Sorting out my life: the key areas

So much is happening in my life, I need to write it all down. So here are the key areas I’m focusing on.

Wedding 

“Organising a wedding is like a second job,” my manager told me. I’ve known friends who disappeared for six months because they were too busy picking out linen, hand-crafting invites, setting up bespoke websites for relatives and guests. 

But I’ve barely spent any time on it. 

And it’s happening in 15 days. 

Even now, in spite of all this, I’m still pulled towards other projects (writing a secret blog?), getting a start-up off the ground, hanging out with friends and family.  It’s harder when your partner is equally busy and even less motivated to do the admin. 

But the vows and speeches have to be written, the restaurants booked, the invites and details sent. We’ve organised the venue, the flowers, the food, the music but neglected guests, loved ones and ourselves. 

The little touches that would make the day ours are being neglected. We don’t have an order of service or vows.

We are spending a lot of money on a day that both of us don’t want to think about. There is a lot of spending, sending emails, rushed communication with suppliers — but very little thinking and feeling. Thinking and feeling requires time, not getting through a to do list as efficiently as possible.

Right now, we just keeping our heads above water. I was very reluctant to have a Big Day to begin with. But it should be beautiful. 

Start up

On top of organising a wedding and working part-time, I’m also working on my own start-up. It’s on something I care about. A lot. But it’s also challenging me in ways that I’m struggling with: promoting myself, networking, public-speaking, using social media for self-promotion, and navigating the tricky balance between competition and collaboration. Not to mention just getting on with the work.

But having a start-up creates a lot of guilt in your “spare” time. I never feel as if working fast enough. I know that it’s only me working on this part-time: that I’m limited. Creating and designing an app from scratch, while also running workshops and maintaining a public profile through talks and social media are a lot. It’s only been a year and a bit since ‘launching’ – I know it’s going to be a long slog, but there’s always the anxiety and the pressure to feel I should be further along by now.

I also want to avoid burnout. My start-up is about wellbeing and resisting toxic productivity. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t look after myself. But I also need to accept that when I push myself, I grow. I have learnt more about myself professionally in the past year than my entire career. Anxiety, stress and constant self-doubt are part of the journey. 

Money

My sister has been obsessed with the financial independence movement for a while now, and took me along to the premiere of the FIRE documentary. That sent me on a mini rabbit hole or Mr. Money Moustache blogs and podcasts. The Compound Interest Calculator is now one of the websites I visit the most. It blows my mind that in 20 years, I could have over 100k saved by putting in £150 a month thanks to compound interest.

But I’m making good progress: I bought groceries worth £25 and have made all my lunches and dinners for myself and my partner this week so far. 

But I vow to save more. I’ve opened up a Vanguard account and putting in small monthly deposits. I’m also growing my pension, very slowly. Because I’m self-employed, I rely on my own (stingy) private contributions as a opposed to generous benefits from an employer.

Job Hunting

I freelance at a company with high churn. I’ve noticed that every time someone moves on, announces they’re leaving for another job, I feel a pang of… jealousy. 

I’ve never taken a deep plunge into job hunting. I tend to rely on former employers and contacts, and then settle for the first job offer. But this has left me in roles that feel stagnant. I’ve wanted to move away from digital marketing for a while now and go into product management and user research. 

I am under no pressure to find a new job soon. Even though my contract ends in September, I have a lot to do on my start up. I aim to get the app designed, developed, tested and ready to market by January – at the latest. 

But this is also an up-in-the-air time to do that. I need the time to work on my start-up. Even the risk of finding a full-time, satisfying job-of-my-dreams could put my start-up at risk.

Creativity and learning

Ahh, since starting this blog, I’ve been so excited about writing in it but struggled to find the time. Ironically it’s harder to find the time to write and meditate on the days I have off. People seem to fill this space. Something always comes up. As per my last blog, I use commuting time to write. It’s much harder doing creative work when surrounded by others.

But when it comes to creativity and learning, I’m at a cross roads. I feel like there are so many options open to me. Related to the FI point above, I need to earn more if I want to achieve FI. That potentially means retraining. I’m tempted to retrain as a UX researcher and get into product design. On the other hand, my start-up is the best way of doing this. Spending thousands on a course seems misguided and time-consuming, but it would give me the confidence to go for those roles.

Health and wellness

I seem to be unable to exercise and meditate at the same time. Right now, I’m in an exercise phase. I grew a pasta baby while in Italy. But thanks to intermittent fasting (8 hour window), HIIT exercise and making my own food, I’ve burnt most of it off in 10 days.

But I’ve stopped meditating again. While it’s easier to notice a flatter stomach, it’s much harder to trace the ebbs and flows of my mental state. Is my poor sleep down to hormones? Is my lack of resilience (especially on commutes) down to not meditating? I feel like I’m in a constant bad mood at work. But I’m not sure if this down to general exhaustion. I sometimes feel as I’ve forgotten how to do leisure.

As I blog, I hope to update you on the areas above.

Reclaiming my commute for creativity

Commuting is my least favourite time of day. I become aggressive, petty and stuck in dozens of micro-power struggles. It takes me almost 1.5 hours a day to commute one way. That is 3 hours in a crammed, sweaty, passive aggressive sauna with hundreds of other miserable commuters who are going through personal hell. It’s criminal that 1.5 hours of my most clear-headed, productive and creative hours are spent in this Purgatory. I can make it shorter, but the alternative leaves me feeling traumatised it’s so busy. So I vow to make the most of my commutes and reclaim them as a site of creativity.

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash


Ways of looking


So much of creativity comes down to a way of looking. It’s about noticing and experiencing time in a non-transactional way. With the constant pressure to be busy and the never ending source of distractions offered by the internet, this way of looking (and listening) is under threat unless I make the effort to change it.


Introducing the daydream walk


It’s a 25-30 min walk to my preferred tube station. It’s actually one of the most enjoyable times of my day. So I’m going to embrace this time as my daydreaming time.

This will be the time I let my thoughts actively wander and decompress – so I can allow my mind to make connections it wouldn’t usually do. This is also a good time for podcasts, but I’ll make the effort to have sound-free walks at least once a week, so I can daydream without having my thoughts crammed with other viewpoints.

It’s also a nice cool down on the way back from work. Even though I often want to rush this, it’s also one of the few bridges I have been sitting in front of a screen to work… and then sitting in front of a screen to wind down.


Be curious about other people 


The biggest problem I have is dealing with the stress of hundreds commuters. I’m a small woman of colour who often feels shunted around and imposed upon by bigger, more entitled, commuters. While this is objectively true sometimes, it’s also not as common as I often perceive it to be. I often fixate on how I think others see me: weak, passive, easy to invade. So I become defensive by default. I forget the kindness of my fellow Londoners and the solidarity I should have with them.

So instead of being frustrated when I am hit by crowds, I’m going to use this as a way of looking and noticing. As I scan people, I want to notice at least one thing about them, even if it’s just noting their mood. People often try to fit in but even the most “normal” looking person can be eccentric when you really notice them. It’s the kind of curiosity I had about people when I was writing creatively as a teenager or a student. You’re always looking for details.

This gif is so me throughout my commute


Take the long way round


Let’s face it. A lot of the frustrations I have with my commute is that it takes so long. After work, commuting and chores, I have less leisure and creative time than commuting (and that’s without kids). So I’m going to reclaim this commuting time as writing and reading time. 
I can shave off 20 mins of my commute if I take the crowded route. But this means I’m crammed in a tight space, changing several times, unable to do anything except listen to music for relief. I like listening to music but it also has a numbing effect. I also become the monster I don’t want to be. 


Reading and writing hour


And so instead I’m going to reclaim commuting time as reading and writing time. The longer route mean I’m more likely to get a seat and I can spend at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted writing and reading time. That’s so precious.


While smartphones can often be pacifying escapist machines, soothing societal anxieties in even worse, more anxiety-inducing ways, I’m going to use my smartphone as a way of reclaiming my commute creatively. The WiFi on the tube is actually terrible. So being on a tube is actually a good time to write – like being on a plane.

Reclaiming time


If I manage to spend an hour of my time commuting to read or write, spend 50 minutes daydreaming, then I reduce that wasted, dead time to just one hour and ten minutes. That still sounds like a lot, but it means that I’ve clawed back an out for creativity and learning in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have time for. Admittedly there will be days when it’s so busy I won’t be able to do this, but I just have to let those go and accept them.


And with that, this is the first blog entry that I’ve written on the tube. It is more complete and focused than usual. Time to say goodbye to the miserable, 3 hour round commute. And time to embrace the joy of writing and creativity!