However that is not to say that it’s not worth it. What’s more, is that you will definitely reap the rewards you deserve in more ways than one when you recognize that your uniqueness is actually your biggest asset.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” Oscar Wilde

I was fortunate enough to attend a masterclass with Jessica Creighton, who candidly spoke about how she “shouldn’t” be at the level of success she is now – statistically speaking that is. Jessica opened up about her background and how despite the odds of being a woman of colour from a single-parent home, growing up in a relatively poor council estate in London. Jessica has now gone on to become a successful broadcaster at Sky Sports News, but interestingly this wasn’t always her number one dream. Growing up,she was a ta lented footballer, a skill evident by her earning a scholarship at Charlton Football Club. Yet at the age of 16 she found herself at a crossroads, where she was forced to choose between cultivating her football talent further, or pursuing higher education in preparation for a potential university degree. After much careful consideration Jessica chose to pursue further study as women’s football unfortunately did not provide a decent or sustainable living wage at the time. Instead, Jessica was determined to use her strengths in academia, in particular writing, to gain a career in broadcast journalism. With unrelenting effort, consistency, confidence and belief in herself, she has since gone on to hold a career in presenting over the last 9 years. Her passion, knowledge and love for sport also remains ingrained within her and is a testament to her success and credibility as a presenter. Throughout the talk Jessica shared some valuable tips that we each can apply in our daily lives to help to achieve our wider goals and career development.

1. Bring something to the table

Whilst trying to build relationships and find opportunities, Jessica would network and go for coffee’s with colleagues, bosses and peers. However her approach in getting them to actually accept her invite was reliant on her standing out over numerous other keen and equally talented peers. Jessica emphasized the importance of you being clear on what you can bring to the table, and to share that with others, this will assist you to build your network. So the next time you ask that Exec if they want to meet you for a coffee, don’t be afraid to write in the email what your big idea is and what you can do for them too. This will highlight that you are enthusiastic, driven and can bring something to the table.

2. Be prepared to be told no

No is perhaps one of the hardest words in the English dictionary to hear. Jessica was repeatedly told this before she was able to even get her foot through the door, and continued to do so whilst managing to break into the industry. Jessica emphasized the importance of being able to take criticism in numerous forms whilst remembering to remain motivated and similarly not saying no yourself to the smaller tasks that come your way. You never know where opportunities may be hidden!

3. Know your USP

Think about what your unique selling point is and what makes you diverse. Then use this to your advantage. What are you an expert on? Who can relate to you? What makes you, you? Whether it’s for a job interview, finding the courage or self- belief to set up your own business, going for that promotion at work or even finding self-acceptance, knowing what makes you unique will open doors, give you direction, purpose and make you memorable to whoever you meet.

I was keen to understand what Jessica’s biggest motivator was throughout her life and career, particularly as she drew upon her upbringing not being a guarantee that she would be able to secure the life or future she aspired to have. Jessica answered that despite not having a lot financially whilst she grew up, she did have a large, diverse community around her. This gave her richness in her confidence and ability to speak to anyone about anything. Growing up and realizing that women of her background were so rare in the media industry, she was determined to use her individuality and USP, to set her apart from everyone else to share the stories of others around her. In turn this has motivated her to continue to be a voice for further diversity in the industry, beyond race and culture but in thoughts and actions too. She remains motivated in the hope that her hard work can spark inspiration for others who can relate to her and see that someone like them chased their dreams. In turn she hopes that this will provide them with courage and self-belief that they too can achieve their goals, against the odds. Throughout this masterclass I was left with positivity, inspiration and reminded of Oscar Wilde’s words, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken”. It strikes me how true these words still are today and how the power of embracing you can guide you to success.

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How Not Getting What You Want Can Be A Blessing

It’s not often I talk about how hard work and determination doesn’t always pay off. Confused? Bear with me. Although I make a daily conscious effort to stay motivated and driven, this attitude alone doesn’t solely guarantee you success. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve been learning so far in my 20’s and I’ve recently began to appreciate just how not getting what you want, can at times, be a huge blessing.

Let me take you for a trip down memory lane, back to when I first graduated from University. After my long summer off relaxing and enjoying what was left of my “student lifestyle”, I decided that I was as ready as I would ever be, to try this thing called adulting. I mapped out a few career paths that potentially interested me and with my Psychology degree in hand, I made sure that I was proactive and applied for at least one job a day, if not more. Over the next couple of months, I was lucky enough to get a ton of interviews, and at one point I had 3 or 4 in the pipeline; I was on a roll! I thought it wouldn’t be long before job offers were thrown at me… and in a way I guess it wasn’t. After a month of job hunting I was offered a role in merchandising for a big fashion retailer that I loved. However, I really wasn’t prepared for not feeling excited at this news. As soon as I left the interview, I received a call and was made the job offer but my gut was telling me that the job wasn’t for me. I was torn because I didn’t want to reject it straight away as I knew it was hard enough to get interviews, let alone be offered a job this soon after graduating. A week soon passed and I had not yet heard back from the other interviews I attended. It came to the point where I had to give them an answer. I decided to listen to my instinct and not accept a job that my heart wasn’t fully set on and I would gamble on the possibility of being offered one of the others. Unfortunately the odds weren’t in my favour and I didn’t get any of the other jobs. I was back at square one.

“You are exactly where you need to be”

Feeling frustrated, stressed and anxious that I had made the wrong decision, I was angry and doubted myself. However I powered on through and (surprisingly) rejected more jobs. I battled an internal struggle with myself, as I knew my worth and didn’t want to accept internships or jobs in London, on a wage that would barely cover my travel purely for the sake of experience. Instead I worked temp jobs to keep me going and to build up as much “experience” as I could. Finally some 7 months later it all paid off. I was offered a job that suited my skill-set, interested me so much more and also paid a decent wage! Fast forward to the present day, I am now working for a leading fashion retailer where I funnily enough actually recruit for merchandisers. I am so relieved that the stars didn’t align for me back then the way I hoped, as the thought of doing such a number-centric role day in and day out, really isn’t my dream job. Truthfully in hindsight I was just desperate to be hired anywhere and I now know that I definitely wouldn’t have been happy in that role, despite how much I wanted it at the time.

I am now currently in my early-mid 20’s and the idea that, “You are exactly where you need to be” has helped to keep my quarter life crisis at bay. Living in an age where comparison to others is so prevalent as it seems like everyone has their life together on social media, it is so important to remember that the majority of us are in the same boat. To be quite honest with you, seven weeks into 2019, the majority of my plans for the year have mostly gone to pot. I’ve found myself in a mix of uncertain, anxious, frustrated and at times even scared feelings. This somewhat mirrors how I felt back when I turned down those early job offers, as my plans hadn’t fallen into place the way I hoped they would in my head. Yet, it’s times like these I try to remind myself how not getting what you want, really can be a blessing. I’m learning that we are not tested to show our weaknesses or what we haven’t achieved, but to show our strengths and what is possible instead – a lesson I will try to remember throughout the remainder of 2019.

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