Revisiting Your Resolutions

Friday, 28th February 2020

Guest blog by Sarah Glynn – Marketing Manager, Kuits Solicitors, reviewing future pro’s Revisiting Your Resolutions event. 

With research showing that around one quarter of people give up their New Year’s resolutions after just one week, and fewer than one in 10 maintaining their goal to the end of the year, hosted an inspiring panel event looking at ways we can manage our time, keep ourselves motivated and stay on-track to achieve our goals in 2020.

The panel welcomed four extremely busy and successful professionals: mother-of-three matrimonial lawyer Alex Goldrein of Irwin Mitchell; dad-of-two and co-founder of team culture consultancy 4and20million Dan McNicholas; Co-op Digital’s delivery manager, JCI Manchester President and part-time MBA student Rachael Shah; and MD of content marketing agency Tunafish, Sam Jones, who also co-founded the award-winning homeless support network Not Just Soup in 2015.

The best-laid plans…

Future pro vice-chair Laura Guillon kicked things off by asking the panellists whether they had made New Year resolutions and if they were still going strong two months on. Physical and mental health was a common theme that emerged throughout the discussion, with all of the panellists trying to improve their wellbeing this year.

Apart from a small slip-up on his birthday (we’ll let him off), Sam Jones had impressively managed to stop smoking. As Rachael had just been inaugurated as President of JCI Manchester, she had sensibly decided she didn’t have time for resolutions alongside her day job and study.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the two members of the panel with children hadn’t started on their New Year resolutions yet! Alex promised she would set a little time aside for herself each week, while Dan is determined to get back out cycling, a hobby he hasn’t really had time for since his children arrived.

Optimising your time

Talk turned to time management and, frankly, getting sh*t done. With statistics suggesting the average office worker only has three productive hours per day, how can we possibly manage to fit everything in?

“It’s really not about time management – it’s about attention management,” explained Dan. “Many of us don’t approach tasks in a way that prioritises the right things, plus there are often too many distractions around us.”

Alex agreed, explaining that she often escapes her desk to make use of the breakout spaces in her office to give dedicated, uninterrupted time to certain tasks.

Rachael had some tips for audience members who might be juggling study time with work. “While studying for my MBA, I’ve found that little and often is best. Burying your head in the sand for a fortnight is never a great approach! It’s all about tiny life hacks – I use public transport and have found that studying on my commute all adds up over the course of the week. I also ensure I prioritise well and get the things I hate done first. I have also negotiated a nine-day fortnight with my employer, working a little longer each day, so I can have every second Friday off for study.”

For those audience members who were looking to improve in this area, Rachael suggested reading The Shed Method by Sara Milne Rowe and Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey.

Digital detoxing

For many professionals, the relationship they have with their inbox, not to mention social media, can feel like it is taking precedent over family and friends. So, what about digital detoxing? Is this something the panellists have found beneficial?

“My work/life balance has changed massively in the last few years,” says Sam. “I’ve got better as I’ve matured and the business has grown. I used to be on my emails every evening and had an average screen time of six hours per day on my smartphone alone. I even used to work Christmas Day.”

Sam recently adopted a rescue dog named Liska and feels this has helped him achieve a better work/life balance: “I now commit to leaving the office on time and I naturally spend more times outdoors.”

Rachael has recently taken up bullet journaling as a healthier alternative to calendar apps and digital to-do lists: “It helps me stay organised without sacrificing my wellbeing.”

Dan also warned against falling down the rabbit hole of trying to manage your time through technology: “There are lots of tech solutions out there to help you remember your tasks and plan your time – but you can end up feeling more stressed. There is no substitute for meeting face-to-face with your team to plan out your projects.”

Sam said his organisation does not have the “hustle” culture present at many other agencies, which he sees as harmful to health. Dan agreed, explaining that there is a danger in junior people in the organisation seeing senior people sending emails late into the evening and believing it’s their ticket to the top.

“It’s important for organisations to set clear boundaries on when you are expected to be available for work,” says Rachael. “We have an email footer that says ‘Just because I’m sending this email now, doesn’t mean I expect you to reply before you work day begins’.”

Managing work and parenthood

For parents Alex and Dan, there is an additional complication in all of this – lack of sleep. How do they manage such busy roles alongside their parenting responsibility while feeling so, well, knackered?

The trick, Dan said, is to be kind to yourself: “Give yourself a break. We all want to function at 100% all of the time, but that’s not always going to be possible. You are always going to feel guilty – either about being at work or being at home. Just know that the likelihood is that what you are doing is more than enough and don’t be scared to ask for flexibility when you need it.”

Alex explained that effective upward management and focus has been crucial to her success: “We hold capacity meetings as a team, which means the work goes where there is space. Communication is so important – I have a great relationship with my manager and regularly review my workload with them to ensure I am prioritising the most important things for the business.”