I’m an Unplugger – My year of change

I’ve been back from my thing in a field for almost a fortnight now. That thing I spent all year looking forward to. It was ok.

Going again? Yeah… I might!

Shut the front door! Of course I’m going again. It’s my ‘thing’ now. Comms Unplugged is my THING!

I blogged earlier this summer about how uneasy and doubtful I felt last year after I’d signed up for this off-the-wall work thing <<< there I go again, but to say conference or event seems so formal, and formal it definitely isn’t. That’s the magic of Unplugged – it’s a leveller.

Since returning home, Twitter’s been hot with ‘Unplugged’ blogs (the irony, I know!) and I don’t think there’s much left to say.

So instead, I thought I’d have a think about what this last year as a member of such a unique movement/gang/tribe has done for me.

  1. It’s broadened my horizons. I look more widely for knowledge and ideas now. I’ve started listening to podcasts (Talking Comms and FuturePRoof being favourites). I’ve just signed up for a subscription of the ‘The Happy Newspaper’, and we’ve started buying the big, bulky, ink-sodden ‘Sunday Times’ again. The Twittersphere is opening out for me and I’m seeking out different events – I attended my first Comms Camp (an unconference) this summer and loved it, and already have my eye on the Unawards and The Big Yak. Go me!
  2. It’s given me a confidence I didn’t even realise was missing! This is a strange one, but I almost feel it’s given me a swagger. Maybe because my gang is bigger… and growing. I’ve watched a TEDx talk that might put some context to this >>> David Burkus speaks about networking and how awkward it can feel. He then goes on to talk about unlocking dormant ties, and how friends of friends of friends can help connect you! While the Unpluggers weren’t my friends prior to me going to that scary ‘thing’ last year (CU17!), the rapport we’ve built and common ground we’ve found over the last 12 months made CU18 feel like a bit of a school reunion. We reconnected with each other in person and now we’re expanding our wider network through each other. Burkus goes on to say that your friends and their network affect you more than you know… “if your friend of a friend of a friend is happy with their life, you’re 6% more likely to be happy with your life… Show me a friend of a friend and I’ll show you your future.” BONKERS!
  3. It’s affirmed that I’m not alone with some of the struggles I encounter. It’s being said more and more that working in professional communications is ‘up there’ on the list of stressful jobs. Paul Sutton does a good job of explaining why this might be (click here to read what he said) For me, social media and 24 hour news means we are rarely off-duty and it feels almost impossible to switch off completely, unless of course I bury my phone, laptop and other devices at the end of the garden on a Friday evening. Serious now! BUT, there’s something perversely comforting to know that I’m not on my own with this and there are others who (sadly) feel the same. On the up-side though, there seems to be real momentum amongst comms circles to focus on wellbeing, which is great and us Unpluggers are leading the way!
  4. I’ve been taking creativity for granted. This was an interesting one… Sam Hodges (HoC for Twitter UK) referred to the way in which we judge questions asked by the media and pre-empt the questions yet to come, as being us flexing our creative muscle (I’m paraphrasing!). His point was that one question sets off several others in our minds… and then we start to plan our response and action. That’s one example of us being creative! But, because it’s the bread and butter of our working life, it’s easy to take for granted the effort and thought process that goes into that.
  5. It’s made me write. I started this waffly blog because of the reaction I got from others to the piece I wrote for the CommsUnplugged website. Also, the way that writing something unrelated to my day job made me feel was brilliant – weirdly liberating! The best bit is that a couple of these posts have creaked other doors open for me, and suddenly my horizon has become much, much wider, providing me with opportunities I’d never even entertained before!
  6. I’m prioritising wellbeing. I didn’t have time for wellbeing before. What a knob! ‘Wellbeing’ was on my list of things to do, along with ‘wallpaper the pantry’ and ‘wash the car’ (both of which never get done!). I can’t believe that was my logic. Over the last 6-8 months I’ve treated myself to things like reflexology and hopi ear candling (!). I’m adapting my working hours to take the Squatters* to their extra curricular bits and bobs and I’ve re-joined the PTA! I’m also taking practical steps to minimise the chaos around me when I can predict an intense week or two at work ahead… The unpredictable, intense stuff is the stuff us police comms people go to work for – adrenalin, Red Bull and camaraderie get us through those times!

If I had to sum-up my last year and bundle everything I’ve taken from it into one sentence, I think I’d say ‘becoming an Unplugger has made me a more rounded, balanced person in every aspect of my life.’

That probably sounds a bit dramatic, but I’m a 100mph-on-top-of-the-world-person, OR a slumped-on-the-floor-in-a-heap-of-exhausted-tears princess! See. I needed resetting!!

I’m trying to pass on the bits and bobs I’m learning to others around me, and I’m OVER THE MOON that I have an unexpected (not unsuspecting!) new recruit for CU19, in the shape of my right-hand lady in the office.

If you fancy becoming an Unplugger, dates for 2019 will be announced on 10th October – World Mental Health Day. Keep and eye on the CommsUnplugged Twitter or Facebook feed.

*Collective noun for the kids (3yrs and 6yrs).

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