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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Work/Life Balance

As good as everything is at the moment, it would be ideal if I had more time for myself during the week.

I appreciate that people in other vocations sometimes have longer hours, but 9am to 6pm was a bit of a surprise when I started working at Lovespace - I hadn't asked about the hours during interview, it was kind of irrelevant - but they are the longest working hours that I have ever known.

Add on the journey to and from work, which is normally around 1 hour 15 each way - but can easily be more depending on tube trains and Tottenham Hotspurs.

I used to moan when I got home at 6:45pm when I worked in Bracknell and lived in Reading.  Ahhh.

Nowadays from when I get up and start getting ready for work, until when I get home, is close to a 13 hour day.  Don't get me wrong, other people do more, but this is the longest working day that I have ever known.  And then there are the extras like occasionally doing the customer service chat in the evening, sometimes being on Skype in the evening, being available in case something goes wrong with the website and I need to urgently fix it.  It isn't just a 40 hour week.  It feels like a 70 hour week - sometimes the tube journey can be a trauma that feels like a day's work in itself.

I am more used to it now - not completely but at least somewhat.  I struggled at first - partly also due to finding the work difficult - using my brain to code is such a change from not having to use my brain to argue with people that haven't paid their bills.  I think part of the reason that I have put on so much weight is down to being so tired from the long days - and eating more crap, drinking Red Bull, etc (I hear you saying "do more exercise" - but I don't have time - though I probably wouldn't if I did).

Still, I would like more time in my life.  2 hours in the evening to do everything I want to do simply is not enough - eating, cleaning, washing, ironing, blogging, etc.  And I don't function on less than 8 hours sleep so that cannot be negotiated.

Changing jobs is a non-starter.  This is perfect for someone at my level, I do a good job and normally meet fairly high expectations.  I have so much to learn and can do it here.  There is no guarantee that I'd work less hours at other jobs - in fact, one job that I interviewed for and came close to getting involved working well into the evening, apparently.  I could try to get a job nearer where I live...but nah.  I like being in central London.

Other jobs could involve working from home, I guess, but I'm not convinced that is a good enough reason to leave a near-perfect job.  I can work home from currently, occasionally, but anything regular isn't going to happen.  Having a cleaner would help give me more time on a weekend, but I cannot afford one.

The other reason I don't have so much time, of course, is my location.  I could move house.  I don't want to.  I have fairly cheap rent but most importantly, I live by myself.  I live by myself - I have a whole house to myself by some fluke.  Is this worth sacrificing for a shorter commute?

And this is really not helped by the fucking Metropolitan line which has been a disaster since October.  So many complete service failures - I'm delayed by 20+ minutes several times each week (more often in the morning than evening), I had to give up trying to get to work twice a couple of weeks back.  Timing my journey for when there are no signal failures is some form of lottery.

Anyway, moving house is the only real answer to improving my work/life balance.  But I hate moving house and like living on my own.  Moving house in itself takes up much precious time that I don't have, and worse - money that I don't have.  I think I need to think more about this option.  I may well need a spreadsheet.

Maybe there is an end point in 4-5 years time, where I either do a good amount of remote working, or I even move myself to become a full-time freelancer...the requests for work in my spare time are ticking up - I say no to them more than I say yes - partly due to time constraints...surprise surprise.

I knew how difficult this career and life change would be, and it has proven so - yet it remains so worthwhile.

But I just want a bit more of my time back.  Something has to give.  There has to be some form of improvement on my work/life balance this year.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

2018 Goals

I have goals.  I started thinking about them in January and finished some point last month.  In no particular order of priority, bar the top 2.

Lifestyle

Lose Weight.  Shock horror, this is here again and my number one goal.  Last year I started at 90kg and aimed to get down to 82kg.  I finished at 96kg.  This year I start at 97kg and want to get down to 85kg.  And next year, no doubt, I will be aiming to get down to 90kg or something fuckwitty like that.

3 Month Detox.  No alcohol and limited red meat for 3 whole months.

Dating

Get a match on Tinder.  I last had a match on Tinder in 2016.  I'm not even targeting a message response or even a date - just a match.

Go on one date.  Fuck knows how I'll get said date, but go on one date.  I managed it last year.

Go speed dating or something similar.  Maybe I'll go play Dating Cards of Humanity or something Shoreditch-twatty like that.

Explore London/UK

Go to a new cricket ground.

Explore a UK city.  Spend a weekend in a UK city that I don't feel I have fully explored.  Oxford has been mentioned.

Go to 3 major tourist attractions.  Doesn't matter which ones - Buckingham Palace, Blenheim Palace, British Museum.  As long as they are new to me.

Go to one castle/palace/stately home.

Go to 20/20 cricket.  I keep saying this every year that I am going to go to a 20/20 game.  I live in London, Lord's is on my way home, my sister is up for it - there are two cricket-mad guys at work who are going.  There is no excuse this year.

Explore The World

Go to one of my top 20 want to visit places.  This is a list that isn't published, but I will eventually get around to publishing it.  Yes I write even more that I don't publish.  Yes I did write last year that I needed to publish the list.

Go to a random country.  You know, random country generator.  When I find someone game, the plan is for 6 countries to be selected - and the most realistic one chosen.

Go to 4 new countries.  1 is booked - 3 I need to decide upon.

Coding

Increase my earnings.  Either by a pay rise or through doing some freelance work on the weekend.

Learn AngularJS.  I have to do this for work.  I'd rather be learning React or Vue, as AngularJS is seen as more difficult and will become obsolete (ish) in due course.  It's a JavaScript framework, by the way.

Launch at least one AngularJS app.  Maybe I'll do something new, or maybe I'll just re-code a current website, but I want to have produced one AngularJS app this year.  I'm thinking that a 20/20 cricket scoring app might be interesting and the right amount of challenge.

Launch Sunshine Design.  This is my half-built Sunshine Design website which is going to be my agency if I ever get around to it.  I'll probably just do a simple website first before I finish this - it needs clouds, birds, trees - all kinds of pretty stuff.  Something else also on last year's list.

Spend Money

Give a minimum of £5 to charity every month.  This may not sound an awfully large amount - I don't have huge volumes of spare cash.  But the point is to get me thinking more about different charities and their work.

Replace my phone.  I think I've decided upon the OnePlus 5T.  My current phone is less coherent than Brexit, and takes longer to decide what it is doing than Theresa May does.  I'm buying it outright as it saves a lot of money over the long-term.

Buy at least one vinyl a month.  Maybe my DJ career is over, but I love music and want to buy more of it - I am aware that I have a couple of illegally downloaded tracks on my PC, so I'm going to ensure I buy minimum one vinyl every month.  I still buy CD albums by the way - I spend way more on music than the average person.

Increase my savings by 50%.  I don't have much savings, nor do I have much income.  And I certainly have no idea how I will achieve this.  Nor do I even know what I am saving for.

Blogs

Start Moorgate Munching - a blog/Instagram page for food around where I work.  I've half-started this, bought the domain name, half-written two blogs, but you guessed it - not published them.

Fame from Roast Dinners in London.  I want fame.  Actually, I don't - there is a reason why I am anonymous for Roast Dinners in London.  But I want the blog to be widely-known, widely-acknowledged - even if it is widely-condemned.

Maybe start another blog.  I have ideas, but guess what I don't have?

Other

Find out if I am still a Tory.  It is pretty difficult nowadays to support the Conservative Party, given Brexit, given the wrong-headed direction of government and the utterly useless, uninspiring Prime Minister.  Alas, it is a bulwark against socialism and the nasty, vile, bullying types that the far-left attracts.  But, am I still a Tory?

Decide if the DJ dream is still on or not.  Well the dream isn't on, but decide if it is worth pushing myself as an occasional DJ.  I'm never going to be as good as other DJs, I accept that.  I do think that I have a story to tell, but I'm not sure anyone is that bothered about it.

Read less.  Many people should read more - the internet is full of people that know fuck all (and think they know everything).  Yet I read far too much.  I enjoy reading and finding out stuff - I must find a way to curtail my thirst for knowledge as I simply don't have the time.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Highlights Of 2017

Yeah I know, the reflective period for 2017 is long over.  But I started writing this during said reflective period (in my head, anyway), so I'm going to finish it.

I normally do some kind of look-back at the year, more for my own purposes than anyone else's amusement.

You could call it a transition year, but I guess you could call many years for most people a transition year.  Though at the beginning of 2017 I was unemployed.  Quite happy about it at the beginning but it soon started to grate on me - I didn't mind too much being sat at home all day, I kept myself busy, I studied and I made as much progress with my portfolio as possible.

Towards the end of unemployment, I had had enough of the highs and lows, the hopes being dashed - and fucking recruitment consultants...of the bullshitting variety - I know there are good ones too, but the good ones weren't interested in someone with minimal experience.

And I finished the year as an accomplished junior web developer - exactly what I had been working towards in recent years.

Nothing really went wrong this year, thankfully.  No funerals, no job losses, no major health issues - hell I even had a date.  Though it was a year of relative financial struggle, which really limited what I could do.  My annual salary was still lower than the peak in 2010, and in terms of available spending money I had around 60% of what I had when I lived in Bracknell.  And still do as I write this - lets not pretend anything has changed!

Maybe struggle is too strong a word - limitation would be a better description.  I lost count of the amount of times I had to turn things down or had to curtail my enjoyment when out.  It isn't a complaint - I knew what I was going into when I decided to change career.

So, here are my top 12 moments of 2017 (I couldn't get it down to 10):

12. Seeing Martin A - It seems unfair to pick a meet-up with one friend over any other, but most of my very good friends are far more accessible than my wonderful weirdo over in Dubai.  It was just a Wednesday night, I was tired and had just a few cans of beer in my hand - but it was just so good to see him, for the first time in two years.  I wish I could see more of my friends that have moved away, but alas, same old story - I never have enough money.

11. Kew Gardens - A Christmas present for my closest friend, I think we went in May,  perhaps April, the weather was pleasant, warm enough for wearing a t-shirt, and we simply had a very nice day strolling around Kew Gardens.  Simple, effective, pleasant - with some pretty excellent cake.


10. Bratislava - I was unemployed and didn't really feel like going on holiday, I was having a bit of a miserable time - yet I had booked it just before I lost my job, so there was no turning back.  We tried to do it as cheap as possible, yet there wasn't a hell of a lot to do in Bratislava at a constant -4'C in the depths of January, but go into pubs and drink cheap beer.  It won't go down as one of my favourite places but it certainly had a charm to it.


9. Sevilla - I wanted one last spell in the sun before winter arrived, and decided that a trip to Sevilla at the beginning of November was probably the only way I was going to manage this - in the beautiful sunshine and 25'C temperatures, it has to be said that I fully appreciated.  My first proper solo holiday - I sure would have enjoyed it more with other people but I enjoyed my little break, and will happily go on holiday by myself again.  Maybe next time try to find a way to either meet locals, or other solo travellers.  There must be an app?  Besides Tinder?


8. Relegation - It may seem strange to pick such a dire outcome as a highlight, and I guess has much to do with who I am as a person and where I am from, that I can pick the positives of camaraderie from what was a dreadful outcome.  Football wouldn't be something that I would choose to get into now, but I still enjoy it and find the whole story fascinating - the ups and downs of my football club, Hull City AFC, I think perfectly show the emotions of the game.  3 of us Hull types headed to Crystal Palace one Sunday morning, knowing a defeat would relegate us, and a victory wouldn't even guarantee what was an unlikely survival.  The atmosphere between the fans was electric and the usual nutcases were doing their throwing beer everywhere thing which is so classy yet so watchable in a "visiting a council estate for viewing purposes" kind of way.  And after about 3 minutes, we were 1-0 down.  2-0 at half-time and everyone was resigned.  We lost 4-0 in the end, I think, yet there was a feeling of togetherness in defeat, which I kind of enjoy.  We topped this off with the most miserable roast dinner of the year, but later had a beer elsewhere with the most amazingly hot Portuguese woman serving us and flashing her cleavage at us.

7. Oblix - I had to put a roast dinner on the list.  And though not the best roast dinner in itself, the whole experience was exceptional.  Being up The Shard, with 3 top people for company, those views, the amazing service, the beautiful wine, the sumptuous meat.  I spent nearly as much in there as I did in 3 days in Sevilla, but hell, it was a damn fine experience.


6. Klimt - When my holiday accomplice and new-found mate, Dave, suggested going to see a Gustav Klimt exhibition in Milan on our last day, I wasn't convinced but I thought I should go along with the idea, for I wanted him to come to a big outdoor rave two days later.  Well, my eyes were opened to a new world, and I had a new favourite artist.  Plus - boobs.


5. Taking friends to Hull - 10 years ago I would not have dared take any friends to Hull.  5 years ago it was still a joke of an idea.  Then in 2017, Hull became the UK's City Of Culture, and finally, for the first time in my life I could be rightly proud of my home city.  The change to Hull is remarkable, the city centre has been vastly cleaned and spruced up, and there are many more events going on than used to be the case.  But more importantly, it has a sense of pride for the first time in decades - you can feel it walking around the city.  Hull - it isn't shit any more.  And yes, my two ace friends really enjoyed it.


4. Zurich Street Parade - This was just immense fun.  30 trucks going around the lake in Zurich, with hundreds of thousands of people dancing to an fairly broad spectrum of dance music, though more often techno.  It was not only a cacophony of different sounds but there was just so much to see, and so much entertainment.  The music was good - from minimal, to house, to bloody hardstyle - which was suitably hilarious.  Culminating in a visit to a church for shelter, an inability to walk and a game of ice bowling in the hotel corridor.  I would love to go again.


3. Being offered the job - I think I had been interviewed for the first time about 3-4 weeks earlier, and had pretty much given up any expectation on this one, but then I had a second interview with the MD, and continued to wait.  It still took a while to hear anything but finally I received a call offering me the job.  I couldn't believe it!i  And just 30 minutes before I discovered a track that I had been trying to ID for a few months too.  The job has, of course, changed my life totally - though very challenging at times, it is what I dreamed of and I couldn't have asked for any more.

2. Walking In Mountains - With a belly full of free breakfast and a fair hangover, the three of us set off to go walking to see what we could find in the remote town of Tirana in Italy.  No real plan but we headed upstream, well, up and alongside a river with various warning signs not to go anywhere near it.  It was a gentle incline upwards, surrounded by mountains and eventually developing rainclouds.  The scenery was stunning, I felt so at peace and disconnected to my usual world.  And the beer upon arrival at a cafe, just before it started raining heavily, was joyful.


1. The Bernina Express - You can tell I'm getting old, not only when I nearly forgot to write about my favourite moment of the year, but also the fact that my favourite moment of the year was a train journey.  Yes a train journey.  For some reason I had my heart set on going through the Swiss mountains on a train (the random country generator told me to).  It was every bit as stunning as I expected, the vodka flowed, the mountains passed - shamed it pissed down with rain, but I got to see a glacier and even a few snowflakes - in August.