Hi, I’m back! Your one and only late-night blogging auntie who has found a fond new attachment to amaretto and salt lamps (unrelated, but both pretty chillllll). It’s my new quarantine #vibe.
So, I invite you to turn on that salt lamp - or maybe just light a candle -, pour yourself a glass of something and join me on my journey of figuring out how to be both productive and okay with my lack of productivity in the midst of lockdown. Big contradictory stuff, ya feel?
Chapter 1: The Video
A few weeks ago my friend sent me this video. It sounded interesting. Spaceship, lockdown… and a chasm to the terrifying question “what productive thing did you do today?”. A day or two passes, and I finally sit down to watch it on my laptop. I was right to give it my full attention, and I strongly encourage you to do so too.
I could say a lot about Spaceship You: Lockdown Productivity, but my biggest takeaway is to break your lockdown experience into manageable methods. Physical and mental health are two halves of a whole, and ultimately when things are slipping, when reality is harder to hold onto, prime with the physical. You cannot help your mental health without helping your physical first. Physical doesn’t just mean exercise - it means your environment. Your environment affects you, and equally, you affect your environment.
Anyway, the video explains it a lot better than I’ve done it justice. This one video isn’t the solution to every problem, but it’s sent me down an interesting road of self-productivity-discovery.
Chapter 2: This Ain’t Easy, Although Internet Spiralling Really Is
Lockdown has been tough. For me, it’s been filled with huge waves of ups and downs. There have been spurts of intense productivity (for a hot second, I really did think I was going to become an air-drying-clay-incense-holder-Etsy-seller). But these ups have been followed by huge swings into deep, dark nothingness.
As the video I keep piping on about says: “What can start as a break from life, will, unchecked, become something much worse…”
In the moment, snuggled into bed, spiralling into a YouTube hole doesn’t feel too bad. One might surface, momentarily, like a sleepy cat coming out of its stupor to notice a bird out of the window, only to shake that reality and sink back into the hole because acknowledging what it is - a hole - is too scary. Acknowledging that I’ve left emails unread or messages unresponded or an ever-growing to-do list unattempted feels too much like a looming monster. Sometimes the hardest part of solving a problem is just starting to.
Chapter 3: The Past Isn’t Comparable
Three years ago today I graduated from a pretty cool arts academy/boarding school. That whole year I somehow had a very active social life, good grades, side projects on top of my intensive school schedule, and I even managed to exercise occasionally. I’m also pretty sure I averaged 7hrs of sleep, although mainly due to the fact that I could roll out of bed and be in class within twenty minutes (boarding school has some serious perks). You know those Venn diagrams that say if you want good grades and a social life you can’t sleep, or if you want sleep and grades, forget about socialising? Yeah okay, somehow I had it all.
Why am I sharing this? Mainly; context. For 9 months I somehow immersed myself in every aspect of life that I saw as valuable. It was full-on, non-stop and exhausting. But also, incredibly fulfilling.
Now, three years on, it’s Lockdown. And I’m furloughed from my job, with more time on my hands than I’ve ever had on a per-weekly basis since I was a toddler.
At first, a break from an endless schedule felt really good. Not working, not even side-project-ing… it felt like a deep breath. Like a strangely quiet and inactive holiday.
Chapter 4: Time Disappearing
After a lot of “nothing” and “relaxing”, I started to understand that doing “nothing” has its own problems. An emptiness, quickly snowballing into a feeling of failure swallowed me whole a month or so into my non-working lockdown existence. I hadn’t done nothing - that’s quite impossible, in fact - but I didn’t feel like after a month I had much to show.
And that was utterly terrifying.
Time was slipping, and without markers to actually tell when exactly it first decided to slide away. How had this happened? I have dreamt of unscheduled time to write and create and think for years of my life. And somehow, no novel had been written.
I’ve noticed an excuse has kept cropping up for me, that I haven’t even allowed myself to verbalise in my own head until now, which is “you’ve wasted x amount of time, it’s not even worth trying now”. That might be referring to a few hours of the morning - or maybe a whole week. As I said, starting is the hardest part.
It’s like running. I began to run near the start of lockdown. I’ve never been a serious runner. I mainly tried it in the past as a quick way to get some exercise in. I used the excuse of how embarrassing it is to be seen running (my face gets REALLY red) to prevent me from having to do it.
But then I realised that no one cares. And if they do, it doesn’t matter because YOU are putting yourself out there. You’re doing something really hard. No one just wakes up and runs a marathon without any form of training. You have to start somewhere. Just like any old to-do list.
Chapter 5: Figuring It Out?/Starting Somewhere
So what am I trying to say in all of this rambling?
I guess I don’t really know exactly. I’m still figuring out productivity, especially in lockdown. And motivation. And how my environment affects my creativity. And a lot of other things.
I want to say it’s okay to do nothing, but I also want to warn you to not leave your time unchecked. Because self-care isn’t bubble baths and binge-watching Friends (it CAN be, but you’re not going to fix your life problems with one facemask) - it’s forming healthy habits and boundaries and schedules and routines and repeating them again and again and again even if they’re tough. Like going running. Like getting up at a scheduled time. Like not binge-eating a bag of Oreos because you’re bored and sad (guilty as charged).
Sometimes adult life sucks because you have to be your own parent. Check-in with yourself every day. I’ve spent a lot of time getting mad at myself for not being productive, beating myself up over the lack of work I’ve produced. Honestly, it’s not helpful. Hiding from myself and then getting frustrated over and over again do nothing but perpetuate an unhealthy cycle.
But, getting up and starting - just trying - is far better.
So, if you’re feeling a bit like Major Tom floating out in space without any plan, I’d recommend you buckle down, and watch this video. It’s helped me create a structure in the midst of chaos.
I bid you adieu with two important reminders:
I wish you the best in your lockdown spaceship, whatever it may look like.
I’m sat at a desk - that isn’t mine - 30-ish days into lockdown (is it really that long now?). There are some dead wildflowers I picked when I was perhaps feeling a little more motivated in a glass vase next to me. (Really need to throw them out. Actually quite embarrassing how dead they are. There isn’t even any water left in the vase.)
Just a few moments ago, I lit a candle. Pulled out this laptop. Slapped myself in the face (metaphorically - not lost it quite yet). Filled a water bottle. Pushed, and then nudged, and then pushed my birthday cactus again (it’s now just on the right of me, and it really does need a name). These actions were my way of saying, “Right, get your act together and do something.”
So, here I am.
I’m Beth, your favourite local dungaree-wearing auntie who people invite to parties because she can be quite funny even if she puts her foot in it once or twice. Except, I’m no one’s auntie and parties aren’t a thing to be invited to anymore. You’ll know that, though.
Yesterday, I turned 21, speaking of parties no one can be invited to. It doesn’t feel all that long ago that 21 was so very far away and so very grown-up. For a large chunk of my life, I’ve gotten away with “wow, you’re so ahead of your age” for an abundance of things; my writing, my ideas, even my reading-age back in Primary School. Now, I’m realising I can’t rely on being ahead of my time for my age. Not because 21 suddenly makes me old or that having an office job at 21 is pretty common, but because I’ve begun to rely on it as an identity. The girl who did x, y and z when she was still just a teenager. Or, up until 48 hours ago, before the grand old age of 21. I’ve spent a lot of time using my age as a marker of my success, and this quarantine has really hit the big fat pause button on everyone’s plans and versions of ‘success’. It’s a big rethink.
Quarantine has been tougher for me the past week or so. I was furloughed at the start of this month, which handed me a sloppy ol’ plateful of time that I really haven’t known what to do with. Which is unusual for me. I always had some hobby, story, or project on the go. Self-motivation isn’t usually an issue for me. Yet, in the past almost-six-weeks (good lord it can’t be that long?!), I’ve struggled to do any of the things I’ve spent the last three+ years complaining I didn’t have time for.
Perhaps it’s due to the whammy of challenging emotions. Or maybe it’s being in a different environment - I moved to be with my partner and his parents for lockdown. I’m quite a homebody and the change of setting, not to mention just the entire situation we’re all facing, has really put me out of my usual “zone”. Sounds silly, but I miss my homemade weaves and cheerful plants and illustrations on the walls.
Outside of the Covid-19 situation, the past six weeks would have been emotionally challenging for me without a global pandemic to add to the mix. The death of a friend and mentor after a long cancer battle. The cancer-diagnosis of another friend. The potential scare in someone else. Work challenges. A lot of struggles with my own health (hey sensitive gut and sensitive skin and also being a really emotionally-sensitive person!).
I suppose I’ve been really worn out seeing all these posts saying we should use this time to better ourselves, all these quarantine-motivational videos. I think it’s really okay to just sit and be. I didn’t think that at the start, but I now get it. And I have to tell myself that too.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years trying to wrangle time, like it was a wild animal that could be house trained. I’ve fought to find spare shreds of time, chasing the moments before bed, wondering how many hours of sleep I really need, scraping the minutes up off the floor. Now that it’s here, unfettered time, staring me down, it’s actually quite terrifying.
So here I am. The eve after my twenty-first birthday, here, with the blank page. Not so much ‘using’ time, or ‘saving’ time, or ‘making the most of’ time, as experiencing it. Living in it.
What's it like to be an Apprentice Content Producer at Bray Leino CX? Find out about Beth’s role and more...
Describe your role in a sentence…
I create written and visual content for various outlets, and being an apprentice, I will take on anything that gets passed my way!
What do you do each day?
My team begin with a morning stand-up, which is a time for everyone to regroup and go over the day’s tasks, and then everyone basically just gets to it! I’ll spend a lot of time researching relevant content for our social media and blog, and then I’ll jump on any projects that crop up, especially if anyone is in need of some copy. I’m always working on a variety of tasks.
How did you get to where you are in your career?
I studied creative writing at an academy in America, and shortly thereafter decided not to pursue a university degree. I’d gained so much experience there that I wanted to “go out into the world” and be able to use what I’d learned. I spent a year working, freelance copywriting, experimenting with different digital design forms, undertaking work experience, and then landing a great position as a reviewer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. After that, this incredible opportunity popped up at Bray Leino CX and everything else fell into place.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that I’m learning so much and undertaking such a wide range of tasks. For me, this time is a chance to absorb as much information as I can, and to try new things. The open, collaborative environment here provides that space to grow.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Cross that bridge when you come to it.” I think my parents used to say that phrase to me a lot, since I would spend so much time worrying about a future that I couldn’t predict. There’s no point worrying about it if you can’t do anything about it, so I have to trust that when the time comes, I’ll know what to do.
What's the best thing about working at Bray Leino CX?
The people. It was a huge dream for me to be able to work somewhere like this whilst completing an apprenticeship, and although I am by far the youngest and most inexperienced, I feel like I’ve become a valued part of the Bray Leino CX family.
What qualities do you need to work at Bray Leino CX?
You need to be good in a team. A lot of this work involves collaboration, so speaking up and getting to know your co-workers is a big part of succeeding here.
Last book you read?
“The White Album” by Joan Didion. She’s my non-fiction obsession. I also just started reading “Lincoln In The Bardo” by George Saunders a couple days ago. It’s his first novel, but I love his short stories, so I think I’m in for something good!
Last thing you Googled?
Outside of my own research for work, I was Googling “how to soumak weave” because I’m working on a tapestry at the moment and trying to experiment with some different techniques.
Best customer experience moment?
I suffer from really bad eczema and so finding skincare products that will help rather than harm can be a real struggle! Recently, I went into Lush and left with two products after a lovely member of staff sat and tested different products on my hands, basically giving me a mini spa for twenty minutes on a busy Saturday! No matter how busy they are, they will happily devote their time to you.
Apartment Therapy. Their content is brilliant, and I really enjoy swooning over their videos of apartment tours and DIY’s.
Your go-to weekend lunch?
Noya’s Kitchen, a Vietnamese restaurant in Bath. Noya, who I’ve been lucky enough to meet, is so lovely, and the food fresh, inexpensive, and filled with love. She changes it every couple of weeks, so there’s always something new!
Where would we find you on a Friday night?
The Pig and Fiddle in Bath, drinking a ginger beer with friends.
Original link to the blog post on Bray Leino CX's website: https://www.brayleinocx.co.uk/blog/5-minutes-with-beth-morrow
Recently, for work, I was asked to explore my generation's perspective on brands and marketing.
Edit: The original blogs now can't be viewed as the website for the company was taken down after the closure in December 2019.
Understanding Gen Z / Part 1
Gen Z, Centennial, “Millennial on steroids”—my generation has been called a lot of names. We can’t summarise an entire generation’s values, experiences, and opinions, however, it is clear that myself, a nineteen-year-old in 2018, exists in a very different world than the one a nineteen-year-old in 2008 grew up in.
Gen Z has been shaped by the time we were born into; we don’t remember a world without the internet and mobile phones, learning how to use a computer was as important and necessary as learning how to read and write. We’re the true digital natives.
For Gen Z, though, the world has always been in constant crisis. Childhood and teenage years filled with political upheaval, climate change, terrorism, and economic disorder have made us an incredibly informed and empathetic generation. We’re constantly forced to evaluate our futures and how we fit into this complicated world.
The Ultimate Brand Curators
Social media plays a huge role in how we curate our personal and professional brands in the midst of this. We’ve seen the mistakes that Millennials made, uploading their entire lives to the internet, then being fired by bosses for calling in sick whilst their Facebook documented a drunken night out on the town.
We also consume media constantly and value information and connection, evident by our high consumption and use of YouTube, Google, and Netflix. The “8-second attention span” statement is thrown around a lot when talking about Gen Z. I find this frustrating. It’s not so much a lack of focus, but a selective filter.
One look at a brand's crappy Instagram feed with some try-hard #omg captions and we’re not interested. You say you’re about female empowerment, but your clothes aren’t ethically made? You’ve lost me.
We download ad-blockers. We’re wary of being sold to. So, when we do engage with a brand, we expect a lot. We want that brand to meet our values. We want the products we buy and the services we use to be tied to our identity. We want to be able to support every aspect of what we’re buying into.
We want a company to LIVE its mission.
In Part II, I’ll explore how to get through to the discerning Gen Zs through social forms of brand engagement.
Targeting Gen Z / Part 2
In Part 1, I looked at who Gen Z are and the expectations that they have for brands. Now, I’ll explore how to get through to Gen Z in their fast-paced technological world.
Listen and Deliver
Take Glossier for example. A beauty brand with a cult following built entirely online into a multimillion-dollar business in just a few short years. They will regularly ask what beauty product their audience most want. A sunscreen was developed over two years from comments on their Instagram about what their customers most wanted when buying a sunscreen.
They listened. They delivered.
Listening is more important than ever when targeting Gen Z. We want to be a part of the product creation process. We’ll suggest improvements, we’ll Tweet our feedback, complete Instagram story polls, and then expect those adaptions.
Quality Over Quantity
In such a fast-paced technological world, it might seem surprising that Gen Z value quality
over quantity. But we’re incredibly selective. We don’t want to be easily duped. Coming of
age during a financial crisis has made us frugal. We’re not the stereotyped “avocado toast”
Millennials, headed to university with big dreams and stars in their eyes only to be met with
debt and little job prospects.
We’re the pragmatic and prudent Gen Z who have seen these prospects and mistakes and
want to avoid them. Where we put our money is taken seriously. We read product reviews,
we search TripAdvisor for the best restaurant on a road trip, we find alternatives to an
overpriced jumper on various fashion sites. We seek out the best version of whatever
product or service we’re looking to buy.
Get Through To Me
So how do you get through to Gen Z? Focus on meaningful interaction. Build relationships.
Engage with them on various platforms. Give value to your product. What made Glossier so
successful? Not just their aesthetic, not just a fantastic blog, not just the high-quality
products. It was that they became friends with their customers, that they worked with
them, and in return, their customers became loyal brand ambassadors.
So, don’t talk at me. Talk with me.
Don’t try to be “cool”, we can smell fake a mile away. Instead, be honest. How are you
creating your product? Who works for you? What social good is your brand implementing?
At Bray Leino CX we often talk about how important it is that the more digital we become,
the more human we have to be. Gen Z sees this. Gen Z has grown up experiencing this, and
now they want that human connection from brands. Don’t just show me flashy ads and
pretty pictures—show me that you care.