This was supposed to be a post about the fantastic time I had in Turkey, but the week following my return has been a bit of a nightmare. On Tuesday I found out something awful about one of my relatives that I don’t really want to go into, but it was tough to deal with – not least because of the shock element. On top of that work got increasingly difficult throughout the week, culminating in a massive problem which lasted the whole of Friday. People ended up saying to me ‘Jenni, just GO HOME’.
So I did. A hard week for most people involves going home and having a glass of wine and probably a bit of a moan at someone about it. A hard week for me is a huge internal battle to stay in control of myself. I’m proud to say I managed it though, and in a constructive and healthy way.
After a quick pit stop at home to get changed, I headed straight to the gym for a brief workout. Physically speaking it wasn’t the best or longest workout I’ve done by a long way, but I needed it mentally and it made a huge difference in releasing a lot of my stress. I came home, changed again and went out for a meal with Joe. Our local Indian restaurant has been closed for a while for refurbishment, and we booked a table for its reopening to see what it was like. The food was just as good as ever, the restaurant itself looks a lot more modern now, and the owner kept walking round proudly asking everyone what they thought and providing little anecdotes about the process (bless him).
By the time we’d eaten and got back I was much happier, albeit exhausted. Joe insisted I go to bed and it was definitely the right thing to do – I woke up on Saturday feeling refreshed and ready for the haircut and shopping I had planned.
I literally woke up, got out of bed and took that photo, which is why my hair looks messy and my face looks grumpy. I’ve lost almost half the length of my hair; this is about the shortest it ever gets. My head feels a lot lighter now and whilst it’s going to take me a while to get used to, I’m going to be even more grateful about it come summer.
Shopping-wise, I’d only planned to buy some new shoes for the wedding I’m going to next week, but I ended up buying a top, a wedding card, a box of chocolates and then I went food shopping. By the time I got back home I was exhausted again (half stress, half the fact I walked about five miles) and ended up watching TV and napping on the sofa. It made it much harder for me to stay asleep last night, but I woke up this morning feeling a lot more like myself.
The main problem I have is that I still don’t feel like I’ve caught up from being on holiday. My plan for the rest of today is to clean the house, finish putting away my stuff, catch up on emails and PMs, start a blog post about Turkey and get in a visit to the gym. When my house is messy, my clothes aren’t put away and things aren’t clean, I automatically have underlying stress. So today is Project Cleanup, and I’ll be back with a much more organised (and better written) blog post at some point early next week. Fingers crossed next week is a lot more positive!
…crazy busy. I’ve not stopped. I made a to do list at the end of last week, which promptly sent me into a massive panic about how much I have to get done before Saturday, which is when I fly to Turkey for a week with my friend Beth.
May was always going to be busy with a holiday, two trips to London (yay for Othello and a Zelda symphony concert with epic seats!) and Joe’s sister’s wedding planned. Throw in a huge (HUGE) project at work, helping out our new assistant, meetings, interviews, various holiday tasks, freelance work, gym visits, a friend’s birthday and pay day drinks out, and I’m officially swamped.
You know what’s not a good idea when you’re officially swamped? Sending the friend you’re going on holiday with a link to the potential terrorist threat of the country you’re visiting. I honestly wouldn’t have done it if I thought it would freak her out (it did), and my attempt to look on the bright side (‘I’ve had a feeling for a while now that I’m going to die soon, I’m not particularly bothered where it happens’) didn’t go down too well either…
The other night I stayed late at work and then didn’t get much sleep on top of all that, and I got incredibly frustrated and angry because I was so tired. Happily it was nothing that junk food and an early night couldn’t fix, and the beautiful weather today has made everything seem a lot more manageable. I’ve rested, achieved lots of things on my lists and planned out most of the rest, so I’m beginning to feel a bit more on top of things. There are still a few little niggly jobs, like train tickets, but nothing too bad.
Finally, I can breathe. Just about. Let’s just say that even though this holiday has ended up being terrible timing, I can’t deny that I need it a lot. I’ve been considering whether or not to take my netbook and get some work done on my websites, but at the moment I’m leaning towards no. If I take it, I’ll feel guilty if I’m not doing work, and to be honest I’d rather be seeing the sights, relaxing in the sun and just generally unwinding.
In other news, last week I took my macro lens out for some shots:
(Joe took this one, but it was too beautiful not to share.)
It’s surprising how much going for a sunshiny photo walk with someone I enjoy spending time with can make such a huge different to my outlook. It’s the little things
Anyway, I’ll be blogging (hopefully with Turkish photos in tow!) at some point in the next week or two See you soon!
The most important rule I live my life by is listed on my Twitter profile:
“Love what you do, and it will love you back.”
It’s not something I came up with myself, but it is something I believe is fundmentally important to life. I don’t believe there is any point in doing anything unless you’re in it 100%.
(Conversely, I should probably add at this point that I have commitment issues in all kinds of ways, but I do try to give everyone and everything they need. I am always invested, and usually too much. Yes, it’s tiring and frustrating and sometimes, especially with certain people, I wonder if it’s really worth it).
There have been times in my life where I’ve been edged into situations where people have made me aware that I’m not following my own rule when I’ve failed to realise it myself. Even when I figure that out in a moment of clarity after the fact, and whatever my relationship is with them, I’m grateful for that. It’s so easy to be close to something that you fail to see the bigger picture.
Another one of my rules is that, if you ask someone for advice, you should probably take it. Several of my friends have made a specific suggestion to me that I’ve shrugged off, mostly because I haven’t really asked for their advice, but partly because I know they’re trying to fix me because they have their own frustrations. It’s so much easier to see other people’s situations and offer suggestions, and that’s one of the reasons why I think it’s wise to usually take advice. I acted on some sensible advice from one of my friends a couple of months ago, and it was definitely the right thing to do. It wasn’t the decision that I wanted to make, but it has made me a lot happier and I’m incredibly grateful now that she could see what I couldn’t.
If someone does something for you, appreciate it for exactly what it is and how much effort they’ve put in. I have always been very clear on the fact that I’m not a victim. I don’t want pity. I am responsible for my own actions and my own happiness, and if you’re not giving me what I need, then I need to find that elsewhere. Like any other human being, I need the appreciation I deserve, and God knows I give a lot of it myself. It is not a one way street.
My problem is that I’m rubbish at taking a step back every so often to figure out what’s happening and how I can change it. I take on far more than I can possibly cope with, take a lot of crap from people (I’m still learning to recognise when it’s inevitable and when I don’t deserve it), and then get pushed to my absolute limit.
When I reach that stage, there’s no going back. Ever. There’s no bitterness, no blame, no threats, no failure to take responsibility on my side – but it’s the end. There’s nothing you can do or say to make me change my mind.
I don’t know whether it’s longer days, a bit of cold sunshiney weather (my favourite kind), a changed outlook, better eating or something else entirely, but I’ve been feeling pretty good recently. Actually, really good.
This is totally a picture from this time last year – sadly, it’s nowhere near that warm this time round!
I read an interesting little piece on happiness that I totally failed to bookmark, but the gist of it was that achieving things fundamentally makes you happy, and it’s a good idea to focus on those things instead of people and possessions in and of themselves. I’d add experiences to that, but otherwise I think it’s pretty spot on.
I have always been a disgusting overachiever, and once I achieved (pretty much) all my goals, I felt kind of lost. Like, ‘Yeah I could brush up on a few things to improve myself/my life, but meh. It wouldn’t really change that much.’ That was pretty scary, because I’ve always been seriously motivated. I remember having an argument about athletes with one of my university friends once. His argument was that, as an athlete, you only have to be better than the next best person. My argument was that you should be the best you can possibly be regardless of how others perform. If you know you can do better, why wouldn’t you want to achieve your absolute best?
There have been a lot of gaps in my life over the past year, and to be honest I didn’t put much effort into filling them in a way that made me happy. A lot of the choices I made resulted in me being temporarily happy, craving more, and then getting very frustrated and anxious. My outlook has shifted over the past few weeks into being a lot more like the old me (with some minor blips, but that’s to be expected really).
Gym – I renewed my gym membership at the weekend and had the best workout. I went into it with a pretty sensible ‘Don’t give yourself a hard time if it doesn’t go that well, it’s been a long time’ attitude, but I hit all my targets and wanted to stay longer. They painted the walls an amazing deep purple, Madagascar 2 was playing, it was almost empty (it’s the university gym and they’re away for Easter for at least another three weeks), and I got really into the workout. I left feeling elated because I’d achieved something worthwhile, and because I’d pushed myself when I was feeling ill.
Healthy eating – I’ve been reading a lot of healthy living food blogs at the moment, and they’re so upbeat and inspiring it’s infectious. I’ve started increasing the amount of protein I eat and reducing the numbers of carbs, and I feel so good after a well-balanced meal. I love fruit and veg – I usually end up with at least 6 or 7 different varieties in main meals I cook myself – and last night I made stuffed peppers (a variation on this recipe), and there was enough left over for lunch today with a lovely fresh salad. Breakfasts have been coconut Greek yoghurt with honey, strawberries and banana. Even though it’s a smaller bowl than a bowl of cereal, it keeps me satisfied for much longer. It’s great to have an easy breakfast that isn’t carb-heavy when I’m at work. Having said that, if I want to eat something I will – I’m not going to deprive myself, I’m just teaching myself to eat better and enjoy preparing and cooking food more.
Stuffed peppers with Quorn, quinoa and a lot of veg, plus sides of piri piri roasted parsnips and tzatziki. Delicious!
Super-organised: yesterday’s leftovers plus a fresh salad for lunch, and fruit with honey as part of my breakfast.
Courses and events – I’m signing up to at least one local cake/baking course run by a local cake shop as well as a web/product photography course at the university. They’re both only a day, but if they go well I’ll look at doing some longer courses (as always I’m pretty busy, so it’s a case of trying to fit things in with my schedule). I’ve also bookmarked more local geek events to check out, although they seem very heavily coding/programming based at the moment, so I might have to put them on hold for a bit.
With baking and photography in particular, I’m constantly saying, ‘I need to learn more about X, I’ll do that at some point’, and never have the time. If they’re scheduled in and taught by professionals, it’s a win-win situation.
Hopefully I can improve my photography and baking!
The whole work/life balance thing – Over the Easter weekend, I alternated between ‘days off’ and ‘days working’, which worked out really well. Normally by the end of the weekend I’m overexhausted, emotional and generally really stressed out for one reason or another (I am beginning to dislike weekends, which is just weird). I spent some great time with my friends, went shopping, had some meals out, and played some games, but I also finished up a couple of small client tasks, cleaned the house, caught up on laundry, and did various household-y type things. I was left feeling like I’d had fun but achieved a lot, and I didn’t push myself to do things in a specific amount of time or to do more – and it worked out perfectly.
Gaming – I’m terrible at buying games and never finishing them. At the moment I’m really into The Cave, which I’m so happy about – it’s not passive, I’m using my brain to solve the tasks (except when they’re just too hard ), and it’s actually helping me maintain my focus. I find it hard to concentrate on stuff or accept feelings of responsibility when I’m feeling low, so I tend to just flake out in front of the TV. Sometimes I give myself a hard time about interests that aren’t productive in some way – even baking and reading are – but I recognise that I need to just do things where I can chill out and not feel like it’s wasted time.
Reading – A huge part of my life that has been put on hold for too long. I got lazy and just read trashy magazines and the occasional chick lit novel. Now I’m working on reading a variety of different things and learning stuff and being inspired at the same time. Fiction is great for just before bedtime (I don’t let myself go on the web/my phone just before any more) because it relaxes me, so at the moment I’m reading the first Game of Thrones novel.
I am kind of viewing my life in terms of ‘slots’ now. It started off with TV shows, as in, ‘Once we’ve finished watching Revenge, we’ll have a slot free for Game of Thrones‘, and has kind of progressed a lot further outwards across my interests and activities. I think this kind of thinking/acting would be way too regimented for a lot of people, but for me it really helps. It means there’s always a project or a type of event or activity to look forward to, I can plan my time really well, I don’t put unrealistic and unnecessary pressure on myself, and I’m doing things I enjoy.
Sometimes things just take as long as they take, and there’s no need to rush that. It’s also great for ensuring I get the variety I need in my life; I tend to get obsessed with things and then get bored, or stick to doing the same thing because it feels safe or I can’t be bothered. I’m hoping that it will end up a loose schedule where I know I have a particular event or gym session on a specific evening, because that kind of stuff really helps me stay focused – I get really lost without a routine. All the things I’ve added in are things that will help me in some way as well, and things that I have a lot of control over. I don’t have to worry about directly relying on other people for the most part, and that helps my anxiety a lot. I still have a lot of social plans, especially over the next couple of months, but they aren’t the basis for all my free time any more.
Ultimately, I want that happy balance of things, and I know it will take a while to get there but I’m determined to achieve it!
At the beginning of March I set myself some goals…some went better than others, put it that way Here’s a roundup of how I got on.
1. Read at least one business book
I was pretty enthusiastic about this one, and ended up reading three books because I did a LOT of travelling (last count was about 900 miles I think). The first book was Belching out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola – basically a book outlining what’s wrong with the company and the human and environmental issues it causes. It took me a long time to get into it and the later chapters were fairly good. The majority of the book was pretty irritating though – poor jokes, poor arguments, and hypocrisy were common themes. I really wanted to hate Coca Cola, but to be honest the book was so poor it failed to ignite any of that for me really. To add insult to injury, a couple of the chapters hadn’t been proofed properly and were full of spelling and grammar errors.
Thankfully the other two books I read more than made up for it: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and Grinding it out: The Making of McDonald’s. Influence was listed by several industry people as a recommended read, and I have to admit that a book by a psychology and marketing professor piqued my interest. Some of the examples and case studies I was vaguely familiar with, but the analysis was pretty good. It gives a great insight into manipulation tactics that people and companies use. I spotted several things I do myself without even realising
I expected Grinding it out to be an anti-McDonald’s book in a similar vein to the Coke one, but it was in fact written by Ray Kroc, the man responsible for franchising McDonald’s and basically making it a success…or at least, that’s what the book suggests. I have to say I found it fascinating; I enjoyed Ray’s writing style, and whilst you can tell he was a born salesman, he’s very matter of fact and not at all arrogant. I’d recommend reading both of the above if you have any interest at all in sales, marketing or business generally.
2. Reply to all emails, tweets and PMs
I didn’t achieve 100% with this one, but I replied to almost everything. It can be more than a little overwhelming with so much to sort through, but I’m going to count this one as a success.
3. Finish my photo project
Ha. Yeah. This one was wayyyy too optimistic. I’m still working on the photos and there’s a long way to go yet. I definitely overestimated how much time (and motivation) I’d have to work on this.
4. Start reading my photography stuff
I finished my copy of Digital SLR magazine plus read the first of Scotts Kelby’s Digital Photography books. Considering they came so highly recommended to me, I was considerably underwhelmed. I’m a novice, and yet I knew a lot of the tips given. They were also incredibly recycled throughout the (short) book; a lot of it felt like token space-filling, and the fact that the book was written to fit the page space and layout rather than the other way round really irritated me. I’m annoyed I paid for so many blank pages and poor formatting. The several pages of ads in the back was an extra annoyance; the books aren’t cheap for the size and quality, so to have ads in as well cheapened the whole thing. I had to laugh at his ‘recommended books’ page, since one of his recommendations is his own second book in the same series in the middle of a list of other people’s books. Having said all that, it wasn’t too bad, but hopefully the other books will be of a higher standard.
5. Get up earlier
I did a bit too well with this one; my body decided to wake me up earlier and earlier every single day. Towards the end of the month I was waking myself up just before 6am, which inevitably led to me getting really overtired and angry at around 9pm before falling asleep out of exhaustion at round 10:30pm. Since the clocks have changed now, I’m hoping I’ll get up at a more reasonable time. It’s rare my body will let me go back to sleep once I’ve woken up – my brain is instantly buzzing. I am enjoying having more in the way of daylight hours and morning energy though.
6. Exercise more
I got some home workouts in, including a yoga DVD, super quick cardio workouts and some ‘Wii U Your Shape’, but I was starting to crave the gym. I pushed myself to sign back up today and it was the best thing I’ve done for ages. They’ve painted it purple, Madagascar 2 was on one of the screens and it was pretty much empty. I had a fantastic workout and got a real buzz from it, which is great because I’ve been feeling quite ill recently. I even managed to avoid the ice cream and burger vans on my way out (kudos to the genius who thought that one up!).
7. Reduce the caffeine again
I did fairly well with this one. There were some days (and nights) where I had a few glasses of Coke/Diet Coke, but considering how much Diet Pepsi I used to drink, I’m pretty happy with this one.
8. Get a couple more websites live
Yeah, this got sidelined in favour of passive income stuff and a bit of client work. And also because my developer hasn’t finished his coding One of these is going on the list again for next month though.
Overall, I don’t think I’ve done too badly. March has included two trips to London, a trip to Swindon, baking Easter cupcakes and Viennese fingers, earning quite a lot of extra cash, a day visit to Leicester, lots of meals out, 40 hour+ working weeks and various other things I’ve already forgotten, so it’s been busy!
First attempt at Viennese fingers – they taste much better than they look!
Goals for April
Read one business book – Same as March.
Read one health book – By ‘health’ I mean depression, anxiety and similar things. I finished a workbook last month and found it pretty useful, so I’m adding this as a category.
Read one book for pleasure – One of the guys from work lent me a book recently, so I’m hoping to read that for April.
Read something photography-related – Again, same as March. I’ll probably end up reading another Scott Kelby at the very least.
Get one new site live – Fingers crossed!
Eat healthier – This was something I tried to do in March, but I veered between ridiculously good eating and ridiculously bad eating. I have a big food shop being delivered tomorrow as an incentive to not eat out so much.
Go to the gym at least twice a week – I’m not sure if I’ll achieve this because I’m away at least a couple of weekends, but I’m going to give it a go and maybe try and average it out over the month!
My trusty photography assistant taking a well-earned break
I went down to Swindon to visit friends for the weekend, and despite it being incredibly cold and involving a lot of travelling, I had a great time. (Sorry about the poor photos – they were all taken with my phone )
Friday night we stayed in and played Cards Against Humanity, and on Saturday we met up with some more of my old friends and had a pub lunch. I didn’t take any pictures of the food because it wasn’t great on the whole, but the company more than made up for it I hardly stopped laughing the whole time, and it touches me that my friends remember things like my odd socks, that I don’t like wine, tea, or coffee, and laugh (fondly?!) at me because I cut the rind off my gammon and bacon like a crazy person.
I stayed with my friends Ells and Jon, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to edit Ells’ to do list slightly
After that, we went to see animals. Lots and lots of animals. My favourites were the meerkats and otters, but the butterflies were amazing too. I really, really wish I’d taken my camera and macro lens to take proper pictures, but hopefully I’ll get the chance to do that at some point in the future when it’s warmer and the animals and insects are feeling a bit more sociable.
The meerkats had a red heat lamp on them, which is why this picture is greyscaled (they looked a little too psychotic otherwise):
On Saturday night we went to the pub for a bit, but I was pretty much falling asleep after staying up talking until 4am the night before, and then falling asleep watching The Hitchhiker’s Guide on the sofa after lunch on Saturday (totally turning into an old woman).
But I woke up feeling much more energised on Sunday, and after pain au chocolat and bacon, I was ready to go shopping at the local designer outlet place.
The shopping centre had a giant show made out of Lego to advertise a particular type of Kurt Geigers on sale – pretty neat idea:
Lots and lots of chocolate in the Lindt shop; somehow, I managed to resist:
One of the reasons I love the Outlet Centre is because of the discount Calvin Klein store. Sadly (or happily, for my bank balance), they didn’t have anything I wanted there. But I did clear up on shower gel at The Body Shop. It’s normally £5 per bottle, but by stacking discounts, I managed to get four bottles for £5.40. Bargain.
Now I have a total of ten bottles, I can stop buying it for a while…!
On the train home, I started reading this fantastic book (so much better than the Coke book I picked as my business read for the month):
Definitely worth reading.
All in all, I had a good weekend I got back, exhausted, to lots of snow and more freezing cold weather. Oh well! I’ve got tonight to recover and catch up on more sleep, and then I’m back down in London on Tuesday and Wednesday to give a social media presentation and have a meeting with a certain huge web hosting company. By that point I’ll have travelled over 600 miles in 9 days. Whew!
Ever since I had to start saving up the The World’s Most Expensive Fence (and decided I wanted a new TV and a kitchen that isn’t falling apart), I’ve been doing pretty well money-wise. In a pretty flukey turn of events, coupled with one of my March goals to actually make the effort to reply to all emails and PMs, I have actually managed to earn more from advertising and side projects than my actual ‘day job’ salary for the month (after tax). This is the first time it’s ever happened, and to be honest I didn’t have that as a goal in any way…it just ended up that way.
The best part is that, other than replying to emails, it’s taken me maybe nine hours to earn that, compared to 160 hours(ish) at work. I don’t expect it to happen every month, and I’m certainly not seeing it as a replacement for what I do, but it goes to show that putting groundwork in, taking advantage of opportunities and building assets can lead to some pretty nice – mostly passive – income.
To put the cherry on top, I got an email from an advertiser yesterday which said: ‘I’d like to thank you a fifth time for being so helpful and knowledgeable…You’re awesome, Jenni!’
You want to give me several hundred dollars, pay promptly, AND then send me great compliments? Where do I sign up for more? But why stick with one cherry when you can have two?! I posted a tweet about the email and got this reply from one of my domainer contacts. Brilliant.
My first domain sale
One of the big contributing factors to my extra income this month has been my first ever domain name sale. I don’t buy domain names with the intention of selling them; they’re earmarked for SEO experiments, projects, advertising, Adsense and general development. I did buy a couple ‘because I liked the sound of them’, and one of these domains had a ‘For Sale’ page stuck on it. I randomly got an email yesterday offering £200 ($304) for it.
Needless to say, I was pretty surprised, and immediately posted it up for appraisal on a domaining forum. I honestly expected everyone to say it was only worth reg fee 1) because I’ve seen how many people end up in the appraisals section and have their domain valued at that and 2) because I bought the domain there in the first place and figured I overpaid for it, if anything. As it turns out, it was valued by most people at around £300-500, so I got back to the guy and advised that I was looking for £500 ($760). He replied within an hour saying that he could stretch to that (another surprise), so yeah. The sale isn’t 100% complete yet, so I’m not going to reveal the domain name on my blog right now, but I’ll do a follow-up post.
Some domainers thought that it might be a rather large national company with deep pockets and I could probably get quite a lot more, but I’m happy with the price. It’ll be a long time before I can afford a whole new kitchen, but the fence and the TV should be reasonably achievable now. Our current TV is almost seven years old now so it’ll be great to have a brand new one. My rule is generally ‘Buy the best you can afford’ when it comes to tech, and usually I have to wait a bit until it becomes a little more affordable for me, but that’s fine. I prefer to know I have more than enough money to buy something rather than overspend and then struggle.
All this stuff has also had a huge impact on my outlook as well. I beat myself up a lot that my website is nowhere near as popular as I was when I was a teenager, that I should have achieved more with my life so far, that I need to be more successful…but I need to stop doing it. I’m incredibly lucky, I have a lot to be grateful for, and I get to do some amazing stuff and work with some fantastic people.
I know there’s a chance that I’ll end up going crazy about web stuff and burn out, so to counteract that I’m spending the weekend down south with some friends. I’m so excited about seeing them and being crazy-in-a-good-way. The friends I’m staying with barely have internet, so I won’t be tempted to be online much (or even if I am, I probably won’t be able to get online anyway ). Hopefully I’ll get a chance to relax a bit too, because next week is pretty busy and involves quite a lot more travelling.
What have been the biggest milestones/achievements for you this March?
I was telling one of my designer friends last week that I was going to an SEO conference, and he grinned and replied with something along the lines of, ‘That sounds incredibly boring’.
It’s so true that everyone else in the industry hates SEO.
Anyway, I was stupidly excited about going. I headed down to London on the Thursday night and stayed with one of my old work friends who now lives in Canary Wharf. I woke up hyper at half six on Friday morning and didn’t stop talking the entire way there. Luckily Rik likes me enough to tolerate me going ‘SEO! SEO!’ on the train and tube (mostly), although I got a few dirty looks from commuters. I was wearing a purple coat and talking loudly, whereas everyone else was in black and silent. Oops. At least I was having fun – they just looked miserable.
I got to the conference, grabbed a couple of pastries, and went to find a seat. Obviously, part of the epicness of a conference lies in the free stuff, and there was a lot of free stuff, including water, sweets, notebooks, pens, etc. Each row even had an extension lead put on it for power, and a jug of water and glasses. Considering I wasn’t even expecting a table, I was pretty happy.
The great thing about this year’s conference was that they fixed some things that were definitely a problem the last time I attended in 2011. People used the Q&A sessions to ask their own, very personal, SEO questions which were generally a) low-level and b) useless to everyone else forced to listen to them. They got around it by introducing a separate ‘SEO clinic’ you could book into, which I thought was a fantastic idea.
Also on the fantastic idea list: coffee/lunch room entertainment. There was a Wii, head massaging chairs, and a racetrack with remote controlled cars. Amazing idea. I didn’t get a chance to try any of them out because I put my name down for an optional lunch session (‘Risky link building ideas’, the whole point of my existence), but other people looked like they were having a lot of fun.
The thing I love most about Distilled/SEOmoz conferences is that the quality of the speakers is insanely high. Higher than any other event I’ve been to (sorry, I do love all the things I go to, but speaker quality varies considerably for each talk). Even the talks I found less useful/interesting had the benefit of being given by very experienced speakers who know how to inject comedy, keep the audience entertained, and generally just show their passion. Unbeatable.
These conferences are always crazily inspirational for me; my brain tends to flick to new ideas when people are outlining their stuff, so whilst they’re talking I’m busy scribbling ideas that I can relate to the main brand I work with. Mostly these ideas will be semi-related to what they’re actually talking about at best, but I make notes on what they say too.
Yep, that’s right. I handwrite stuff. Because I can. Just be grateful you’ve been spared the other 18 pages.
In 2011, I scribbled down idea after idea. This time, although there was a lot of good stuff, I found myself thinking, ‘Wow, they mustn’t know about [insert a particular awesome tool here]‘, or ‘Wow, we know where we can get infographics done for a third of that’, and so on, which was actually pretty surprising. And epic.
I had a chance to talk to one of the speakers and mentioned one of the little mini campaigns I’d done, and she (and other people) responded really well saying it was a great idea, so that was a nice confidence boost. I don’t really get to talk to people about my SEO ideas/campaigns very much (if at all), and even when I make people listen, they don’t normally get excited. Or even interested, if I’m honest.
Love Rand Fishkin. Not least because if you close your eyes, it sounds like Kermit the Frog is talking about SEO.
One of the most interesting comments was that it’s getting ‘harder to fake it than make it’. So true, and a good confidence boost for trying to get links from ridiculously well-known websites. I love hearing about other people’s success stories when it comes to getting amazing links.
Late afternoon cake was very welcome, although I was still hyped up and didn’t really need the sugar:
After the conference ended I walked around London for a bit until Rik (and one of our other friends, Stu, and their girlfriends) came to meet me. We went to a pub because it was one of their colleague’s leaving drinks, so I ended up hanging out with some people from Amazon for a bit.
Despite all the free food during the day, I was starving, so we went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. Mexican isn’t my favourite kind of food, but the salted caramel ice cream I had for dessert was to die for (also, we got some little chilli seeds to plant – amazing). After that we had more drinks and caught up on gossip before heading home.
The next day we had breakfast at a little place called Teapod, and then I met up with one of my uni friends at Borough Market, which was pretty cool, if crowded.
I stayed the night at her and her husband’s house, which was a completely different London experience to Thursday and Friday at Rik’s. They live ‘practically in the suburbs’ of zone 6; it’s still London, but they have chickens instead of skyscrapers outside. We hung out, did some house geek related stuff and some shopping, and generally relaxed. The next day I left them building beehives to catch my train home. Considering I’m so shit with directions, I was quite proud of myself for being able to make my own way back to zone 1 (or whatever zone it was) to get the train back.
When I came into work today I was greeted by this:
The Little Book of Tube Etiquette. Perhaps Rik isn’t quite as tolerant of me as I thought
I am a snacker. I hate cooking, I love convenience, I’m generally pretty busy, and I work in a place where the kitchen is stocked with endless snacks. And just when you think you’ve had them all, takeaway is delivered and pastries and cake and doughnuts appear. (Ok, ok, I might be mostly responsible for the cake and doughnuts part).
Still, I’ve been trying to eat better recently, particularly in terms of cutting out chocolate, crisps (i.e. chips) and other things which should not be eaten every day. Yes, I’m talking to you Jenni. So far, I’m doing pretty well. I’ve resisted at least three takeaways, had one packet of crisps, and one portion of potato wedges over the past two weeks. (I’ve also eaten a bit of cake, consumed rather a lot of alcohol, and gone a whole day having only consumed half a packet of mini eggs, but anyway).
My initial issue was ‘WHAT AM I GOING TO EAT?! EVERYTHING IS BAD’. Yes, I have an unhealthy relationship with food. But, after actually changing some things and replacing some things, I feel a lot better generally. I still have far too much sugar in my diet – does it contribute towards my anxiety? Quite possibly – but it’s being cut down a lot. More importantly, I’m not craving sweet things – or, in fact, anything really. This tells me that my changes haven’t been too extreme and they’re sustainable. I’m not trying to eat ‘perfectly’ 100% of the time, because that’s too unrealistic. I’m just trying to give my body what it needs to run as much as possible, whilst compromising as little as possible on the whole cooking thing.
Rather than an ultimate meal plan, because I am not that organised, and if I’m spontaneous about anything in my life then it’s food, I thought it would be easier to put together a list of simple, realistic food and drink switches that I’ve made. They aren’t amazing; they’re designed to be sustainable and healthier than my current alternatives rather than being zomg superfoods.
Junk food: Crisps Replacement: Popcorn. You can make your own, or be incredibly lazy like me and buy it in 15g bags. They work out about the same size as an individual bag of crisps, but they’re around 80 calories rather than 150-200. So I don’t feel bad about having two bags. Nuts are also good in moderation – I’m not a huge fan though so I don’t tend to eat them that much.
Junk drink: Diet Pepsi Replacement: Lemon/Lime Zero or Pink Lemonade Zero. Yeah, ok, they aren’t a million times better and they still have sweeteners. At 5 cals and no caffeine (the thing I’m supposed to be avoiding above all else), they make a nice change from water. And as they’re cans, it’s easier to keep track of how much non-water I’m drinking.
Junk food: Sugary cereal Replacement: Porridge with fruit (bananas, strawberries and raisins are my favourite combo). It does keep me full quite a bit longer than cereals, it takes longer to eat, and it’s a good start to the day. Plus, I buy the microwavable sachets, so it’s still really convenient and not messy.
Junk food: Takeaways Replacement: Fresh meat, veg, and wholegrain/wheat carbs. After the whole horse meat thing, I freaked out for a bit and decided I was only going to buy meat from Abel and Cole (side note: never, EVER google anything containing the phrase ‘supermarket chicken’ unless you’re intending to become a vegetarian). It’s lovely, but expensive. In my mind, it’s completely worth it; what you put in your body is the most important thing to spend money on. One of the advantages is that I’ve been a lot more hardcore about not wasting food, which means more planning ahead, which means healthier dinners rather than ‘Let’s get a takeaway, we don’t have anything in’. I’m still not at the enviable organised stage of buying all my food for a month and cooking/freezing stuff in batches, but it’s still better than spur of the moment unhealthy purchases.
Junk food: White toast Replacement: This more of an afternoon/evening thing for me, when my energy levels start to dip a bit. I have to admit that I find giving up white bread really, really hard. I have mostly replaced with with a wholemeal pitta and some hummous (or for bonus points, carrots instead of pitta). It’s a lot more filling and still has a really good taste. When I feel like toast for breakfast, I’ll try to have scrambled eggs on wholemeal or 50/50 bread rather than butter and jam. That generally means I won’t be hungry until lunchtime.
Junk food: Ice cream Replacement: I have an extremely sweet tooth, but I’ve found that frozen yoghurt is pretty much my perfect snack. Before it would be chocolatey Ben and Jerry’s froyo goodness with extra chocolate sauce and sprinkles; now it’s more a small ramekin of vanilla topped with nuts. Super convenient, even the tiniest bowl fills me up for an after-work snack, and requires absolutely no prep beyond opening the freezer and grabbing a teaspoon.
Junk food: Supermarket sandwiches Replacement: All kinds of things, just with a bit of planning beforehand. Cooking an extra batch of pasta the night before means I can turn the leftovers into tuna salad the next day without much effort, for example. If I want something hot, I’ll grab a scrambled egg and mushroom muffin. I even made one of the guys show me how to cook scrambled eggs in the microwave at work. I also try to make my own salads and keep them in the fridge so that I always have something there and prepping meals is even less effort. Homemade sandwiches are good too, and are obviously a lot cheaper.
Junk food: Potatoes Replacement: Oh god, I love potatoes. They’re possibly the only type of food I love in every form. The obvious alternative is sweet potato (wedges are good), but to be honest, I find that carrot and swede mash is even better – especially with a tiny bit of butter. Gives you that carb-eating sensation without the heavy/bloated/hungry feeling after. And if you’re as lazy as me, you can buy it premade in supermarkets – refrigerated or frozen – to make it even more convenient.
Junk food: ‘Meals out’ Replacement: Mindful meals out. This means eating in places where the calorie counts are shown on the menu, places that offer low-fat/healthier versions of dishes on request, not eating dessert (much easier than I thought it would be), not being afraid of leaving half and taking the rest home for the next day or the cats.
Over the past six months, a lot of people have heard me whine talk about how I’m struggling, and I’m honestly grateful for that. Reactions have been very mixed, which is interesting, but all have been supportive, which means a hell of a lot. People have directed me to personal blogs and websites about depression, they’ve offered advice, a shoulder, and they’ve just listened. One or two have said, ‘I want to help, but I don’t know what to say or do’. Mostly it’s helpful just to have someone listen.
The most unexpected times have been when I’ve been opening up to a friend and they’ve come back with, ‘I understand what you’re going through’, which is then followed by their own story…some of which have been a lot worse than mine. I don’t know why this is so surprising, since so many people struggle with depression/anxiety (especially intelligent people, and I’m surrounded by a lot of those). But it does make me think about it’s a topic that people, particularly men, shy away from bringing up. There’s a hell of a lot of struggling going on that never really gets mentioned, which reinforces my belief that I’m doing the right thing by writing about my own experiences here.
Anyway, I just want to thank everyone who has commented, tweeted, messaged, visited, emailed, and just generally put up with this stuff. I would love this blog (and my life) to be all unicorns, rainbows and jQuery, but I need to accept that it’s not going to be like that 24/7. I have been told that I need to like myself more, which is probably true. It just feels kind of arrogant, but I do need to be nicer to myself and stop giving myself such a hard time.
I also want you to know that I’m here for you. I know people are reluctant to say anything negative around me or complain about their own problems, but it’s honestly fine. I can deal with everything else in the universe except my own shit (and I’m pretty sure that’s true for most people). If you need anything, you know where to find me, and I’ll be as supportive as humanly possible.