To say 2020 has been eye-opening so far, would be a bit of an understatement I think. 

When all of this coronavirus stuff kicked off, I never expected to find myself here, three months into the UK being in lockdown, and having barely left the house or seen anyone other than my fiancé and my mum in weeks. 

That said, I also never expected that three months without anywhere else to go, would get me out of a rut I’ve been in for about two years. In fact, I’m not even sure I realised I was in a rut until all of this happened and I had time to really reflect and think about things. 

Although the world remains a noisy place, there has also been a sense of quiet that has come with people staying at home. These past months have been hard for many, for a whole variety of reasons, but as an introvert, I have found having less places to be, people to see, and things to do, quite enjoyable. 

That’s not to say that I don’t love spending time with friends and family, or that I’m not looking forward to being able to get back out to the theatre and concerts, or travel freely; I can assure you, I am. But without outings, meetings and other commitments taking place, I’ve had more time to look inward and realise that I haven’t been aligned in some areas of my life for a while now. 

Lockdown has provided some valuable lessons. So, here are the four areas that I think we might all do well to reflect on. 

 

Be curious 

An old colleague once said to me, ‘I love your attitude to life Erin, you just get out there and live it to the fullest’. 

At the time, I’d like to think his assessment of me was pretty spot-on, but I’m not so sure he’d say that of me more recently. Sure, I’ve still been going to see plenty of shows and live music, eating out, reading and travelling when I can, but I’m less sure that I’ve been curious in those pursuits. 

Part of the fun of those things for me was always finding new voices, new tastes, new places. It used to be a running joke with a friend that he’d ask, ‘what music are you listening to at the moment? Not that I’ll have heard of any of them.’ Another would always let me choose where we went for dinner because, ‘you know what I like and you always find great places to eat’. 

More recently though I’d say I’ve fallen into what I’ll refer to as ‘the comfort zone’. I’ve found things I like and I keep returning to them. Now there’s nothing wrong with familiarity, but I want to get out there and explore more. I’ve used some of this lockdown time to learn and research new things that I can make the most of when we can socialise freely, and I’ve loved discovering new musical voices via recommendations from friends, Spotify and iTunes. 

It feels good to be curious again!

Never underestimate the power of routine

Conversations about morning routines are common in certain circles, particularly amongst entrepreneurs. I’m sure plenty of you reading this will probably have read Hal Elrod’s, The Miracle Morning. I read it a couple of years ago but it’s only now that I’m realising the true value of a routine – morning or otherwise.

I typically have the house to myself during the day but in March, when lockdown began, I found myself not only having my fiancé working from home with me, but also my mum who was furloughed.

Suddenly it was soooo easy to distract each other with conversations, Joe Wicks workouts, having ‘a quick coffee’ in the garden, Netflix, walks, Zoom chats with family… you get the idea. Distractions were everywhere!!

It’s safe to say the first couple of weeks of staying home were a bit of a write-off. Sure, I enjoyed them but I wasn’t terribly productive.

Enter, the routine.

I feel like routine gets a bit of a bad rap, it can often be seen as boring or creating a sense of Groundhog Day but it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to live your entire life by a routine, and it doesn’t have to be set in stone either. I’ve come to realise that it can be a brilliant way to simply ensure what needs to be done actually gets done (perfect for working from home), and to hold space for things that really matter to you; whether that’s a long bath, going for a run, listening to music or having coffee with a friend.

Routine is also a great way to build habits. I’ve rediscovered my love of daily yoga (thanks Adriene), I’ve been drinking far more water, established a thorough skincare regime (it’s only taken 34 years to realise how important that one is!), read more, learnt more, and just generally taken better care of me and my business.

So, if you think routines are dull, I urge you to give them a second chance. Play about with it a bit, and you’ll find something that works for you.

 

Your personal brand has to reflect you

It seems so obvious doesn’t it? Surely if you have a personal brand, it should reflect who you are?

Ask yourself whether your brand and the way you work really show who you are. Can you honestly say that they do?

In many ways mine does but I’d also side-lined huge chunks of myself. Why? Because it’s not the way others in the industry were working.

I got caught out by following suit and it left me with this constantly niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right. That all rose to the top recently when I realised that it had left me feeling stuck, like I was always halfway to creating the business I wanted, but I couldn’t quite get the rest of it together.

Ask yourself whether your brand and the way you work really show who you are. Can you honestly say that they do?

Imagine if nobody ever did anything differently because that’s not how it’s been done before? We wouldn’t have had Concorde, Apple or Hamilton, plus plenty of other new discoveries, inventions or ways of working. 

I’m not suggesting my way of doing things is as radical as any of those, but I’m tired of seeing others perpetuate this idea that content marketing has to be an overwhelming hard slog. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it can be enjoyable, cathartic and something people actually enjoy, so it’s about time I started talking about my beliefs about it!

I almost never talk about my introversion or love of yoga, nature, self-development, learning or self-care. Every single one of those thing feeds into how I live and how I work with my clients, so from now on, they will be firmly at the heart of my brand.

Some things can affect you without you even realising

When I started thinking about writing this blog, initially this lesson or reflection point was going to be based around the impact our environments can have on us. Before coronavirus hit, we were looking at doing work on our house – clearing the loft, decorating, new furniture etc. to create a more inspiring and comfy space. It was frustrating to not be able to get on with it over the past few months but ultimately, it will get done.

Now I sit here in the wake of George Floyd’s death in America, and having had a huge wake-up call to the fact that white privilege has affected me, and I didn’t even realise it. I think for many people, the word ‘privilege’ implies a life of high wealth or having things handed to them on a plate, and if I’m honest, that’s what I would have previously associated with that word too. In terms of white privilege though, it can be about money but it’s about so much more than that.

I chose not to share anything on social media initially around Black Lives Matter, or for Blackout Tuesday, not because I didn’t want to, but because I felt a I had a lot of learning to do. At this moment, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I’ll be doing a whole lot more reading, watching, listening and learning from now on.

 

But my biggest realisation so far has been how privileged we can be as white people without knowing it. Questions have been asked in business groups I’m part of, or as part of YouTube videos or on podcasts recently, that I have never stopped to ask myself. The conversation that really caught me off-guard was about careers, and how adverts for jobs, universities and other institutions often feature only white people; sort of subliminally suggesting ‘these roles are for white people’.

I’ve come across plenty of things where it seems that roles are being pushed towards men, and women are overlooked, but I’d never thought about it in terms of race.

So, I asked myself whether there were any jobs I thought I might not get the opportunity to do based on the colour of my skin.

I came up with one. ONE!!

I felt that I probably wouldn’t get a contract as a rap or R’n’B singer because I see those genres as being heavily dominated by black people.

So that left me with hundreds, if not, thousands, of other careers I felt I could pursue, if I had the right talent or brain power, because I constantly see images of others who look like me doing those very jobs.

How has this been allowed to happen? And more importantly, how has it been allowed to continue?

I most certainly don’t have the answers to resolve this issue, but I’m damn sure I don’t want to add to it. So, I’m committing to continued and extensive learning, not just personally but for my business too, to try to ensure that I am aware of any unconscious bias, that I don’t turn a blind-eye to any forms of racism, and that I can be an ally in any way I can.