Don’t close that door…

So I have been considering some of the reasons that certain groups experience disadvantage. For example, I’ve talked about daily microagressions in The Everyday Racist, stereotypes in I am not your maid, and privilege in Check your privilege.

Whilst there are definitely many systemic issues and wider societal institutionally ingrained discrepancies. In certain situations, I think it’s important for marginalised groups take ownership for acting as catalysts for our own disadvantage. This is not necessarily about allocating blame but about offering an alternate explanation.

As a black woman, time and time again, I am in environments that lack representation. I look around and do not see faces that look like mine. Whilst there is a whole plethora of research that goes into the nuances of why that it is. One of the reasons that I have experienced that have not seen covered in great depth, is that we as disadvantaged people do not facilitate each others success.

I have frequently seen the analogy that success is not like an elevator, it is the stairs. It takes hard work and determination, it rarely gets handed to you. Whilst, I get why referring to success as an elevator is problematic. Bare with me for a second and let me suggest….

If success were an elevator…you need to send it back down to bring other people up

This is a premise that has been instilled in me from a young age. Yet, often I see that when people from marginalised groups (predominantly in race and gender), do actually make it to the top, they then close the door behind them. There seems to be the mentality that once people overcome adversity and reach a certain level, they feel as though they have worked so hard to reach where they are. Therefore, if other people are struggling to reach that level, it’s because they are not working hard enough.

For example, in my first year of University I was assigned a mentor in the year above. I would frequently ask her for guidance with essays or general advice, the usual type of thing a mentor is supposed to help their mentee with. And every time I was met with unresponded to messages or simply the undertone of an unwillingness to help. The topic came up with another friend and she told me that’s just how my mentor always behaved, she felt that if people wanted to do well then they needed to work hard for themselves.

Then about a year and a half later, the tables turn. I am in a situation where I am ahead and she needs my help with an application for a firm that I have already worked for. And this was a pivotal moment where I had a choice. I could act in the same way this girl had behaved towards me and tell her to help herself. I chose the opposite. And this is not because I am an inherently nice person. Because lord knows I can be really petty sometimes.

It was because I realised the importance of bringing people up with you. There is already a lack of black girls in these fields. Helping a fellow black girl smash these barriers to entry can only ever be a good thing. When I graduate and I’m in my city job trying to fulfil all my dreams – I want to be surrounded by other people like me. It is so important there is representation in all facets of society. Therefore, I have a duty to help as many people as I can.

Whilst intelligence, hard work and all that good stuff is important and contributes to our human capital. We also have a social capital which can either aide or hinder us. This is the area that many people from marginalised groups lack in. For example, this is the equivalent of the “old boys network” where other men from a particular socio-economic and educational background give each other a leg up. What leg up do black people give each other? What leg up do women give each other? We are actually more likely to tear each other down.

I feel as though this issue is one of the main reasons I struggled to be friends with other black girls when I was younger. Growing up in predominantly white area, I was often the only black girl in many situations. My sisters and I were the first black people in each our respective schools at the time. Therefore, it is easy to see why you might become threatened when there is another black girl. It can often feel like there is not enough space for people like you.

For example, at University I used to be really involved in the musical theatre society. And I remember there was another black girl and we didn’t really click at first. It always felt like we were being compared or in direct competition with each other. And often we probably were, there is already a lack of diversity in theatre so often we would actually be up against each other. I remember a particular scenario where we both got call backs for the same character and we essentially had this weird sing-off against. We both look back and laugh about this now, because we were able to realise that we could both exist in the same space and be fabulous. And we are now such good friends because of it.

And this is not a particularly new phenomenon. This issue of an unwillingness to help each other out is deeply embedded into history. For example, take this issue of race. During the slave trade, often slave masters would choose a few black slaves to be guards and watch over the other black slaves whilst they worked. These guards were still still slaves but they had some power, they were encouraged to whip other slaves and granted certain advantages. Likewise, light and dark skinned slaves were also segregated to either be the field or house slaves.

Already you can see a hierarchy emerging even within slaves. Whilst I am not arguing these guards should have helped the other slaves – of course, the situation made that inappropriate and self-preservation was important. However, I feel as though many black people still have this slave mentality now. When they become successful and rise through the ranks, it is almost as though they feel that by distancing themselves from other disadvantaged people, there is the hope they will not be treated like them. Just like in the slave trade with the guards, in doing so, they limit the benefits of having diversity as they merely offer a mirrored version of their slave masters.

We are no longer slaves…

This can often lead to them feeling the need to assimilate and mimic the behaviour of the privileged, be it stereotypical  Caucasian traits or in the case of women, exhibiting male traits. In itself this is not an issue, as ultimately I do not believe there is a specific “black” or “white” or even “male or “female” personality type, only stereotypes. However, this assimilation does become problematic when it results in marginalised groups who have become successful or are in a position of advancement turning their heads to the problems other marginalised groups face.

I feel as though there can also be a culture of self-hate amongst marginalised groups where they hate themselves for the thing that makes the marginalised e.g. black, woman, etc. Thus, they hate other people who remind them of themselves. This perpetuates a feeling of not wanting to support people like you which further facilitates marginalisation. Whilst, police brutality is a massive issue, a massive amount of black people are also killing black people. We heavily criticise each other which in turn sets the tone for how other people treat us. As Chris Rock said: “Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people really don’t like about black people,”

As with all these type of posts, this comes with a small caveat. Yes, bring people up with you. But this advice is for a very specific scenario and you need to be strategic with it. It’s not for when you’re in direct competition with someone at a given time. It’s for when you are already ahead, so you have the ability look back and drag others up with you. Helping others should not come at the expense of your own progression. It is so important to be wise as I wrote in talk less, smile more.

For example, when I was still considering whether I wanted to be a solicitor or barrister. I was fortunate enough to secure a mini pupillage and this led to attending an event where I had the amazing opportunity to speak to the awe inspiring Baroness Hale.

I really wanted to absorb all her knowledge and understand how she as a woman had smashed the patriarchy and succeeded in such a male dominated field. And she gave me a whole wealth of advice which all these years later, I still draw upon when making life choices. They help me place myself in the best position for success.

Baroness Hale is clearly already ahead of me, she has no reason to close the door to me. I am not her competitor. Likewise, my mentor was a whole year ahead of me, she had completed those modules and already gotten her grades. We were not academic competitors.

This is not to invalidate the wider issues that due exist in society. But I feel like it is so easy to blame “The System” for all the problems because its an abstract entity far away. But what if you are part of the problem?

It’s just me, Dammy, there’s space in the elevator for you

xxx

VLOG: surprise birthday trip

So today is my friend Zoe’s 21st birthday. We have literally been friends since the first day of first year of University. We have lived together for the past 3 years and honestly, she is one of my closest friends.

Birthday’s are such a strange concept as it is essentially just a day just to celebrate you. So it can get a bit stressful trying to organise things for yourself. Therefore, I wanted to do something to make the day as special as possible without all the stress of having to plan it for herself.

She had no idea where we were going or what we had planned so this vlog was a lot of fun to film.

We had an amazing day in London on a boat cruise, eating LOTS of food and the Imax cinema watching Beauty and the Beast in 3D.

It’s just me, Dammy, making memories

xxx

VLOG: The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

So this is going up a few days later than I would like as I’ve been super busy but last week I went to see the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. I was on an internship in London so decided to give myself a little after-work treat….

I had an amazing time at the theatre (as always!) and the play blew me away. It truly is an multi sensory experience and I cannot wait until I can go to see it again.

I love all things theatrical so it was great to review a play. Whilst musical theatre is my one true love, there is just something extra special about a well-done play. This weekend I’ll be widening the scope of my vlogs and going to see an opera.

I absolutely love operas and have been playing all my favourite arias on loop since booking the tickets. It’s also my sister’s birthday so we’re going to make a whole weekend of it which should make for a super fun vlog

It’s just me, Dammy, looking forward to the weekend

xxx

Talk less, smile more

I was recently in a seminar on company law at university when the seminar tutor told me to be quiet and let others speak. He said I should “give a chance to those who needed to spend more time thinking before they answered and did not want to impulsively put their hands up”.

Anyone in that seminar or who had subsequently spoken to me about it will know how much the comment offended me. Honestly, it really hurt me. I am the type of person that will spend hours pouring over the required reading, completely throw myself into everything I do and I genuinely love the law and all of its intricacies. So his comment cut right to the core of who I am as a person and every thing I stand for.

After a couple of weeks of feeling like I could not answer questions in lectures and seminars, I realised that as with all unpleasant situations, there was something that I could learn from it. Instead of being petty, I could use the experience to better myself!

So here is some advice for all my fellow extroverts and overly keen students:

Talk less, smile more

Bonus points for anyone who noticed the “Hamilton” reference in the title! Talk less, smile more – this is what Aaron Burr advises  Alexander Hamilton to do in the hit-musical.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should not talk at all. I do not think you should have to lessen yourself to make others feel comfortable. But it does not always have to be you talking all the time. 

This is not about being less, it’s about being strategic. Do not think of it as hiding your light under a bushel, it’s more like upgrading to super efficient LED light bulbs that automatically adjust to the setting. 

I actually really enjoy silence but I’ve written before on how I find awkward silences uncomfortable. So naturally, when a seminar tutor asks a question and they are met with a sea of blank stares and I know the answer – I feel as though I have to speak.

But in reality, I don’t. It does not not always have to be you. It does not always have to be me. This is the stark reality of life – it is a hard lesson but it is beneficial to learn.

Sometimes, it can actually be really good to take a step back and let others do the work. Often when you are the one who always takes on a leadership role and are answering the questions, others are able to learn from you. But what do you gain? Yes, of course explaining things to others can help to consolidate knowledge.

However, you miss out on the insight others might bring. We all think in different ways and sometimes other people can add value to a certain topic. Look at it this way – if you already know 10 things, person A adds 3 things and person B adds 2 more things – you now know 15 things! But if you are the one speaking all the time – you are constantly giving and never receiving.

For example, if you give away the 10 things you know but no-one else speaks and you don’t learn anything from others. Then person A now knows 13 things and person B now knows 12 things but you still only have your 10! So don’t be surprised if people around you start doing better than you if you are not taking the time to learn from them.

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” – Francis Bacon

In addition, talking less can lead to people valuing your input more. When people get used to you always answering all the time then it can get taken for granted. Be it by your peers or your lecturers. Have you ever been in a situation where someone who usually does not speak adds a seemingly minute angle on something and everyone starts raving about it? Yep, sucks doesn’t it?

For example, in that same seminar another student was asked for an answer to a question and they told the seminar tutor that they had not done any of the work and had just come to absorb knowledge. And the seminar tutor offered him cookies and said he liked his response!

It’s basic economics – it’s about supply and demand. If there is endless supply of you and you are constantly offering your opinions then no-one will seek it out but if you speak less then it will generally have more weight.

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence” – Leonardo Da Vinci

So if you make sure everything you say is gold dust then invariably you will be able to add more value to all situations you are in. Make sure every contribution is of quality. We live in a society that equates speaking a lot with a lack of thought. In reality, I probably overthink everything I do and if I feel as though I have not conducted myself in the appropriate way or said the right thing then it can haunt me for months.

But recently in society, “extroverts” have been demonised and traits that are associated with this group of people are sometimes made to look like a negative thing. There is a new wave of appreciation for introverts, which is actually a positive thing, it’s about time people who prefer to be quiet got their chance to shine! However, this should not come at a cost to people who are just not like that. Celebrating the excellence of those who don’t like to talk should not come at the expense of making assumptions about those who do like to talk. It’s not one or the other.

TOP TIP: So this is something I started doing at the beginning of second year – I have a “word quota”. No, I am not suggesting you count your words- that would be ridiculous. But I do try to mentally judge the proportion of time I am spending talking and after a while a little voice in my head will say: “you have reached your quota” in a somewhat Gandalf-like “you shall not pass” type of voice. And then that’s it- I will stop talking and spend the rest of the time listening.

Just because other people do not know that you know the answer does not make you any less intelligent. Sometimes, I will even write the answer down on a piece of paper or internally whisper it in my head and then smile inwardly if I get it right. The fact no-one knows you would have gotten it right does not take anything away from you!

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”  – Plato

As a very enthusiastic person, when it’s a topic I am passionate about (which is most things!) it’s easy to get carried away. But when you get used to keeping track on how much you are speaking then it gets more intuitive.

 

Of course, all of this advice is contextual and you have to learn to judge each situation on an individual basis. There are times where you do need to show off your skill to get ahead and it might even be necessary to talk a lot. And in reality, most seminar tutors in the past have loved me as they usually find it nice that somebody has done the reading and has formed an opinion. But not everyone will like that! And that is not something you should take personally – just something you need to learn to adapt to.

Ultimately, university is a microcosm of what it will be like in the “real world”. There will be people who think confident or extroverted people are too full on or are arrogant. You will encounter people like this in the work place, they might be your colleagues or even your boss. You might find people like this in your friendship circles.

Sometimes you will need to justify yourself when people make unfair character judgements. Like when my seminar tutor spoke to me in a overtly harsh and mocking tone, I called him out for being rude. I am not saying we should all become passive and lay down whilst people walk all over us.

However, not everything has to be fight and you need to learn to play the game. Sometimes you just need to talk less and smile more! Perhaps if Alexander Hamilton had learnt to be a bit more strategic with this earlier on his career it wouldn’t have ended so…abruptly.

It’s just me, Dammy, talking less but always smiling

xxx

 

 

Ode to 2016

Dear 2017 – you have come around so quickly, it feels like only yesterday it was 2016! And whilst I am so excited for the new year and all it will bring, as I move forward I think it is also important to take a look back…

2016 has been branded my many as the “worst year ever”. There’s political unrest – the UK is leaving the EU. Racial tension is at a high – Trump is the US President Elect. People are dying in Syria and terrorism is at a high. Our favourite celebrities are dying, Samsung galaxy phones were exploding, Harambe got shot dead! What more could go wrong?

All of this got me thinking, was 2016 actually all bad? For me, 2016 has been the best year of my life so far. So I thought I would be a little self-indulgent and highlight all the reasons why I am so thankful for 2016…

Ode to 2016

2016 was the year that I caught flights and not feelings #WasteHisTime2016. I saved up all through 2015 (Check out my post on some of the jobs I did) and travelled to eight countries.

My travelling escapades began with a brief visit to Paris over the Easter holidays.

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If you look closely, you can see the Eiffel Tower in the background…

I then had a dry spell to focus on my degree (yawn!) before I had an incredible summer travelling. It began with backpacking around South-East Asia with my sister. I went to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos (click the links to see the individual blog posts on the countries).

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Me and my sister before our flights to Thailand…

Backpacking around South-East Asia was honestly the best experience of my life so far. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and I squeezed in so much into those 5 weeks which you can watch in the vlog I made here. Documenting the experience led to a wave of new followers, so if you found itsmedammy.com through my travel vlogs, HELLO and thank you for reading! ❤

I then went on a family holiday to Dubai and Abu Dhabi…

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Frolicking in the deserts in Dubai…

This trip was the best time I have ever had with my family. We are all so busy so it was amazing to have everyone in one place and I made memories that will last a life time, like the time a camel literally bit my dad’s foot and he nearly fell off the camel! Check it out on my Dubai vlog!

My last trip of 2016 was to Portugal. I went for one of my close friend’s 21st birthday and we stayed in this adorable resort and it was just so great to take a break from studying.  I even organised these super cute matching t-shirts with her name on it for us to wear.

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You can just feel the black girl magic radiating…

2016 was also the year I began to feel closer to achieving all my post-university dreams. 2015 was filled with making endless applications, attending talks and suchlike (yawn!) and it was so nice to begin to reap some of the rewards from all that hard work.

Facing rejections was a humbling experience and made me realise that with hard work and by just being a nice person I can forge my own “luck”. Eventually no’s become yes’s and that made me appreciate them a lot more and not take opportunities for granted.

I do did two vacation schemes over Easter in London…

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Vac Scheme friends…

Over the schemes, I learnt so many new things, developed skills and got a better idea of which areas of Law I would potentially want to go into in the future.

I also made lots of really great friends…

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On the way to one of the evening socials…

These experiences led to a summer internship, multiple training contract offers and a scholarship. SO much to be thankful for in 2016!

2016 was where I learnt to say NO to the things I did not want to do and learned to value my time more. I wrote all about that here. I also learnt not to underestimate the power of a good nights sleep!

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Big smiles after sleeping…

In 2016, I finished my term as President of the Law & Business society at my university and handed over to a new team. I took a picture on my first day as President and a year later on my last day as President and thankfully I did not age as much as Barack Obama did in his term (I think I may actually look younger? #blackdontcrack). Clearly running a society is not as stressful as running the USA. Even thought it was one of the most challenging experiences.

With a lot less on my plate, I decided to try a few new things…

I auditioned to be in a play called Fallen Petals and was cast in it. It was so much fun to get back on stage after spending so much time working on the Production side of things. It was also a very different character to anything I’ve ever played before. I was playing an abusive mother, as a naturally cheerful person who is always smiling, this was really tough role. I had to work on characterisation and also learnt how to do a southern american accent for it!

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Promo for the show…

2016 was the year that I developed my love for radio. I started a show called Beyond Broadway on the university radio station RaW1251AM at the end of 2015 and I had so much fun doing it. For an hour a week I get to share my passion – Musical Theatre.

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2016, was the year I won an award for “Best Female Presenter” at the radio station awards. Honestly, starting a radio show was just something to do for fun and to get recognised for that felt so amazing. I also got into contact with Elaine Paige, one of my musical theatre idols, and she agreed to be interviewed on my show.

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Radio station awards evening…

2016 was also the year I rekindled my love for writing and began to actively look for opportunities to write more. I started writing for my university newspaper and it’s been such a great experience. I’ve been able to write about some really interesting topics some of which have been quite controversial. For example, I did a behind the scenes piece on the type of initiations sports clubs and societies do.

I mainly write for the News section so I’m writing about facts or reporting what other people think about a particular thing on both sides. So it’s really interesting when people get rude or aggressive towards me personally. This has allowed me to learn what it might be like to be a proper journalist. These experiences also led to two internship opportunities at major News publications.

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I still get excited every time an article I write gets published…

2016, was the year I learnt you can actually be allergic to SITUATIONS. I randomly developed a condition that is triggered my certain environments. Like a delicate little snowflake, anything from stress to hot weather to rain can set me off. Whilst this may not sound like a good thing, the experience taught me to look on the bright side of things and made me put things in perspective. Nothing makes you appreciate being healthy like momentarily being ill.

2016, was the year I tried to be more spontaneous, less set in my ways and say YES to random opportunities. From random trips to London to see a show on West End to hopping on a train to surprise a friend at university to club nights.
I got back involved with Scouting (Don’t judge me, Scouts are cool, okay?) and I went to an event called YouShape and helped with the presenting.

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YouShape…

I also was a panellist for the Sabbatical officer elections at my uni on the live stream. It’s actually crazy how seriously people take student politics so it was so exciting to be right in the centre of it. It was mad, I had people tweeting me about things I was saying throughout the night!

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Me and the 2 other panellists..

2016, was the year I turned twenty and officially stopped being a teenager. In true Dammy fashion, I made a big deal over hitting the big 20 as I felt really old. I made a spotify playlist called “mourning my childhood” with all the nostalgic songs that reminded me of growing up. Yep, very dramatic.

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Big TWENTY…

In reality, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. It was actually pretty anticlimactic.My friends are family did make a massive effort to make the day special though. My friends took me on a really cute trip to the Spa and then they organised a surprise dinner with all my close friends in the evening. You can watch the whole day in my birthing vlog.

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Birthday cake

2016, was also the year I solidified old friendships, made some new ones and learned to turn away from people who  were detrimental to me. 2016, taught me some really important lessons in this regard. Lessons that will set the standard for future friendships in 2017.

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Whilst 2016, has definitely had it’s downfalls especially when I look at the socio-economic climate. However, I can’t help but be thankful for all the good things that have happened in my life. Hope it’s been an interesting read!

How have all your 2016 been? Would love for you guys to comment what you have to be thankful for…

It’s just me, Dammy, looking forward to the next 365 days

xxx

Say NO to this…

So after what was the most amazing summer of my life, I am now back at University for my third year. It feels like only yesterday that I was writing about freshers on here and now I’m nearly finished.

All my fellow musical theatre lovers will have noticed the ‘Hamilton’ reference in the title. It’s an amazing soundtrack but this post is not about theatre but rather, the importance knowing yourself, how best to utilise your time and the importance of saying “NO”.

I was recently having a conversation with a flat mate where I was explaining why I get so upset when people are late in replying to messages, attending meetings or just fulfilling any plans we may have made. In all types of relationships, academically and professionally, for me, being late is a deal breaker.

Whether we assign a pound value to it or not, time is so valuable. Think about it: How much of your typical work week do you spend stressed about not having enough time to complete a task or reach a goal?

When I remind my friends of their intrinsic value and try and make them understand that their happiness should not be dictated to them by someone else, I would be hard pressed to find anyone to disagree with me. However, when I talk about the value of time most people get offended as though I am suggesting their time is less valuable than my own.

This not the case however, time is limited. We have a certain amount of hours in a day therefore, when people are late they are wasting my time and are essentially wasting my money. Obviously, there are exceptions to this. However, understanding the importance of our time, how we spend it and who we spend it on, is a massive step in truly appreciating your self worth.

Ultimately, I have reached the point where I am able to value my time in terms of people and plans. Yet, when it comes to assigning myself to roles of responsibility, I don’t seem to have the same awareness. I find it difficult to prioritise what’s best for me and struggle to stop being the self-proclaimed “yes man”.

I feel as though in a university setting and often, this is also applicable in general society, people take on too much which can have a knock on effect on that individuals well being. Everyone needs time to relax and unwind. Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t get enough of it. Between university/school/jobs, family responsibilities, errands, cooking, most of us are hard-pressed to find even 10 minutes to sit and do nothing.

That is why it is so important to learn how to say no.

There are lots of different ways to tackle the issue of time management — you can download apps, adjust your sleep time, create lists, etc. I did all of this but this still did not make me a good time manager. If you don’t fully understand why it’s important for you to better manage your time, those apps and lists aren’t going to help you. If you don’t have the motivation to use them, you won’t.

People take on too much for a variety of reasons. I found it so hard to just say “NO”. Often, it can be difficult as you do not want to let people down. However, if people truly love and value you they will respect your decision and it won’t affect relationships.

Alternatively, sometimes I do too much due to misguided arrogance, I think I am the best person for the job therefore, I have to do it. There are good intentions behind this thinking however, often there are better ways to handle it.

For example, learning to delegate better and become a better leader can be helpful. It is not necessary to micromanage people all the time. Also, sometimes just taking a step back and giving other people the chance the shine can be good. They may do things differently to how you would have but will probably reach the same outcome. Realising that the whole world would not crumble without me was a painful but important step in managing my time better.

Likewise, it is important acknowledge that whilst doing lots of things can appear to be temporarily impressive, in the long term having fewer commitments can actually be better. Especially if it means that you are less stressed. Being busy does not equate to being successful.

What is the point of being present but not really there?

Surely, it is better to juggle really well with five balls and know those five balls inside out, be able to do amazing tricks with those five balls rather than being mediocre at juggling twenty balls. It is like that saying: Jack of all trades, master of none.

Likewise, saying no to certain things and making good choices with your time can also lead to better opportunities in the future. Discriminating a little more in what we say yes to can be a positive thing. It does not make you lazy.

Ultimately, your CV can only be so long and you will eventually have choose the important stuff. If you are not doing things for a purpose e.g. they make you happy/you enjoy them, they’ll help you develop a skill or lead to further oppurtunities then you may just be wasting your time.

This is something I recently realised and this led to me being more selective. I have cut back on a lot of things I do that were just repetitions of stuff I had already done before in order to make space for the new and exciting stuff that would actually challenge me and allow me to grow.

However, for some people it is actually more effective the other way round – cutting back on new stuff to get better and have more time on the old stuff you do. What is actually important is that you think about how you are spending your time.


Being busy is a part of who I am as a person and I genuinely enjoy being involved in lots of different things. However, it is so important that we also prioritise time management.

Click here to read a post I did a while ago on the elusive concept of happiness. And here to read about the importance of appreciating what we have/do.

It’s just me, Dammy, taking a break

xxx