Friday Thoughts 4

friday-thoughts

This week’s Friday thoughts is a little different to the last couple. I don’t have a list of my highs and lows for you today.

Instead, I want to talk about charity. Stick with me for this one please. Charity work has always been a huge part of my adult life. I decided to take a gap year before starting university so that I could volunteer abroad. I chose Ghana and immediately fell in love with the country and its people. So much so that on my 3rd or 4th day there, I changed my stay from one month to four months.

Ghana 2013

I’ve spent 6 summers over the last 9 years in Ghana. Teaching, playing, caring, supporting. The people who I’ve met through the charity in the UK have become my best friends. The people I’ve met in Ghana have become my inspiration and motivation.

I spent the whole of 2014 raising money for the Raising Hope Foundation. Since then I haven’t done much and this week I’ve been thinking of ways to get back into my role with the charity, both in terms of fundraising and volunteering.

People often ask my why I’ve stayed with the same charity, visiting the same place year after year and the answer is simple – the children. They fill every minute of my time with them with love, light and laughter. I’ve run around in the baking Ghanaian summer sun playing football with them, taught them how to read and count and taken them on day trips, I’ve sat up all night with them when they were sick.

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A while ago, I wrote a blog post where I said “They [the children] are the reason behind everything I do and I am eternally grateful to them for everything they have given me.” And, whilst this is still true, I feel like I’ve lost sight of this slightly over the last couple of years. They’ve always been on my mind but I’ve not be pro-active enough about things.

I miss the children in Ghana, hell I miss everything about Ghana. It breaks my heart that I haven’t been for the last 3 years. I need to see the children and the progress that’s been made on the Child Care Centre. But more importantly, I need to step up my game in supporting the amazing work that the Raising Hope Foundation does from this side.

The first step in this is the Brighton Marathon. I’ll be using this event to raise money for the charity. I’ll be setting up a fundraising page this weekend so keep your eyes peeled for that! I’m also looking for something a little more unusual to do later in the year. At the moment I’m thinking about a Saharan trek next October but I’m open to suggestions right now.

Moroccan Turkey Meatballs with Citrus Couscous

Turkey Meatballs

Turkey Meatballs
Now that I want to get back into long distance running again, I’ve been on the hunt for some high protein, low fat recipes for dinner. I recently came across this lovely recipe which is super quick, easy and really cheap too on BBC Good Food.

Serves                        Four

Prep Time                 15 minutes

Cooking Time         15 minutes

Calories                     348 per portion

Ingredients

500g turkey mince

2 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cinnamon

1 onion chopped finely

Zest of 1 orange. Save the orange segments and chop

250g couscous

250ml hot chicken stock

2 tsp olive oil

Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

 

 

 Method

1. Mix the mince, spices, onion and orange zest together with your hands. Roll the mixture into about 20 walnut-sized meatballs.

2. Put the couscous in a bowl, pour over the hot chicken stock, cover with cling film and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the meatballs and fry, turning regularly, for about 12 minutes – until browned all over and cooked through.

4. Fluff the couscous up with a fork, stir in the chopped orange, coriander and some seasoning and serve.

And that’s it! It really is that simple. I’m not a huge fan of couscous with orange in it so sometimes I buy ready flavoured couscous like roasted vegetable flavour just to mix things up a little.

Sublime Sundays – Update on Blogtober

Sublime Sundays

Wow this week has been crazy!

I know I gave you a quick insight into the week in my Friday Thoughts but I wanted to do this week’s Sublime Sundays post all about #blogtober so far.

As of Saturday morning (which is when I actually wrote this post), I’d spent 9.9 hours on this blog and 20.3 hours on Flourishing Freelancer. That’s over 30 hours of blogging in 7 days which is crazy when you think I’m out of the house and at work for about 10 hours each day. Anyway, I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about it. For a start, it was my decision to challenge myself to blog every day!

It’s been a real challenge to be honest. I know I bang on about this a lot but I find it pretty tough to stay motivated and focused so I’m super proud of myself for not letting the ball drop. It’s all come down to planning and sticking to my schedule

Daily Schedule 

This week, my days have gone a little like this:

  • Checking and replying to emails before work, on lunch and as soon as I get home
  • Checking Twitter and Facebook and replying to comments etc. on lunch
  • Twitter chats every evening for 1-2 hours
  • Drafting new posts every evening – including research, writing, editing and taking/editing photos for each post
  • Choosing post topics and pencilling in a new post for each day for the week ahead
  • Planning and scheduling social media updates for the week ahead
  • I’ve been drinking a whole load of coffee too…mainly to keep me going to around 11.30 pm when I finally decide to call it a day

Morning PersonPlanning Blog Posts

For me, the most logical thing to do to be able to generate new posts everyday throughout October, was to focus on one “theme” each week. This week was productivity and motivation, I’m thinking that next week will be a mixture of some mental health posts and some travel type posts. I have ten (yes ten!) draft posts from different trips I’ve been on over the last year or so that I’ve never written. So now seems like the best time to finally get those posts finished, edited and published.

Then for the week after I’m thinking of doing some fitness type posts, maybe with a few more of my travel posts if I get them all finished! We can all dream right??

And the Results? 

The hard work is starting to show already, even after just one week. This blog is getting an average of 15 views per day which is amazing considering the lack of time and effort that’s gone into it recently. Flourishing Freelancer is up to 109 views so far this month and I’ve had 13 comments on various posts which is amazing. It’s a fantastic feeling knowing that people are actually reading what I’m putting out there.

If you’ve missed any of #blogtober posts so far, here they are:

Back to Blogging and the Start of Blogtober

8 Ways to Become More Productive and Successful 

How to Become a Morning Person 

Depression vs. Productivity – The Big Battle and How to Survive it

How to Refocus After an Unproductive Day

10 Apps to Help Manage Time and Stay Productive 

Friday Thoughts

Tomato and White Bean Soup

And just because this seems like a great time to plug my other blog, here’s my #blogtober posts from Flourishing Freelancer:

5 Things I Learnt From Blogging This Month (September)

Looking for Inspiration vs. Stealing from Other Bloggers

September Stats and Income Report

10 Tips to Take Your Blog to the Next Level

How to Blog Efficiently – Part One

How to Blog Efficiently – Part Two

Treat Yourself to a Writing Retreat

I hope you’ve enjoyed my new posts so far, there’ll be plenty more to come through the rest of October (and hopefully after that too!)

How to Refocus After an Unproductive Day

Unproductive Day

Unproductive DayHad an unproductive day lately? Yesterday I wrote about how much I struggle with productivity due to depression but sometimes I’m just generally unproductive. There’s not a huge amount you can do about it at the time, if you’re not in the mood, you’re not in the mood! What you can do however, is bounce back from your unproductive day(s) and not let it drag out. 

Here’s my top tips on how to refocus after an unproductive day:

1. Forget about your Unproductive Day 

It’s in the past now, just leave it there. There’s no point in dwelling on the fact that you took a day off. Yes, you didn’t achieve what you wanted to but there’s nothing you can do about that now. Spending time worrying about what you didn’t do yesterday is taking time out of today that you could use to smash your goals!

2. Create a To-Do List

Write down what you wanted to get done during your unproductive day, as well as what you want to achieve today. Prioritise that list and be realistic about you think you can get done today. There’s no point in putting too much pressure on yourself. You might have to let go of some of the things you wanted to get done if they’re not important so that your bigger goals don’t slide.

Writing everything out will also ease any stress you have around *just how much* you have to do and catch up on.

3. Take Your Time 

Don’t rush and try to get everything done in half the time. The more you rush, the more mistakes you’ll make. That either means you’ll be sharing half-hearted work or you’ll be spending hours on end trying to fix your mistakes. Take your time, do it right and do it well first time round.

Rushing will also increase any feelings of stress and anxiety you might have.

Unproductive Day

4. Do the Small Tasks First 

This is just one of those mentality things. If you do the small tasks on your list first you’ll find that you’re ticking loads of things off your to-do list. It’ll put you in a really good positive mood and you’ll feel super productive. By the time you get on to the bigger, more substantial tasks you’ll have forgotten all about your unproductive phase.

5. Reward Yourself 

Bouncing back from an unproductive day is hard. Once you’ve made it through your first day back, reward yourself with something – a new notebook, a coffee, a bar of chocolate…whatever you like, you deserve it!

So, if you’ve had an unproductive day don’t despair, just get back on the horse and start again!

Depression vs. Productivity – The Big Battle and How to Survive it

Depression vs Productivity

Depression vs ProductivityYou might have noticed that this week’s posts are focused on productivity and positivity. They’ve been centred around how to be more productive and successful and making the most of the hours in each and every day.

But it’s not always that straight forward. Trust me, I know. Getting up an hour early is a really great suggestion but what happens when you’re so completely exhausted that it hurts to turn your alarm off? What happens when the thought of leaving the house brings awave of paralysing anxiety? It’s tough. Really bloody tough.

One of the common symptoms of depression is a lack of motivation. A feeling of being completely useless and unable to do anything. This presents itself in a number of ways, all of which I’ve experienced over the last couple of months.

Physical Exhaustion

This one always shocks me. I don’t understand how a mental health problem can have such a huge impact on you physically. But it does. I’ve had days over recent months when I’ve felt more tired and achey that I did at the summit of Kili. Seriously. There’s no explanation for it other than it being a symptom of depression. Nothing has happened in the previous days that could have made you this tired.

This physical exhaustion impacts on your productivity in a few different ways. Most obviously, you want to sleep more and everyone knows that when you’re asleep, you’re not getting things done.

It also means that exercise is basically off the table. When I’m this kind of tired, I can’t run. I’ve tried a couple of times (it took so much effort and mental strength) in the hope that I’d get into it after a couple of kilometres and it would be invigorating. I didn’t, and it wasn’t. It’s a vicious cycle though, the less I work out, the more lethargic I get. And, without running to clear my head, I often just drift into a deeper “low”. Neither of which help with productivity. Feeling lethargic and low aren’t good for productivity in terms of actually getting things done or in terms of creative flow.

Depression vs Productivity

Mental Exhaustion and Clouded Thoughts

Sometimes known as “brain fog” this is one of those shitty things that people with depression have to put up with too. You know, alongside everything else. As well as being part of depression, this can also be a side effect of anti-depressants. My last set of meds were a nightmare for this. I felt like a zombie for 6 months. It was hell. I would constantly drift off when people were talking to me. I’d zone out on the tube and “wake up” miles away from where I was meant to be with no recollection of how I got there.

Clearly, ending up somewhere you’re not meant to be is rubbish for productivity but there’s more to it than that. Clouded thoughts mean that making a simple decision about what to have for dinner can result in a complete melt down. Planning on scheduling your posts for the next month? Think again mate! If the choice between pasta or rice made you cry, imagine what choosing blog topics will do to you.

When your brain isn’t behaving like it should it’s almost impossible to get anything done, especially anything that requires creativity. Things like trying to write a new blog post are impossible – formulating real sentences isn’t something that your brain can deal with on these days.

Self-Doubt

This is probably the biggest one for me. It seems to be the one experience most often and also the one that I find the most difficult to get out of. I hear a lot of other people talking about this one too.

At times, you are your own worst enemy. This is particularly true of depression. There have been days recently when I’ve considered deleting my blogs completely, days when I’ve thought about quitting my job, all because I don’t believe that I’m good enough. That I don’t bring anything to these roles. That no one would miss me in those positions and that someone else could do a much better job than I could.

Self-doubt is terrible for productivity and motivation. The usual thought being “there’s no point in me doing x, y and z so I won’t.” And that thought usually trumps everything else. There’s no arguing with it. There’s no rationalising it. It seems like the only option here is to give in to and listen to the voice inside your head until it gets bored and shuts up.

you-can-always-make-time-foryourself

Tears

It’s basically impossible to do anything at all when you’re crying hysterically for “no reason”. Enough said about this one!

What’s the Solution?

Sorry guys and gals but there isn’t a solution! I don’t mean that in a pessimistic, doom and gloom kind of way (I’m actually in a pretty positive mood today) but it’s one of those things. It’s one of those things that you need to deal with on a case by case basis.

Sometimes I can deal with physical exhaustion by going for a run. Other times the only way to get through it is to sleep and eat and sleep some more. Sometimes support from friends and family helps with the self-doubt. Other times it just makes it much, much worse. One of the things I often find myself thinking is that people are just saying nice things to me either out of pity or to make me feel better even though they don’t mean it.

The most important thing to do when you’re feeling unproductive or, due to various reasons, you actually can’t be productive is to give yourself a break. I’m laughing as I type that because even though I know it’s the best thing to do, I never ever do this. I just try to push through and sometimes I even add more pressure to myself with extra work and tighter deadlines.

My final note on this is, whether you suffer from depression or not, if motivation and productivity isn’t there, don’t force it. It’s one of those things that can’t be forced. Be kind to yourself and listen to what your body is telling you. Ease up on the pressure. Relax.

If you do suffer with depression, learn to celebrate the wins no matter how small. Learn to accept that these things are out of your hands. Stay strong no matter what.