I'd never tell anyone to quit their job or give up their careers and homes for adventure, and hate it when people do. It's a very unrealistic option for most, who either can't financially, have other commitments or simply don't want to. I love my NHS job and we all have bills to pay, but I have big dreams too. This means juggling my hospital work and trips, volunteering projects, expedition planning, meetings, A LOT of reading and researching, days spent on planes and trains and spending too much time on my lap top. Sometimes it’s liberating and I love the freedom and excitement of always being on the move and the variety each day brings. Sometimes it feels like I'm sinking, over whelmed with emails I’m unable to answer as I’m working in the hospital, missing loved ones, worrying I’m not training enough, always traveling somewhere and endless late nights panic packing whilst having enough energy to give it my all.
But I wouldn’t change it. The life I’ve created gives me the time and flexibility to indulge in all of my interests and work on projects that really mean something. But, I’ve had to make many compromises and sacrifices along the way. Life isn’t slowing down anytime soon and I only keep adding to my commitments. So I thought sharing the lessons I’ve learnt and how I manage it all might be useful to some of you trying to pave your own path.
Here’s my top tips for “Having it all”.
Maintaining your career:
I’ve been working in the same NHS hospital for many years time but left my permanent full time contract a few years ago. I go back to work for periods of time between trips and projects. Work in the NHS can be really flexible and I’m sure other industries offer similar flexibility. This is how I manage my relationship with my employer so that I can return and enjoy flexible working without sacrificing my career.
I’ve built trusted and reliable relationships with managers but have also spread my net wide so I still have a contact if they happen to leave.
Be invaluable - I’m always be the first to offer help, to stay late or assist colleagues - it won’t go unnoticed and means that managers want me in their team.
Be enthusiastic - Its very obvious to everyone if you're just clock watching or there for the money. Radiate positive energy and it will return to you.
Be humble - People tied to full time permanent jobs or with other big commitments don’t want to hear me bragging about my freedom and supposed jet set lifestyle. I keep it quiet and instead take interest in their lives.
There will always be people who don’t understand my life. I try to be patient with the people who don't understand my lifestyle choices.
I don’t want to be overly stressed, isolated or tired from my work. I frequently remind myself that I am driving this life, and therefore I can do anything I want that makes me happy. I know my motivation and productivity suffers if don’t make time for me or feel guilty. Heres what I do to ensure I don't burn out and maintain relationships.
Sleep is so so important.
I lie to myself that I’m not actually tired when I’m shattered. I tell myself I feel great and banish any thoughts of tiredness if I need to keep going. It really works! Even if I’ve only had 4 hours sleep or am jet lagged.
I regularly allocate days/weekends off whereby I won’t do any work on my projects or answer any emails. We all need a break.
I make time for the important people in my life - This means breakfast/coffee/lunch/runs/walks/gym together to be efficient with time and that I make the effort to travel to them to save them any inconvenience.
Exercise - Even when I least feel like it, it always makes me feel better and is one less guilt!
Be good to myself- In my head I’ll praise myself when I’ve completed a task or have made progress.
At any given time I’m working on 2-3 projects whilst also working in the hospital, planning trips, training, attending meetings and trying to have some kind of social life. Heres how I maximise my time:
Efficiency: I draft emails on the tube/trains/planes and am forever emailing myself stuff I've written on my phone, including this blog! Rather than get the underground somewhere, I’ll think “Can I run instead?” so that I’ve easily included my training into my day already.
Combine meeting up with friends - I love meeting my friends friends. Chances are if you get along you will too with the people they choose to hang out with.
Whenever I can I invite friends along to events I have to go to but its also means I get to see them too - often it’s an event that interests them too and it gives them an insight into my life.
Plan ahead - Knowing what you're doing and when ensures that things get done and that you stay in control of your time.
I set myself deadlines all the time for tasks such as submitting articles, writing blogs, planning talks etc.
Look ahead - I look at what I’ve got coming up for the next 3 weeks to see what commitments/deadlines/talks I’ve got so that I can work on them and don't end up in a tired panic the night before (sometimes I still do!)
Keep it manageable - Theres so many things I want to do but I can’t do them all right now. I try to be realistic about what I can take on. I don’t want to exhaust myself, let people down or not see a project through.
LISTS!! I write a daily “to do list” as well as a bigger “to do list” and transfer them across each day. Otherwise I’d forget to do important things with so much else going on!
I need to know that I’m not doing this all for nothing and see results, as well as keeping myself sane and happy! This are the things that help me stay motivated:
I write down my goals and why they are important to me.
I reassess my goals regularly - Are they still important to me? Do I need to reprioritise? How am I progressing with them?
Big goals can be very intimidating. I break down the big ones into little ones to make them more achievable and so that I can see progress and results.
You will make mistakes
You will be told “No”
At times you’ll be completed knackered but will have to keep going
You will have to be flexible and adapt your plans
There will be tears
There will be many who will never understand your choices or sacrifices
You will have to make compromises
But it will all be worth it
We all do things differently. Make it work for you, whatever you strive for.