Last Week: Very Hot Weather, Burnout, Taking Time Out

Mon 8 – Sun 14 Aug 2022

Some weeks can seem quiet with nothing major happening. But then you realise that one week was actually a bit of an epiphany. Last week we returned to very hot weather. Four days of extreme temperatures for the UK. It’s the shape of things to come and we have to learn how to live with it.

Plus the week gone also had two other big light bulb moments for me. First, I finished a book that greatly connected with my own thought patterns. It made me think about my past and my future. Second, me and Dave had a small break away from London. And, with hindsight, it was so good to have a rest from normality and the general value of taking time out.

Culture from the Saatchi Gallery graduate show

Sustainability

A return to very hot weather last week with temperatures Thurs to Sun in the mid-thirties. There can be no doubt that this is climate change in action. Unbelievable that some people still deny this but the world is always going to have fuckwits and the best thing to do is to ignore them. Anybody with brain cells can see our climate is changing and that is not for no reason.

And things are going to get worse. We really aren’t taking any action to stop the temperature increase and its knock-on effects like freak weather or rising water levels. Do you see anybody making massive changes in their behaviour to tackle climate change? I don’t. Indeed, the increase in fuel prices is what is having more impact with people reducing their energy usage in the home and in transport due to this.

So how do we live with very hot weather as a new and permanent feature of summer in the UK? We are going to have to become more like a Mediterranean country and that probably ain’t a bad thing:

  • Reduced activity during the day. Not a bad thing, more chilling = less activity = less consumption.
  • Reduced food consumption. Too hot to eat heavily hopefully means we all eat less.
  • Put sun tan lotion at every opportunity
  • Carry a water bottle with you and increase your consumption of water generally
  • Wear a hat or put up a parasol – try to stop skin damage
  • Walking is probably the coolest way to get around if you can keep in the shade
Living through very hot weather

Books and Reading

‘4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals’ by Oliver Burkeman

I’ve been reading this book on my kindle as I walk about in the hot weather. It’s taken a few weeks to read although it is relatively short. But I think that is because I have enjoyed reading it so much. Primarily because it rings so many bells with my own experiences and thinking. You can view Burkeman’s website here.

This is no normal time management book. Fundamentally, Burkeman says that our lifespan is short – just 4,000 weeks. And so we need to choose the most important things in our life and focus on those. That probably isn’t your job neither your emails nor social media. And the corollary of this is that you can’t do all you want and you have to let go of some things. The focus must be on doing what is most important and enjoying those.

The key thing that Burkeman is saying is that jobs and careers probably shouldn’t be important as we make them. Yes you may want to concentrate on your career at certain points in your life. But why are you putting so much energy into work over everything else? If it’s for money, then why have you created a life where you need so much money? More important are things like health, family, friendships, the environment, and so on.

Quotation by Einstein about value

Work Life Balance

My thinking on this theme has been developing for a while but has also been influenced by the Burkeman book and by the hot weather. The latter means you just can’t be as active as you were. And what is more important in the world at the moment than tackling climate change? Though close behind is the evil influence of Russia, China, extreme religion, and Brexit/Trumpian neo-fascism.

Time to move on

I’m enjoying my current job which puts me back into the Tech for Good arena. And I have learnt so much coming out of my career comfort zone and working for a private tech consultancy listed on NASDAQ. But my current contract terminates at the end of December and I am not intending to continue after that. I am very aware that I spent over a decade at Comic Relief – I was probably there too long. And there are lots of other things I want to do with my life. So after nearly 2 years at Thoughtworks, it will be wise to move on at the end of the year.

The key things now will be to carry on doing the good work I am doing, organising a good handover, and thinking about what comes next. I am not planning to go straight into a new job. Rather I feel like I need time out to think what I want to do for the remaining c.1,000 weeks left of my life.

You are more than just your job

Because one of the things Burkeman’s book has made me realise (though I always knew it) is how much I have defined myself in terms of the paid work I do. And how hard I have worked. To the point where my work has over-ridden other important aspects of my life. Plus I have burnt myself out.

There is a lot of talk about the Great Resignation. Basically people primarily in their 50s, retiring early. I think in this decade of your life, you realise how you have exhausted yourself in the past through your work commitments. And how being a wage slave is not the be all and end all of life. If I could give advice to my younger self it would be don’t work so hard. And take time off when you are sick to look after your health long-term.

There are so many occasions I can think of when I pushed myself to carry on working despite being desperately ill. I worked through blood clots, a nervous breakdown, and the onset of AIDS before I went onto Anti-Retrovirals. I cannot remember now what was more important at that time than dealing with those health emergencies.

Feeling swamped

Jan 2023 onwards

But how will I survive without a wage coming in? Well, I’ve got some savings so I will use those. Indeed, what is the point of having savings if you can’t use them at key moments in your life? One of my nightmares is to die with plenty of money in the bank and think fleetingly about all the things I could have done with it before entering oblivion.

How long will this new non-work period last? I don’t know, as long as it needs to. I need to take time out to design my new life and find the things that really get me going. Hopefully through this I will find something that will bring in an income. Though perhaps extended time off may make me hungry to return to paid work particularly around something that totally inspires me.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Nelson Mandela

Family and Friends

Time out and revitalisation ‘up North’

I wrote in my previous blog (read it here), about how me and Dave drove up North the previous Saturday to spend some time with his mum. And that visit lasted into Monday and Tuesday. There is hot weather up there but it’s not as bad as in London. There is still some green grass unlike the yellow, burnt grass of London giving way to just dirt.

And it was lovely to spend time with her – she is in her 80s with limited mobility. But it was also so nice just to take time out generally. Sometimes you just need to take yourself out of your everyday life and normal physical situation to appreciate what you’ve got.

Not only did we spend time with his mum but we also pottered around the garden centres, checked out the local charity shops, and went for walks in the local woods. Yes the pace of life was slower and things were quieter. But that is what you need now and then simply to recharge your batteries.

surviving busy lockdown

Faye

Two main catch-ups with friends last week. First, met with my old Comic Relief colleague Faye. I saw her not long ago but we met again as she’s got a new job. It was lovely to see her so excited about it – she really is going to be an asset for her new employer with all her enthusiasm. That is partly why I need time out – to rediscover what gets me excited. Indeed, Faye is keen on coaching and was trying to help me identify what work I want to do in the future.

We met at Victoria in the very hot weather. She was with many other people who used to work at Comic and were involved in the softball team (not my thing). But it was lovely to see so many old colleagues. Interesting that Comic is going through another restructuring. And good to see how people who have moved on are also developing and being successful like myself.

Brian

Then on Thursday evening, I had a nice old-fashioned long phonecall with my long-term pal. He lives outside the UK now. It was very sad that his partner’s mother died within the last fortnight – she hadn’t been well for a long time but it is still hard to deal with. Apparently Brian’s main concern now is his garden. But he still has the travel bug particularly some long trips to sunnier parts of southern Europe. He loves the sun.

Health and Efficiency

Gym

It was great to have the break with Dave’s mum and enjoy the countryside. But the flip side was that I had to sacrifice 2 of my normal 3 gym sessions. However, positive in that Thursday’s session was really good with focus on chest, shoulders, back and legs. Gym was a bit busy – 2 people were also there when I was.

Running total: 53 gym sessions since the start of the year divided by the annual membership = £9.40 per session.

Gym

Personal Development / Art and Culture

You can’t have too many epiphanies in one week. Carried on with my daily Duolingo language lessons though managed to miss a couple of days. Very hot weather is not always conducive to routine. And it’s nearly 100% Spanish at the moment as that will be my next holiday rather than Germany.

No real artistic nor cultural events last week. Very hot weather meant I wasn’t in the mood to go out for long periods. Plus a large part of the week we were out of London. But I did listen to the new Beyonce album ‘Renaissance’. It is very good – truly creative and well worth a listen.

The Week Ahead

  • It’s Billy home alone as my partner Dave is off to Germany for a holiday next Wednesday. I will spend time with my mum (especially after the time spent with Dave’s mum – don’t want jealousies arising). But I’ll also take some time out to stay at Dave’s flat and be on my own.
  • Back to 3 gym sessions on my normal days of Mon, Tues, Thurs. The very hot weather should die down a bit so that should make the walk there and back a bit less oppressive.
  • Progressing a couple of interesting Tech for Good projects at work. And planning for next year has started. I’ll be gone but we will hand things over in a good state.
  • Got a load of books I want to take up to the Exchange, hopefully they’ve got a book buyer around
  • Catching up with my old colleague Irene next Thursday. Plan is a long, lazy lunch at the Union Jack Club.

And Finally…

Brexit, the gift that keeps giving

Brits pay more

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