Friday, 26 February 2016

Time Management. Who needs it?

Some people who read my last post said how ‘busy’ I am, but really I can be an absolute sloth when I put my mind to it! I am retired, don’t put in a full week’s work with a two hour commute; am not a working mother of small children, and I don’t have a publisher looking over my shoulder with impossible deadlines! There are plenty of people much, much, much busier than I am.

However, I do manage to get a few things done and it made me think about a training course I did when employed in the 1990s. I was affronted when my manager suggested I go on a Time Management Course. I think everyone nominated for this development training felt the same way, feeling that we packed as much as we could into a day. What on earth could such a course tell us that was new?

The funny thing was that I found it rather a drawn-out course, spread (I think) over two days when it could have been delivered in a morning!

However, it handed out tips that instilled habits for the rest of my life. Lists of tasks figured rather prominently. So did goals, short-term and long-term. Things that needed to be done in working towards a goal were divided into ‘urgent’ and ‘important’, some of course falling under both headings. An estimate of time that a task might take was factored in. Many files and folders were recommended, available to purchase.

Ever since, I’ve kept a scribbled ‘to do list’, never a Filofax system or anything electronic. If I have five minutes to spare, I don’t despair that there’s no time to write up a blog post, or install my new printer, but I can email a friend about arrangements to meet that evening. That’s a very simple example, but you get the gist. Maybe you do this too, even if sub-consciously with mental lists, maybe the rest of the world thinks like this, but I do wonder. People who spend half an hour on the phone complaining about how run off their feet they are, don’t do this. (Nobody I know of course!)

In Shades of Appley Green time management is a real bone of contention between our heroine, Steph, feisty single mother of two, and her boss, Greg, who in her eyes is overly cautious, and she hates him with a passion for taking her to task. Early on their opinion is divided over the idea of senior people using the Internet. He sees dangers, she sees opportunities. He likes rational use of method, she loves people. As the plot develops he becomes increasingly critical over her use of time, in her eyes quite unreasonably!

‘What do you see as the problem areas in your job Steph?”
She thought for a moment. “I think the greatest problem is always time. Or lack of it.”
He nodded, looking down, his face serious. Then he gazed up at her in that very direct way of his.
“This is clear even to me. Do you feel you lack focus sometimes?”
She felt herself bristle. She worked hard, she did everything she could for her clients in the time available.
“Possibly. It’s easy to go down the wrong tracks sometimes,” she admitted.
“If time is the key problem area, there is no place for getting derailed down sidings and dead-ends. Is there? Would you agree?”
“Yes, but it’s not always simple to stick to the mainline fast-track.” Perhaps, she thought, anger rising, you would like to spend a few days doing my job. Role reversal! How great that would be!

I guess the reader suspects that her loathing of him is a clue that actually this is a man whom she will grow to love! But how on earth?

Available as paperback or KIndle:  On Amazon

Monday, 8 February 2016

Two Years On ...

Taken at daughter's wedding October 2015
Two years ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer, with a secondary tumour in the liver. Today I had the result of my latest 6 monthly scan and all is well. With every check-up the prognosis gets better but if, if, if it were to recur, then the more time passes the more slow-growing the tumour, and the better able my body would be able to cope with more surgery and chemo. I don't think about that too much.

There has been much breaking news recently of famous people who have sadly passed away from cancer somewhat before their time. I hope this post will help to redress the balance as there are many more who survive the dreaded ‘c’ word which should give hope to people currently reeling from the shock of a recent diagnosis or feeling the ill effects of treatment.

I wrote here before, a few months after my diabolical diagnosis on 29 January 2014 (the photo there was taken about two months before in Australia, when I was blissfully oblivious of my condition), and again after my second operation, which at the time seemed like hell, but I got over it! 

The actual year of surgery and chemotherapy was one where physically I went through a rich variety of discomforts, lethargy, and post-op pain. Unable to do many normal things, I watched far too much daytime TV!! But on the plus side I had comfort from friends and family, felt at ease with the world - and became quite the expert (not really) on antiques and bric-a-brac! My husband and I enjoyed lunches with old friends and two memorable holidays, slotting them in between operations and courses of treatment.

Then 2015 was a year of gradually getting back to usual activities, like doing the Edinburgh Festival. I also finished my fourth novel, Secrets in Appley Green, set in the Sixties, but beyond that, I’ve also taken up a few new things.

I ran some writing workshops and hope to do more in the future as it is great fun to meet up with people who want to write a novel but need a kick-start!

More recently, having written articles for the online LoveaHappyEnding Magazine about  ‘People who put life into village life’, I am now a monthly columnist, writing on the same theme, for the glossy magazine, Surrey Life! It’s lovely reaching out to villages to acknowledge people who do great things for their local community. If you know of any such hero or heroine, either in Surrey or elsewhere, please do contact me. (Tweet me your email address in a DM. Give me a prod on Twitter if you need me to Follow you, in order to do this.) My debut article is already done and dusted and will appear in the April issue of Surrey Life (in shops mid-March).

Last week I painted a vase in a ceramic ‘class’ for novices! Ta-da! Not exactly a masterpiece but very therapeutic.

I went to my first lunch meeting with the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA), as recently joined. I've also committed to a study project with King’s College, London, carrying out mental exercises and ‘brain training’ to improve understanding of the ageing brain and the causes of dementia. Take a look if you are interested in taking part. The latest new venture is becoming a member of Rock Choir, an uplifting thing to do despite the fact I can’t sing! Oh yes, and I love going to operas streamed into cinemas live from Covent Garden Royal Opera House … 
On the other side of the coin, if there is something I don’t feel sufficiently excited about doing, then I don’t do it!

So – for anyone going through what I went through, or something similar, please keep positive and take heart. The chances of surviving cancer and a sunny future are so much improved these days compared with years ago. It’s hopefully something to get through, get over, move on and do new things!!