Monthly Archives: February 2016

9 signs work is ruining your world

‘Work related stress already costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year’ – Mental Health Foundation, Work-life balance

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It’s tough finding a job that you really love. Many of us may be working through life in a steady position we’re “content” with.

According to Neil Howe (economist) quoted in this Lifehacker article, ‘only 5% of people pick the right job on the first try’. That’s a lot of us sticking with something that’s not the right job.

Chopping and changing jobs isn’t easy though. We all have economic commitments. We might have a family to support. We might have loans to repay. We might have rent.

On top of that, shifting around too frequently can reflect negatively too. Do we have commitment issues? Are we flaky and lazy? Do we cause problems between employees?

There can be different reasons we do or don’t like our job. Are you happy with your job? over at LinkedIn clearly and concisely gives the major elements.

All this aside, there are times when keeping a job simply isn’t an option. You’ve got to move on.

I found myself in this situation when teaching. It all got too much on more than one occasion. I’d trained in it, stuck with one job over a year before leaving, only to give it another shot for a few months. Ultimately I was signed off with stress and panic disorder.

That was the end of that career.

It was also the catalyst for a new job search, and I’m so glad I had that push.

But before you get to that point, consider the following 9 signs that your work is ruining your life. You might have all the signs, or you might experience just one. Do take action sooner rather than later though!

(1) Lack of enthusiasm

I don’t just mean at work. When work is getting us down, it can flood over into other aspects of our life. The Mental Health Foundation states that ‘more than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work’.

I love to cook, bake, garden – but I found myself neglecting these a lot. Panic disorder then put a stop to much of my socialising, especially if out in town or further afield.

(2) Lack of non-work time

Even if we have enthusiasm for hobbies and sports still, it could be our job is leaving us with little free time. Is there a lot to take home for completion? Or maybe we can’t stop thinking about tasks waiting for us tomorrow.

Teaching saw me leaving school to an evening of planning and marking, followed by a night of dreading seeing my most badly behaved classes. Not good.

(3) Unhappiness with ourselves

When work begins to get us down, it’s easy to get down on ourselves too. This can be dislike of our physique (I’m too fat, I’m too weedy, I’m ugly) or we can loathe aspects of our mind (no one likes me, I’m weak, I’m disorganised).

(4) Appetite issues

When we begin to get depressed and stressed, our appetite might grow (think comfort eating!), we bloat and we get heavier.

Alternately it might take a nose-dive and we risk losing too much weight and lacking in energy.

This can begin to feed into point number three very quickly, too.

(5) Alcohol excess

I definitely fell foul of this one for a few months. There’s that idea, after all, that teachers can be found at the end of each week filling the bottle bank…

It’s all too easy to turn to the dulling nature of alcohol every night. All problems melt away… Until the next morning when they’re still there, joined now by dehydration and perhaps a headache…

(6) Failing relationships

By failing I mean that we’re not getting on well with people around us. It could just be with colleagues who are getting on our last nerve. It could also, sadly, be with friends and family who we really need to take our minds off things, support us and love us.

Like they always say, you hurt the one’s you love. It’s those people who are on the receiving end of our painful outbursts normally.

(7) The torture of bed

We can spend hours in here avoiding the world outside. Throwing a sickie and passing the day bed-bound becomes more and more tempting…

But most tortuously, when in our beds, we might find we can’t sleep because the anxiety and mental anguish are too strong.

I used to get to sleep well (maybe the stress had worn me out), but I’d wake up again two or more hours before I had to for work. Then I’d dwell on everything that could (in my mind would) go wrong this day.

Not a great way to start the day!

(8) Lack of vision

I’m all for living for the moment and the present is a gift. However, being really stressed and unhappy with work can leave us with no vision for the future. We all need hopes and dreams.

Many speak of having a “five-year plan”. If work is that bad, we might struggle to have a five hour one. Just surviving another eight hour workday can be a grind.

(9) Self-harming or suicidal thoughts

This is a biggie. It’s a truly horrific consequence of hating our job. But it happens. At my lowest I would consider driving my car into a wall to get out of work. Just seconds. And at those points I realised how much I was “stuck” in the wrong career.

On average, we Brits work 36.5 hours a week – even more for just full-timers. ‘Within your lifetime, you’ll spend roughly 90,000 hours at work’ says the author of this article at BrazenBlog. That’s far too much of life to spend deeply depressed, suffering the things listed above.

If you’re in this position, there are different things you can do, but the main two acts are to share your suffering with people you trust and to begin looking into another line of work. If things don’t feel too desperate just yet, you might want to consider working on your work-life balance first (see here and here).

I’ll be looking next week at what we can do to make the move from a job we dislike into a new career. Until then, why not subscribe to Settlementality on Bloglovin or WordPress, or follow me on Twitter, Google+ or Instagram to keep up-to-date? =)

Have you valued your property yet?

‘One of the great responsibilities that I have is to manage my assets wisely, so that they create value’ – Alice Walton (businesswoman)

This year sees the start of new, exciting adventure for me and Alex. I’m sure it’ll also bring with it strain and pressure. This year we’re beginning the process of buying our own place together.

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It’s a completely new undertaking for me, as I’ve only ever rented in the past. I had two different homes before my late teens, five addresses while on my undergraduate course, and lived in my grandparents’ old place for three years.

Renting without any thought of buying has been a big thing for many people in recent years. For me, owning my own house has always been on the cards. My parents always have, and their parents before them.

My sister has her own house, as does my brother.

We’re in a strong position as Alex already owns his apartment mortgage-free, owing to an inheritance a few years ago.

As with moving from your first home to a new property, this raises the question of valuing the residence. How much will it bring us in? And pray it’s not negative equity (it shouldn’t be as I’m typing this!).

I’ve identified four ways we can value our properties, and I’ve done three of the four. Even if you’re not planning to move on soon, it can be interesting and useful to value your property and keep on top of maintenance and modernisation wherever possible.

Use online property searches

Here in the UK there are a few valuable property websites that can be used. Try out Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket or PrimeLocation. You’ll find apps on your phone too, so you can do searches on the go.

National and local estate agents will most likely also have their own websites listing homes for sale.

You only need to type in your postcode or area and up will come nearby properties. You can choose to view Subject To Contracts and on RightMove and Zoopla at least you can look back through past sale prices.

The first thing to do is see what your own address sold for in the past, if you can’t remember exactly what you paid or want to see what previous owners bought it for.

After that you can compare your home’s layout, décor and fixtures to those of properties on the market. Are they similar or very different? What price are they asking for? Do you think you could expect the same sale price?

Try out online calculators

You can find online value calculators at the Land Registry UK or Nationwide. Zoopla and RightMove again also have these tools.

The concept is simple: know the value you bought your property for along with the date, and when you’d like to put it on the market. Your location is also taken into account.

Once you’ve entered this data all sorts of fancy wisdom about inflation and all that jazz will come into play until bing! Your estimated valuation comes through.

Other stuff also comes in useful, such as when your home was built, how many bedrooms, parking… All things you’ll undoubtedly already know off the top of your head!

Pay for a report

For around £20 you can go to Hometrack and input more information (similar to above) for some smart gizmo to compile a report and valuation that gets sent through to you swiftly.

I don’t know exactly how much info is needed nor how swiftly it’s all done, as this is the step I’ve not tried out. I imagine it’s a more in-depth amount of info though, and their website assures us it’s all done in minutes.

Welcome estate agents into your home

The above three methods of valuing your property are excellent starting points, but one thing’s certain. You’ll never get as expert and reassuring a valuation as having real-life agents come to call.

They’ll take time wandering around your property, no matter how big or small, and will assess its potential. They’ll be drawing on their past experience and knowledge of your locality during this process. Then they’ll give you their feedback.

It’s recommended to get at least three different agencies in, which is what we’ve done. That way you’ll get a balanced, averaged value and points-of-view.

In addition, if you did get a less-than-honest-and-open individual telling you all manner of rubbish, you should have one or two more respectable and trustworthy people to give you what you need.

Of course, the downside of this is that you’ll have to sit through their sales pitches after too… They’re looking for something in return, after all; they’re not running charities!

If you do want estate agents to pop over and value your home, it’s really simple. You can either phone or drop into your local agencies and arrange the dates and times. Alternatively, head over to RightMove and fill in the request form. Local agents will then get in touch with you!

You might want to get a basic understanding of what you’d get for your home if you chose to move at some point, in which case a quick scan of the online property sites might do the job.

Or you might be ready to get relocating, so three or all of these steps might be the way forward, like we did.

However you go about finding out your property’s value, there’s very little cost in terms of cash or effort!

Remember to follow me on Twitter, Bloglovin or WordPress – we’re going to look next week at things to say and do when the estate agents are coming to value your home!

My 8 essential kitchen utensils

I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen. I’d hope it’s time spent cooking and baking rather than cleaning!

Chances are that, even if you’re not a fanatical foodie, you’ll spend a lot of time in the kitchen too. Especially if you’re conscientious of your health and finances! (All those takeaways take their toll on our BMIs and bank balances.)

I find the following 8 kitchen utensils absolutely essential. I didn’t have some of them growing up, but now I’ve had them, I couldn’t be without them.

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(1) Top quality knives (with sharpening steel)

There is nothing worse in the kitchen than cheap, blunt knives. Not only do they make the simplest of tasks strenuous, they are a major health hazard. While you’re sawing away at that piece of steak, there’s a risk of taking off at least one of your digits too.

(2) Stand-alone mixer

I coped for a few years with a handheld mixer. And I do mean coped. They get the job done. But you can’t beat spending extra when you can to purchase a stand-alone mixer. They whisk, beat and fold… While both your hands are free to crack on with other tasks for a minute or two.

If you’re looking for a stand-alone mixer of your own, why not check out my review of the KitchenAid Artisan Mixer here.

(3) Electronic kitchen scales

We can get away with estimation and improvisation when cooking, but baking is a much more precise art. If you love to bake or plan on giving it a go, there’s no option but to buy yourself a reliable set of kitchen scales. Have a look around – there are plenty to be had.

Oh, and do keep some back-up batteries in the right size for the day you take them out the kitchen cupboard to bake that birthday cake – and the power’s gone!

(4) Cooking tongs

I got by for a long time with spoons, spatulas and forks, but a comfortable set of cooking tongs is an excellent tool. Silicon-coated is best in my opinion (metal tends to cut into meat and veg a lot more easily when grasping it). They just make moving food a doddle.

(5) Heavy duty casserole dish

Also known as Dutch ovens, casseroles are so versatile and long-lasting, particularly if you’re happy to spend a bit more. I bought a round black casserole by Le Creuset and never looked back… Buying a second (oval and green) a couple of years later! They lend themselves easily to frying, stewings, soup-making and even baking breads and cakes.

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(6) Top quality frying pan

I’ll be frank. Teflon is a nightmare: metal utensils scratch it away and high heats burn it off. Forget the scouring pad when you’re trying to clean off any stuck bits. And bits will get stuck on. Cheaper, Teflon-free pans will never last.

An iron pan (mine’s spun iron from Netherton Foundry) that’s been seasoned is a life-long investment if properly cared for. Do not wash it in soapy water! Failing that, even a solid stainless steel frying pan will last through years of repeated use and scrubbing. My mum’s certainly has!

(7) Measuring spoons

These little charms make measuring smaller quantities (spices, herbs, salt, liqueurs, etc.) quick and easy, and they’re reliable. A brief browse on the Web will bring up an array of colours, shapes and brands, meaning they’ll fit into any kitchen décor.

(8) Springform cake tin

No more struggling to peel the cake carefully from the tin sides while you push the base up from below. Or worse yet, tap on the tin’s non-removable base… With one of these babies you simply unclasp and voilà! Your cake as God (or Delia) intended.

 

These are my top eight bits of kitchen kit, but there are of course many others I use regularly, from rolling pins to sieves, graters to mixing bowls. A few honourable mentions are:

  • Measuring cups – saves breaking out the weighing scales sometimes, in particular if you’re following a US recipe
  • Icing sugar shaker – coats those cakes much more evenly and delicately
  • Butcher’s block chopping board – mine was a present from my uncle and aunt; it’s as rustically stylish as it is handy!
  • Dustpan and brush – so not technically kitchen gadgets, these come in very handy when you’ve spilt pepper seeds, garlic peel or flour on the floor…

What is your most beloved kitchen gadget? Let me know if there’s something I’m missing out on!