Wombling - and learning - through lockdown

By Kerry Teakle

July 6 2020

At the beginning of April 2020, I joined nine million other people in the UK who were furloughed.

I am a PR and Communications Officer for Edinburgh Leisure, a charity that exists to support the health and wellbeing of Edinburgh citizens. I love my job. It encompasses varied elements of communication from media relations to crisis management to supporting our venues and programmes with public relations’ opportunities and working with our Senior Leadership Team to deliver internal communications and messaging.

Originally, we were told that we would be on furlough until the end of June; effectively three months. However, this may now be extended, with leisure facilities being one of the last phases to open up.

Being furloughed will impact individuals differently.

I’m single, live alone and unlike many friends and family, I didn’t have the added pressures of having to home-school children. However, I have had the worry of the health of my elderly parents (in their 80s) who live in Surrey, who I would not be able to support. 

So, it could have been a lonely three months, self-isolating, but I was determined that it would not be wasted time. After all, I’ve only had myself to please. 

I need a structure
I’m incredibly organised in both my home and personal life. Call it a routine or a timetable, I realised that this would be the key to remaining positive. This was my opportunity to re-calibrate and with an abundance of time, to learn new skills.
I put a plan in place to make sure that the three months didn’t become a wasted blur of endless boxset watching.
A good friend with a sense of humour sent me some links to some videos early on in lockdown – Submarine captain shares self-isolation secrets’ and a hilarious article from the Times - How to survive lockdown, by the nuns who do it 24/7. 
I'm not sure what he was implying but I was pleased to say that I have implemented a lot of what the nuns do, albeit with my own twist. 
I’m a great one for micro scheduling and I managed to tick that recommendation from the nuns by creating a colour coded spreadsheet with daily activities and some sort of a plan.
This might scare the hell out of some people but it works for me. And I don’t kick myself if some things don’t get achieved. Afterall, there’s always another day.

Read poetry at breakfast

Again, another suggestion from the nuns. While I may not have got this arty, I have relished having the time to listen to more podcasts, either as background noise and a distraction from the daily government briefings or while out on my allowed daily exercise.
Just some of my podcast recommendations include: The Rich Roll Podcast; Happy Place; Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail; Angela Scanlon’s Thanks A Million; and EGG talks to. 

I’ve kept active
As the floors in my flat creak more than my bones, I decided to spare my neighbours from my thrice weekly HIIT sessions (High Intensity Interval Training) and instead opted to go walking each day, coupled with a lot of litter picking.
I equipped myself with a litter picking grabber and a hoop to hold my bin bags from Amazon and have had so much fun exploring my city and discovering sights and areas I had never seen before.

I never realised what Wombling tendencies I had or how satisfying litter picking could be! 
And it’s amazing how much my small effort has been appreciated by complete strangers. On one of my walks, I had 12 thank-yous and one Indian gentleman even said I would go to heaven. On that, I’m not so sure. 

I’ve invested in CPD

From a PR perspective, I’m really pleased to have completed my annual CIPR CPD requirements early on in the ‘learning year’. In fact, I had completed my 60 points by the end of April – not bad going when you consider the year doesn’t officially end until February 2021.
However, it’s not stopping there. I’m carrying on my learning journey while I have the time. There are so many free resources.
I’ve been really grateful to the CIPR and the wider specialist and regional groups that have put on webinars and for the other useful resources that the CIPR provide
I’ve also been taking advantage from other suppliers such as Vuelio and Kantar. It’s been fun to connect with some new faces. 
Incidentally, that is how I came to writing this blog. This opportunity has taught me to reach out to some of the other participants I saw on screen via LinkedIn.

Never stop learning because life never stops teaching
 So, if there are things you would like to learn, get ‘googling’.Just a few resources I have been using are The Open University; Google Digital Garage, The Government Communication Service and WordPress.

Weaving my way through the web

I’ve been teaching myself how to build a blog/website.  It's proved more challenging than I thought but it’s been a good learning curve. WordPress have some really good videos and advice which has helped me greatly to weave my way through the web.
It’s still in the stages of development for now as it is to be about Edinburgh and its restaurant and food scene and the Fringe. So, as these are on hold for the foreseeable future, there’s no rush. I’ve just completed the final session of a six-module Government Communication Service Certificate that was piloted with Scottish PR practitioners.
The course ‘Presenting with Impact’ was originally planned to be done face-to-face.  However, the trainers, The 100th Monkey have redesigned the course to be delivered virtually via Zoom.  It was an intense day but as the new norm might now mean many presentations having to be delivered virtually, the course has been invaluable in learning some new skills and connecting with other communication professionals, albeit remotely. 

One language sets you on a corridor for life, two languages open every door along the way
And I haven’t restricted myself to CIPR learning either. I’ve just signed myself up to MSE’s Academoney and have been learning Spanish via Duolingo. In a weak moment I also bought a £20 ukulele from Amazon, but that is still in its case. I think that might have been a skill too far. 
While I know that not everyone will have had the luxury I have, I think I will be able to look back on my time during lockdown as a time spent usefully, where I took stock, recalibrate and learnt some new skills.
It’s taught me a lot about productivity, goals, and achievements. But I’ve also learned much about myself. 

Kerry Teakle, MCIPR, works as a PR and Communications Officer for Edinburgh Leisure by day, and blogs on food and drink and Fringe events (sadly not in 2020) in her spare time.