Time to reassess

Now seems a really good time for us to reassess. We’re gradually coming out of the pandemic enforced lockdown. We’ve hit a sort of reset. And now we have an opportunity to reconsider how we want to live our day-to-day lives.  

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, as I suppose lots of us have. What do I want to go back to? Do I want to fall back into my old life exactly as it was, or a slightly different version? 

Sometimes when I think back to how I used to try and ram stuff in, I almost feel breathless. It seems my stamina for doing so much has taken a hit.

At weekends, typically, I’d want a nice slow lazy morning reading in bed. A proper rest. But I’d also have this mental checklist of all the things I need to get done, right now. Clean the flat, buy food, wash hair, sort something out online. And I’d have arranged to meet a friend for coffee. And maybe another friend later on. Perhaps I’d have invited friends over for dinner. And straight off I’d be feeling stressed.

What kind of ridiculous is that? To have the luxury to do anything, or pretty much nothing, and still feel stressed. How did I manage to arrange my weekends so that I’d be feeling so hurried first thing, just getting started with the day? 

Not doing much at all

It’s amazing to have lots of friends to make plans with and see, and fun things to do. But maybe, when it comes to planning and agreeing to things, I need to reassess, and be a little more aware of how I actually like to spend my time. 

I’ve come to realise that at weekends I really like to not do much at all, just generally potter about. During the quarantine I’ve enjoyed not planning (not that there was any choice in the matter) and just seeing what I’ve felt like doing. Which has basically amounted to cooking, cleaning, playing board games whilst listening to music, reading, maybe a video call. In the evening nothing simpler than cooking up a feast and watching a film.

Back in the ‘new normal’, seeing friends at some point would also be nice. And going for a walk. All ideally later in the day.

But this period of quarantine has reminded me that I actually appreciate being at home more. I’m enjoying not constantly running around trying to do everything. Social pressures have fallen away. Gone is the dilemma of being invited to do something and feeling obligated versus wanting to do that thing.

So do I want to dedicate any more time to agonising over social invitations? Or can I accept that it’s ok to turn things down. Do I want to book up my days and weekends with ‘stuff’ leaving no real free time? Do I want to keep planning weekends in advance leaving no room for spontaneity?

It’s going to be brilliant when we again have total freedom, choices, and can see friends and family as and when we’d like. We’re all longing for that. But also the slowness and simplicity I’ve experienced is something I’d like to hold on to.

If you’d like to sign up for a career change coaching session, you can do so here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

Always in a rush?

I’ve realised something about myself recently. I always seem to be in a rush.

I put these self-imposed time limits on myself.

I’ve particularly noticed it happening in the mornings. I take it slow to start, ease myself into some Headspace meditation, then some yoga. I breathe, I’m slow, I’m basically waking up.

Then – action stations! The next few minutes are a blur of kettle on, shower, tea, dress, make-up, breakfast. I rush through it. Eating my breakfast I try to slow down and take my time – I hate rushing while eating.

But I realise I’ve got into the habit of rushing unnecessarily.

Now, I know mornings are a rush for most people. Busy people with jobs to get to, kids to get ready for school, commutes to make. Trying to get as much sleep as possible is the priority, so we get up the very latest we can and then rush through getting out the door.

But, a few years back I deliberately designed my morning to not be a massive rush. I made the decision to get up earlier, just so that I didn’t have to rush, and could have an enjoyable read while eating my breakfast. 

But slowly the habit has crept back. 

And it’s not just the early mornings. When I leave the house I then rush to my co-working space (I do enjoy the 30 minute walk, but it’s at a good clip). I burst into the cowork space, head down, no time for chit chat. I need to get my laptop on, pronto. It’s a vaguely stressful start to the day to be honest.

No ambling in for me, making a tea, having a chat. Taking my time to sort out my stuff and sit down.

This needs to change. I’m causing myself unnecessary stress.

At the weekends too – I sometimes wake up anxious. All I want is a slow, leisurely morning, reading in bed while eating breakfast and drinking tea. But I have a constant checklist of things to do, reply to that friend’s message, make a plan for later tonight, do the food shop, clean the flat, wash my hair…

I compress time in my head, I need to do everything, NOW! No matter that this is kinda typical at the weekend, I always have this stuff to do, and I get it done. It shouldn’t be a big deal. But somehow I’ve learned to make it stressful. 

So, now it’s time to break the old habits and make some new ones. Here’s my plan:

  • The only time I’m allowed to rush is when I’m actually running late, when I have 5 minutes in which to leave the house or I’ll be late. Anything other than that, and I need to chill out. 
  • I need to forcibly slow down when I feel like I’m rushing, and breathe. Do what I need to do calmly and slowly. 
  • Finally my plan is to leave for work 10 minutes earlier, to give myself time at the other end.

How about you? Are you a rusher? Are you feeling stressed? Or are you pretty zen in your day to day?

If you’d like to download my morning routines guide, do so here: 3 easy steps to a morning routine you love!

And if you’d to sign up for a life coaching session with me, sign up here on LinkedIn. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

Nothing like a good digital declutter

It’s been a while since I’ve written about having a good old declutter. Which is strange as it’s something I seem to think about ALL THE TIME.

I’m always seeking out articles or blogposts on how to declutter, in the hope of getting a new insight or simply enjoying reading about someone else’s process.

I’m no psychologist. But I’m pretty sure my obsession for all things to do with simplifying, minimalism and decluttering, is about control. When crazy things are going on in the world and sometimes life seems overwhelming – taking control of your things and space, and processes, feels gratifying.

I feel so pleased with myself when I feel things are nice and tidy and orderly.

At the moment, my digital life is getting a makeover. Here are some tips if you feel like a good digital sort out.

Dropbox or any other online storage system

I have some seriously old files here. Old coursework I’ve done, old job applications I’ve submitted. Have I ever referred to the coursework again, will I ever? Doubt it. Maybe it feels like proof or something, but either I’ve got a certificate I can keep or I can just remain safe in the knowledge I completed it. I don’t need dusty old folders digitally cluttering up. 

I’ve deleted a load, put stuff I want to keep long-term on USB sticks, reordered and renamed. It feels good.

Online bookmarks

My ‘to read’, ‘personal’, ‘inspiration’ bookmarks quickly become out of control. It seems any webpage I’ve ever found interesting or useful, or that I’ve bookmarked to come back to when I have time, is saved.

Maybe it’s a comfort thing – knowing I can quickly access something again. The thing is, Google is really quick. If I’ve found something on google before, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to find it again. I’m only keeping stuff I refer to daily or weekly.

Email folders

I’m a serial email folder maker. I like to keep my inbox as empty as possible, so I end up having a million folders to sort everything into. There is so much old rubbish stored here from over the years. This is going to be a long-term process, starting with folders which are obsolete – a ‘job applications’ folder last used 4 years ago for example. It’s so cathartic whittling it down to a manageable amount. You also get a really good sense of achievement, of changes in your life.

The Notes app on my phone

Every little restaurant  recommendation, password reminder, random thought of the day gets stored on here. Which means that when I need something important i.e. a password reminder, there’s a lot to get through to find it. I did a good cull of this info  – if I haven’t been to any of these local places after a year, I’m probably never going to. Or maybe I’ve been to them and it’s now irrelevant? Binned.

I’ve realised that if i can get my phone and laptop to a close a state of ‘brand new’ as possible, I’m going to be pretty pleased. You can feel weighed down by digital clutter. Just seeing loads of items or icons stored or saved can feel like physical clutter. There’s always a good excuse for a declutter.

So there we have it, if you love all things decluttering hopefully you’ll have got some inspiration from my recent culling!

If you’d like to contact me for a coaching session, you can do so here on LinkedIn or at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash

This Year Will Be Different

This year will be different‘. How many times have you told yourself this? On New Year’s Day? Your birthday? On your work anniversary? On a random rainy Tuesday morning as you’re bleakly staring out the bus window on your way to work (the last place you want to be heading towards)? 

This is the year where I work out what on earth it is I want to do. The year I finally get a job I’m great at and that I enjoy. This is the year I stop doing what everyone else thinks I should be doing, and I go for what I’ve secretly been yearning to do.

This week I read an email sent by someone I’ve admired for a long time now, called Monika. She’s the author of a book called This Year Will Be Different. It’s a book I read at a time when I was desperate for change.

She’d written an email to thank the people who’d helped her when she got started as a freelancer. A few key people had taken a chance on her, given her advice, or seen something in her. These people had changed the way she thought and they supported her way of working. 

I wanted things to change

I got a bit misty-eyed reading it. Because her books have had a big, positive influence on me and inspired me so much. When I read This Year Will Be Different it was exactly what I needed at the time. I wanted things to change and I didn’t want a repeat of the previous year, and the years before that.

In This Year Will Be Different Monika interviewed women who were doing interesting work, living unconventional lifestyles. Freelancers, women with portfolio careers (doing a few different jobs), designers, travelling translators. They talked about personal branding, finances, working for themselves, their life philosophy. 

You can’t be what you can’t see

That was far from my reality, working for a big corporation, shlepping into an office every day, doing work I didn’t care about. I’d vaguely dreamed of having this kind of lifestyle, feeling freedom, having a portfolio career, travelling, working for myself. Not going to an office.

Reading this book was a massive dose of inspiration. Hearing these women’s stories lifted me. I saw that you can choose to work and live in a way that really suits you. They had worked out what they enjoyed doing and were being paid to do it. They all had lifestyles that suited them. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? Why can’t you?

There’s a saying – you can’t be what you can’t see. It’s important to find your own inspiration. Examples of people who are working and living in a way that excites you and inspires you and makes you feel happy.

I hope you find something that touches you in the same way, and inspires you to make the changes you want.

If you liked this post, I’ve written more about surrounding yourself with inspiration here: The One Habit.

If you’d like to find out about life coaching sessions with me, email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

8 Things you need to know about moving abroad

A former client and friend asked me for my advice on moving abroad. As I started thinking, I realised that elements of this advice could be applied to all sorts; career change, starting something new, a side project. I hope it’s useful. Here’s my advice:

1. The fear. Once you take action, it gets better. Waiting is the worst.

The period before you make the move is the really scary part. That’s where it’s all unknown, vague, you can’t quite imagine how it’s going to be or what you’re going to do.

All your biggest fears come to head – will I be lonely, will I make any friends, will I end up homeless, will I hate it, will it all just be too difficult to cope with? I had all these fears before moving to Valencia.

Even things which are usually relatively simple or straightforward like opening a bank account or finding a place to live seem insurmountable.

Know that as soon as you get there and start ‘doing’, this particular fear will drop away as you’ll be so busy taking it all in and taking action.

2. Relax

So you’re there, you’ve been there a little while, and you might be thinking “what have I done, what have I done, what have I done…”

Give yourself time. Time to readjust, take in your new surroundings, learn how things work. Chances are the start might be a bit rocky and emotional, as you become a novice and just don’t know stuff. With time, you will.

3. Meeting people and making friends. Keep busy, ask for help.

Get out there. That’s all you can do. Say yes to as much as you can, try everything, talk to people. Keep your options open.

It can be daunting but you’re only going to meet your people by meeting lots of random people, and keeping going until you feel that click.

If big meet-up groups aren’t your thing and the thought of some big expat community makes your skin crawl, look for ways to meet people one on one. There are smaller localised Facebook groups which can be really useful and supportive.

I used an excellent ‘Conversation Exchange’ website as soon as I arrived in Valencia – where you arrange to meet people who want to practise speaking your language and vice versa.

So whenever I wanted, every night if I so wished, I had someone to meet for a drink.

I could enjoy being out and about and having company. And – it’s an excellent way to learn about your new home city or town, you can ask loads of questions and even get help or advice.

4. Explore. 

One of the most exciting parts of being in a new city. Make a massive list of all the things you want to do.

Plan trips/visits. Do all the cliches. Eat all the food. Watch films, sit in a cafes. You’ll get to know the city really well, you’ll have fun and you’ll be out and about.

5. Language learning.

Once you start making progress, marvel at it. Each new word you learn, sentence you formulate, question you understand, is a massive success. Use every opportunity to converse and persist. Immerse yourself in TV, radio, film, talks.

6. Celebrate your successes. 

Bank account open – great. Coffee date set up – amazing. I think we could all do better at this in everyday life – acknowledge when you’ve overcome something tricky, however small it may seem. You’re doing a good job.

7. Make a plan. 

Imagine how you want your life to be in a month, or 3 months, or 6 months. Then set goals. For example, in the next 3 months I want to: 

  • Meet at least one or two friends. 
  • Go on x number of dates.
  • Visit x, y, z.
  • Improve my language skills by attending/doing x every day.
  • Find a decent flat. 
  • Try x, y, z.

It helps you focus on what you want, and keep track of your achievements as time passes.

8. And remember

Even if it doesn’t seem to be working out as you imagined;

a) Give yourself time, you never know what’s around the corner. 

b) You can be proud that you’ve done something so many people dream of, and never do. You took that massive step and went for something you have wanted for a long time. It takes courage.

You’ve been brave enough to follow your heart, follow your dreams. 


My main advice when moving abroad?

Enjoy yourself, enjoy the feeling of freedom. Along with all the practicalities and organisation, have fun. Do all those things that you dreamt of when you dreamed of your life in Paris. 

Every once in a while you’ll look around and think, am I really here?

If you’d like to try a coaching session with me, contact me at: joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Léonard Cotte on Unsplash