Focussing (and keeping going) on your own projects

I’ve found over the years that I tend to look over at other creative projects wishing that I’d gained some of their success or comparing myself to others. This often leads me down a path of wondering why I’m bothering but as times gone on I’ve come to accept what I’m doing and looking at them for inspiration rather than making me feel down about my own endeavours.

I’m not sure if a lot of other creative people feel this way but for me it’s been too easy to look over and see what others are achieving whilst in my mind my projects are all failures.

I do my best to keep my head down, figure out which projects I enjoy and focus on those rather than try to emulate others or take on too much.

I think that’s why I settled on blogging after realising I just wasn’t that good at video or podcasting. The writing side comes more naturally to me and I feel pretty open about sharing my thoughts here.

If you know what you enjoy doing then stick to it, don’t worry too much about what others are doing and don’t compare yourself.

Tips for recruiters in 2021

As you know I’ve been searching for a new day job and there’s a few areas that I’m finding that let recruiters down, especially when so many are out of work.

Acknowledge I’ve applied

You’d be amazed at how many companies don’t even acknowledge an application. Some have what you’d expect, an automated email but others don’t even send that. Being out of work in 2021 is anxiety inducing enough and I know a lot of people are applying but for some these acknowledgements mean confirmation of a positive step forward. All companies should have a system to send an automatic email acknowledging receipt of an application.

Don’t fall back on systems

I’ve applied to a few places and had interviews only never to hear back. The way I’ve found out is logging into the job site portal, this isn’t acceptable. Again, acknowledge via email or text don’t leave someone hanging.

Give good feedback

If someone has interviewed please always leave feedback. There’s a lot of people out of work and looking and to get no feedback is pretty demoralising. Hiding behind a job site portal or email isn’t ideal but at least give some positive or room for improvement feedback. Simply saying something like “thanks for the interview, we have decided not to pursue your application but cannot provide specific feedback” isn’t acceptable and doesn’t make you want to apply to that company again.

Summary

All of this is really down to good communication. I appreciate it’s hard to reply to everyone but when people are uncertain and anxious it’s reassuring to have some acknowledgment that they are moving in the right direction. I think with so many people out of work right now it’s easy for companies or agencies to forgot there are actual people at the end of each application. Please don’t be faceless and please do better.

Sticking with what works

Sticking with what works is something that I need to constantly remind myself. This applies to everything from my watch, my tech and even my apps.

Learning new apps or playing with a new device is fun but takes me down a path of distraction.

The most recent example with gear was picking up a discounted Casio G-Shock but finding I couldn’t read the time as it was faint. I sent it back for a refund. In reality there wasn’t anything wrong with my Casio F-91w that’s light and comfortable.

I’ve also been playing with new to do apps but spending time moving between them is less time being productive.

Thinking about setup time on a new machine has me now sticking with my MacBook, there’s nothing wrong with what I’m already using.

I think it’s important before making that new purchase or productivity change to take a step back, give it an hour then think again why you are actually making the change?

Consultancy Services and a few changes to the site

It’s been overwhelming with losing my long time role last year and I have been taking time to figure out what it is that I want to do moving forward. I had been applying for a lot of roles but having taken a step back and a breath I can focus on what I actually want to do.

With this in mind I have made a few changes to the site and some of the services that I can offer given my 20+ years of commercial IT experience.

New ways to support me

I’ve updated my ABOUT page now to include clear ways you can support me in keeping the lights on. These include signing up for Patreon (yes I know, I’m trying again), donating via Ko-Fi (thanks to those that have already) and sponsorship. With sponsorship I have adjusted the price to bring it more in line with other sites based on their view counts. This is a great way to get your product or service out to an engaged and excellent audience.

Consultancy Services

I hadn’t really considered contracting before but it seems ideal for right now, I have a lot of experience and would like to put it to use. Having some variety of both who I work for and what I do sounds exciting to me and I love to help others achieve what they want in their projects. I’ve listed all of my experience on the site here. If you need a techie then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Freelancing writing

Freelance writing is something else, kind of like contracting that is an exciting opportunity to pursue now that I am available full time. I have applied to a few roles already and if you would like to have me write on your site please contact me. My current portfolio can be found here.

I’m only really at the beginning of this new journey and it’s taken a couple of months to get my head around it all and in the right place to move forward – wish me luck.

Knowledge and status isn’t power

I’ve worked in IT for over 20 years and come across personalities that use their in depth technical knowledge as a form or power and are often arrogant with it.

In my career in large organisations especially I come across these types a lot and the amount they talk down to people or do not help unless you show you already have some knowledge is unbelievable. In the end I just stopped dealing with them and finding people that are open to questions and don’t look down upon you for not knowing all the answers. Being curious and asking questions is part of learning, if you come across these types of people distance yourselves from them. If you work in smaller organisations they don’t last long in my experience but still if you come across them, avoid.

Unfortunately it’s something that I see on some established tech podcasts more these days and it’s an instant unsubscribe.

Referring to forum users (or the very same people you want support from) as idiots isn’t a great look in my opinion. Hubris probably comes along with the territory when you’re a large podcast I expect but I just feel that some podcasters have lost what it’s like to be curious and be a day to day user of technology.

This is a strange post to write now I’m thinking about it but I guess I wanted to vent a little and also just advise that if you come across people that make you uncomfortable in this way disconnect or unfollow for your mental health.

Being more intentional, keeping distractions off your smartphone

One thing I’ve realised in looking at my screen time since I lost my day job was that it’s gone very much in the wrong direction. I’m spending too much time in social media apps like Twitter and Reddit and less time on creating new things.

I’ve decided to make my iPhone use a lot more intentional. Less distractions and finding a new place for a certain activities. What I mean here is that as a first step I’m removing all of the social and podcasting apps off my iPhone.

Social apps are useful for me but I can catch up on my MacBook. I want to stop the habit of scrolling the news feed.

With podcasts I listen to them more out of habit than enjoyment. I don’t commute or travel to client sites so I find instead of relaxing with music I throw on whatever technology based podcast is my queue and end up not even listening to it really. I’m either not interested or just get bored these days.

I’m hoping these little changes help me focus a bit more on what’s important to me, something I’m still figuring out.

Another year of growth for the blog and going forward

2020 has been another year of growth for the blog. Visits are up 35% and I’m finding now that I’m posting more regularly things are on the up. But, I need to look at ways it can support me now I’m out of work.

Thanks to my Ko-Fi supporters I’ve been able to keep the lights on for another year and I appreciate this more than anything on the creative side this year – thanks. Without your support I wouldn’t be writing this.

In terms of other ways I can help keep me writing here, it’s been terrible being honest. I have no support via patreon or a sponsor. I’m not a marketing genius but I’m running out of ideas here. I have applied for third party platforms like Carbon but been rejected by them all. Rejection is something I’m getting used to having applied to so many jobs, but I digress.

I’m on the verge of giving up monetising completely.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with my creative pull going forward. My day is taken up with personal stuff and thinking about how to get an income.

I’m thinking about going in with video in the new year but the way I’ve been feeling I’m not sure if this’ll be a good thing or bad. It’s something I’m going to think seriously about and see if I can add anything.

I enjoy podcasting but based on my trail of failed projects I’m a better guest than host. Another creative outlet I need to think about. Maybe I’ll relaunch Home Screens as it picked up a little following for a while there.

Anyway this isn’t the most positive of posts but I’m sharing where I’m at and how I’m feeling.

I haven’t planned any goals for the new year aside from finding a new day job. My creative endeavours are in the background now but I’m going to try to plan some time to sit down and plan what it may look like and if I have the energy to see something through.

The importance of scheduling your day when you’re out of work

I’ve been out of work now for just over a week and one thing I’m finding hard is losing that schedule of a 9 to 5 job, especially if you had client contact and lots of meetings like I did. I had a hybrid role, somewhere between Technical Consultant and Solutions Architect and was always engaged in something or other. Suddenly stopping that is very difficult and it’s a bit of a struggle right now, appreciate it is hard for everyone in 2020.

It’s easy to fall into treating each day with a lack of focus and energy. Getting lost in thoughts and worry is also easy when you suddenly have headspace. I can’t read the news, especially anything to do with the economy and it’s easy to see doom and gloom.

But, I’m finding if you plan out your projects and your day then it helps give you some focus and takes your mind of things. Be it DIY, gaming or your creative projects you can set aside time for each. I’m not planning meetings into my calendar but having distinct projects in my to do app for each goal and to do items that remind me to chip away at them each day.

Even if it’s all on paper, write down a few things you want to accomplish. Like say launch a Star Wars podcast (watch this space) or finally record that music you’ve been meaning to (again, watch this space).

These give you some purpose outside of the daily job search and rejection cycle that it’s easy to fall into. You can’t look for jobs 7 hours a day! Take time to look at what you want to achieve and plan some time for it.

Cutting back on news and social media is good for my mental health

I don’t have to remind anyone about the current state of things but even before all of this kicked off I was struggling with news and social media consumption. I went two weeks with little social and no news and felt all the more calmer and consistent for it. This week however I checked Twitter notifications, went down a rabbit hole, checked mainstream news and felt terrible all evening.

I’ve had to do a few things to help me stay in better shape mentally.

Drop social media

I don’t have Facebook or Instagram accounts so this was only Micro.blog and Twitter. Due to some changes I can no longer afford to use Micro.blog so that went pretty easily.

Twitter is a more difficult beast. I deleted the apps off all of my devices and logged out of the browser on my Mac. This’ll be the most challenging but I’m hoping I can do it, at least for 30 day chunks.

News

I’ve deleted all bookmarks in Safari that gets me to mainstream news. I delete News app off my devices as I don’t use it anyway. I don’t watch TV so that’s not a problem. I get my news via my own curated RSS feeds using the Reeder app. I follow a few tech and smaller blogs there, this gives me a view of what I’m interested in.

I try not to engage with friends in news and don’t click on links that are sent.

I’m keeping myself accountable by using the streaks app to see how many days I can go, this I find fits with my brain for some reason.

Wish me luck and why don’t you give it a try?

Swapping social media for creativity

I’ve noticed in the past (and rewriting this post as a reminder) that if I want to create more I need to swap my Twitter habit with a creation one. I’m finding that in downtime that I’m scrolling my feeds in Twitter or Reddit instead of doing something to benefit my mental health like playing my guitar or jotting down my thoughts here or hey even going out for a walk.

I’m going to be taking a break from Twitter especially over the next month to see if I improve my mood and frequency of output I’m happy with.

Join in with me and see what happens to your creative projects you’ve been looking to spend more time on.