Haptic Architects Teach the Benefits of the Scandinavian “Work Life Balance” ›

Work/Life balance is a thing many of us struggle with. I know when I was 100% self-employed it was the thing I struggled with most, there was always something I felt I should be doing. Whilst many people claim that doing what you love means you have a perfect work/life balance that seems far to idealistic to me. Work is work, whether we love what we do or not and we need a good balance between it and the rest of our lives.

It seems Haptic Architects have that same awareness, and so I was interested to read about the Benefits of the Scandinavian Work/Life Balance that they have implemented in their design studios. It seems a healthy approach to work and demonstrates a real awareness and care towards their employees.

Walking

Back in January 2015 when I realised I was ill, and consequently started a course of antidepressants, many people encouraged me to exercise. I had been a keen cyclist and they encouraged me to keep at it and get out on my bike as much as I could. I was told, and in fact read many times, that exercise was a great way of countering some of the symptoms of depression. My issue was that the thought of going out on my bike caused me anxiety and stress, both things which I was trying to avoid and so I dismissed the notion as not for me. Nearly two and a half years later I’m starting to understand a little of what the mysterious they were talking about.

About a month ago I moved into a new flat, one which I’m living in on my own, it’s great to have my own space again. As a consequence of that move I’ve been doing a lot more walking. It’s located in such a place that I can walk to pretty much everywhere I need to go on a regular basis. I can walk to my shifts at the coffee house, my church, a couple of supermarkets, as well as the centre of town, and I’ve been doing that as much as is practically possible. It’s become a time that I enjoy, an opportunity to pop my headphones in and listen to some music or catch up on a few podcasts.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to notice something, when I don’t get my daily walks in my mood suffers. The realisation has come home to roost this bank holiday weekend. On Saturday and Monday I didn’t really go out. I stayed home in my flat tinkering on my websites, making a few adjustments, watching some TV shows, what most people call relaxing. And it has been just that, but today I noticed the heaviness creeping in, it made me realise what effect going out for a walk has on me.

It’s not just the small amount of exercise that a brisk walk provides that I’ve missed today, it’s the intentionality of going for a walk. Instead of the day just passing by, the act of walking to work is intentional and provides an element of structure to my day. I need to schedule in the time for my walk to work otherwise I won’t get there on time letting people down. It helps that my walk to work is a pleasant one down an old railway line, that’s what’s in the photo at the top of this post, for a moment I can be lost in the wonder of looking at the trees and greenery as I walk. It provides a chance to look at God’s creation and see how the same place changes from day to day. It’s a chance to walk and listen to some new music or the latest podcasts, in my own little world that’s outside in the wider world. It’s a chance to pop the headphones out and walk listening to the birds and rustling of the trees. When the sun’s out it’s especially enjoyable, but even on a rainy day I look forward to my walk to work.

Almost by accident I’ve discovered that the act of walking to work provides me with a moment of calm. In that walk there is nothing I can do for my design business, nothing I need to do for my coffee house shift, no tweets or Instagram photos to catch up on (unless I want to walk into my fellow walkers or be run over by the many cyclists), I can just enjoy the simple act of walking.

Deep Prayer > Deep Work ›

There’s been a lot of talk on the internet circles I follow about focus and deep work. They’re thought provoking and often resonate with me, but there’s one thing I’ve been struggling to reconcile in it all. The focus of all these discussions is usually aimed at putting your individual desires first, which doesn’t really jive with my Christian beliefs.

Chris Bowler, in his excellently considered article Deep Prayer > Deep Work, seems to demonstrate I’m not alone. In doing so he seems to capture exactly how this kind of thinking should be influencing my approach to my faith.

But over and over, I come back to the fact that while Newport’s concept of increasing our ability to focus is crucial to a successful career, it’s even more crucial to a successful Christian life. One that is lived attuned to the Spirit. One that is carefully watching to see where God is working, then ready and willing to join him in it. 

The Dedication Olympics

As I sit writing this the BBC are showing their roundup video of the Rio Olympics. Normally when it comes to the Olympics I’m pretty glued to it for the few weeks that it runs. This year, maybe due to the time difference, it took a week or so for me to get in to it.

It was only when the track cycling came on and Team GB started to win medals that I started to watch. The success of the British team on this field is mind-blowing, every four years the team hits form perfectly and brings home gold medal after gold medal. Similarly, the success of the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, so consistent year after year resulting this year in the first triathlete to retain the gold medal. Then there’s Andy Murray, only weeks after winning Wimbledon, retaining his gold medal. Not to mention the many other athletes who’ve won medals for Team GB, helping us as a nation to finish second in the medal table.

Most years by the end of the games I’m inspired. I want to try a new sport, or return to an old one I used to play. This year is a bit different. I’ve not been inspired to go and do sport, but instead by the dedication that unites these athletes. Each and every one of them has a level of dedication that blows me away. They are able to apply themselves for every single day between olympic cycles. For four years they are able to focus their energy on one thing so that they can give themselves the best possible shot to win that gold medal.

During one of the events one of the commentators picked up on this. I don’t think it was what he meant, but the way it came across as he spoke of it was that these athletes seem to have a gift none of the rest of the world does. Not in terms of their sporting prowess, but in their ability to apply themselves and dedicate themselves to their chosen discipline. It’s an easy mindset to fall into, but it’s also a dangerous one.

Discipline or dedication is not a thing that we just have, it’s something we can learn. Each and everyone of us can learn discipline and self control in order to focus on something. In order to grow and develop into a great writer it takes dedication and discipline to turn up and write each day. For the artist it takes hours of painting, the musician hours of playing their instrument. Dedication is something we can grow in and get better at. The more we dedicate ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to do it. For the olympic athlete, turning up to training on a wet Monday morning in November makes them more likely to turn up for training on a wet November Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Likewise, writing a post for this blog on a Sunday makes me more likely to want to write one for tomorrow. I don’t want to break the chain or waste the time I spent the day before.

As many people are want to say on the internet at the moment, the key to everything is showing up everyday. The key to winning a gold medal is showing up everyday with an unrelenting dedication to your sport. The key to growing in dedication to our chosen discipline is the same.

Depression Days

Sometimes a day hits you when things that are normally easy to do become the hardest things. I mean simple things like getting out of bed, going downstairs and making a coffee. That’s the nature of depression.

When it happens you have to find ways of getting through because giving in to it can be crippling. Giving in can be the start of a downward spiral, a spiral you don’t want to be in and that can take a long time to get out of. That’s a place you don’t want to go. Instead you have to find a way to push through, to stop the down from taking over. What that looks like is the tricky part, but for everyone there is way of doing it.

Permission

At the start of last week I set myself the challenge to blog everyday between then and the end of the year. Yesterday I didn’t manage to post to this site, in some people’s eyes I’ve failed the challenge already. Maybe I have, but it’s not going to stop me carrying on.

These types of challenges are great to do, they add an extra bit of impetus to get going on something you want to do. A little bit of healthy competition goes a long way. But yesterday life happened, two friends got married and the day was rightly taken up celebrating that. There simply wasn’t time in the day to sit down and write a post for this site, it was an exception to the norm and that’s ok. I realised this early on and gave myself permission to have a day off.

A few years ago had I set myself this challenge I would’ve let it defeat me. The chain would’ve been broken and I would’ve let the day off turn into two, three or four days, before giving it one last effort and then stopping it. Over the last year and a half I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s ok to give myself permission to say, it’s just not going to happen today. As long as it doesn’t turn into a regular occurrence that’s perfectly OK, I just pick up where I left off the next day.

It’s been an important lesson for me to learn, perfect is unattainable and being somewhat of a perfectionist it’s a difficult thing to accept. Now in the context of this challenge, had I realised earlier in the week when I started it, I’d have written an extra post in the week so I had one in the bag and didn’t break the chain. In the context of real everyday life, it’s a far more important lesson to learn. I’ve had to learn how to give myself permission to say this is ok, this is good enough and I’m ok with putting it out there.

You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At. ›

Do what you love has been a bit of a mantra of late on the internet, at least on the blogs I seem to have been reading over the last couple of years. It’s something that I love the sentiment of, but at the same time something that has never quite sat properly with me. So when I saw the phrase You’re Not Meant To Do What You Love. You’re Meant To Do What You’re Good At in a tweet link to the matching article I instantly saved it to my Instapaper.

I agree entirely with this point:

We’re doing people an incredible disservice by telling them they should seek, and pursue, what they love. People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.

But more importantly, you are not meant to do what you love. You are meant to do what you’re skilled at. 

The trouble comes when the people who are espousing the mantra of do what you love are the fortunate few who’s skill also happen to be what they love. It gives them a distorted view that everyone should be doing this and it creates a worldview that doing work is a bad thing unless it’s something you love.

The husband of an old colleague of mine had a period of unemployment not long after they got married. It really impacted him as a person and I remember talking to my colleague about how her husband felt worthless because of it. He wanted to work because not working made him feel worthless. When he did get a job, it was not in something he loved, but it gave him meaning again. He was contributing to society, not reliant on it. He was giving something of himself to do it and what he was doing had value because of it.

As a Christian I believe we are designed to work, God even designed and modelled the week around it six days of work and one day of rest (Sabbath). The theologian Tim Keller in his book Every Good Endeavour states

Work is as much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually. 

This is exactly what my colleague’s husband experienced. Without work he struggled in exactly the way Tim suggests we will. When we fall into the trap of telling people to only do what they love, we do a disservice to work. For some people their work involves doing what they love, whilst for others it involves doing what they are skilled at. For some, maybe even the majority, it involves doing a job because it gives them value and helps them serve people around them.

The article finishes with this quote which I think sums up the value of work, of any kind, superbly.

The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give. We are not fulfilled by what we can seek to please us, but what we can build and offer. It is not fame, or money, or recognition that makes for a thoroughly meaningful life, it is how we put our gifts to use. It is how we give. 

Why Margin is Critical for Doing Your Best Creative Work ›

A healthy dose of margin in your life gives you the space you need to think, dream, strategize, wrestle through complexity, focus deeply, and, ultimately, do your best creative work. 

This piece by Shawn Blanc has been sat in my Instapaper for quite a while, but when I read the sentence above I immediately agreed. When you’re in constant hustle mode, when everything down to what jobs you work on and when you can find time to send out those all important invoices is imperative to your ability to exist in life, decisions and dreams disappear. When there’s no margin in anything in your life, your ability to work well goes and your ability to even think creatively vanishes let alone do the work your business depends on.

I’ve learnt the hard way, margin in life is imperative to being able to create well.

Do More Better ›

I finished reading Do More Better this afternoon. It’s a very well written and thought provoking read. I plan on begin implementing some of Tim’s suggestions in to my workflow in the next week or two. If you’re interested in looking st productivity with a biblical grounding, I suggest you give it a read.

The Week in Links

Another Sunday and another edition of The Week in Links. This weeks featured links focus largely on the iPad and it’s ability to be used for work and not just for consumption. It’s a debate that has been raging for years, and one which we seem to be no closer to ending, although we might be a step closer once iOS 9 arrives in September.

I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday, sit back with a coffee and have a read.

  • Crossing the iPad Rubicon — 500ish Words – I love the idea of working solely on an iPad, along with many others, and the constant discussion of whether it can actually be done is interesting. But every time I read an article like this one, I can stop but come away feeling like the whole thing is just a romantic notion. That’s not to say that no one can solely work on an iPad, but I know I won’t ever be able too. My work requires a Mac, with professional software in the form of Creative Cloud. That said, if I had an office job of some kind, and only used a computer at home for the likes of email and writing for this site, then I’m pretty sure I could go all in right now.
  • The Tools & Toys Guide to Writing with an iPad — Tools and Toys – It seems to be a bit of a theme this week, the topic of working on an iPad. This is a really good guide for those looking to find out where to begin using their iPad as a more serious work tool by doing some writing on it. Personally I’m a Byword fan and use it on all my computing devices that I use to publish to this site.

The Best of the Rest

Life After Cancer: How the iPhone Helped Me Achieve a Healthier Lifestyle ›

I’ve had this article from Federico Viticci in my Instapaper queue for along time and finally got a chance to read it over the weekend. Despite it’s age I wanted to share it just in case anyone else is like me and has had it saved to read for a long time.

First up, kudos to Frederico for making the changes to his life he has and not slipping back into old habits. Second, the idea of using my iPhone to track elements of my life has always connected with me (I like stats!). Several times I’ve tried it with MyFitnessPal and Sleep Cycle but they’ve never stuck for some reason, but seeing the motivation behind Frederico’s methods has struck a chord with me. I’m not recovering from a severe physical illness but I am recovering from a mental one and there’s definitely a connection between my mental well being and how I feel in my body. Positive attitudes in one area of my life filter through into other areas and it’s with this in mind that I’ve decided to have another go at putting that Health app to good use. My thanks to Frederico for highlighting some apps I’d never come across that are much more pleasant to use than ones I’ve tried previously.

Here’s to another attempt at tracking some stats about my life and to living more healthily.

The Week in Lnks

It’s been a buy and stressful week since the last edition of The Week in Links, but that’s why we call it work. It’s not always fluffy clouds and bright sunshine, even for those of us fortunate enough to be doing what we love for a living.

Despite all that, I have enjoyed quite a bit of reading this week. Once again I’ve highlighted a couple of articles which I really connected with. One from Shawn Blanc about work and one about working for yourself… probably not a coincidence after reading that first paragraph.

So sit back and enjoy this weeks edition alongside your Sunday coffee.

  • Concerning the Ebb and Flow of “Work” by Shawn Blanc – This is sometihng I’m learning about myself at the moment. Even before I was self-eployed my tendency was to do things all the time, I used to give my holidays to go and do a bible holiday club for two weeks every summer. It was different but incredibly tiring and it caught up with me. Now I’m self-employed forcing myself to rest is hard, in fact it hit me last weekend. I need to be away from home to rest and shut out my work, otherwise I and my work suffer.
  • Master working for yourself without crushing your soul — Dispatches from Paul Jarvis – Really interesting insights and thoughts on the areas on which to focus if you’re a freelancer. Focus upon what you want to do, talk about it lots and don’t be afraid of saying no. That final bit can be the hardest of all.

The Best of the Rest

Be Yourself ›

I can’t remember how I came across the article Be Yourself by Tim Nahumck but I instanty saved it. I’ve read twice since then. It resonated with me, in fact the tweets by Aaron Mahnke which triggered this article resonated with me. But most of all, this quote is what I connected with the most. Never have I been more aware of the true meaning of this quote than in the last six months.

I think for most, being yourself is one of the hardest things to do as a human. It takes a lot to get out of your own way, remove the internal barriers, and open up your world to others. 

The Focus Course ›

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE WHEN IT COMES TO FOCUS?

I’ve been following Shawn and his blog for years. He was one of the first people I met when I started my first blog way back in 2006, whether he’s aware of it or not he’s been one of the people who’ve inspired me the most in the last ten years. It’s no surprise to me then how postively his new project,The Focus Course, has been met. I’ve been following with interest over the last year as he’s been putting it together and the content he’s be creating around it has been his best yet. Pretty sure the course will be even better.

30 Things I’ve learned in 30 years

When the year turned 2014 I began to reflect on my life, who I am, where I am and what I’m doing. Why should a simple year change cause such a mood to dawn on me? At the end of September I turned 30, it also happened to mark the 10 year anniversary since I left home and moved to university here in Cheltenham. These are two significant events in my life that mark the beginning and end of the last decade, one which has been full of happy times and inevitably it’s fair share of low times. Rather than this become a telling of the story that has been my twenties, I thought it more productive to look at, if I can, thirty things I’ve learned in the last thirty years.

  1. Faith is important.
    Where you put it and in whom you put it has the biggest influence on your life and how you live it. Don’t waste it by putting it into things or people, they will only let you down. Instead, place it in Jesus, He is the only firm foundation that will never go away or let you down. My Faith has helped me through both the highs and lows of the last 10 years in a way which is incredibly hard to describe, but rest assured I will never place it in anything other than Christ.

  2. Family matters.
    In just over the last 10 years (I know I’m breaking the rules slightly) I’ve lost 4 grandparents, they are all missed greatly and especially so when big events occur. If you have grandparents spend time with them. Find out about their life before you existed, who they were, what their dreams were when they were your age. Listen to them and invest in them as much as you do your parents and brothers and sisters. One of the things I treasure most is a letter my Granddad wrote when I was 11 telling me his experiences of the 2nd World War. When I read it I learn as much about my Granddad in that letter as I did when he was alive to speak to.

  3. Friends.
    They will come and go, you will keep in touch with some, you will drift away from others, there’s often nothing you can do about this (although often there is). Make the most of them while you can, go out of your way to help them, support them in all they do and in any way you can. You may never know how much it means to them.

  4. It’s ok to be an introvert.
    I used to, in fact I sometimes still do, struggle with the fact that I am a naturally quiet person. At school, even at uni, I used to see people who can easily strike up a conversation with someone they’ve never met before and feel like there was something wrong with me because I find it so hard to do. It’s taken many years, a lot of reading and thinking, but the realisation that I get my energy from deeper friendships and not from a room full of strangers has been incredibly freeing. The trick is to not let this become a crutch when in a room full of strangers, I still need to work on stepping out my comfort zone, but at least I know what that zone is.

  5. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends what they don’t want to hear and don’t be offended if they don’t take it on board
    My best mate has never shied away from giving the kind of advice I don’t want to hear. I’ve not always acted on it, but on reflection months later I often find it was very good advice. I hope I’ve returned the favour.

  6. Be vulnerable
    I don’t mean go spilling your heart out for all and sundry, but getting to know people properly means you have to be vulnerable. It sometimes means sharing elements of your life you may not be very proud of, but it means your friends will be able to support you in ways you really need, and it means you’ll find out who your friends really are.

  7. Smile
    Don’t be so wrapped up in your own world that if you randomly make eye contact with someone you panic and look away. Instead, smile. Not a forced one, a genuine one. It’ll make people feel like they matter and that they’re not a repulsive monster.

  8. Work isn’t the be all and end all that people make it out to be
    If you’re happy in it great, keep going. If you’re not, put your all into it no matter how down you feel about it. You will probably meet more people through work than through anything else in your life and people can tell if you don’t like your work, but people can tell more if you don’t like it and don’t care about it.

  9. Time Alone
    I’m not being anti-social when I disappear off to my room/office. Time alone is incredibly valuable, too much of it can be a bad thing, but not enough of it can be very dangerous. It’s ok to want to just spend time alone, doing my own thing. In fact I crave it sometimes, and when I don’t get it I can be touchy, cranky, less enthusiastic about things and just generally drained.

  10. Not Knowing is OK
    It’s ok to not know where you’re going. The world is full of people who give the impression they know exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going. Reality is they’re probably just as lost as you are and just bumbling along in a slightly more concealed way than you feel you are.

  11. Having a Plan is OK
    Expecting that plan to work out exactly how you want it to and the world to be a nice fairy tale ending isn’t. That plan you had for your life at the age of 20 is very unlikely to work out, that’s ok. Recognising you are not as in control as you think you are is a good thing. Surrendering to God and his plan is even better. Often it will take a big event to make you realise this, but it will bring you out the other side in a better position.

  12. Don’t be too introspective
    I realise this one is somewhat ironic coming from a guy who is looking back at his life and inward at himself as he reaches what feels like a significant milestone. It is important to reflect on life, the universe and everything, but doing it too often is a bad thing. It sets you up for failure as you inevitably compare yourself to your friends, the plan you had when you were 20… we are broken people and we naturally look at the negative in these circumstances. For every introspective moment, take a minute to look at the now, you’re healthy, God has blessed you with another day on his beautiful creation, you have people you care about and who care about you. Dwell on that for a moment, then go and enjoy the day.

  13. Trust
    Trust people. This is, on some level, linked with point 6. You can not be vulnerable with people you don’t trust, but equally you can not get to the point of vulnerability without trusting someone first. So trust people. Don’t be naive, there are people out there who will abuse your trust to get something they want. In my experience, you’ll work out who they are before it’s too late and the ones you don’t, you’ll learn a lot from. In those cases it will be painful for a while after, but in the long run probably worth it.

  14. Don’t let fear beat you
    That girl you’ve got your eye on, go speak to her. Don’t let the fear of what might happen, or the fear of failing stop you from doing things. Stop thinking of the negative what if’s and focus on the positives. Go, do and learn. This isn’t easy. In fact of all the things in this list it’s probably the thing I struggle with most and it’s also probably the thing I get most frustrated about because I have no clue how to beat it.

  15. Be disciplined
    You’ll never get what you want done in life without being disciplined in some way. Without a bit of discipline you’ll spend most of your time doing what’s easy.

  16. Read
    When I was growing up I used to read a lot. When I got to my twenties what I was reading changed from books to websites. The last couple of years I’ve been actively trying to reverse that change. I still read blogs, but I’m picky about which ones and I make a lot more effort to read books (and my bible). Books have more substance. They’ve taken hundreds of hours to write, been refined over and are written by people who are experts about the topic they’re on.

  17. Think
    Think about things. Think about topics of importance, take time to dwell on them and to understand them.

  18. Don’t apologise for who you are
    You’re who you are because God made you that way, don’t be ashamed of that. I’m thirty and have grey hair. I’ve never once, despite the recommendations of some of the youth I’ve worked with on beach mission in Wales, been tempted to dye it. God made me and He said I was “very good”. Why would I try and change that?

  19. Drink lots of water
    The last couple of months I’ve consciously been trying to drink more water. It’s had an interesting effect, I’ve felt more alert and able to concentrate much better. My skin has been clearer and I’ve lost weight as well.

  20. Stop checking Facebook at every available opportunity
    Just don’t. Your life will be better off without the constant stream of people filtering their lives to make themselves feel better.

  21. Keep a journal
    I wish someone had encouraged me at the age of 20 to keep a near daily journal. There have been several spells over the last few years where I’ve kept a journal. Most of those times have been to help me through difficult times. One day I might read them, but I’d much rather read them and be reminded of happy times and fun times that will help me when I’m going through the difficult times.

  22. Speak to your friends
    That might seem like something that goes without saying, but bare with me. We live in a world that relies on technology so much that it’s tempting to fall into the trap that it’s the best method of communication. My best mate lives 4 hours drive away, in fact for the 9 years that I’ve known him we’ve only lived in the same place for 2 years. Had we just relied on technology (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the odd text) to keep in touch we likely wouldn’t still be the friends we are. Friendships can only be maintained over a distance by putting in effort to speak regularly. Pick up the phone and give your friends a call. Speak to them.

  23. Laugh
    Find people who make you laugh. Find people who will laugh with (at) you when you do something stupid. Find people who will do things stupid that you can laugh with (at).

  24. Exercise
    Don’t just sit on your backside all day, get the endorphins going. Get on your bike, go for a run, walk really quick, whatever, just exercise.

  25. Pray
    You spend time with friends, so spend time with God.

  26. Have perspective
    Don’t just look down at your feet. If you’re so focussed on the now, you’ll forget what’s been and miss what’s to come.

Look up. Look back. Look forward.

This was the phrase I ended the student bible study with last week. Look up at God because you belong to Him for He bought you at great cost. Look back at Christ and remember what He did for you on the cross. Look forward to the day when Christ will return in glory.

  1. Sleep
    Get enough sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep I get tired (well duh). I can’t concentrate on my work, I lose focus when talking to friends, it affects me in many other ways and I see it in others as well.

  2. Organise yourself
    Make lists or use a todo app, but do whatever it takes for you to be organised. You’ll never do all the things you want to do if you don’t know what you’ve got to do.

  3. Shoulders back, head up
    It’s amazing how many people I see walking down the street looking at the ground or staring at their phones. Get your shoulders back and your head up, be confidant and move with purpose, the very least it will do is make you feel confidant. It also means those people with clipboards are less likely to bother you.

  4. Listen
    Be willing to listen to other people’s thoughts and opinions, especially if they are opposite to yours. Show respect to what they are saying and they will show respect to you when you share your opinion. Never shut people down with a blanket statement that dismisses their opinion as wrong and closes down any discussion, it is neither productive nor constructive.

The One Where I Announce I’m Now Self Employed

There are some posts you dream about writing, posts you’d love to write but never think you actually will. This is one of those posts.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about change. Changing the way I approached something has lead to exciting guidance and a big change in my career.

It started with a conversation with two very good friends of mine. One asked how work was, then followed it up with a query about what I really wanted to do. The other laughed, asked me a question, set me a challenge and then held me to it. That question lead me to writing the last post about a change of approach, a change which, thanks to Gods guidance is leading to a leap of faith.

What’s the leap?

On Friday 3rd August I worked my last day in full time employment and spent my last day living in sunny (!?) Slough. The following day I moved to Cheltenham, again. A place I attended university and a place that I love being in.

With that move came a change of employment. I am no longer a rat running a race, but instead a man working as a business owner. I’ve finally taken the leap into self employment. Relying on the Lord to supply me with enough work to put food in my stomach and to pay the bills.

For a long time it’s been my ambition to work for myself, even while I was studying at Uni I knew ultimately I wanted to have my own design studio. It nearly happened straight after Uni after a little encouragement from my tutor, but I knew it wasn’t really the right time. There was a lot I still had to learn, well let’s face it there still is. I’ve now been in full time employment for 5 years. I’ve grown a lot, I’ve changed a lot and I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve experienced working for a small company and I’ve experienced working for a larger company. Both were good experiences that taught me many different things, but underneath there was always this desire to have my own company bubbling away.

I’m delighted to say that has now happened. I’ve had a little holiday, moved to a new (old) place and am at the end of my first week of self employment. It’s exciting, a little daunting but feels like the best decision I’ve made. Except that I didn’t make it, God showed me the door and I pushed it. Now I’ve got to continue pushing doors, keep faithful to Him, and work as hard as I can.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to introduce you to a new name and a new website. Of course this place will still exist and I hope to increase the level of writing, and hopefully build on some friendships that I’ve established through my blog over the years. It’s an exciting adventure, I hope you’ll join me on it!

Change

For the last few years I’ve been praying about something. I’m sure many of you have as well, but this particular thing has occupied my prayers for several years. I’ve been praying about it in the same way for pretty much the entire time, asking for guidance and direction in relation to the thing. During that time the urge to do that thing has grown. One could say its developed into something close to a permanent longing, something that left me unsettled because I’m not doing it and I’ve never really known why.

A recent conversation with a very good friend left me feeling challenged. He asked me a question and laughed at my response because it’s been the same response I’ve given him for the last few years.

My response of course was to question why he was laughing at me, I guess feeling like he wasn’t taking me serious. His response was one which caught me off guard. Instead of answering why he was laughing, he simply asked me how I had been praying about this thing. I told him and after a moments pause he responded with a challenge. Why don’t you pray about it in a different way?

He commented how that as I have been praying for guidance this thing had grown in to a passion and longing, that is to say something more than momentary desire, then maybe I’d had that guidance and it was time to challenge it.

So for the last month I’ve been praying more earnestly and in a different manner. Instead of requesting guidance about the thing, I’ve been praying: Lord, I think you want me to do this, please show me if I’m wrong.

The results have been breath taking, surprising and exciting all at once. A change of events has begun that, I believe, God is using to lead me into doing this thing I’ve been praying about for the last few years. I’m a little apprehensive, but the over riding feeling is one of excitement. This post is not an announcement, yet, but maybe more of a watch this space…

Wecloming 2012 and Setting a Few Targets

It’s that time once again when many people are posting reviews of the year just passed. I always enjoy reading these posts, seeing the people I follow who have achieved all that or more than they hoped to whilst hoping those who didn’t are able to in the coming year. I’m always drawn to writing something myself, and whilst my last year contains many highlights – my trip to Israel, a summer in North Wales and a deepening of friendships that have become increasingly valuable – I always feel somewhat hesitant to “review my year”.

I think the heart of that hesitancy lies solely in my feeling of a lack of accomplishment. I never feel I’ve achieved anything worth writing about or highlighting. I call it the curse of the Internet. It’s so easy to spend time looking and comparing what I’ve done to all the people who have achieved a great deal, all the people who’ve had the guts to sit down work hard and put themselves out there. I’m always left reeling at, what feels like, my complete lack of gumption.

I am learning though. Learning to not let that fear of failure or fear of no one noticing be the reason to stop myself from doing the things I want to. Thats why I’m writing this post, to set out three small targets to try and set me on my way this year. I think they are all achievable and am hoping they will set me on my way to accomplish something this year.

In the last year I’ve put weight on. Some people will argue that I needed to, I’ve always been a bit skinny, but in the last year I’ve put on a little too much. I weighed myself over the Christmas holidays and well the number at the start was too high. My first mission is to lose a stone in weight by exercising more regularly and cutting out those little treats which have snuck into my diet.

The past couple of years has seen my blog fall in to decline, significantly. I’ve always enjoyed writing for my blog, but the past couple of years has seen a lot of things change in my life and it didn’t feel right to be writing about them here. Nor did it seem right to continue writing about things which on reflection are quite trivial when compared to the loss of loved ones. But time is moving on, and I feel that it is time to pick up my pen once again and begin writing for my blog with more regularity. I realise I’ve said this before, and it’s gotten past January, February and into March before I’ve really realised I’ve not done anything I’d hoped to, so I’ve given myself a number to aim for. I’m going to try to write four posts a month. Not four link posts, but four article posts, although I hesitate to call them articles. There’ll be no word count, just original content, content I create because I want to and enjoy it.

The third thing I want to do is a little more open ended and probably something that everyone hopes to do. I’d like to use my time to greater effect.

I’ve always been a night owl, I like staying up late, the quiet cosiness of being up late with a small light on and my book, sketch book or Mac for company feels great. The problem is when you have a nine to five job that kind of behaviour is not really helpful. Hitting the sack in the early hours of the morning and then rising only a few hours later to go to work is a recipe for disaster. Burning the candle at both ends only really has one destination for me, running myself in to the ground and an onslaught of mouth ulcers. So in order to combat this tendency to waste my time, I’m resolving to give my self a bed time and get up earlier. My aim is to be up at six each morning in order to do a half hour of exercises, then spend time reading my bible, praying and whatever is left can be spent writing.

Re-reading that last paragraph makes it feel like a pretty big task, but I think knuckling down and doing it will help me to achieve the other two points. More than that though, having a set time to sit and read my bible without distraction will be the biggest benefit of all.

I’ve always admired those who are able to get up early and spend some time each morning to do this. While I’m away in North Wales for two weeks every year, I spend time leading a children’s holiday club. When I’m there, life is so different to my everyday life that I’m able to easily get up early and spend time each morning reading from the word. I’ve become acutely aware in the last few weeks that it’s all down to a matter of attitude. I’m so aware of how important it is in those two weeks to devote my time in such a manner, that it’s time to change my attitude and devote that time every morning rather than in the evenings when I find it harder to concentrate and often run out of time. It’s something that I enjoy, but often feel a need to do out of duty, yet, when I set time aside I’ve seen the benefits in my life and my relationship with Jesus. I want to do it more and so this attempt to change my sleeping patterns is motivated by that desire.

And so with that, please join me in raising my hot blackcurrent to 2012 and all it has in stall!

Work Less on Think Vitamin ›

More on the four day work week from Carsonified.

If you work every week like you were going on holiday on the Friday then you can get all of your work done in four days rather than five. It takes concentration, dedication and a zero tolerance approach to distractions. The reward is an extra 52 days off a year. Is that worth it to you?

I can’t explain how intrigued I am by the notion of being adaptable to get the most out of your employees as well as being more interested in enriching heir lives.

(Via Can’t remember. I’ll update when I remember.)