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Back of a woman looking at the sea. Via Felipe Elioenay via Unsplash
Journalism, Just stuff, Life in general, Online journalism, what I think

Resolutions (sort of): Looking back, then looking forward

Yes, this IS what you’re thinking it is; an obligatory New Year post talking about resolutions and all that annual bollocks. Sorry about that. Sort of.

Now, Facebook will have us believe that 2016 has been a bad year because a lot of well-known and talented celebrities have died throughout the course of it. This doesn’t constitute a bad year in my books and, without being entirely unsympathetic, people die all the time, famous or not. Bad things have happened each year, we’re just more aware of them because of the 24/7 news and social media cycle we are immersed in. These things do not have the ability to ruin my whole year and undo the personal achievements I and others around me have made.

So, let’s have a quick look back at 2016 – highlights include hubby relaunching his business with vigour and watching him thrive, win awards, do interviews and generally be awesome. Even if that did involve me having to be at the other end of almost nightly conversations about Google search rankings *yawn*.

For me, I am about to run the last leg of my MA in Online Journalism, (which gets a name change in 2017) having restarted in January after a few years off to have the kids. And I’m thankful to my good friend Kate for pushing me back on that track, because I could quite easily have let it go. What the MA has and continues to teach me is that knowledge is power, feeding the mind feels great and working hard (and trust me, it IS hard) to achieve good marks is an unbelievable feeling. When some days I struggle to put contact lenses in, find matching socks and get the kids to nursery on time, knowing I’m working at postgraduate level is both shocking, monumental and addictive. The MA has also motivated me to re-examine my career aspirations and given me the confidence to follow those dreams… so let’s see if 2017 brings them to fruition.

And let’s not forget I have survived another year being mum to Irish twins. At the time of writing this I am the proud owner of TWO three-year-olds (born either end of the same year) and we have all survived the tantrums (theirs and mine), throwing stuff (them and me) and inability to put shoes on quickly (mostly them). They test me every day and make me laugh every day and they’re my proudest achievement to date.

So, looking ahead to 2017, here’s what I’ll be focusing on:

Giving less fucks

My resolution of 2016 was inspired by Sarah Knight’s awesome book which taught me not to give a fuck about everything. If you want the full lowdown, get the book, but in short, not feeling guilty about declining invites, saying no to things and ignoring stuff was truly liberating and freed up a lot of time to focus on the things I enjoy. My resolution also inspired other friends to take the same stance and when you’re a busy parent/employee/boss/wife/athlete/sister/dog walker/creative person it’s absolutely okay not to give a fuck about everything. Sarah Knight also has a new book out about how to get your shit together *adds to Amazon wishlist*

Limiting Facebook time

Did I hear a gasp then? Yes, that’s right… Facebook is great for keeping up with friends I don’t see very often or catching up on a bit of gossip. But it’s also filled with a lot of small-chunking shite. And I don’t have time for it. I should not be a slave to notifications. As thus, I may reduce my Facebook intake slightly and focus on other channels later in the year, like using Instagram to drive traffic to my blog (hmmm, will need to start writing more posts before tackling that one).

Meal planning hell

This is a family related one but I cannot get my head around meal planning and grocery shopping. I can easily implement efficient systems at work and home to get shit done, but the food shop/meal planner thing simply baffles me. Earlier this year I tried meal planning and just found it a huge headache and more expensive than dashing into Aldi and scraping a few things into the trolley. I also want to change up our grocery list a bit instead of getting the same old stuff. If you have any systems that work for you, I would love to hear them.

Graduation

The biggest one for me is to complete the MA. By the middle of May I’ll be all submitted (shit, that means I have A LOT of work to do), should have passed (I won’t hold my breath) a few weeks later and graduate few weeks after that. I literally cannot wait for this. The MA has taught me so much, not just about online journalism, but about me as a person, my capabilities and what I want in the future. I’m also excited because completing the MA will free up a ridiculous amount of time for me to focus on all of the above and new things to boot. This blog, for starters, will get a complete makeover and some regular posts. Bring it on!

Education

The MA is educating my mind, but my body and soul are lacking. The body bit is as simple as eating better, getting some exercise and getting enough sleep. And healthier food shops, better eating habits (which I’ve learned from doing the Clean 9 earlier this year) and going to bed earlier (possibly with some wind down time courtesy of the Headspace app) are all well within my control. I’m not yet sure how I will educate my soul and this will become a focus for me post-May when my MA is complete and I have time and mental capacity to focus on other things. Thoughts welcome – Volunteering? Writing? Mentoring? Watch this space.

Have you made any resolutions?

What are your achievements from 2016 and what are you hoping to achieve in 2017?

topical, what I think, work

Why flexible working should be the norm

Man checking phone on the toilet. Image credit: Thinkstock

If you take away the suit and replace with jeans and a T shirt, this is totally my husband!

Way back when, when I was a cub reporter, it was the done thing to turn up to work before my editor arrived and leave just after they left (I say they, not because I had more than one editor at a time, but I have had both male and female editors and they covers both nicely). I digress… So, I’d rock up at 8.45am and head home around 5.15pm ish.

But times, they are a changing. I no longer subscribe to the set hours routine – not only because childcare arrangements mean it’s not possible, but also because it’s an outdated concept.

As a rule, those who are at their desks 9am to 5pm, five days a week, are no more productive than those who work flexible patterns, take time off when work is slow or work into the small hours when deadlines are looming. It just makes sense. Obviously, work rate varies according to each individual, their role, their ability and their ethics, but the pattern of working has moved on a lot from the traditional nine to fiver – to the benefit of us worker bees and the small businesses or larger organisations we work for.

Do you reply to work emails on the loo?

Today is Flexible Working Awareness Day, flagging up the pros of flexible working. Obviously. But the word flexible is also flexible in its meaning too – this can mean the hours and days we work, how we work – office, home, on the toilet even (my hubby replies to work emails on the loo frequently) – and how we float between work and home life at the touch of an app, scrolling our Facebook feed one minute and chatting with a colleague about deadlines via Messenger the next. And the image I’ve used below gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘flexible worker’ entirely. Ouch.

Research suggests nearly half the UK workforce, to the tune of 14 million people, want to work flexibly to fit around modern life. They key word is modern here, the way we work – made easier (to our benefit or detriment, you decide) by digital technologies.

Work-life boundary blur

The Digital Brain Switch project looks into these very things, the boundaries between work and home life, and how we juggle whose time we’re on. It’s difficult to know exactly how much work stuff I do at home and how much personal stuff I do at work (a phone call to sort a plumber for a leaky boiler, for example). For me, it’s a fair mix and I don’t sweat it it either way. I am, after all, the proud owner of good work ethics and get satisfaction from ‘good, big shit’ at work.

Young acrobatic businessman split while using laptop and phone. Image credit: Thinkstock

Ouch!

For me, being able to work a flexible pattern means I’m able to contribute more to my place of work – and get more enjoyment out of doing that while fitting that around childcare and other commitments. I work 31 hours per week, so not far off the full-time equivalent of 37.5 hours, but it’s spread over 3.5 days. That’s three days working 8am to 6pm and an 8am to 12pm shift on a Friday, leaving Mondays completely clear for children, washing and all the other things I don’t want to spend my evenings doing.

I’m lucky to be able to do this – in many organisations, such flexibility is still frowned upon, seen as messy, confusing to staff and unproductive.

Where I work, pretty much everyone is working some kind of flexible pattern, even the full-timers with long and short days, every other Monday off etc. It doesn’t confuse us (much) and we still get stuff – a lot of stuff, actually – done.

While there are specific organisations  aimed at recruiting parents (mostly mums) into part-time work, flexible or agile working is no longer for parents juggling childcare, it’s for anyone. For those who want to run a second business on the side like my friend Sarah who’s about to open up her own shop in Bridgnorth after upcycling furniture on her ‘agile Mondays’. Another friend uses a day a week for study. My husband, too, is a flexible worker – on a Friday, for example, his eight-hour working day begins when I arrive home at 12.15pm.

And it’s right for me, someone who wants to work full-time (or close to) but is restricted by family life and committed to wanting to be one of the two people largely responsible for raising my kids.

Are you a flexible worker or chained to the 9am to 5pm approach? What would work for you?

 

 

 

Books, Just stuff, Life in general, Motherhood, what I think

Bateman is back blogging in 2015. You heard it here first…

New Year’s Resolution number one: to blog more. Well, to actually blog at all. Given that much of my husband’s Christmas break was spent firefighting the billion hack attempts on this site, I owe it to him, at least, to put up some content.

I won’t blather on about why the last couple of years have been a bit thin on the blog side (two kids born in 2013!), I’ll just get on with it…

This is what I’m up to as we break into 2015… Continue Reading

Just stuff, Life in general, what I think

Don't you just hate ignored blogs? Erm…

Cocker spaniel resting on a pregnancy bump

Don’t you just hate it when you pop over to a blog and find no one’s posted for an age? *looks at own blog and hangs head in shame*

I hate neglected blogs, especially when previous content has been good (making no assumptions about my own here, by the way), they make me feel sad and I wonder when the author will get back on track of if the blog’s been abandoned forever.

Well, this blog hasn’t been thrown into the online graveyard, it’s very much alive and I have every intention of boring entertaining you with my prose from here on in.

The thing is, I’ve been kinda busy. My blogging mojo well and truly disappeared when I got pregnant in May last year. I was as sick as a dog and looking at a laptop screen made it worse. In the second trimester, while I felt much better, time was consumed with a busy job and preparing for motherhood. It was kinda like growing a baby sucked out my creative energy and while I had plenty of ideas for posts, I just couldn’t commit them to type. And in the third trimester we decided to grow up and buy a house (great excuse not to move heavy boxes, not so great if your head tells you you can still climb ladders, paint walls and hang pictures etc, but your body’s telling you no fecking way) which was really rather close to Christmas. I then had to wrap up at work (the first time my work ‘to do’ list has ever gone down), sort out Christmas stuff (buying presents, decorating, making mince pies etc) and then spent a couple of weeks simply enjoying my maternity leave. This mostly means walking the dog and catching up with friends/nesting in the morning, and then watching TV and sleeping in the afternoon. Bliss!

And here we are, almost due to pop and no blog posts for an age. I have revamped the design of my website, you may have noticed, which is still work in progress and today I thought it about time I committed at least a few words to the blog to show some willing. And my intention to blog on from here on in.

So, what else can I tell you? I can say that my MA in Online Journalism at BCU (see projects tab above) has been put on hold for a year – wrapping up work, moving house AND completing a challenging MA asssignment just before Christmas proved a little too much to take on when heavily pregnant and I decided to delay. Semi gutted about it but it’s the right decision; if you’re going to do things, do them properly. And it’s hard to work late into the evening when you’re fat, sore and struggle to stake awake past 9pm.

I’m also, as referenced above, a home owner. Having been on the rental market (happily so) for a good five or so years, we decided to grow up and buy. This was triggered by a few things – the prospect of being parents made us want a bit more security and the ability to drill holes in walls without losing a deposit; we found a lovely Victorian terrace we actually wanted to own and put our stamp on; our rental was too big and I don’t want to spend my maternity leave cleaning; and the fact that our mortgage is actually a lot cheaper than our last rental. I love where we live and look forward to starting our family here.

So, what’s next? Well, tomorrow’s challenge will be trying to walk the dog in frost and snow while trying to stay upright. My bulging belly throws me off kilter and while hubby would prefer me to stay home, I have a clingy cocker spaniel (who uses my tummy as a cushion) to keep fit. After that, I plan to sneeze and pop out my first born who will sleep through the night, never cry and provide the family with hours of endless joy while I continue to hone my online skills and find time for coffee and cake with friends. I have plans to ensure the old grey matter stays in tact by learning some new online tricks, helping hubby with his web design business and blogging. Yes, I said blogging, so watch this space.

The bit about sneezing out a baby (I may well be in denial about pain/sleep deprivation and the practical elements of parenting) may be a tad unrealistic but I live in hope.

So, that’s it from me – for now.

friends, Guest bloggers, Journalism, Media, Online journalism, social media, what I think, Writing

Surrounded by women bloggers: my day at Cybher!

I have never in my life been to a conference in which mothers breast feed babies while guest speakers talk, undeturbed, about their area of expertise. And that pretty much sums up the relaxed atmosphere at Cybher on Saturday – the UK’s only conference for female bloggers – in which 300 were in attendance.

Throw in free leather satchels, a constant supply of coffee and cookies, some talented and inspiring speakers and lots of happy, smiling faces, and you can’t go far wrong.

9am to 6pm is a long day at a conference for me and I’ve always had enough by 4pm – especially given my 6.30am alarm call to trog to London on the train with my sidekick for the day. But I was wide awake and 6pm and returned home to Milton Keynes feeling inspired.

 

Cookies and coffee and handbags Podcasting session with The High Tea Cast Caz Walton's Cybher badge

Caz and an AVG cupcake Taking notes at Cybher Cybher conference screen in the ballroom

 

I’ve never attended a conference where I’m not ‘working’ it – and Cybher was no different. My latest MA project on multimedia covers the conference, the stories behind some of the guest speakers and how blogs can change people’s lives.

So I had one eye on the conference and the other on my project but, to be honest, this assignment has been a lot of fun and one thing is clear – bloggers are talented, powerful and most of all, lovely. Not concerned about competing with each other, they’re all happy to share their experiences, their tricks of the trade and their expertise. Very refreshing!

So, enough from me, go check out ladieswotblog.co.uk for indepth interviews with some of the speakers as well as a round up of Cybher in pictures, text and audio.