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Positives From Covid19 and Lockdown

For all the fear, anxiety and unknowns that Covid19 had brought to the world  it is easy to overlook the good things that have come from this virus.

Good things? I hear you say? Well yes.  We know the air is cleaner, seas are clearer and nature is enjoying the lack of human activity.  Whilst we are all having difficult times during lockdown, there are some positives coming out of this.

I have friends who were feeling quite frazzled at the beginning of this year.  Being furloughed has enabled them to rest.  It has given them the chance to recharge and re-evaluate what they want to do with their lives, whilst not having the pressures of juggling work, home and family.

This enforced rest has enabled long running injuries to heal, and thoughts to slow down and stop.   Our bodies have needed rest from our hectic lifestyles and this virus has given us the opportunity to do so.

We now have a greater sense of community – neighbours are helping each other and as consumers we have moved to using local businesses instead of larger brands.  Businesses have learned, quickly, how to change their offering and go to the customer, instead of expecting the customer to come to them.  

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

I am not denying that having reduced freedom of movement, being separated from friends and family, alongside financial worries is not stressful and isn’t affecting everyone. And some are coping much better with the situation than others.   But I do believe that this enforced down time has opened up new opportunities and behaviours and has given a lot of us some much needed space to regroup. 

Hopefully we will come back stronger and determined to make positive changes for our future.

Where Have I Been?

Its been a long time since I last posted.  There are many reasons for this absence, but the main cause was work.  I ended up working seven days a week to make ends meet for a while. On top of this I was studying and planning my wedding.  Time for writing just disappeared, as did time for going out and experiencing new products and places to eat. Even my home cooking suffered as I could not think of new recipes to make or have the time and inclination to go shopping at the larger out of town supermarket to buy the ingredients.

We will all, at some point in our lives, have a time in life where everyday life becomes all consuming.  I have seen friends and family go through this. It doesn’t mean it is a bad time, but your focus will get reduced to the things you need to do.  

Part of me is disappointed that I was unable to write much during this time.  I didn’t even complete my daily journal for four months. The other part of me is at peace and has oven myself permission to do this. There are only so many hours in the day, and me no blogging regularly hasn’t affected the world.

Also during this time there was a lot going on in my head but I wasn’t sure how to get it  out. To an extent I was afraid to put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. I had a combination of fear and a massive writing block.  It was almost as though I didn’t know where to start.

I think I am over that now.  I have compiled a list of ideas to write about.  Daily life has changed on so many levels (not just because of coronavirus), and I now have time to regularly write.

So watch this space and hopefully there will be some posts to make you think/ smile / shake your head at in the near future.

Reducing Travel

My job involves meeting people and therefore travelling.  Where I live and work is well connected to London, but not so much to the South Coast or the surrounding towns and villages.

I go to a lot networking events, plus I like to meet clients in person.  This means I spend a lot of time in the car travelling between appointments and events. Although I have a hybrid car and try to drive efficiently, I am still concerned about the impact of my travel on the environment.

I’d like to take public transport more, but the journey times and the cost start to make it look more prohibitive.  A thirty minute drive to Brighton equates to just under two hours by either bus or train. The bus is the cheapest option but the WiFi is not stable so precludes much working on the way. The train costs twice as much as driving and is generally unreliable.  

Of course I am looking at this cost in terms of time and money and not the impact on the environment.  

But I need to have a mindset change.  A lot of my client conversations can be quite personal  and detailed. I like to meet face to face as I can see their full reaction to questions and suggestions.  In my previous corporate life I used to use video conferencing a lot. The picture quality was ok, but time lag could make conversations difficult.  I have tried Skype over the years but always found that the system drops out after about 15 minutes.

Recently I was introduced to Zoom.  I joined a group call and was amazed by the quality and stability of the system.  So I have started to book Zoom calls with existing and potential clients. This has so far been met with enthusiasm.

Using video conference to reduce travel
Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Looking at my diary this is freeing up much more time in the office and means I can walk to work more.

There will still be days where using the car will be the only practical option, however I am committed to making these days the exception rather than the norm.

Recycling

I tend to see lots of eyes roll in my office if anyone mentions recycling.  Many years ago I was a volunteer for Greenpeace. I would spend my weekends standing in town centres across Sussex speaking to people about how they make less of an impact on the environment, highlighting the  issues around nuclear power, GMO food, melting ice caps, BP drilling for oil in the arctic and the dangers of drinking water from plastic bottles.

So you could say I have an interest in working out what can be recycled and where.

To this end I am able frequently to enlighten my colleagues on where you can recycle things they thought couldn’t be recycled – pens, crisp packets, cat food pouches etc.  The reason they think they can’t be recycled is that they get all their information from what the local council can recycle on the doorstep.

Recycling
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In this climate of increasing calls for everyone to do more, I find this lack of wanting to find more solutions quite depressing.  From a selection of people who don’t want to be over controlled by the state, they are looking to the council to provide the information they need to make changes that could help the planet.

Ask them about buying a new car, then they are all over it.  But ask them to do something to look after the environment then there is a severe lack of motivation.  Why is that? When asked they say it won’t affect them. But they are not thinking of their children and grandchildren.  I am the only one in my office without children, but I still care about the future of the planet.

Their lack of care for the world around them leaves me feeling frustrated, despondent and thinking I should not bother myself.  Luckily this doesn’t last very long, but I still don’t understand why they are not motivated to do more.

Would You Hide From A Client?

Have you ever hidden from your client – even when they are coming into your office or a meeting?

This occurred recently at work.  Following a particularly difficult meeting with a client and their adviser my colleague decided to stay away from the office completely when they can back to resolve the issues.  This left our member of staff, who had been quite upset at the previous meeting, to deal with the client on her own.  

I was quite shocked at this.  The adviser had been quite rude and are to the meeting gunning for a fight.  But to avoid the situation after and leave a member of staff to pick up the pieces astounded me.  I do not know what my colleague is hiding from, or what the full issues are, but to me this is not leadership.

The previous meeting had been intense. Our client had not stood up for us in front of her adviser. I wonder if she had enough knowledge to do so, or if she just kept quiet –  bemused by the whole episode.

It turns out that following this episode my colleague has decided not to take on any more clients for this specific service. They are also avoiding talking about what happened.


hiding from the client
Photo by John T on Unsplash

One thing strikes me though – you can’t garner, or mend, good client relations by hiding.  Things go wrong. Mistakes get made. But keeping away so you don’t have to face them is wrong.  I have never been given this option since starting this company, and even if I had I don’t think I would have shied away.

Facing up to mistakes and client problems help you grow as a person, improves your skills and shows leadership.  If you want to hide then you may as well not have the client. If my colleague had faced the issues head on perhaps they would have learned how to change the offering going forward, and how to avoid this mistake in the future.

Would you hide from a client?

No Can Do Attitude

I tend to think of myself has having a “can do” attitude.  If a client rings with a problem or issue I see it as a personal challenge to find a solution within the required timescale.  This isn’t always possible, and I’m not a miracle worker, but most of the time I can get things done, or find an interim solution.

I have a colleague who has a “no can do” attitude.  If a client needs something done last minute she fixates on why they didn’t ask for it earlier.  Their poor admin is not her problem. She tells them how difficult it will be to sort it, but without finding a solution first.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I find this really frustrating.  And it also causes friction in the office as others find her attitude too fixed and negative.  We have all had days when things crop up that we hadn’t planned for, or had forgotten about. But we think on our feet and get through it.

If you have a friend that needs something done and is in a fix, you will do your best to help them. I don’t see a difference between a friend and a client  in these circumstances (although there are things I’d do for a friend that I wouldn’t do for a client!)

I don’t know what the answer is to changing her attitude. She is not good at learning new things.  Perhaps we are the ones that need to find a way to look past this perceived weakness and put in place a better way of dealing and communicating with clients in these circumstances.

Green Stationery

In my bid to leave less of a footprint on the planet I have been looking for environmentally friendly stationery.  I am a great user of refillable notebooks, pens, recycled paper and making scrap pads out of leftover paper.

I have recently put together a new package for my clients.  It helps them write a robust business plan and then to review it every month.  My task was how to package it. I wanted to find a way that the package can be stored and added to each month.  To keep it neat and tidy, but also easily identifiable and looking good so it motivates you to use it. It didn’t need to be big either.

So I started looking. It turns out that there are no really smart, colourful folders that don’t contain plastic.  Document wallets are either fully plastic, or of a cardboard design that are too big and clunky, or look like something that an official in a stuffy office would use.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I searched various green stationery sites.  Some items such as pens and rulers can be made from recycled plastic.  But not in the case of presentation folders. Even some of the ones that look nice and appear to be made from card have a plastic coating.

Now I  know that stationery should not be seen as a one use plastic, but a lot of people don’t see it that way.  My company recently moved office and in the move we reduced the number of files we needed. This left a pile of twenty plus hardly used ring back files.  My co-directors were happy for these to be simply binned and put to landfill. They can’t be recycled due to the plastic coating. I balked at the idea and took it upon myself to find a new home for them.  I am happy to say that a week later I had homes for all but three of them.

If the majority of people see stationery as disposable, or don’t think that others can use items at the end of their life, then we need to come up with more recyclable options.

So this is a call for designers out there to come out with an alternative to the clunky, dull card presentation folders.  

In the meantime I have asked my clients who are using the new package how they would like it presented.  It turns out that as I have raised the issue, they have thought about it and are happy to find their own storage solution for the documents.

A good solution I think!

I have recently put together a new package for my clients.  It helps them write a robust business plan and then to review it every month.  My task was how to package it. I wanted to find a way that the package can be stored and added to each month.  To keep it neat and tidy, but also easily identifiable and looking good so it motivates you to use it. It didn’t need to be big either.

So I started looking. It turns out that there are no really smart, colourful folders that don’t contain plastic.  Document wallets are either fully plastic, or of a cardboard design that are too big and clunky, or look like something that an official in a stuffy office would use.

I searched various green stationery sites.  Some items such as pens and rulers can be made from recycled plastic.  But not in the case of presentation folders. Even some of the ones that look nice and appear to be made from card have a plastic coating.

Now I  know that stationery should not be seen as a one use plastic, but a lot of people don’t see it that way.  My company recently moved office and in the move we reduced the number of files we needed. This left a pile of twenty plus hardly used ring back files.  My co-directors were happy for these to be simply binned and put to landfill. They can’t be recycled due to the plastic coating. I balked at the idea and took it upon myself to find a new home for them.  I am happy to say that a week later I had homes for all but three of them.

If the majority of people see stationery as disposable, or don’t think that others can use items at the end of their life, then we need to come up with more recyclable options.

So this is a call for designers out there to come out with an alternative to the clunky, dull card presentation folders.  

In the meantime I have asked my clients who are using the new package how they would like it presented.  It turns out that as I have raised the issue, they have thought about it and are happy to find their own storage solution for the documents.

A good solution I think!

Bad News

Recently two friends gave me bad news – they told me they had been diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t know they had gone for tests or that they had concerns. But then again why should I?  I would probably keep quiet about it until I knew for certain.

In a moment I could see their lives falling apart around them.  They are both waiting for full diagnoses and treatment plans, so the future for them both is uncertain.

Naturally they are worried and thinking of the worst case scenario. Our discussions have ranged from organising the practical (work cover, wills, getting to appointments etc) to things they want to achieve before they die. The holidays they want to have, friends they want to see, things they want to experience.

All I could do was to be as supportive as possible, whilst trying to control my own shock, disbelief and emotions.  In a weird way I too felt my own world starting to crumble a little.

One friend is also a client so there was also a brief thought about loss of income as well as a good friend.  Of course I felt guilty for thinking this. In no way is loss of work greater that the loss of health, or a good friend. It was just one of those impact thoughts that naturally crop up and disappear as quickly as they came.

After these two bomb shells I was feeling a little battered  by life. Not for my own situation but for that’s of my friends.


Photo by Charity Beth Long on Unsplash


As the saying goes “when life throws you lemons, make lemonade”.  And with that in mind I fully intend to make sure their coming journeys are supported and filled with good memories as much as I can, whatever the outcomes.  

Distractions

We all lead busy lives these days and everywhere we go there are distractions.  Most of these distractions are from electronic devices – phones, tables, laptops, tvs, and radios. All a constant in the background.

You can go to a restaurant and see whole families sitting together, but distracted by their phones.  No interaction with each other. No conversation. Nothing. Everyone distracted but sitting in silence.  Even the act of going out to eat taking away any interaction soundness preparing food.

As someone who leads a very busy life my head gets full of noise and distractions.  Between work and voluntary commitments i rarely get a chance to get away from the technology.  To an extent I accept this way of living. I do have an email free day once a week, but being connected via social media and text still leaves little time for me to switch off.

So I find myself on a girls weekend to Champneys.  A chance to relax and unwind in great company and enjoy a little pampering at the same time.

I get to my room.  It is comfortable it’s a lovely view out onto the grounds. All I can hear is the sound of running water from the river outside.  I stand and stare at the TV on the wall, slightly surprised to see it, but not really knowing why.  Perhaps I assumed that TV and WiFi old be frowned upon. It turns out that you are allowed these in your room, however phones are frowned upon in communal areas.  

I made a decision at that point not to automatically put the tv on when I was in my room.  I wanted peace and quiet and I wouldn’t get it with distractions. I resolved to spend some time in my room each day sitting and reading.  Just me, the sounds of the river and people using the grounds.

It was bliss.  Not being connected  or subjected to noise of some kind.  My mind stopped whining. The tension began to subside.  Even whilst enjoying the spa and great company, I found myself secretly looking forward to my escape to my quiet place.  

Although the break was for only a few days I came back refreshed.  A combination of enforced relaxation and the warm surroundings of the spa were exactly what I needed in a cold, dull January.

It struck me that I need to build in some quiet time in my daily life.  Time to sit and read, write in my journal, or just listen to the sounds.  This is something I will endeavour to do to help keep my mind quiet and able to concentrate better.


Photo by Niklas Wersinger on Unsplash

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