7 strategies to overcome procrastination

7 ways to stop procrastinating, understanding the psychology behind it and to optimise your life

Never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. (Charles Dickens)

We have all been there.  A job or task that is looming over us but we just can’t face it.  We’ll do everything and everything else to avoid it.  Procrastination makes us feel good in the short term, but like laziness, it’s unhelpful in the long term. 
Procrastination is often confused with laziness, but in reality, that’s certainly not the case.  Psychologists point out that around 20% of people fall into the chronic procrastinators category and the constant putting off of duties causes constant negative feelings and emotions.  Moreover, it is said that many procrastinators are perfectionists, who put tasks off out of fear of failure or what others may think of them. 
So how can you get yourself out of this downward spiral of untouched tasks, duties and jobs? What are the seven best strategies to live a happier and healthier life, without constant psychological stress or should have done?

The following tips apply to all parts of your life, whether for personal or professional purposes, your exercise routine or kickstarting a new healthy habit.

  1. Stop making a mountain out of a molehill.  

You are tasked with a job or multiple to do lists or just one colossal piece of work.  You can’t bear to start it because it is just too much.  The thought of it stresses you out and sends shivers of horror down your spine.  You find 15 other tasks to do so you avoid that dreaded piece of work.  In reality though, you are just pushing what you should be doing further down the line, making matters much worse and you are likely to become more stressed.
To avoid doing this, be realistic with yourself.  The task won’t go away, so you may as well set some time aside and start it now. The quicker it is done, the quicker you can do something else.

  1. Break it down into manageable chunks.  

In school, we chunk work for students when they get overwhelmed by what seems to them like a mammoth task.  Do the same for yourself and that task you have been procrastinating over. Tick things off, work your way through bit by bit.  Make a list.  Before you know it, you will see results and you’ll feel much better.  

  1. Keep the end goal in sight

Why are you doing it? What is your why? You need to be clear on this question as otherwise you’re more likely to give up or put your work off.  If the end goal is to hand in a huge piece of academic work, imagine how proud you’ll feel once it’s done.  If you have to do your tax return, think what a relief it will be when you’ve waded through all those receipts.  And if nothing seems to motivate you, picture yourself and the end result, that moment when you have completed that task and have overcome what seemed impossible at the start.

  1. Be accountable

If you need an extra push in the right direction, partner up with someone.  Be it exercise, a healthy eating regime or filing your tax return.  If you’re in it together, doing a challenge with someone else or even just having someone to ask you every day how you are getting on, then you are more likely to stick to it.  It’s advisable to pair up with someone who won’t let you off the hook.  You don’t want to start blaming each other for not sticking to your side of the agreement.

  1. Create time and an effective environment

If you procrastinate, the best time to start is always tomorrow or later. However, as Benjamin Franklin remarked: “You may delay, but time will not”. The best way to tackle this is to make a plan. If you block out time for what you have to do, you are more likely to stick to your time table.  If working on something for hours sounds too daunting, setting a timer and having regular breaks can certainly help.  You may have heard of the Pomodoro Technique (invented in the 1980s) through which you work for 25 minutes and then have a short break, around 5 minutes, after which you work for 25 minutes again, and so on.

Having a good working environment is essential, too.  You want this to be free from distractions, disturbances and mess so you can focus on the job in hand. 

  1. Imagine your future self

You will find an excuse for everything if you look long enough. However, the best way to get up and get going is to envisage what your future could look like, if you take action now. Time will pass whether you put in the effort and work or not. You don’t want to disappoint your future self. As Karen Lamb puts it: “A year from now, you wish you had started today.”

  1. Reward yourself

Working hard and keeping to your end of the bargain takes focus, determination and persistence. Such qualities deserve to be acknowledged and you should give yourself a pat on the back. If that’s not enough, don’t feel bad for rewarding yourself: A nice hot cup of coffee, a quick walk or burst of exercise, listen to some music or a podcast, have a healthy snack or message a friend. Do what does you good and what makes you happy. Just make sure you don’t fall into the procrastination trap again. Christopher Parker puts it bluntly: “Procrastination is like a credit card. It’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”

Changing your ways is always scary and adapting new techniques to help you reach your goals is certainly a case of trial and error. Some may work better for you than others, but sticking with it and being consistent is key. Remember you’re not lazy.  You just find many other things to do to avoid something that scares you a bit.  But you are also brave.  You can do scary things and once they’re done, you’ll feel much better.  Give it a go. You have nothing to lose and all the time and happiness to gain.

How to start 2022 well

2021 has drawn to a close and reflection is a means of evaluating what went well and what we could have done better.  As writers, authors and creatives, some of us may think about whether we have achieved as much as we set out to at the beginning of last year.  Have we written enough? Did we stick to our weekly or monthly targets? Have we reached those milestones?  Milestones could include finishing that novel, completing a poetry collection, or pitching to an agent or publisher.  It could mean finishing those sketches that you started a while ago.  No matter what you set out to do at the beginning of 2021, now is a good moment to sit down and look back on your journey. 

How to beat the critical voices

It’s easy to get disheartened and feel self-critical when looking back, so it’s really important to also give yourself a pat on the back and acknowledge everything you have achieved.  As long as you have made progress and taken care of your mental well-being, you should be proud.  Here are some things you can do to beat those critical voices in your head:

  • Making a list of all the things you have achieved is one way to focus on the positives and celebrate your wins.  Instead of feeling bad about anything that fell behind, why not put in on a separate to-do-list.  This will make sure you will stay motivated and focussed on what you want to do.  And who doesn’t love ticking off things that have been done?  
  • Congratulate yourself and tell others what you have done.  Saying it out loud will make it feel more real and others will celebrate you for your achievements
  • Reward yourself for what you have achieved, no matter how little.  It will form positive connections in your brain and you will feel more motivated to carry on.

Looking ahead to 2022

A new year is a good start to plan ahead and set new goals for the coming months.  For many people it’s a fresh start they need and the motivation to get going after the break over Christmas.  A new year promises new opportunities, it’s a new chance and with the days slowly becoming longer and lighter days ahead, many people are feeling more positive and productive.  So it’s also a good time to think ahead and feel positive about 2022, no matter what 2021 looked like.  You could ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the things you want to let go of? 
  • What have you planned and put on your bucket list for the New Year?  
  • How are you going to achieve it?
  • Is it realistic regarding time, input, finances etc?
  • Is there a backup plan in case things go wrong?

The more questions you ask yourself and try to give yourself honest and candid answers, the better prepared you are to start or to continue whatever project it is you set out to do. 

Read about some tips and tricks in next week’s blog, some planning advice and incorporating me-time.

A perfectly imperfect Christmas – spending the festive season your way

I am sitting on the sofa, sipping Aldi’s Salted Caramel Cream Liqueur over ice and watch the lounge descend into chaos as the oldest is wobbling around on her new (pre-loved) inline skates and the youngest tips a box of Hotwheels cars in her way. The dog has jumped out of the way and tries to lay on my lap so I can’t type anymore. Someone asks if anyone is hungry, even though we just ate two hours ago. Heaven knows where we’ll eat as the dining table is occupied by two Lego projects, an empty snack bowl and a few books. Out in the kitchen a pot is boiling pasta and a box of lateral flow tests is ready to take swabs from all of us.

My daughter has just come out of isolation, having tested positive the week before Christmas. No grandparents, no friends or other visitors for Christmas – just us. As reports from record numbers of daily infections come in and nearly everyone I know has tested positive at some stage or another, I wonder when it all will end and when normality will return. And then I remember that we are not a family that is weighed down by traditions – rather we have always done what works for us. When we still ate meat, turkey was too dry for us and so we cooked chicken instead. We don’t need pigs in blankets to complete our Christmas dinner, but loads of veg in all different shapes and forms. Dinner is served whenever we are hungry, never at a set time. And over the festive period there is no rules on when to get up and what to do. We live in the moment, we get up when we want, we decide hour after hour what we want to do and if we’re bored of Christmas tunes we boogie to the “Best of the 90s”.

I see social media posts of perfectly decorated tables, of stressed out mums and dads and last-minute dashes to overcrowded supermarkets, where people are so rude to each other that one could think there’s a shortage of loo rolls again. Christmas gets the best and worst out of us and as someone who has always strived for perfection and nearly died trying, I believe that any celebratory event that is no fun is a waste of time.

Therefore, for your mental well-being and that of anyone you choose to spend this time with, it’s important to let go of the competition, the perfection and the need to create something that resembles magic. Magic can’t be forced. Magic exists in feelings and snippets of moments, and those usually happen when you least expect them. Christmas has to work for you, not the other way round. So if you decide to decline an invitation to someone that stresses you out, feel empowered by that. If you want to sleep in on Christmas Day, do it. If you can’t stand turkey, eat something else. Preferably whatever you fancy. If you don’t have enough money for presents, don’t buy them – without feeling guilty. And if the thought of another rerun of Love Actually makes you cringe, then turn off the TV or watch whatever else you want.

The power of Christmas is that it’s a time to live in the moment. It is not about financially or mentally ruining yourself. Christmas is for everyone, and therefore you get to choose how to spend the time and with whom. Make your own rules and traditions and throw them out the window the year after. People change. Situations change. Life changes. Run with it and embrace it. The story of Christmas is about a poor boy being born in a stable – not about the princess who threw the best and most lavish Christmas party. Relax and don’t stress. And in times of a global pandemic – just roll with it.

Growing older – a dilemma in a world that wants you to stay young

It’s my birthday and I feel as excited as every year. It’s “my” day, even though I really don’t want a lot of fuss. But I insist that me and the family do something nice together, have some delicious food and extra nice coffee in the morning and maybe a cocktail in the evening. It’s nice to have people think of you and wish you happy birthday. After all, it’s a celebration of life, an occasion to appreciate the amount of time we have been gracing this earth.

It’s only some time after that, at least for me, the realisation kicks in, that I am no longer a spring chicken in my late teens or early twenties. I may still feel like it and sometimes act like it, but a look in the mirror and my ID card states very clearly that I am well past that stage of my life. And then a slight panic sets in. I am already THAT old and I feel like I haven’t really done that much with my life. What have I achieved? How many adventures have I had? Was I wild enough in my twenties? Have I been outrageous enough when I was younger? How many embarrassing moments have I had? Was I too tame? Did I waste my youth? … The questions keep coming. I am sure this kind of pondering is responsible for one of my grey hairs.

The thing is, the sensible and realistic side of my brain is forever grateful that I am alive and kicking and have been on this planet longer than some people I have known, loved and lost. I am so thankful that my body is healthy and in pretty good shape, to the extent that I am actually fitter than in my twenties. And I clearly don’t have to worry that anyone will mistake me for a granny any time soon, since I got asked for ID the other day.

But, putting aside all those seemingly vain and superficial points, I also understand why I am clinging to staying young like Leonardo di Caprio in icy water in Titanic. My youth was battered with death and then a severe mental illness which nearly cost me my life. Whilst it could be argued that, because of this background, I should embrace life to the fullest, it’s not really that simple.

They say you shouldn’t have any regrets but if you truly ask me whether I regret being seriously ill, then I regret it a lot. Having an eating disorder doesn’t just nearly kill you, it also kills the joy in your life, social times and any fun events that may go on. I missed out on so many fun things with friends, I declined loads of invitations, because I was either too depressed to go or because I was too scared that I would have to eat. And so I feel I lost my youth to a vicious illness and was never really able to enjoy life back then.

Saying that, the recovered and joyous version of me is swiftly dealing with those negative thoughts. Life on this planet is a gift, maybe the greatest gift we’ll ever get. Living a long and prosperous life is equally amazing. Signs of ageing, wrinkles, grey hair and the inability to recover from a sniff of wine are also signs that we are changing and mostly change is a wonderful thing. I am a different person now than I was 20 years ago and I feel more confident and at home in my own skin as ever before. I care a lot less what people think of me and my main aim is not to be liked by everyone and to please everyone.

Yes, the society we live in demands we look good and young and perky and tiny and trim until we pop the clogs, but the society we live in needs to change. Many of us will live well beyond our 80s and ageism isn’t something I feel fond of. Similar to a fine wine or whiskey, the older we get, the more valuable and precious we are. We are the product of experiences, events and years of wisdom (some more than others…) behind us, and surely, that is time for celebration.
Therefore, this year, I shall be embracing my age and the fact that I know what a cassette-tape and a Walkman are. I am loved, I am accepted and, most of all, I am happy with my lot. And that is the best gift of all.

The magic of Christmas – it’s all in the feelings

Whilst writing numerous articles and posts about the festive season, I got transported back to my childhood, my teenage years and my early twenties. Searching for the magical feelings and the buzz that only Christmas can give, I remember snippets from my consciousness throughout the years.

As a child, I often dressed up as an angel, put on my pointe ballet shoes, pushed the furniture to the sides of my grandmother’s lounge and danced to Christmas tunes for hours, pretending I could fly and I was one of Santa’s little helpers once again.
I also recall those early afternoons when I returned from school all those many Decembers, being greeted by the rich and buttery smell of home made Christmas biscuits, which my mother baked every year. I loved sitting with her at the dining table of an evening, sticking thin shortbread together with jam and decorating it later with chocolate and sprinkles.

The sharp and refreshing smell of the handwrought advent wreath filled the house with a festive scent, and I relished in the Sunday evenings when we turned out all the lights and sat by candle light, singing Christmas songs. The first frosts brought a promise of snow and ice, and when the cold air pinched my cheeks as we strolled around the Christmas market with all its festive lights and sweet aromas of sugared almonds, Lebkuchen and roasted chestnuts, there was nothing inside me that doubted for one moment, that the magic of the festive season was not real.
Getting the Christmas decorations from the attic was highly anticipated, as was the delivery of the Christmas tree, which had to camp on our balcony to stay fresh until Christmas Eve, when we finally brought it inside and decorated it.

As I got older and suffered from my mental health issues, Christmas lost its appeal and I spent one Christmas Eve with a group of friends, celebrating friendship and life, rebelling against our families that were left celebrating without us.
And two years later, I spent Christmas by myself in a foreign country, away from anyone close to me. I slept in, I watched my favourite films in bed, I ate chocolate and went for a frosty run. I wasn’t sad or lonely. I felt at ease and happy in my own company. The silence around me was a gift and I felt christmassy despite being alone.

The important lesson I learnt from my mental trip to the past is, that the magic didn’t come from materialistic things, presents or expensive stuff. The magic of Christmas has always been in the feeling, the anticipation and the pure joy of being with people I love, even if the only person around was me. When I take a moment to reflect on what makes my Christmasses special, I never think of getting lots of gifts. Of course, it’s nice to get a thoughtful present and buy someone that thoughtful something. But, when I mull over what I look forward to most every December, then it’s the twinkly lights, the decorations, the festive food and drink, the sparkle and the excitement leading up to 25th of December. I indulge in two weeks off with my family, the films and hot chocolates after long cold winter walks and the fact that time doesn’t exist in the twilight zone of Christmas and New Year.

Christmas is a feeling, not a flurry of gifts and materialistic things. I will forever be its greatest fan and look forward to it like a giddy little kid. And the knowledge that all this love comes from the heart and not my bank account makes it even more special.

Grief at Christmas – When the most wonderful time also brings loss and pain

As December comes round and brings with it its sparkle and promise of kindness, love and peace on earth, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of twinkly lights, tinsel, mulled wine and mince pies. Frantic preparations and scheduling invitations to drinks with friends, get togethers with family or a Christmas dinner with work colleagues all make this month feel like a ride on a crazy, screeching merry-go-round. Whilst most of us love it, and that includes me, for many people December resembles more of a rollercoaster of feelings, and for others maybe even a free fall into darkness, caused by grief and loss, and the realisation that someone we once had with us is no longer here.

Personally, most of my childhood losses happened around Christmas, and I have moments of black outs where I can only remember a huge Christmas tree, which was blurred through the tears that didn’t stop falling. I recalled this the other day during a counselling session, and realised that, whilst I have some recollection of Christmasses after loss, I can’t remember when I started enjoying Christmas again. What I do know is that, for many years, Christmas was not the treasured and joyful occasion that it is now. I was fighting demons, I was battling with trauma, I was angry about the fact that loved ones had been taken from me before their time. I did not cope well with the fact that my family was shrinking before my eyes and the once full and vivacious dinner table was no longer packed with people, too much crockery and too many glasses, infectious giggles and affectionate jokes. Somehow, the magic had gone, the ease of enjoyment had vanished. Something was broken, and it felt forced and like a play I watched from the outside.

I had to move away from home and spend a Christmas by myself, before I allowed myself to feel the magic of Christmas and its inexplicable buzz again. When I finally allowed myself to heal and acknowledge that I could never change the course of time, I found some peace and saw those Christmas lights without tears. I was able to return home for Christmas and feel like a child again, wrapped up in love and the warmth of family, the knowledge that we would always grieve, but we’d also experience joy at the same time.

Most recently, I lost a very close friend. She was my angel, my family, a part of my inner circle. As I write this, it’s her birthday and I push deeper thoughts of losing her aside, because it’s just too much. I think of her immediate family, of all her friends, including me, and how we don’t want to spend this Christmas without her. Yet we have to. So it’s another year of bitter-sweet memories, of magic mixed with mourning, of excitement tampered with moments of despair. It’s true for me that my kids help me to just roll with it; they keep me distracted from many moments where I just want to stare into nothingness and battle with the fact that this year and all years going forward we will not pop round to see my friend and help her decorate her Christmas tree.

Instead, when I think of her, and I think of her all the time, I remember those many moments where she just turned up at our door step. I felt like a little child every time when I saw her; I squealed a bit and then hugged her so tight. I remember those times when she left some presents for us. It makes me smile, because last year, she precariously balanced a massive bag full of goodies on one of our bins. When I rescued it, I was astounded that it hadn’t fallen down – and destroyed a bottle of Champagne, an olive spread and some books in the process… . And so, with the pain and sorrow that make me well up and and form a lump in my throat, I remind myself that it’s OK to feel like that, and that I need to sit with those emotions. And that I am allowed to feel up and down. Especially at Christmas, when many of us want nothing more than to be with the ones we love and hold dear.

Grief is a personal process and everyone deals with it differently. Grief at Christmas is no different. However, for many people those losses are amplified around this time. Therefore, understanding, kindness and love is more important than ever. The grief will never go away. But the life we build around it, and the years that pass will help us to see the sparkle and magic again. Each of us in their own time.

All I want for Christmas…is less stuff.

Here’s the age-old question we’ll hear over and over again this month:

“Are you ready for Christmas yet?”

I’d like to think that I am quite organised and I tend to pick up little bits and pieces throughout the year and hide them in various places in the house. It works for me, plus, I don’t have to spend all the money at once. If you like to follow said advice, please be mindful that you also have to remember where you hide stuff. It’s happened a few times that I found Christmas presents when I was hiding Easter Eggs. So, yes, I am nearly ready for the most wonderful time of the year.

However, when I started thinking about what to gift my kids and partner, as well as kids of friends and family, I noticed a niggling feeling that I wanted things to be different from this year onwards. I thought back of all the times I welcomed one Amazon parcel after the next, unboxing Lego, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels Cars and one year, even a ginormous stuffed dragon, shoving it all in cupboards, wardrobes or the attic. And it didn’t sit right with me anymore. I didn’t like the thought of mountains of more “stuff”, not just because we don’t have an extendable and expandable house and can’t afford to move every two years, just because we have run out of room. It felt awkward because I am pretty sure that there are only ever a handful of materialistic presents you’ll remember into adulthood. In my experience, the things the kids remember are how they felt, the days out we have and the activities and the time we invest in.

After some deliberation with the voices in my head and my partner, we decided to save up small boxes and made a list of all the things the kids had mentioned they wanted to do. They had never been on a bus before (if you don’t count the one that takes you to the airport terminal). They have never been on a train or ridden a pony. They love going to a huge play centre (I don’t quite as much but they have coffee, so…) and their biggest treat is scoffing waffles and ice cream at the ice cream parlour after school. There are oodles of attractions and days out for adults and kids alike, and what better way to spread the excitement across the year? That way, we always have something to look forward to.

Therefore, this year I am introducing the good old boring vouchers under our Christmas Tree. They will be boxed up and wrapped with beautiful bows, but inside won’t just be another toy they really don’t need. Amongst the socks, the new winter boots, the new PJs and gloves, there is the promise of a trip to the local Space Centre and the Great Central Railway. They’ll discover they can “cash in” some treats across the year, be it to a museum, a farm park or a culinary experience like hot chocolate and cake. Their little faces light up with excitement for longer than when they unwrapped that Barbie camper van or that toy tool station. And what is more, it makes them appreciate family time, experiences and memories that last longer than something they will eventually grow out of.

Will I never buy them stuff again? No. But I will be more mindful of what I get and spend my money on. Not only do I owe it to the environment, my bank account and the storage of our house. I also owe it to the attitude and mindset of my kids.

Out of my comfort zone – A throwback to my first Radio Interview with BBC Radio Leicester

My heart is pounding, my hands are so cold that my fingers have turned purple. I can feel a buzzing throughout my whole body, as if a swarm of butterflies has taken over it. Cold sweat is assembling under my armpits, even though I am shivering and freezing. This is me, nervous. This is me, totally out of my depth. This is me, an hour before a radio interview on BBC Leicester.

I am due to speak with the mid-morning/ early afternoon presenter Ben Jackson. I had contacted the BBC because I wanted to share my story in honour of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which was the week from 1st – 7th March 2021. I have written a chapter in a book called Love Thy Body Vol 2, which is a collaboration of women who share their story of survival from trauma. My trauma is a severe eating disorder, triggered by some childhood trauma. You see, one trauma comes seldom alone.

I had been speaking with the team at the BBC in the run up to the interview and was amazed by their kindness – but it still did nothing to calm my nerves. I am someone who dramatizes everything, who envisages the worst happening in every situation. Surely, I would trip over my own words, stumble and stutter my way through sentences and probably forget words I have never forgotten before. I would become the laughing stock of the county and those who know me would pity me and whisper behind closed doors (or WhatsApp Groups) of what a complete fool I had been. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I keep putting myself into situations that scare every ounce of warmth out of my body? Am I some kind of masochist? Do I enjoy the self-torture (you could argue I do, since I nearly killed myself twice by not eating)?

The thing is, whilst I always have been and always will be a worrier, I am also a very stubborn and determined lady with a roaring fire in my belly. I do not believe in standing still, I don’t believe in sitting back and let my life pass me by. I am not willing to do nothing and shirk every opportunity that either presents itself or that I can create for myself. As much as it terrifies me, I need that buzz to grow. I need that swarm of butterflies to feel I am doing something that challenges me and moves me forward. I have to do scary things because I know that I will look back when I am really old and I will be so glad and so proud of myself. Jumping out of my comfort zone is exactly that: very uncomfortable. It feels crazy and unsafe and dramatic. My mind and body go into overdrive and take it in turns to manipulate me. One moment my body is calm and breathes normally, but my mind quickly takes over and makes my thoughts race around and creates a disastrous event. Once I have diverted those thoughts and breathe deeply again, my body goes into shock and starts shivering. Distractions such as work, housework or talking to people keep me busy and grounded for as long as possible, but when that dreaded moment arrives, all I need is silence to collect myself.

And then, when it was finally my turn to talk in front of thousands of listeners, calm surrounded me. My heartrate slowed down, my mind was clear, I immediately got up from my safety seat with all the research and notes I had made and never went back to it. I answered the questions with clarity and confidence. The nightmare of suddenly zoning out and not listening to the questions of the presenter were just that: a nightmare. I enjoyed the conversation so much that I was disappointed when the interview was over. When I put the phone down I was shaking again and my mind became flooded with the release of adrenalin and endorphins at the same time. A crazy cocktail of emotions, but most of all endless relief and gratitude that I pushed myself to do something I was terrified of.

I am not suggesting you throw yourself out of a plane to do skydiving if you are terrified of heights or take a bath with snakes when you know it would make your heart stop out of fear. I am talking about life’s situations, its obstacles and moments that either present themselves or are facilitated by what you do. If it scares you but you know it won’t harm you physically and mentally and you are also not harming anyone else, then go for it. It will make you grow as a person, it will enrich your mind and soul and what’s best, you will look back and be so glad you took the leap.
Tell me – what will you do outside your comfort zone?

There is no planet B – Saving our planet starts at home

Opening the BBC News App, it’s peppered with updates from COP26, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow which ended last Friday.  Many have said that not enough has been done and those nations who are already suffering most will continue to suffer, because us richer nations, who have caused most of this damage, are unwilling to do enough to save our world.

Whilst it’s clear that action needs to happen worldwide, worrying about the rainforest whilst spraying harmful pesticides on flowers and destroying local flora and fauna won’t work either.  We need to care not only about destruction abroad, but also right in front of our doorstep. 

The pandemic certainly opened our eyes and hearts to the beauty of nature around us, in the safe radius we were allowed to move in.  We marvelled at the beauty of the British countryside, its flora and fauna and got busy booking ‘staycations’, realising that it’s actually rather quite nice here.  Reports from cleaner air in cities due to less traffic, clearer water in rivers as pollution declined and an appreciation for everything local was on the rise, whilst we were waiting for the pandemic to pass.  We vowed to change, we promised to love nature and care for it and remember those glorious summer days in quarantine, certain that this was a turning point for humanity.

And then the lockdown ended, and we slowly returned back to whatever normal meant for each of us.  We jumped back into our cars, we bought the coffee in the take-away cup, we slipped back into old habits, we started muddling through life because it’s fast-paced and noisy and busy and we need to keep up with demands on us, our social lives and work.  However, it’s becoming clear that our lives have to change – we have to change – to make a real difference and to save the world we call home.

Of course, for many of us this may feel frightening and uncomfortable.  Others may believe they have no control over the bigger things that contribute to climate change. It’s true that we can’t single-handedly stop a tree being felled in the Amazon Rainforest, however, there are things we can do right here, right now, this moment in time.

A recent article by the BBC suggested that the UK has “little room for nature due to development and agriculture” and that the UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries.  In addition to this, the UK’s biodiversity, of which 90% is considered safe from falling into ecological meltdown, has only got 50% of it left. Those alarming figures tell us that we need to protect species and their habitat around us.  We need to listen to environmental agencies, we need to stop destroying nature to build more houses.  We need to stop killing animals because they don’t fit into our living spaces.  

It’s time to change. It’s time to reverse Code Red.  It’s time to work together, and do a little bit more, every day. Small changes by many can lead to big progress.  There is no time left.  Our future, and that of our children depends on it.  

References:

Briggs, H. 2021, Biodiversity loss risks ‘ecological meltdown’ – scientists – BBC News (Accessed 10th October 2o21)

COP26. 2021. HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org) (Accessed 17th October 2021)

McGrath, M. 2021. Climate change: IPCC report is ‘code red for humanity’ – BBC News (Accessed 9th August 2021)

There’s no success without failure – moving forward after setbacks

Have you seen the inspiring video about Michael Jordon, the über-famous and successful basketball player?

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot – and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan “Failure” Commercial HD 1080p – YouTube

Lately I have been feeling a bit doom and gloom, not so much because I am locked up in a small town with limited radius of freedom, but more about my current questions about myself as a writer, freelancer and creative. Pitches and emails being ignored, limited time as to what I can actually do because of my busy job as a teacher who is also doing a Master’s degree. I want to do it all and I want to do it now and I want everything to go smoothly.

The dark voices of self-doubt, of the inner critic, of that mocking voice of my mother, who never took any creative work I did serious enough as to believe I could do it as a job, they all surface and have a field day in my miserable and confused brain. Being a writer is hard. There are millions of us out there, some better than others, and let’s face it, many people call themselves writers when they probably shouldn’t do so. Many are under-selling the art and make those of us who take it seriously and pour our heart and soul into into the craft, look like extortionate clowns. It angers and frustrates me. It makes me really cross. The lack of respect for proper writing, for taking care of and curating those words and sentences, polishing those paragraphs to the limits of perfection – it hurts my writer soul and makes me want to pack up my laptop and notebook and fly to a galaxy far, far away.


And then I remember why I write. And I remember why I can’t ever give up. And I remember that failure is never a reason to give up. That not getting ahead quite as fast as I had hoped, that little setbacks along the way are only there to test me, not to prove my inner critic right. That people will be people and act unprofessionally, that they will just drop you, not respond, not value your work. Those are not the people you are supposed to be working with. There are billions of people in this world and many of them are my people.

I write because if I don’t, I feel empty. I have to write because it’s who I was always meant to be, from the moment I scribbled those first words down in pencil as a primary school student. Playing it safe was my mantra for many years. It kept me safe but it also killed my passion. Nothing I ever did felt as good as writing. Giving up is simply never an option. Getting up and getting on with it, trying again and again is the only way forward. Like Michael Jordon, failures and setbacks will make me better, it will help me to change my course, my tactics, my strategy and it will pave the way for a fruitful journey.

Most importantly, a setback or slow progress does not make you a failure. It does not define you as a worthy human being. You are still deserving of success, love and good things. Remember that and, whatever has knocked you down, acknowledge it, look at it and then start again, with a better plan, a better course and even more passion that before. You owe it to your people. They are waiting for it. You owe it to yourself. And you owe it to the universe.