How to live in the vortex – part two

Working from home has its benefits but a major drawback I find is that I simply don’t know when to stop.

With such easy access to my mac – I work from the kitchen, a stone’s throw from the sofa and dangerously near the fridge – I can’t help jumping back into work mode during the evenings when the talking box doesn’t grab my attention.

It was also a problem when I was in my last permanent role. With my phone dinging with every text, whatsapp, slack message and email, I found myself on alert 24/7, even on my days off. One thing that helped with this was silencing my emails but I had to keep them on my phone for when I was in London for meetings with the team or clients so there was still the temptation to check them constantly.

Don’t you just wish you could go back to having a Nokia 3210? Bin that smartphone. Saying that, I don’t know what would occupy my eyes if I didn’t have the internet on my phone but it goes much too far. I’ve thought about getting a work phone that I switch off sometimes and ignore but the life of a freelancer makes switching off potentially damaging. However, I do know that not switching off can also be damaging and I’m working on a happy medium.

I am an avid scroller. I find myself glued to my phone scrolling through LinkedIn, professional Facebook groups and news sites whilst I listen to LBC or Adam Buxton’s fabulous podcast , which I highly recommend.

My problem is that I simply can’t switch off and I think it’s a problem many freelancers have. When you’re always on the lookout for new opportunities it is difficult to take your finger off the pulse for fear that you’ll miss something or lose your connection to the outside world.

I’ve decided to take a new attitude to watching television. I have never been able to concentrate on it and my friends find it frustrating when they try and watch films with me. I’m one of those that continually asks questions because I don’t pay attention and lose track of the plot. Now I’m going to see watching television as work. I adore blogging and TV and films can provide ample subjects to write about. And if I’m going to be reviewing what I watch then I do need to pay attention. It’s actually working, I just wrote a short review of Motley Crue’s The Dirt, which I managed to just about sit still for.

I have quite a solid work routine in the mornings but it all slides into chaos throughout the rest of the day. I get up around 7/7.30, head to my desk straight away and get a couple of hours of work done. I get a break when I toddle off to the gym for an hour or so before heading back to work for around 11. I love getting these hours in the bag. Having been a night owl as a teenager I am surprised by the fact that now, having grown into some version of an adult (don’t laugh), most days I spring out of bed and am ready to work straight away. For many people this simply doesn’t work so you’ve got to figure out your own routine. My last boss – yes I did have a real job once upon a time – isn’t a morning person and we couldn’t catch up until at least 10am. Because we all worked flexibly, the whole team could adjust their working hours to what worked for them. Some of them would email me at midnight as that was when they felt like working. This brought another problem and saw me working in bed quite a lot of the time, until my boss told me that she really didn’t expect us to be available all the time.

Because I get up reasonably early and tend to have pretty full days I crawl off to bed early too, and that works for me. I get bored once I stop working and find it extremely difficult to switch my head off so going to bed is really the only thing I can do. Going out during the week doesn’t really work as ideally I’d want to meet people at five and be home by eight, but most of my friends don’t finish work that early.

The weekends are different. I still get up early but I find it easier to switch off when my husband is around. I make him play scrabble and chess with me when I’m fidgety and can’t focus on the TV. I might knock out a blog or two at the weekend’s but apart from that I do try and stop, see friends or do something different to take my mind off work. Being outdoors is a must for me, even in the rain!

For breakfast, lunch and dinner I’m usually at my desk. My husband often gets home late so I don’t really see the point in stopping work for meals. I do take little breaks to do the washing up or sweep the floor. We have rabbits so sweeping is a daily necessity.

I love working from home because the house work tends to just happen between bursts of productivity. Another break from work I get is on Wednesday morning when I present my radio show on Kane FM. Presenting a radio show is quite frankly the most fun you can have and when we’re on air I’m not thinking about when that potential client is going to get to me or when I’m going to finish writing up that article for the Woking News and Mail. I switch off and just focus on the listeners and the music.

Yoga helps but I keep forgetting about it and tend to like to exercise in the morning rather than afternoon or evening. I always do some in the morning but am contemplating an evening session too as I know it helps me sleep.

You’d think being so near the sofa would be risky but I don’t find myself drawn to it at all. Quite the other way around. Often I’ll jump up with an idea and scurry over to my desk again before I forget it. It’s OK, I love work and love everything I do – except Wizmedia’s accounts, they’re a pain in the backside.

I suppose if I tucked myself away in the studio I might be better at stopping when I leave the room. Separating your work and relaxation spaces is supposed to help but I do like being able to spring into action at any moment. If I wasn’t me, I’d tell myself to set working hours and not work the rest of the time. Unfortunately I am me, so I wouldn’t listen.

A lover of language

Communication is something I relish in and what better way to communicate than through the written word?

You can be so much more articulate with the written word than the spoken word and by painting with words you can create a masterpiece of communication.

I have worked in many different roles over my ten-year career but one constant has been writing. I haven’t really noticed it to be honest. It feels so natural that I write all the time but I’m not a good reader. I can’t focus on novels after a whole day of reading and writing and I am envious of those that can go to bed with a good book.

I worry about the fact I don’t read many books. Reading is one thing that builds up your vocabulary so I wonder how much better a writer I would be if I did devour books. I do read, but it’s all news articles, blogs, research papers and emails and I read them quickly. Books need more attention and you lose track if you skim read.

I joked once that being a writer is like being a gardener who tends a rose bush then takes a machete to it until he’s left with one perfect bloom. And it is like that. You can’t be too precious about your words when you’re writing for a publication because the chances are they will edit your stuff.

When I was at school English was my favourite subject. I loved art as well although never felt good enough at it. I had an inspiring English teacher called Mrs Russel who taught me to love language.

I moved over to the dark side of PR last year but after 11 months decided it wasn’t for me. I prefer the other side of the desk. I find journalism fascinating and I’m pretty nosey so interviewing strangers is like a tonic for my curiosity.

I also used to work a lot with video, shooting, editing and directing. As soon as I bought myself a beast of a camera I decided to change direction. Silly woman. I’ve still got the XF305 and use it for clients sometimes but most of my work is now writing, which I’m quite happy with. I’ve still got my Canon DSLR too which I often use to take headshots for clients – I really need one myself!

I’m glad I’ve had experience in multiple areas. It’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot about the media industry and myself. What I like and don’t like. I love radio and I love writing and two marry together quite well. Often I’ll borrow content from one discipline for the other. Radio is a blast and I look forward to it every week. I don’t tend to listen back to the show as my laugh really grates on me.

It’s funny that when I did my degree I was absolutely sure I wanted to go into television journalism. I didn’t bother doing radio, instead I focused on print and TV but as soon as I left university I got a position at Kane FM. I was a co-host on three breakfast shows a week to start with and I’d compile weather reports and news whilst taking the mick out of the host.

Now Jack and I have the Wake Up Happy Show and it’s rather ridiculous. There was me thinking that one day I’d be a serious journalist and the Wake Up Happy Show is what I came up with… That’s not to say we don’t tackle some of the big topics and I do write on important topics like mental health and homelessness, which I grab content from for the show.

Music is an important part of my life although I don’t play much anymore. Much like my relationship with art, music often makes me sad because I’m not as good as I want to be. We did play at our wedding but that was nearly three years ago and was the last time I played in public.

Like many writers I am attempting my first novel. However, feedback from Jack has made me question it. The plot is rather far-fetched and I wonder if it’s even more ridiculous than the Wake Up Happy Show. Although I am a firm believer that we all need more nonsense in our lives I’m not sure the world is ready for that particular piece of nonsense.

I’ll probably never publish it but ho hum! Best to get back to it anyway.

 

Oh Motley… (Spoiler alert)

 

The Dirt. A fantastic book of debaucherous shenanigans and now an epic film.

The hedonistic activities of 80s rock band Mötley Crüe made them almost as famous as their music and the film is a rollercoaster of sex, drugs and rock and roll depicted by four great actors who quite frankly smashed the **** out of it.

At times, it’s a hard watch. When Vince Neil crashes his car the potentially devastating consequences of drink driving are hard to ignore. That scene where Ozzy Osbourne licks up Nikki Sixx’s piss is also difficult to watch without feeling ill – yes, he actually did that, Ozzy also snorted ants. Hard core.

Douglas Booth (Nikki Sixx) was suitably beautiful and played the part with a raw energy that characterised the bassist with a befitting heir of recklessness.

Iwan Rheon, who plays Mick Mars, was subtle throughout and portrayed the ever so slightly more controlled member of the group well, although I was left wanting more of him.

Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly) plays the gangly Tommy Lee with energy and quirk. He wasn’t my favourite character but he certainly made for an entertaining watch.

Daniel Webber’s performance as Vince Neil was touching which, considering his outrageous behaviour, was quite surprising.
I’ve read some other reviews and don’t agree that the film lacked heart. The relationships between the band members could have been explored further but with all the hotel smashing, nakedness and Vince’s activities with various sexual partners, I’m not surprised they couldn’t fit it in.

Even though the Crüe’s behaviour would, to any normal person, seem completely insane, you do find yourself on their side and the explicit scenes of drug use and promiscuous sex doesn’t put you off.

Watching Nikki Sixx destroy himself with heroin is rather uncomfortable but I found myself rooting for him throughout and my love for the rock star remains solid.

There is, of course, a healthy dollop of Mötley Crüe’s music throughout, reminding us all that they weren’t just a bunch of reprobates, they were pioneering musicians.

The ending a bit cheesy and for me didn’t go with the tone of the rest of the film. It also felt abrupt. After their sober tour, I was almost expecting it all to slide into mayhem again but instead it just finished.

I give it four and a half well deserved stars.

Delivery science and robotic process in business

 

Delivery science and Robotic Process Automation is working its way into businesses, but as this kind of technology is being adopted by some, many seem resistant to it.

In the past, research was conducted in the form of surveys and focus groups, but these methods are biased as only a small proportion of the population can engage with them. Big data has replaced these practises and paved the way for a much more accurate and informed picture of what customers want. How we now use this data is the question on everyone’s minds but businesses that are utilising AI are answering that question. By using machines to analyse data, inaccuracies due to human error are eradicated and the machines can look into the data without emotion getting in the way.

Replacing man hours with automation software is an exciting prospect as it has been proven that using this type of software means businesses can save time, improve accuracy and cut costs, but will adoption of this kind of software cost jobs?

In a 2017 report by McKinsey it was found that 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent technically automatable activities but only five percent were found to be 100 percent automatable. That means that even the lower skilled worker is less in danger of being replaced than people seem to think.

The time each employee gets back, thanks to AI, can be spent on more creative and enjoyable work tasks which could lead to improved employee satisfaction and a reduction in staff turnover. In short, this kind of technology gives rise to better, more creative use of human skills.

Another benefit of this technology is the easy integration into current business practices and the personalisation prospects of this kind of system. Robotic Process Automation can replace the daily practise of menial tasks without causing disruption to the business. With many new technologies and IT solutions the integration into businesses can be a time consuming and complex task requiring staff training. With RPA there is no need for this as the machines do all the work. And if you’re not getting the outcomes you desire you can simply turn it off at the switch. Machines can work around the clock, they don’t need breaks, holiday or sick days, which all saves time and resources.

This technology can give almost instant results and can work alongside, rather than instead of, current business systems and staff instead of replacing them.

Accenture reports that the benefits of automation include reducing costs by 80%, saving time by 80-90% and reducing errors, so why are businesses still resisting?

The technology does require some man power to execute effectively and in infancy will need a specialist team to run and analyse its use. The best way to start embedding this technology is to know your goal and do the groundwork. What is the desired outcome of using AI systems in your business and how are you going to integrate the co-bot into the company culture?

In a report Onyx Media and Communications wrote for their client BPS World last year they mentioned that in recruitment the use of automation software is becoming vital in order to “standardise, reduce paper and harvest valuable data,” but recruitment is not the only business that can benefit from automation software.

The success of Robotic Process Automation has been proven in many business sectors including the financial services. Thoughtonomy reported in their White Paper, ‘How to implement intelligent automation’ that RPA saw a 12x reduction in FTEs, 10% faster execution and a $1.5m projected annual saving on their financial services case study.

 

The future is here, and businesses need to get on the band wagon!

 

 

 

 

Sweat and endorphins

Now, I have never been what you would call a ‘gym bunny’ but I used to frequent those rooms of sweat and endorphins on a regular basis.

After I got married that all stopped and I disgracefully put on two stone over two years, which was atrocious for my self-esteem. I guess that’s what happens when you get happy.

In December 2018, I decided to get off my gluteus maximus and start exercising again. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions so my timing was considered with the hope that as this wasn’t a resolution I would carry on past March. It’s also cheaper in December!

I’m still kicking myself for what happened during my first month. I decided to have a one-off personal training session.

“What do you want to achieve?”

“Like most people, I want to shift some weight.”

And just like that my personal trainer wrote up an intense, interval training course designed to bring my heart rate up in short bursts. He assured me it would work and my somewhat unrealistic goal of losing two stone by March seemed promising.

Having done a lot of exercise before, I was well aware that stretching is essential before pushing forward with hard core interval training. Did I follow my experience? No, no I didn’t. My impatience is a character fault that many of my friends take the mick out of me for and this time my lack of patience was to my detriment. So excited to get on with my new interval training regime I skipped the morning yoga, positioned myself on the rowing machine and proceeded to hammer my legs until I pulled my hamstring. Two sessions is all it took and, three months later, it still hurts to walk.

I didn’t want to stop completely and when I’ve had this injury before I’ve found that light exercise can help. I’m not saying you should exercise on an injury so please don’t follow suit. I gave up the battle ropes, medicine balls, ski machine and rowing machine, and took to the cross trainer and bike instead.

It’s working. The weight is irritatingly taking a long time to shift but I am much fitter, feel healthier and my new routine is helping me sleep. My teen akin skin is getting better too and I’m generally happier. I now make sure to fit yoga in before I trot off and that stretches out my muscles and my mind.

What I like about my gym is that it’s not an intimidating place. No one looks at each other, I think out of respect rather than wretchedness. Some of the staff are friendly, my PT appears decidedly miserable, but he’s a one off and I find it easy once stepping in to lock into my tunes and ignore the world for a while.

They say it takes 21 days to develop a new habit and I’ve passed that mark so am hopeful I’ll keep it up.

So, what’s better? Interval training or continuous cardio? Well it depends entirely on what you want to achieve, your fitness level and what you enjoy – if I didn’t enjoy the gym there is no way I’d be able to keep it up. Of course, it also depends on whether you have any injuries…

If you want to lose weight fast, then interval training is the one. By increasing your heart rate in short bursts, bringing it back down then hitting the cardio again, the weight drops off. However, I prefer my meditative time on the cross trainer. Music in my ears, I try and move to the beat – this is an answer to the somewhat unkind comment my husband made about my lack of rhythm. For a musician, the slur was devastating.

I’ll continue my light training until I heal up and be very careful of the interval training in future.

To all my fellow gymans take care on that rowing machine!

How to live in the vortex

The job market. A once shining place of hopes and dreams inhabited by young believers looking, and often finding, their lucky break. Now it resembles a never-ending line at the post office where every window you go to, you get sent to another.

This impression for me is intensified when looking for part time or flexible work. That queue is even longer, the windows are smaller and the people behind the desks are so overwhelmed with applicants they only stay open for ten minutes a day.

So what can you do? Writing has always been a difficult path to pave and with self-publishing platforms continuously cropping up, ready for anyone and everyone to scribble all over, making a living out of writing is hard.

Although these self-publishing platforms may seem a hindrance to the hopeful writer that is not necessarily the case. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest can be used not only to promote yourself but also your writing. Blog, tweet, write articles on LinkedIn and then share them all over your digital channels.

There are also a number of freelancer, flexible working and creative professionals groups and pages you can join to find other creatives and work. Some of these will let you promote your work through their group/page but not all, so always check with admin.

Connecting with other writers may seem counter-productive but having a community of like minds around can make for some comfort in the grand vortex that is online publishing. You can also help each other out if one or the other of you has too much work. Always be supportive to your fellow creatives. You never know who could help you or who you could help in the future.

Stories can come from anywhere, you just need to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Look at the calendar. Can you ride the news agenda with a time sensitive, topical piece? Have you got a fresh angle on a topic currently in the news? If you can be current and relevant it’s more likely you’ll entice readers.

With writers everywhere I won’t pretend that the competition isn’t fierce. As I said, with self-publishing platforms, everyone is doing it, so you may wonder if anyone actually needs a professional writer these days. But just because somebody can bash the keys that doesn’t mean they can write. If you have the skill don’t undersell it, know your worth.

There are many different levels of professional writers and varying pay grades. From the pittance earned by the junior in a small publication up to the influencers that charge over a grand per blog, most people fit somewhere in the middle. Speak to your fellow writers and look into the going rate for your education, skill and experience level. Try to avoid mate’s rates. Your real friends will support your work and want to pay in full – or at least I would like to hope!

Doing unpaid work to build up your portfolio is an unfortunate must for many writers, but once you’ve got that portfolio stop working for free. It’s a tricky business especially as your first clients will likely be people you already know so you don’t want to overcharge them. But do charge. The unpaid intern era is here but don’t fall for it. If a company offers ‘experience’ that probably means it’s not offering money.

How’s your proofreading? Refine it. The internet is littered with typos and grammatical errors. If you notice them try contacting the company to let them know. Yes, you might irritate them, but they may also like your bold approach and ask you to check more of their writing in the future. What have you got to lose?

When you’re out there looking be fully aware of the roles you’re applying for. Some roles may be advertised as writing jobs but when you start you may realise it’s all social media posts and communications. If you want pure writing you need to ferry your way through all the media, marketing and communication roles.

Don’t think of your fellow writers as competition, think of them as co-workers. There are enough words in the world for us all.

And with that I bid you adios. Good luck!  

Spark a debate on the radio – go on, I dare you

Some of our best shows are the ones that contain controversy. When listeners get involved in the conversation and specifically when they disagree with us, it makes for interesting radio where everyone learns something.

Different angles around a topic can be discovered and new information is presented. The hard part, the part I actually really enjoy, is deciphering the right way to present a disagreement. The worst thing you can do is ignore that listener who has taken the time to text in their views.

The one-sided nature of being on the radio means you ultimately have the voice and control over the discussion. That comes with responsibility. The listeners are often silent partners but as a DJ and presenter you want your silent partners to speak up and get involved – we shout the text line out multiple times during a show and are often surprised by which topics get the people talking. As a DJ you have a responsibility to represent your listener’s views as the listeners intend them to be represented. If you’re not sure what the listener means by a text, ask them to clarify before making assumptions that could aggravate them. It is also important to note that no opinion is wrong, and you shouldn’t present it as right or wrong. It’s all a matter of perspective. From parliament, all the way down, the art of debate is being lost. We may say things that are wrong factually or wrong in other’s eyes but that doesn’t define them and doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be heard.

You have to be respectful but also, if you’ve done your research, it is OK to stand your ground. If you have presented facts that a listener disputes, reassure them of the source and make it clear that these are facts, not your own opinion. When you do present research to back up a point make sure it’s solid and from a good source. Don’t go shouting off statistics you’ve seen on Facebook – that really is a recipe for disaster. McKinsey reports are a good source.

On Kane FM, amongst the music, only 25% of the show should be chat, but that 25% is the perfect opportunity to spark a debate and get the listeners involved. Talk to your listeners as if you are speaking to individual people and invite them to join in. Obviously getting them to join in is easier said than done which is why your topics are so important. Pick issues in the news agenda but be careful, political discussions are not aligned with the ‘Kane way’ and you might be mistaken for presenting the political standpoint of the whole station, which could be a huge mistake and ultimately lose you your show.

We avoid politics completely. Mostly because it’s the Wake Up Happy Show and politics, particularly at the moment, is not a happy topic! But the other reason is that we really don’t know enough about politics to make up our own minds, never mind broadcast them articulately. Which brings me on to my next point…

Know your topic. Don’t talk about things you don’t know about. We’ve slipped up here a few times and the listeners can clock a fraud instantly. If you want to talk about something you don’t know much about, get an expert in and interview them. It’s good to shake things up a bit and get new people on your shows. Plus, you’ll learn about the subject so can go back to it at a later date.

Some subjects are timeless and you can return to them. There are also calendar events you can lock onto to incite topical discussions. International Women’s Day and mental health month are good examples and show you to be up to date with what’s happening in the world, giving you credibility.

Most importantly, respect each individual listener, stay calm and don’t get offended by opposing views. And if you do, for god’s sake don’t show it. It comes across as very unprofessional.

Well that’s it for now. Good luck sparking those debates kids!