how am I? | life update

2021, lifestyle

Hello!

My favourite blog posts to write are the long, stream-of-consciousness ones that I don’t have to think too hard about writing, I just pick a topic and see what happens.

Generally these fall into the category of a ‘life update’ – documenting what’s going on in my life and generally making some sort of statement about mental health and/or body image. But I always feel they are the most genuine of posts because they come from the heart (however cringy that sounds). I love writing more than anything else; I like figuring out the best ways to use my words to say something meaningful, whether that’s a blog post or a story, but I also think connecting with someone else’s words is so much easier when you feel they’re genuine.

I also find writing about myself and my experiences really easy, but let’s not look too far into what that says about my vanity.

Trying to figure out ‘how I am’ is an ongoing question – every day I have video meetings on Google and everyone opens by asking how everyone else is and I always say ‘I’m good! How’re you?’ with a fake enthusiasm that I hate even as it’s coming out of my own mouth. But it’s what everyone says, regardless of how true it is and whenever I think about being more honest, it feels like I’d just be attention seeking because I’m not fitting the ‘social norms’ or saying I’m okay.

To some extent I am good – I’m so lucky to have a job right now so quickly after finishing my masters, I feel incredibly privileged to be in a job where I believe in what I’m doing, everyone is super friendly and I feel like I’m challenging and developing my skills after only a month in the position. I’m so grateful that my line managers trust me and are giving me valuable work where I can see my contribution rather than being treated as ‘the new guy’ and being given little tasks just to keep me busy.

But I am struggling to adapt to full time work – I’m exhausted, I’m still figuring out how to track all the tasks I need to do and whilst everyone I work with is so kind and friendly, I find it harder to engage with them over video calls and I hate trying to make my home space a suitable work environment.

The UK’s Lockdown 3 is definitely having a huge impact on national motivation; everyone is feeling drained, everyone’s tired of the same four walls and ‘daily walk’ has become almost a joke whilst being so many people’s saviours. Even the introverts miss contact, real conversations and physical presence, though I’m sure we’ll go back to craving our alone time as soon as society returns to ‘normal’. If there’s even a normal to return to, but that could be a blog post of its own.

The main way I judge my own ‘mood’ is generally productivity – whenever my mum messages and asks how I’m doing, a good day will usually be a list of everything I’ve achieved whilst a bad day is a day of feeling like I have cotton wool in my head and I stared at a screen without seeing a thing on it.

My time management of still achieving what I want with eight less hours to play with in the day has been challenging, but I’ve recently started a sleep course to help with (shock horror) my sleep and I’m currently in the sleep restriction cycle, so I’m not ‘allowed’ to go to bed before midnight and I have to wake up at 7.15am. Although this is almost certainly contributing to the near-constant feeling of exhaustion, I’ve got far more hours in the day than when I rolled out of bed at 8.50am for my 9am start!

I’m playing Animal Crossing with breakfast and watching Bridgerton whilst I spend my evenings knitting! On the other hand, I feel a lot of pressure to ‘make the most’ of my weekends and often feel so overwhelmed by not wasting the weekend that I don’t do anything. But in a way, that’s not a bad thing.

So in conclusion, I feel the exact same as everyone else – generally I’m okay; I’m grateful for my health and my job and my partner, but lockdown is hard; my mental health isn’t great, I feel physically and emotionally drained and I’m craving ‘normal’ times.

The main thing is I’m reminding myself that it’s okay; I’m okay – my feelings are okay and they’re valid.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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handling anxiety when working from home

2021, mental health

Hello!

There are so many stereotypes about anxiety but like any other mental illness, everyone experiences symptoms differently. Not everyone’s anxiety is a racing heart and shaking hands. Not everybody’s anxiety is feeling stuck in bed and not getting dressed. It can be completely zoning out in a conversation, looking at a document on a screen and feeling like you can’t see the words or even looking at your calendar and feeling like you have absolutely no time do to anything you need to, thinking you’re a complete failure and wondering why you were ever hired in the first place…

But that’s not true, despite what your brain tells you.

I’ve only been working from home for a month, but starting a new job in lockdown is daunting and scary in completely different ways and even on my team I know I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s going on. So I thought I’d collate a few of the things I’ve tried out in the last few weeks to help ease my anxiety when I’m working from home and need to get stuff done.

  • take a 5 minute break

I have a mode on my phone called ‘Focus Mode’ which disables select apps and notifications during work hours. So if I want to go on Instagram, it asks me if I want to take a 5 minute break and I think this is a great way to have a moment to step back. I let myself switch off for a little bit, I know that I won’t get distracted for hours and the app will automatically close and lock itself again unless you tell it otherwise.

Even just 5 minutes of scrolling mindlessly I find calms me down enough to feel ready to tackle whatever it was that was overwhelming me. It’s not a lot, but just that moment to step away can be enough to re-centre and feel more in control.

  • organised your workload

Whether it’s writing everything out on post-it notes, using highlighters or just making a new to do list, sometimes re-organising your workload can make things seem more achievable and less anxiety inducing.

If you’ve got a really big task or project, write down a step by step guide to define what you need to do to get it done. Put a deadline on each task if you know that will help you feel more comfortable with doing it or if your department needs things by certain times. Put them all on separate post it notes and pile them on top of each other so you only see one task at a time if you think that would work for you.

There are so many organisation tips and ideas online, even spending 5 minutes looking for new ways to organise your workload can make it feel less intimidating.

Maybe organisation doesn’t help everyone’s anxiety, but it definitely helps me to feel more in control when I know exactly what I need to do and when.

  • don’t work out of work hours

This isn’t particularly helpful when you’re in the midst of feeling anxious, but I’ve found being very rigid about not looking at my emails after 5pm and not working on anything over the weekend has made it easier to relax in my off time.

This is much easier in some professions than others – I work in marketing so it’s relatively easy to keep work time as work time and my personal time as time for me, but in other industries or other companies that might be much harder; whether you’re working with people that continue to exist outside of work hours or whether your boss is much more demanding and less respectful of your personal time.

For my anxiety, I know not letting myself work on anything whilst I’m not being paid for it makes it easier to look after myself in my personal time. The fact I spend most of my personal time pushing myself to ‘achieve more’ with blogging and my bookstagram account and constant to do lists is beyond the point…

  • treat yourself to a nice drink or snack

Now we’ve all been subjected to the ‘new year, healthy eating’, ‘the diet starts on Monday’ mentality and whilst we’ve been at home, not snacking all the time is a real challenge.

But enforcing this self-set ‘rules’ on yourself when you’re already mentally struggling isn’t going to make anything easier. And if you’re anything like me it just means you think about it more.

Whether it’s a nice homemade hot chocolate, a packet of biscuits or a late afternoon packet of crisps, just letting yourself snack on what you want when you’re anxious can sometimes make the craving go away and make it easier to concentrate.

  • have an anxiety combatting activity to hand

When I had a really bad day a few weeks ago, I ended up sitting with a work conference on in the background and colouring. I was still paying attention to the conference and what was being said, but I was borderline anxiety-attack and I had to prioritise myself for a moment.

I keep feeling guilty about not working 100% in my working hours but 1) 100% is exhausting and 2) if I weren’t working from home, there’d be natural breaks in the day – chats after meetings, tea breaks, day to day desk chatter – this is what I don’t get working from home, so taking a few minutes for myself to sit back and not work for a second is fine.

If I felt anxious in the office, I’m sure my manager would be okay with me taking 10 minutes to calm myself down and feel okay again.

So sometimes, when I feel really on edge, I’ll take a few minutes to do some colouring. It helps clear my mind and focus on one, inconsequential thing for a little while and it can make all the difference.

Anxiety is hard enough to navigate in the ‘normal’ world, but during a pandemic? That’s been going on for nearly a year? Everyone’s feeling the strain but your feelings don’t need to be valued against someone else’s – you are allowed to feel however you feel and handle that however you want to. Give yourself a break – you’re doing okay!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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Our Proposal Story

2021, wedding

Hello!

In a few blog posts now, I’ve mentioned my fiancé and wedding planning but I don’t think I’ve ever shared our proposal story – this is predominantly because it’s quite anticlimactic and not particularly romantic but it does come in three parts and anyone that knows Lucas and I knows it’s so painfully stereotypical of us, it’s almost funny.

So it starts last January…

Part 1 – Deciding the Date

We were lying in bed – I’d just spent the day in London with my oldest friend and we were talking about exciting things like getting married and having babies so it was on my mind. Lucas and I have talked about getting married on our anniversary 1) because we’re lazy and it would be less dates to remember and 2) our anniversary is bonfire night so it makes sense. So out of curiosity, I looked up when our anniversary next fell on a Saturday – and it was 2022.

This is the point where I started referring to us as engaged and calling him my fiancé – it was after this we told our parents we were getting married so this is kind of the ‘official’ proposal.

At this point it was early 2020 – nearly three years away – it felt like a million years. But my mum booked us to go to two wedding fairs and it was exciting to actually start planning… then the pandemic hit and it went on hold for a while.

But that’s how we ‘officially’ got engaged.

Part 2 – My Ring

Lucas made it relatively clear that he still wanted to ‘propose’ in the traditional sense – pre-pandemic he was scheduled to be working in London and Rome for the Euros in the summer and there was plans for me to meet him in Italy but obviously that never happened.

In the end I found a ring I really liked, I sent it to a friend who sent it to Lucas, he then ordered it but had to ask the same friend to pick it up from a store in a different town and he then gave it to me on my birthday.

But was it romantic and emotional? Absolutely not.

He stood up after giving me my presents and said ‘You know what’s next’. I had to ask him to actually make a thing out of it, and he said ‘I’m not creative’.

He did then get on one knee and say traditional romantic things after that but I don’t think he was planning to.

Part 3 – His Ring

I, on the other hand, am an expert in grand romantic gestures.

I planned a homemade advent calendar for Christmas, where each day had a clue to where a little present was hidden and each clue had one highlighted word that read as a hidden message. The hidden message was my proposal and while he was piecing it all together on Christmas day I got out the ring box I’d hidden days before and found out it was too big but then I bought him a replacement one and it was fine!

Now our wedding is less than two years away and it feels like we’re properly engaged! It’s been about a year since we first decided on the date that led to every decision since that we have made.

We’ve booked a venue, I have monthly goals set for the next (nearly) two years and we’re going to get married! It still feels too grown up, but it’s exciting and I love wearing my ring every day and being someone who can say ‘my fiancé’, however cliche it makes me.

And there’s our story! It’s not very exciting, but not many people have a proposal story in three parts.

I’ll almost certainly be documenting more of our wedding planning over the next 21 months and I have a new ‘joint’ instagram (that Lucas isn’t signed into) called mrandmrsrockett (Rockett is a joke surname we came up with because Roberts + Luckett = Rockett) where I’m documenting the wedding stuff! It’s quite sparse at the moment but I’m sure it’ll get busier as the date gets closer.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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how I wrote 30,000 words while working full time

2021, goals, writing

Hello!

When I was in it, it didn’t feel like January was that busy but looking back? I started a new full time job, I did really well with my January Goals, I read 4 books and I even made a more consistent effort at going for walks! As well as finishing a 30,000 word creative writing challenge!

I did my first NaNoWriMo challenge in 2011, where I attempted to write 50,000 words in a month (I managed 15k but I was 15 so I think it was still a good attempt!) and I fell off the creative writing wagon when I didn’t have the same evening downtime when I moved to uni and I’ve been trying to make it more of a habit since NaNoWriMo 2017.

For the last two years or so I’ve been doing writing challenge every few months to keep me writing and give myself a goal, because I find it way easier to ‘write X number of words a day’ than to just task myself with writing.

So this year I planned a 30k writing challenge for January, 35k for April, 40k for July, 45k for September and the traditional 50k for NaNoWriMo in November. I knew I was going to need practice to write daily (or the equivalent of daily) in that quantity whilst navigating my first proper career job and for the first challenge for the year, I smashed it!

Here are some of the things that I really think helped me hit my goal for the month.

Having a spreadsheet with my daily word goal made it really clear what targets I needed to hit when and having this visible when I was writing meant I didn’t spend half my time clicking between tabs checking to see how much more I needed to write (might be a me thing, but I’m always looking to be able to tick things off lists!).

Although it probably didn’t help my sleep schedule, I found going up to bed a little early and writing up there whilst my boyfriend played video games downstairs much easier to concentrate. If we had more rooms in our house I would have worked at a desk or something but currently my options are living room or bedroom! My word target was only 968 words per day (compared to NaNoWriMo’s 1667), so if I was feeling inspired I could write it in about an hour and then I’d snuggle into bed with my book and then watch the Repair Shop with my boy until we fall asleep. Lovely!

I’m not someone who can usually work with music – even when I was studying for school exams, I couldn’t study to music with lyrics because I’d get distracted by the words and inevitably end up singing along and not taking in any of the biology revision I was doing. I’ve gotten worse at multitasking since then and I get very easily distracted now, but I’ve found some brilliant playlists over the course of this month – magical instrumentals, lofi hip hop music – beats on relax/study to and ambient relaxation are great instrumental playlists and my current personal favourite is main character because they’re songs that everyone can pretend they’re in that bit in a movie where it’s a montage of the main character being sad or something. Also most of the songs are used in lots of tiktoks so it’s a lot of ‘oh it’s that song’.

It’s not been easy – there’s been a lot of late night writing sessions and yesterday when I had less than 1000 words to go I really struggled with motivation but I did it and it feels amazing.

I decided yesterday I want to start work on a new original novel for NaNoWriMo this year and I feel super motivated now!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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February Goals

2021, goals

Hello!

I’m really excited for my monthly goals this year – when I made my yearly goals I accidentally planned out which goals I wanted to achieve each month so that I had a plan for consistent progress (which sounds much more organised than I feel).  So I don’t get the same sense of a ‘fresh slate’ each month, but I love anything where I don’t have to make decisions so knowing that most of my goals are planned for the year is exciting!

The way I’m planning my monthly goals is in alignment with my yearly goals – I’ve picked one from my professional goals, one from my personal goals, one from my home goals and one from my ‘bucket list’ goals – so I’m making progress in each category of my goals (if I want to) and I’ve got one monthly goal left (because 5 is a nice round number) for if there’s something more relevant I want to include. I don’t know if mentioning all my categories is more confusing (it’s very personal), but that’s how I do it!

Here are my February Goals!

  • Develop my online portfolio – I just got a job, so having a super duper up to date portfolio isn’t hugely important right now, but I figure if I do the hard work in revamping it now then maintaining it will be easier and when it comes to looking for work again I’ll have it ready to go. The three avenues I want to work on over 2021 are my blog portfolio, my Instagram portfolio and a proper showreel, as most of my showreel is footage from 2017 which was three years ago. This month I want to make a plan to make more specific achievable milestones throughout the year, update my Instagram page because that’s the easiest place to start and start researching free website builders to potentially take my portfolio off my existing website.
  • Find a therapist – perhaps a bit personal, but I think we definitely need to normalise going to therapy. I have a mental health condition! I need help to feel like I can get back to my ‘normal’ and I’m in a position where I feel like I can be in a position to be vulnerable with a stranger and go through the process of finding someone who I think can really help me. It’s going to be a lot of sending emails, booking introductory calls and being brave and vulnerable. I probably won’t share how it goes but definitely going to try and help normalise therapy a bit more!
  • Wedding planning – as I mentioned in my ‘how I planned my wedding planning‘ post, I have a 2021 list of steps I want to take to make solid progress on planning our wedding (which is next year! How mad is that?). This month it’s booking the registrar/celebrant (the person who actually does the marrying in a non-religious service) and finding a photographer and videographer for the day, as they get booked up very quickly. It’s not much but little steps every month will all add up!
  • Start sewing my clothes – I don’t mean making my own clothes! I have a few bits and bobs that I’d like to adapt – a scratchy sweater that I want to put a piece of material on the inside, a t-shirt I want to try embroidery on, a shirt I want to try and take the sleeves up on – little things that I think would help me learn about sewing and give a second life to clothes I otherwise avoid wearing!
  • Use Ring Fit Adventure at least once a week – my boyfriend treated me to the Nintendo Switch game ‘Ring Fit Adventure’ when I started my new job and I used it once and decided I needed a sports bra to commit to it… and I’ve not made time for it since. I need to make more time for exercise and going for walks and I think when it’s a video game that is also exercise it’s definitely a reasonable once a week goal! If I can schedule it for straight after work one evening I can definitely do it.

Then my repeated monthly goals are a date night with my fiancé, read 2 books towards my annual reading goal (I’m on my 5th book in January!) and save my goal amount of money.

I’m feeling really good about these goals – my January goals have gone surprisingly well despite starting a full time job and having significantly less time for personal tasks than before.

The first month of this year has flown by and it’s been weird – it very much feels like ‘2020 Continued’, so I hope you as you’re reading this you’re feeling okay mentally despite the circumstances and you and the ones you love are healthy and staying safe!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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Treasured In… January

2021, books, Favourites

Hello!

Will I ever stop being baffled by the passing of time? Absolutely not – how is it February next week?

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like 2021 hasn’t really start and we’re just living in a strange extenuation of 2020 – most New Years feel fresh and new somehow but this year definitely hasn’t.

But there’s been plenty of new experiences – I’ve nearly finished my first month of work as a full time marketing and communications assistant, we’ve had our first proper snow whilst we’ve been living in Buckinghamshire and my fiancé just turned 25 which feels far too grown up.

I love doing this little series to talk about things I’ve enjoyed this month so here are the things I enjoyed in January 2021!

  • Purchase

I’ve not bought a lot this month because saving for a wedding is a lot but there are two things I bought that I absolutely adore.

I bought myself a label maker from Amazon and I had no need for it, but I have thoroughly enjoyed labelling things. I’ve not used it for anything functional or important yet but one day I will and it’ll be so satisfying. So far my plans are to use it for scrapbooking and in my bullet journal predominantly and I love the aesthetic of it.

The second favourite purchase wasn’t actually for me – as I said, my fiancé turned 25 this month so I bought him birthday presents. I’m someone who likes buying things with function, so I decided that this year I’m doing presents that are ‘something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read’. The thing I wanted to share was these jogging bottoms from 2tall.com with a 40 inch inside leg… 40! My boy is 6’7″ – he is a tall bean, so finding him trousers that cover his ankles and his bum is a mission.

  • Recipe

I’m not cooking many new things right now because full time work is exhausting and I don’t have the energy right now, but I did try this slow cooker chicken casserole and it was really good! The fact I could just chuck everything in and leave it for 7-8 hours and it made my house smell amazing while I was at work and that was very enjoyable.

If you have any slow cooker recommendations please send them my way because I’m obsessed with it and it’s perfect now that I’m working full time.

  • YouTube video

I’m slowly but surely getting through my watch later playlist, so here are some of my favourite videos I watched this month.

My Dad Died | The Michalaks (to clarify: not my favourite because Stef’s Dad died, it was just a really good video)

What Is Autism? | DSM-5 ASD Diagnostic Criteria

insecurity mashup 2 – dodie clark (Lauren Aquilina, Orla Gartland and Tessa Violet)

Something we want to tell you! | Amazing Phil and Dan Howell

I have a secret… | Jessica Kellgren-Fozard

  • What I’m watching

My one-track mind finds it difficult to watch anything that isn’t YouTube while I know that I still have videos on my watch later, but my fiancé and I have been watching Avatar: The Legend of Korra and I love it! So far I think I prefer Avatar: The Legend of Aang, but it’s interesting to see how much the story universe has developed. We’re only on season 2 so we’ve still got a fair bit more to watch!

  • Books I’ve read

I’ve started my 2021 reading with a bang so I’m just going to go straight into it!

Worlds Away From You (Charlotte Mednick) – this is a book my friend from uni self-published last year and it was lovely to read! It was a very modern YA book with lots of character traits I empathise with and it felt like a Disney Channel Original movie – thoroughly enjoyed! 4/5

Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds (Gwenda Bond) – I wasn’t sure about reading a book based on the TV show and how it would add to the general story but wow I was blown away. It felt like it properly developed the story universe of Stranger Things and I’d love to see it made into a screen adaptation. I picked this book up in a charity shop for £2 and my fiancé picked up another book in the series in the Works so I’m adding that to be tbr list too! 5/5

A Quiet Kind of Thunder (Sara Barnard) – This book has been on my tbr for so long – someone I follow on my bookstagram account (@sophiesreading, if you’re interested!) was selling her copy for only £3.50 to cover postage, so this is the only book I’ve bought this year (which I’m proud of!). I don’t think I’ve felt such a real world impact from a book before – I loved reading about selective mutism and deafness, I loved how the narrative easily changed from speech, sign language and written words so effortlessly and it made me actually want to learn sign language! It was a lovely story, it was nice and gentle and didn’t break my heart. It was worth the wait – full 5/5.

And I’m currently reading See Through Me (Kevin Brooks) which I’ve had on my unread shelf for literally years and though the concept sounds very scifi and cool, I’m only about 60 pages from the end and nothing’s really happened? The reviews on goodreads are generally average so I don’t have a lot of hope for it, but I’m not the kind who can just stop reading a book so my full review will go on my bookstagram account when I’ve finished it.

Although time feels a bit funny, January has actually been pretty good! I’m still getting used to working 9-5 at home in a pandemic and I’m exhausted but I actually feel really good and like my work more than I thought I would. I don’t have a lot of energy, but I’m getting there – feeling mildly hopeful for this year!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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how I’ve planned my wedding planning!

2021, organisation, wedding

Hello!

My partner and I have technically been engaged for a year now (we picked a date we wanted to get married this time last year but we didn’t ‘propose’ to each other until much later in the year, I could write a whole blog post about it…), and after two wedding fairs and a pandemic, I’m starting to think more seriously about planning.

I’d say ‘we’ but anyone who’s planned a wedding with a man knows they probably don’t have a lot of opinion. I know mine still doesn’t feel like it’s real because it’s nearly two years away. To clarify: this isn’t me saying he isn’t allowed an opinion, oh no no – he just is vastly indifferent to anything I try to talk to him about.

But now that we are inside of two years away from the day and we’ve paid the full deposit on our venue, it’s time to really start thinking about planning! I know nearly two years in advance is probably a bit eager, but surely the earlier I start the less stressful it’ll be right? Apparently wedding planning is super stressful and I’m sure I will get stressed and nervous the closer the date gets, but the more I can plan it advance the better, right?

So starting from the beginning, deciding what date we wanted to get married was a very casual decision, we told our parents over the next month or so and immediately my mum booked us tickets to a wedding fair in Birmingham and another local one near our home town and luckily we managed to go to them both in the two weekends before the first lockdown in the UK. Mum also treated me to a wedding planning folder which has been helpful! I found a venue I loved at the local wedding fair, then after showing it to my fiancé we booked a viewing tour thing in July and confirmed the contract with the final part of the deposit this month.

One of my 2021 goals was to make some progress on planning the wedding, so over the New Year I went through and made a long list of every step and every task I’d need to do to plan the wedding – not including payment deadlines and things like that because those are finer details that I’ll know more about closer to the time.

Knowing what I’m like I’ll make a spreadsheet of some sort because that’s who I am as I person.

I made my master list using the wedding planning folder I got from Paperchase and the recommendations from Bridebook which I’ve found really useful, but I’m not using every suggestion it makes (it’s been very useful for budgeting guidance though). I then split that up into tasks that can wait until 2022 and what I want to do (or at least start) this year and now I’ve got 10 tasks I want to start this year (and I’ve already ticked one off).

My 2022 list currently has 19 things on it but it makes sense that there’s more tasks in the year of the wedding right?

I still don’t know how the heck to plan a wedding. How are people ‘good’ at this, or do they just get wedding planners?

I’ve found having a longer list and knowing everything that I have to do in the long run makes it easier and feel less daunting. Wedding planning is daunting – it’s such an unknown and it’s not something you tend to get practice in, as well as being a huge financial commitment. And if you’ve been following any of my other posts, you know I love making a list more than anything!

I’m excited to start planning and for it all to feel more real as we get a bit closer, fingers crossed 2021 takes a different path to 2020.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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tracking joint finances + setting savings goals!

2021, goals

Hello!

If you’ve read any of my bullet journal, goals or organisation posts, you’ll know how much I love planning and making lists. Tracking my finances is no different – I implemented finance tracking in my bullet journal when I decided I wanted to get out of my overdraft before I left uni (still one of my proudest achievements). I set myself a weekly budget and used my weekly spread to make sure I stuck to it, in third year I kept receipts for everything because it was easier to remember how much I spent and I managed to buy myself a new phone outright before I went to New York in 2018 so I used to be quite good at managing all my finances!

At the end of 2020 I saw this video from Hannah Witton about tracking her joint finances with her husband and when I’m shown a pretty spreadsheet, obviously I want to make my own.

So I made it one of my 2021 goals to monitor our spending – I thought this would be especially helpful as we’re saving for a 2022 wedding and we really need to get some money together to pay for it and it can give us a clearer idea of where we’re overspending, where we can save and how we can reach our financial goals (which makes us sound way more grown up than I really want to be).

To set up my spreadsheet, I essentially watched Hannah’s video through really slowly, pausing often to type categories and things in my own Excel document and decide which colours I wanted for each heading.

 

Once I had the basics of income, savings and expenses all set up with our own personalised categories suitable to our life and expenditure (I didn’t know I knew that word tbh), I then got to my favourite bit – using equations to automatically add things up.

At first it was relatively simple – addition sums at the bottom of each column to calculate monthly income/savings, addition sums at the end of each row to calculate yearly totals in each category and then in the bottom right hand corner of each section, another addition sum to see our total income, savings and spending for the year.

But there’s more…

I then thought about being able to include a running total of our bank account – knowing how much we had leftover at the end of the month and using that as a starting point for the beginning of the next month. And in conclusion – this is my beautiful spreadsheet that I have to work with.

It might be harder to appreciate how beautiful and efficient it all is without any of the data (there’s some things I know I definitely shouldn’t share online) but I’ll talk you through it.

The top category – where we track what goes into the account, starting with what was leftover from last month and any additional finances we pay into the account (not necessarily everything we get paid). The total figure here helps to calculate the remainder figure at the bottom of the sheet which in turn becomes the ‘balance on the 1st’ figure the following month.

The last category is the fun one purely because there’s more data to put in and balance and equations and it makes me feel clever, but it’s simple enough – put what comes out of your bank account in each of the categories, total expenditure is an addition of the savings and expenses category and then remainder (or current bank balance, however you want to word it) is total income minus total outgoing, and that remainder uses a very simple ‘=[CELL NUMBER]’ equation to carry over to the next month.

And then I did it all again for my personal finances.

In all honesty, it’s not complicated – it’s a few addition equations, remembering to continuously update it (hence the cell that says ‘Last Transaction Input’ at the bottom) and maintaining everything I’ve already learnt about budgeting and not spending more money than I have.

I’ve been finance tracking for a long time on paper, but it’s never really had a purpose – it’s just been for the sake of being aware of what I’m spending. Doing it this way means I can see a generalised view of my year and I can see if I notice any changes in where we’re spending more or less, perhaps where we could save money and hopefully where we can save more for the wedding and one day getting on the housing market and all the other gross adult things that cost too much money.

Like Hannah said in her video, I’m the one that does all the finance tracking – I tried to show my fiancé and he said ‘that’s nice’ and went back to his video games, so as long as I can tell him how much we need in the joint account and whether he can justify buying the new Samsung phone (he can and he’s very excited that it’s arriving three days before it’s official release).

I love tracking a lists and this spreadsheet means that my finance tracking in my bullet journal is completely unnecessary, but I think I’ll keep doing it because there’s something really demoralising about having to put it in writing when you did a sad spend and ordered too many things online. Although demoralising sounds like a bad thing, sometimes it’s the nudge you need to stop unnecessary spending and avoid popping into McDonalds after I’ve finished the Asda shop (which is good for both the diet and the bank account!).

It’s not life changing – it’s not going to make me a Saving Wizard and give me more money than I have, if anything it’s depressing to think about how much money is spent on boring adult things like bills but it’s helpful in the long run, just in that boring ‘adulting’ way.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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learning to work from home in a pandemic | graduate job

2021, career

Hello!

I’ve not written about the graduate job market or ‘post graduate life’ since I finished my undergraduate degree in 2018, since then I’ve finished a Post-Graduate Certificate in Professional Development Planning, a MSc in Digital Media Production and I actually got a job! Two months after my masters dissertation hand in I’m actually working!

As we’re living in another nationwide lockdown in the UK, my work has been exclusively from home and navigating mentally reassigning my home environment into a work space as well as trying to figure out a new workload is a challenge and a half. I know personally it takes me a little while to adapt to change and figuring all this out virtually is challenging for anyone who’s had to adapt how they work.

There’s a lot to figure out – not only a new group of people and procedures and responsibilities, but doing all this in the place I’ve been spending days and days on the sofa since my dissertation was handed in. It sounds easy enough in theory – all the things you usually have to do without the commute to sit in an office with less than comfy chairs, probably at least one person who annoys you a little bit and where it’s not socially acceptable to wear a blanket  cape when it’s freezing outside. Working from home should be almost fun with the fridge 15 steps away and no one to judge you for it, right?

By now, anyone that’s had to work from home knows it’s so much more than that – for me, my downstairs living room and kitchen area is all open plan. If I really wanted to I could probably dive bomb the sofa from my desk and I have snacks within arms reach basically everywhere. Today I tried working at my make-up vanity upstairs and I found a lovely little cosy nook to sit in, but the bed was two paces away and it was challenging enough getting out of it without the temptation to get back in.

It’s an entirely different mindset that you don’t very often have to get into at home. Being that switched on in an environment that’s usually associated with slowing down and relaxing? It’s why some students are finding online learning so hard – because it’s not their school environment.

I’d like to think it goes without saying that it doesn’t mean I think that offices should be open and kids should be in school, I’m not saying that at all, I’m just saying it’s a difficult transition to figure out.

Starting a new job without being able to meet any of my colleagues properly, separating my work and home environments and sometimes feeling a little lost with no one to turn to is strange, but at the end of it all I’m grateful to have a job – after my undergraduate experience of applying for over a hundred jobs and not getting anything and then worrying about being able to get a job at all when the job market is so minimal in a pandemic, the fact I have any work is lucky and I really do feel lucky to have it.

If anything, the thing I’m finding more difficult than working from home is being ‘switched on’ for 8 hours a day, being awake and functioning at 9am (anxiety ruined my sleep schedule) and navigating not being a student. I’m grateful that I can roll out of bed at 8.45am and start dinner as soon as I finish at 5pm (or lounge on the sofa before I shove something in the oven). Today my fiancé had a day off and I got to pop downstairs for cheek kisses and the occasional cuddle (don’t tell my boss) but it was weird that he had a day off and I was working because that hasn’t happened for about a year?

So my tips from working for home after four days of doing it – stay hydrated, have a to do list to try and stay focused, plan your lunch because half an hour for a break isn’t actually very long, set an alarm for the end of the day if it helps and today my phone popped up with a thing called ‘focus mode’ and it essentially blocks a bunch of apps during work hours and it’s a little annoying for procrastinating but good for not procrastinating.

And at the end of the day, we’re not working from home – we’re at home, trying to work in a pandemic and that’s not the same.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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new social media plans

2021, creativity, lifestyle

Hello!

My relationship with social media has been through what feels like a large change over the last two years or so – as a teenager I put all of my feelings online because I desperately wanted sympathy and attention (heads up: it didn’t work and just made me look whiny) and it definitely took someone telling me that they deliberately don’t put all their feelings online to start reevaluating my own relationship with the internet.

Cut to two years later and psychologically retraining myself not to turn to Twitter every time I get sad/stroppy and to actually communicate with the people around me, my social media platforms are infinitely less depressing than they used to be!

Pair this with no longer pretending to be an influencer with my blog, YouTube and Instagram content and just posting for fun and we’ve got a brand new SophieCountsClouds (still kind of hate the name, but the brand’s the brand y’know). I don’t feel like I have to post on Instagram every day, I don’t try to ‘promote engagement’ (that I never got anyway) and the content I do make I make for fun; because I love writing, I like coming up with new and fun videos ideas and I love watching social media evolve and develop (hence the beginnings of a career in marketing).

But there are two new profiles that I want to develop in 2021 – having really reinvested in social media as a personal hobby and not a ‘professional portfolio’ (that’s separate) I’ve got two new projects that I want to work on and I’ve definitely mentioned them both already.

My new book Instagram account and tiktok! I’ve kind of fallen headfirst down the tiktok rabbit hole as lockdown and pandemic has persisted, both from an entertainment and a marketing point of view (how someone can gain 99 million followers in a year is astounding) and now I just want to make fun, silly little videos.

The book account has been one of my new years goals for a little while now – 2020 may have been shit but it was the year I full on fell in love with reading again and I wanted somewhere to connect with people who love books and stories as much as I do and somewhere for me to write about the books I’m reading and my thoughts on other things (important discussions like hardback vs paperback and whether the spine of a book should be cracked).

It sounds silly to keep using the word ‘fun’ but doing Vlogmas and watching so much tiktok, making content is fun again for me now! While I was at uni I spent a lot of time thinking that to be a ‘proper blogger’ I needed to be scheduling tweets for every hour of the day and writing really stagey, fake sounding captions with a million hashtags to ‘reach the right people’ but it felt wrong when I did it and it feels stupid looking back on it now. If my blog or YouTube was ever going to be successful then 1) it would have been already and 2) I’d rather people found my content organically and subscribed because they liked it, not because I tweeted three billions times asking if they’d remembered to subscribe.

I’ve had so much fun finding people to follow on my book account and making that tiktok the other day made me feel creative in a way I never expected to!

In between new social medias and setting up my new sewing machine, knitting and sitting with a blanket over my knees 24/7, I think I’m finely balancing on the line between millenial/gen z ‘keeping up with the trends’ and ‘Grandma’.

I still don’t understand tiktok dances, how do you know which are the trendy ones and which ones are people just boogying in their living room? Did I really use the words ‘trendy’ and ‘boogying’ in the same sentence?

Conclusion? I’m having fun with social media and content creation again and I think that might be one of the best things that came out of 2020.

If you’re interested in books or, like me, can’t get off tiktok I’d love it if you followed me! If that’s not what you’re into, I hope you love the creators you are watching and you have content that makes you smile.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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