FORTY HOURS OF PAY

I recently met a professional scriptwriter, who told me that the secret was never to work for more than three hours per day on any writing project. I took it as sound advice, and I think he’s sort of right. He’s also very successful at what he does. (No, you will not hear the clanging of a dropped name here, dear readers!)

Of course, now I find myself clock watching about two hours in, thinking, ‘Well, I’m nearly done’. I think the secret is actually to stop when you want to stop, and whether that’s two hours or six and a half hours, you know when you’ve run out of steam.

Whilst this ‘rule’ can happily apply to any of our creative endeavours, imagine if we tried it in the day job! ‘I have applied myself with diligence to this data input for three hours now. My work here is done, I am off down the pub.’

Less a case of ‘Later, Losers!’ than one of ‘Hello, HR!’.

Much has been written lately of Sweden’s experiment with the six hour working day. The bad news for the workers is that it turns out to be too costly to continue the scheme, at least in the care sector.

The irony is that most of us spend a goodly portion of our eight hours making tea, chatting, or having a sneaky peak at Facebook, just to break up the monotony. Our wee brains need a break. In fact, I’m writing this long overdue post because I need a break from doing Powerpoint Slides for my upcoming show ( I mentioned it last time, remember?).What I need to do is plan in my breaks and return to my slides refreshed.

(I once saw my old boss book an entire family skiing holiday during work hours. Took him ages. Of course, if I’d be concentrating on my own tasks, I might not have witnessed the spectacle. But shirking bosses are for another post.)

What I suppose I’m leading up to is the question of how many hours is enough hours, or too many? Or not enough? When it comes to work, I mean.

I am a great believer in 40 hours meaning 40 hours. Not 45, 50 or 60. If your contract says 40 hours, then the expectation must be that your job can be done in that number of hours. Beware any prospective employer who tells you that ‘We’re not a 9-5 organisation’ or ‘You find people here at all times of the night’. That means that anything less than buying into that will be seen as shirking.

Personally, I like the idea of ‘flow’, where you lose yourself in the task so much that you don’t notice the passage of time. Somehow, I fear that ‘flow’ and data entry or cardboard box making might not be entirely compatible. I used to be a vicious opponent of the wearing of headphones whilst working but, now, I say, bring them on. Why not concentrate on Radio 4 Extra and its many classic comedies if they make the 40 hours seem shorter? And, if you’re writing, painting or tinkering with your car, you won’t need the headphones. You’ll know when the flowing has stopped.

Now, where are those slides??

 

 

 

 

 

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Why ‘Squatting Toad’ again?

When is it too late to wish people Happy New Year? Mid-Jan’s still fine, right? Yeah, I think so. Well, a Happy New Year to you.

Dare I ask how the resolutions are going? What do you mean, you didn’t make any? Even I made one or two..loose ones you understand, nothing that I couldn’t quietly file away under ‘abandoned’ unnoticed.Which rather defeats the purpose, wouldn’t you agree? I should be out and proud. Significantly, I made a vow to make this blog and the podcast funnier this year. Well, you’d notice if I didn’t do that! Ha ha, funny lady.

I’ve been thinking a lot, too, about work. Cue no laughter whatsoever, as who among us actually likes their job enough to read Squatting Toad rambling on about working life? We get enough of that five days a week, thank you very much. Don’t forget,though, the name comes from that wry, bitter Larkin Poem, Toads, so, having commandeered the name, I feel some level of obligation to address the topic.

Yes, why should we let this bloody toad squat on our lives? Well, according to a a recent global survey, fully 60% of us really would rather not. We feel disengaged, which I always think is just a fancy way of saying we hate our jobs. I also fear that this means that 40% of us are lying. I don’t know anybody who really loves their job. Contradict me in the comments section, please, if you do. I’d like to put you in a glass case with a label ‘Rare Specimen – Person who Loves their Job’, for the benefit of bemused and unbelieving museum visitors. Which museum I’ve no idea, for who could afford such an uncommon piece?

But, seriously, when I see a figure like that I get a little bit excited, having been through the wringer myself, to know that ‘it’s not just me’. It really isn’t. Obviously, I wouldn’t dream of going into detail…oh, all right…

Tick em off:

  • Four hour daily commutes.
  • Interminable meetings that go nowhere and achieve nothing.
  • Colleagues so determined to succeed that they routinely crap on the rest of us.
  • Two redundancies (‘sorry, it’s not you, you’re great. we’re just restructuring’).
  • Goalposts moved on promised bonuses at the last minute.
  • Too much time spent reporting on what I’m doing rather than actually doing it .(This they call ‘micromanagement’. I love it when there’s a handy name for some of this rubbish.)
  • And the big one…Psycho bosses from hell.

That will do for starters.

You will have more, or not. You may have reasons to be cheerful in the workplace. Let me know, one way or the other.

But what has all this to do with the Creative Life, Squatting Toad’s raison d’etre up to now? Well, you can’t separate them. Since we spend so much time at work, we need to feel it’s tapping into our creative instincts. Finally, the science is telling us this, although, of course, we still need the money. So, if we’re bored and/ or underused, it can affect our ability to create outside of work. And that’s not on, friends, just not on!!

Right now I am doing a lot of research into why work is getting us down and channelling it into a wee show I hope to take to the Edinburgh Fringe in Summer (watch this space).You can help, as I say, by letting me know about some of your worst or best work experiences. I’ll keep asking so, go on, you might as well.

Note how I just slipped my new project in there, right at the end! So modest. That may be why me and work struggle to get along. No place for the meek here. Meek =weak.

Goodness, what a gloomy start to the year’s writings!!

I’ll stop now, but Happy Working to you. And, if work isn’t working for you, keep reading the posts, when we’ll look at why and ask what we can do about it.

Bye for now.

Mel

X

The ‘Thing’ – at last!

I have a similar relationship with writing this blog as I have with exercise; I know they’re both jolly beneficial (to me, at least), but I can’t always manage to fit them. Given that my local gym, like the internet, is now open 24/7, my excuses for neglect become ever more feeble-sounding.

But here’s the thing – actually The Thing. I started on this creative journey of mine last year, and had no idea where it would lead. I remain fascinated by creativity and what sparks it in people, but, back then, I was a mere onlooker. Then I found The Thing, the creative avenue I knew I wanted to take, and so I have started on my first tentative steps. It’s less neglect, you see, than merely cracking on with the job in hand, without stopping to perhaps comment on progress.

So, it went something like this. Q:What do you really ache to do?  A: Stand up and talk at people….sorry, perform. Q: What do you have to talk about? A: Eh, hello, 20+ years in the crazy world of work, for one thing.Being ‘of a certain age’. Being generally baffled by life. Q: And how do you propose marrying these ? A: Stand-up, jokes and commentary on what I’ve learned. It might not be informative, but it will be entertaining.

This left a number of boxes to be ticked. The first was to get back on the comedy scene, older, but wiser. Now, that’s fun when you’re surrounded by 25 year olds. I’ve done two five minute spots in the last week, both to about four and a half people, but I have begun. I got my confidence back by attending a 10-week stand-up evening class, which ends soon with our ‘graduation gig’. After that, I’m going to keep motoring and get as many gigs under my belt as possible. Sure, nobody’s going to pay me at first, but the main thing is to start. Actually, the main thing is to not give up, like I did before. And a secondary main thing is to not keep beating myself up for giving up and regretting it. Regrets, like writing and exercise, take up a lot of one’s free time.

In the meantime, I have a plan for my longer form comedy show. Did I say it’s all about work? Anyone who’s ever had a job will know that there’s so much nonsense in so many workplaces that this practically writes itself.

Finally, why am I writing this today, and what can I pass on to you, fellow fans of creativity?

First, you can do it, whatever ‘it’ is. We all have something to say, or some meaning to impart. I want mine to be to make people laugh. Everybody’s got something.

Go for it, however old you are, wherever you are in life. Funny, as you get older, the fear of failure lessens, even if just a little. I wish I could tell my younger self that failure is an option, as it’s just a staging post on the way to something better. Oh, that sounds like a regret, so forget I wrote it. Wipe it from your collective memories, as I will from mine.

Take inspiration from everywhere you’ve ever been, everything you’ve ever done. It might not mean much now, but those collective experiences will one day give back an awful lot.

Right, now I’m off to think up a gag or two and I might even share one with you next time.

Happy creative week, everyone.

Mel X