Between personal and professional

exploring work life balance

Into the fog

On 3rd November, after 34 years with Leeds City Council, I made an honourable* retreat from public sector communications and started my first day of the next chapter. I’m not yet sure what to call it; retirement or whatever I do with my time where financial remuneration isn’t the main consideration.

I started this blog many years ago to share my experience of trying to balance personal and professional lives. That balance just shifted big style so I want to continue to document the transition to help understand/accept how it’s going and for others to consider for their exit strategy planning.

I had good plans for how I intended it to happen. ‘Oven ready’ or even ‘World beating’ I think the 2020 terms are. We know what happens when you use rhetoric like that so I never did.

Retirement is a touchy subject to talk about at work or in public so people generally don’t. I guess that’s another reason why I’m doing it here and now. It’s the personal/professional conflict you could call ‘career unplanning’ or the ultimate unplugging and which doesn’t really figure in career development. Maybe there’s a perception it means we become less committed or ambitious.

Nowadays when you start a job there are induction programmes and you can even get yourself ‘onboarded’. There’s probably a laptop sticker. Terms which I think sound so impersonal even though aimed to help.

I guess retirement is a bit like being put in a survival pod and slowly let go into space from the professional mothership to hopefully not crash and burn on re-entry into personal life. A week in, it feels a bit like I got jettisoned and I’m working out how to implement the plans which have also coincided with lockdown 2. In the big scheme of things this isn’t important and I hope everyone comes through this period safe and well.

Fortunately, the days since I left have all been foggy and a bit meh but I’ve been in my element out with the camera in the woods. I’m guessing the number of people pulling back the curtains to see foggy mornings and shouting ‘brilliant’ are few. So there’s that.

Today is the first clear day hence me getting down to pen this post.

It wasn’t how I would choose it to be. I guess we can say that about a lot of things in 2020. There wasn’t time for appropriate farewells. They are and will be happening. I’m not letting that get away. I appreciate and thank those who made it happen.

The exit strategy implementation pretty much went wrong from the start as the plan was to go part-time from 1st April 2020. I’d aimed to see how that worked out and then make a decision on how long that would last until full unplugging 18 months to two years down the line. However, from middle of March it was full on hands to the pumps to deal with Covid-19 so I ended up working more than full time for a couple of months until things settled down a bit.

I’m so proud of how colleagues and Leeds folk rallied to do what was needed and still are. Proper team work and the kind of thing that made me think do I really not want to be involved in this in the future?

I will be posting more about the move from full-time professional to full-time personal and how it is going and what I might have done differently in the planning.

In the meantime I will miss the dedicated, enthusiastic, kind and caring people who have helped me along the way; from colleagues within Leeds City Council, partners across the city and also those in the many communications networks and movements across the UK. Thank you for recent messages, much appreciated. I hope to keep in touch and meet up when we are allowed.

* It all happened very quick due to government employment exit legislation being brought forward. For the few who asked (albeit tongue in cheek), what I did to have to leave so quick – nothing to see here.

Written in the stars

As this blog is me exploring personal/professional blend it was a no-brainer I would pen a post about attending a Comms Unplugged (CU) event.

#CU18 was billed as a comms CPD event that included personal health and wellbeing. It is held on a campsite in Dorset. Other than taking photos, use of all tech and social media during the event is banned with any culprits sent to the naughty tent and made to eat granola for breakfast. Obviously, delegates are encouraged to camp and experience the great outdoors.

I missed the 2017 launch event as it clashed with our 25th wedding anniversary! No dilemma there, not for a minute. None. But I was always going to be in the top one when baggsying a ticket for 2018.

The following is a somewhat incoherent, day after brain dump on developing thinking of why it worked for me. I’ll no doubt process it and discuss further over coming days and weeks. Continue reading “Written in the stars”

Keep calm and conference on

It’s 3am on a Friday morning. I’m restless and can’t sleep. There’s stuff going round in my head that needs to be noted so I don’t forget it. I get up, make some tea and sit down to start writing. I then see the cup I inadvertently used. It all comes together.

Three of the preceding four working days have been taken up attending my organisation’s leadership conference and then two days of LGCommsAcad – our public sector communications conference, fortunately for me, both in Leeds.

Continue reading “Keep calm and conference on”

How going places makes me a better communicator


Many years ago I completed a leadership programme that, in part, suggested I lean towards the visual side of things. My mum always said I never listened so it sort of made sense. In the years since I’ve tried to better understand and develop this trait to help me be a better communicator.

Continue reading “How going places makes me a better communicator”

It was never about the man bag

IMG_20130708_162708For the past few years I’ve headed off on summer holidays having switched off the work mobile leaving it in a drawer at home. I’ve realised it’s definitely one of the gadgets I don’t need or want when on leave and I’ve never had a problem treating it like that.

This isn’t one of those posts advocating a digital detox; far from it as I use devices on holiday to keep in touch, take and share pictures, listen to music, find out what there is to do, what’s currently happening in places I might go and also to pay for things. 

This is more about realisation and appreciation of usefulness and letting go of stuff that isn’t.

Continue reading “It was never about the man bag”

New blood

27 May 1987 was the day I started working at Leeds City Council. Looking back as I reach the 30 year anniversary, I imagine not many people have a good idea how their career will work out. 

Despite planning and professional development intentions, extra skills and experience you might gain from volunteering, sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. 

I’ve learnt that sharing what you know can make a good idea great or stop a stupid idea going further. Also there will be times when keeping your mouth shut even when you know you are right can be the wisest thing to do. All these are some of the experiences we pick up along the way but perhaps don’t realise at the time.

Currently, amongst other things I’m involved with, I find myself part way through a recruitment and induction process where six communications and marketing graduates will join our communications team at Leeds City Council. This was going to be a looking back post but it actually seems more fitting to reflect on new blood and share the learning from the recruitment process for future applicants and anyone considering recruiting.

Continue reading “New blood”

On the front foot

helmetI’ve been contemplating a couple of work/life decisions in preparation for the implications. It’s the ultimate personal/professional dilemma.

They say never go back but I’ve had a niggling regret for 27 years that I never got a half century when I last played cricket. I fell short by 3 runs. So this year I’m reigning back on the golf clubs and taking up cricket again to try and get that elusive 50.

Many things have changed in 27 years and a recent reminder made me realise this isn’t something to be taken as likely as it once was. So I’ve invested in some proper equipment and this time bought a helmet. It’s not particularly comfortable but necessary, and peace of mind for those I care for and who care for me.

Continue reading “On the front foot”

#trulysocial The post-truth sequel


There’s been particular times in my life when I’ve had major boosts to my confidence that led to me going on and doing better things. The important part is I now recognise they provide the opportunity to be more creative and effective and I need to take advantage of them. I also know that probably applies to others too. Continue reading “#trulysocial The post-truth sequel”

One for the quiet people

Being nominated for and winning the 2016 comms2point0 lifetime achievement unaward for services to communications made me immensely proud.

Continue reading “One for the quiet people”

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