The stillness of moving and shaking - a not-so-brief look at 2017

I say the same thing every year - "this has been a big year for me" - but somehow I look at each year and go, yeah, that was a big year for me. I consider myself very lucky to get to lead that life. Yet, this year has been different. For the first time ever (and yes, I do mean ever) I've explored stability, routines and traditions, and the wonders of being in the same place for a longer period of time than just a year.

Work stuff

  • My biggest restraint in 2017 has been time and not being able to see a way to scale myself. I've had to turn down a lot of stuff and put really exciting projects on hold due to a lack of time. At one point I considered hiring a freelancing student but realised quickly that that, too, would take a lot of time. I'm still figuring out how to structure my life - perhaps 2018 will make things clearer.
     
  • Being included in #Nordic100 as one of only two PRs is a highlight I'll remember for a long time coming - I'm neither senior nor blasé enough to say that those things don't matter. On the contrary, I'm still early on in my career and it often feels like I make stuff up as I go along, so having my work recognised by thought leaders like Slush and The Nordic Web is for me pretty major.
     
  • I've realised that the vast majority really don’t understand what PR is, how it works, and how it can help way beyond the odd placement. I've always thought I've known this (it was one of the first things my mentor instilled in me when we started working together) but this realisation has reached new heights in 2017. I'm hoping to spread the word about the wonders of PR in 2018.
  Giving a talk at Sony on all things startup comms, December 2017.

Giving a talk at Sony on all things startup comms, December 2017.

Social life and relationships

  • Breaking up with my ex, and subsequently feeling very strongly and on a fundamental level that I never again want to be in a so-called romantic relationship, presented a huge buffet of learnings. I'm grateful for them all.
     
  • I've discovered the joys of conceptualising my life. I know some people think it's a bit odd to brand everything you do, but I find that it really helps, particularly in my social life. This year I've engaged in Kallisklubben, Frukostklubben, Skaparklubben and Bokklubben. They all provide format where we show up with an agenda, a reason and a format to discuss things that aren't work related (or, as one friend out it, baby and/or wedding related).
     
  • I feel like I've travelled a lot less this year than previous years, which says quite a lot. I've squeezed in trips to London, Texas, Palestine, Israel, Istanbul, Stockholm, Greece, Portugal, NYC, and I'm soon off to a secret location to finish off 2017 with one of my best friends. The majority of trips involved a lot of work, with might explain why they didn't exactly feel like holidays - because they weren't. Still, they've brought a huge source of inspiration. There's no way around it - travelling and meeting new people from around the world brings me a lot of energy.
     
  • I found that spending time with children teaches you a lot about yourself and how you think about life. Especially if said children happen to be those of the person you’re dating.
     
  • I lived up to the promise I made myself of never not doing stuff just because I'd have no one to do them with. Consequently I went to Israel and Palestine on my own and met fascinating people I otherwise wouldn't. I'd do it again in an instant. And I sort of am - I'm going to Bali on my own for a DIY surf and yoga retreat in just a couple of weeks.
     
  • I've discovered that in a time where everyone around me seems to get pregnant, engaged, married and all the rest of it, I'm so happy and content in my little one bedroom flat with Katten. Perhaps ironically, the thought of settling down has never seemed further away. 
  Kallis, aka The Sanctuary.

Kallis, aka The Sanctuary.

Looking after myself

  • I ran two half maras, and only through grit and perseverance. I didn't enjoy it very much, and remember thinking when setting out on my second half mara that "well, now you're going to be running for-e-ver". That's what it felt like as well. Yet somehow, I think I'll do more in the future.
     
  • I saw a distinct pattern in my annual workout routine - I tend to be up and going in January, having started out strong already in December as to not feel like I'm part of the January New Year's Resolution crew. I usually manage to stick to it until summer, where it escalates - this summer I exercised 2-3 times a day (run, gym, tennis) and loved every bit of it. Once September hits and work starts picking up, I'm out. Next year I might start working with a PT as to not have to start from square one next Christmas (the way I have to this year).
     
  • I made a concerted and committed effort to take up therapy, and have for the better part of the year gone to weekly psychodynamic psychotherapy sessions. It hasn't turned out the way I thought it would, and probably for the better. I think I thought it'd be a means to an end, that it could help me fix me. But life isn't static, and I'm probably as fixed as can be. That said, my weekly sessions help me understand myself, in relation to myself and others - the good, the bad and the ugly. Like all rewarding processes, it's hard.
     
  • I've found that while I'm yet to meditate on a daily basis (or weekly, or monthly), I practice gratitude several times a week. Not necessarily intentionally - gratitude comes to me when I handpick avos at the grocery store, while at the gym, while walking along the bridge to Kallis, feeling the Malmö breeze across my face. It really is the seemingly small things that make me well up of gratitude. I try to actively recognise these feelings, and be grateful for them. Very meta, I know.
  18 kilometres into my second ever half marathon. Feeling like death.

18 kilometres into my second ever half marathon. Feeling like death.

My biggest learnings

  • This was also the year of my feminist awakening. I've always called myself a feminist, but this year I became aware of patriarchal structures to a significantly greater extent, how they modify my own behaviour and my own expectations of other people depending on their gender. As a result, I try to apologise for less, speak up for more and encourage more women to claim more space. I credit people in my surroundings for this - Mina, Joel, Streetgäris, Jeanette, and, of course, all of us through #MeToo.
     
  • I've learnt about the wonders of time. I've seen friends go in and out of depression, burnouts and general shit times, and I'm very grateful to have seen firsthand that neither shit times nor good last forever. But again, life isn't static. Setbacks aren't permanent, neither is success. It sounds obvious and I've thought that I've known this, but I haven't.
     
  • This was also the year when I worked hard to stop giving a fuck, in order to care more about shit that really matters (yes, as ever, I'm paraphrasing Mark Manson). I've taken a long, hard look at the way my thoughts structure themselves and decided that I want to try and control them as opposed to having them control me. It's hard, and I think it will be a lifelong process. Spending time with people who have already mastered it helps.
     
  • I also discovered what it's like to forget to look at your phone for days on end - wonderful is what it is.
  Not a phone in sight.

Not a phone in sight.

And finally... My best reads

  • A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
    This is by far the best and most traumatising read I've ever experienced. It kept me up at night for weeks on end, and when I finally fell asleep I dreamt about the characters. I'll want to read it again at some point, but it will have to wait until a lot later in life - it's a demanding read, in time, energy, and thinking power. Highly recommend it, but not if you're in a fragile state.
     
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson
    I've struggled with giving too much of a fuck all my life and I feel like I'm finally getting a handle on why. Obviously not just because of this book, it's been an ongoing process that has included many hours in therapy and even more discussions with friends and lovers, but I still think this book hits the nail on the head. What's more, it offers practical tools to help you check yourself when you give fucks that you probably shouldn't. It's a great book, and an easy read at that - really can't recommend it enough.
  Not giving a fuck since 2017.

Not giving a fuck since 2017.

2017, you were great. You feel a little like a watershed year, or at least like you laid some sort of foundation for great things to come. 2018, bring it on.

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Optimising life out of life - a couple of life hacks that have completely and utterly failed me

Few things make me purr as much as a seeing a plan come together, but one thing that does is coming up with new ways to optimise and iterate old habits and routines. Whether finding a quicker route to work or squeezing in errands while waiting for the train, I love the sensation of being efficient. It can definitely become counterproductive though, or - as one friend put it - sometimes you run the risk of optimising life out of life. Below are a few useless life hacks that haven’t just failed, but actually left me worse off.

The taxi frenzy
Every other week or so I do a big grocery shop, because I'm an adult like that. Unfortunately I'm also a millennial aka a faux adult, so I don't have a car, meaning I take a taxi back with the groceries once I'm done shopping. I've done this for over a year now, and every single time as I pack up the groceries in a zillion bags I also attempt to book a taxi as to make sure I don't have to wait the full five(!) minutes it takes before it gets there. I want the taxi to arrive the exact second I've packed the groceries, paid, and left the store. As you can imagine, it never ends well. Instead, it ends up with me being on the phone while trying to figure out the pin to whatever card I'm using while also packing my bags and apologising to the customers behind for being a complete mess. All to win five minutes. That ends right here, right now.

  Ah yes, let me bring my phone with me to the loo because, well, no one knows why

Ah yes, let me bring my phone with me to the loo because, well, no one knows why

The unproductive loo and coffee runs
You realise how fucked as a collective we are when we bring our phones even to the toilet. Stats from earlier this year show that 75% of Americans bring their phones to the loo, and I do too. I also bring my phone with me when I pop to the coffee machine because after all, it takes 45 seconds for the coffee to come through (more if there's a queue obviously) and during that time I can check all my channels at least once. Taking a step back and looking at it soberly is pretty terrifying. Coffee and loo runs are great for clearing your mind, even if just for a few minutes, but that obviously doesn't happen if you're constantly staring at your phone. That said, it's not very strange that most of us do - the engineers behind the social media giants have purposefully designed and built the user interface to make it addictive. Though not a social media company, Netflix lists "sleep" as one of its main competitors for their users' attention, so that should give you an idea of where we're currently at in what's called the attention economy. Basically, we're all screwed.

And while we're on Netflix... 
Cancelling it turned out to be a poor life hack. I actually blogged about this when I did it a couple of months ago - it all started with me setting out on Q4 of 2017, adamant to be as efficient as humanly possible. "I have too much stuff to do", the reasoning went, "I can't spend my time on Netflix". Fair enough. What happened when I stopped watching an hour of Netflix a day was that I started racking up out of office work hours. Not as an exception when I had a big deadline coming up, but as a standard - even when I didn't have any big side projects. An eight hour work day turned into ten hours and then twelve and all of a sudden you're hovering around fourteen. What happens when you do that is that you start holding yourself to a standard that isn't productive or very good for you in the long run. It's also meant that I've gone all of Q4 without cuddling my cat. Only having one set of hands means you can't cuddle your cat when you're working, and before you know it your cat hates you. The cancelling of Netflix would've been fine had I pursued other means of winding down, i.e. reading or cuddling the cat or meditating. As for now, Netflix is back. As is the cat cuddling.

  Selected snaps of me cuddling my cat. As you can see, he loves it.

Selected snaps of me cuddling my cat. As you can see, he loves it.

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There are probably more rubbish life hacks I engage in. Having lunch in front of my laptop is another one, but more on that in another post...

Stuff I initiated in 2017 (and hope to keep up in 2018)

There are still four weeks left to the holidays, but I've already started thinking about 2017, all the curveballs it's thrown and all the greatness it's brought. I do feel like every year is sort of monumental in the things they offer (last year - was made redundant twice, Brexit, moved to Sweden after eight years abroad.. etc), but looking back at this year I can see three distinct changes I have pursued as part of my every-day life that have made my life disproportionately better.

Here's what.

Digital purge
I unfollowed more than 800 influencers, acquaintances and even friends on Instagram. I stopped reading the lifestyle blogs I’d been following for years. I deactivated notifications on Facebook. I bought an alarm clock and kicked my phone out of the bedroom (until I started using Natural Cycles and had to bring it back in again...).

The intended goal was to make my world bigger, by making it smaller. To see and appreciate what’s in front of me, as opposed to on a screen. That’s partly succeeded, but what’s also happened is that I’ve started working a lot more. The time I used to spend on the internet I now spend working, so if I hoped to relax more - and I’m not sure I did - that certainly didn’t happen.

I do, however, think more about what I have and how I can improve, instead of thinking of what I don’t have, which is what I did when I was constantly bombarded with other people’s seemingly perfect lives. I’ve slashed my time on Facebook by about 70%, only from deactivating notifications. And I think a lot less about conspicuous spending now that I don’t read blogs. This, in turn, means that I spend a lot less money overall - both because I work more so I simply don’t have the time to spend, and because I’m not exposed to content on blogs and social media that encourages me to spend.


Public speaking
I never really thought public speaking was for me - it hadn’t even crossed my mind until I was asked to do a talk earlier this year. Public speaking always seemed fun but I don’t think I thought I’d have anything to say. Pretty strange coming from a PR, I know, but my job is to train other people on what to say - not to get up on the soap box myself. Coaching others is very different from coaching yourself, so I started watching a lot of talks - both online and offline - to see exactly what a good talk is, how they’re structured, what works and what doesn’t.

My first public talk was at Media Evolution with some 60 people in the audience. Titled “Cowboys and KPIs - confessions of a PR”, it covered my trip to SXSW and how PRs can navigate around the difficulties of establishing KPIs when it comes to a place like SXSW. Since then I’ve done panel discussions at Gothenburg Tech Week, Think Accelerate and Fast Track Malmö, I’ve participated in a podcast on startup PR, I’ve hosted workshops at Fast Track Malmö, and I’m doing two talks in December, one at Sony Mobile on what corporates can learn from startup PR, and one at Minc on what startups can do in terms of PR during their first two years as a business. I also recently secured my first ever paid (!) talk, which is both exciting and encouraging - not for the money itself, but for the fact that in less than a year I’ve gone from never having done a talk, to my talks having an actual market value (!).

I hope to do a lot more public speaking in 2018. Since I usually talk about my work in startup PR, doing public talks forces me to take a step back and challenge myself, how I communicate and how I work with PR. It’s a win-win for me, my employer, my clients, and - hopefully - the people attending the talk.

  Me being eloquent as ever, at GBGTechWeek

Me being eloquent as ever, at GBGTechWeek

Side projects
I went to a conference in August this year where one of the speakers said that “the Mona-Lisa was a side project, what will be yours?” and all I could think at the time was FU, I’m stressed as is? It did, however, plant a seed, and since then I’ve MVP’d (ish, I never took it to market) one project and I’m currently tinkering with another. I’ve also stepped up freelancing, set up my own consultancy and worked on two big freelance PR announcements, one of which was international. They’re, by far, the biggest announcements I’ve done as a one-man band and I’m still a bit flabbergasted by the phenomenal results (though I did have my mentor on speed dial, for which I am forever grateful).

One thing I’ve learnt over the years is that the more idle time I have, the more time I have to wallow. It's borderline destructive and definitely distracting, and more than anything, it serves zero purpose. Side projects to the rescue - it doesn't have to be setting up a new business or launching something huge, just doing something like tennis once a week - and actually committing to it - is enough to keep your mind occupied.

  Tennis Thursdays - new tradition as of August 2017

Tennis Thursdays - new tradition as of August 2017

2017 has been my best year to date, for plenty of reasons. I'm slightly concerned I'll want to scale up even more and add on just as much more in 2018, which - simply put - won't be possible. That said, doing more forces you to sharpen the way you think, act, even speak. It's a never-ending learning curve, and I love it.

How working in PR has turned me into a better person (yes you read that right!)

Working in PR sometimes feels like a never ending learning curve. And in the best of ways. It's not just that you learn about new clients, their different propositions and - if you're lucky - how they're trying to challenge the status quo, but you also learn loads about how people work. In the best of worlds, you can channel those learnings into something much bigger than just your daily work of developing media strategies and pitching journos. In other words, I count myself incredibly lucky to get to learn so much about myself and others on a daily basis - below are three of many things working in PR has taught me, and how I believe they've turned me into a better person.

No idea is bullshit
This is obviously not true. Plenty of ideas are bullshit, and perhaps particularly in the VC drenched world of startups (AI-powered water bottles, anyone?). Nevertheless, in one of my first PR jobs our team had quarterly brainstorming sessions aptly named No Idea is Bullshit (or NIIBS). The point was for the entire growth team to come together and discuss different ways of cutting through the noise even though we had much smaller budgets than the corporate competition. If you walk in with a judgy mind, chances are you'll be pretty pessimistic about ideas that sound rubbish at first but might develop into something wonderfully fun, quirky and sales optimising. Over the past year I've been a one man PR team and I've had to do a lot of brainstorms on my own (a challenge if there ever was one!). If I hadn't been taught that NIIBS, chances are I would've beaten myself up for not coming up with great ideas in a split second. And this scales way beyond PR - you learn to be humble, think way outside the infamous box, and push ideas and conversations further, just to see where they might lead.

  When the startup I worked for decided to give the competition a scrub and showered the City of London with bubbles

When the startup I worked for decided to give the competition a scrub and showered the City of London with bubbles

Kindness aka diplomacy is key
As a PR you try to please several different stakeholders at once - clients, clients' clients as well as owners, board members and/or investors, journos, readers, policy makers, and a whole bunch of other people. They often go hand in hand, but just as often there might be a clash of what the journo wants to write and what the client wants to be written. Your job as a PR is to bridge the two. That's not always an easy feat - and indeed, that's what makes the job so much fun - and to be able to navigate you need to master the skill of diplomacy. Diplomacy, in turn, is dependent on you being kind and a pleasant person to work with. If you fail to demonstrate an understanding of what's important to the stakeholder you're in conversation with, regardless of whether that's the journo or the client, you're likely to get nowhere. Working in PR forces you to carefully consider the (often much) bigger picture, something that's been hugely useful for me in my personal life as well.

Rejection leaves room for perfection
I'm a sensitive soul and when I was younger I struggled with rejection or any kind of criticism that wasn't obviously constructive and presented in a diplomatic manner. That sort of attitude or approach towards life does not go down very well in PR, where rejection is rampant. If you can't deal with rejection, you can't work in PR. Simple as. I was terrified the first - and the second and the tenth - time I had to do a sell-in over the phone, but every time a journalist rejected my pitch I was forced to ask why, and what I could do to improve the pitch or the story. Why? Because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to explain the rejection to my client, which in the worst case scenario could have resulted in me losing my job. Working in PR has forced me to stop taking things so personally, and rather start listening to what people are saying so that I can adapt accordingly, in my professional as well as my personal life.

Working in PR is sometimes hard, but I'm also fairly confident it's one of the most fun jobs out there. Not just because you get to shout great ideas from the rooftops, or because of the addictive hit of adrenaline when coverage goes live, but also because you learn so many new things constantly. It's one of the many reasons why I love my job, and also one of the reasons why I can't see myself venturing into another field. #PRlife 4 life.

Three things I did this week to help me get to where I want to go

End of summer in Sweden feels almost like the beginning of a new year - people come back from having been on leave for weeks on end, energised and ready to kick-start the autumn. There's a real sense of being given a fresh start in a way that can be compared to starting a new year at uni or starting a new job, simply because you've been away from the office for so long. Naturally, not all Swedish workers have been away from work, but the vast majority has. And with the beginning of new things, you adopt new habits - or at least you try. I set some new goals for myself for the autumn of 2017 while I was on holiday, and now that I'm back on track I try to set myself up for success.

Here are three things I've done this week to help me get where I want to go:

Bought an alarm clock
Simple but important - I anticipate extremely high ROI on this one. Since I got my first iPhone seven years ago, I've used my phone as an alarm. At first it was fine, because at first I wasn't addicted to more social media channels than I care to quote. As for now, I check my phone several times a night, and I've been known to reply to messages in my sleep (!). But then again I also sleep eat, which means that I wake up with food in my bed at least once a week - raw broccoli, chocolate, peanuts - you name it, I sleep eat it. Maybe I should just acknowledge that I'm a hyperactive person... Even while asleep. All jokes aside (and I'm not even joking), it's been a long time since I last remembered a dream and it's because the first thing that happens when I wake up is me seeing all the zillion notifications that have come through overnight. No more - phone is being switched off overnight, starting today. Analogue night life here I come.

Pencilled down a reading schedule
I should've figured this one out ages ago, but I guess I've been busy checking my phone. It was actually Neil, the founder of the Nordic tech site The Nordic Web, who inspired me to structure my reading - he posted this on Facebook a few months back, and since then I've written monthly (!) schedules of what I want to read on a weekly basis. A bit like it was at university, actually. It's worked remarkably well in that my reading becomes a lot more focused, and if I feel that a book is dragging on I simply move on as I've got more shit to read. I have some wild plans of writing a book, and even wilder plans of changing the world with a fellow brand strategist, but I also have a limited amount of time. If I'm even gonna try and give it a go, I need to become much more efficient in how I consume information. Reading schedules is a first step on the way.

Cancelled Netflix
I've gone through about a zillion lists of "shit worth watching on Netflix", and I'm done. I also have commitment issues, generally in life, but specifically when it comes to TV shows. In spite of that, I find myself watching the weirdest of stuff that brings no added value to my life what so ever. That ends today, because I've cancelled Netflix (!). I've spent no more than an hour every other day or so on Netflix, but unlike before I now have a reading schedule which would suffer if I didn't take action. I get bored quite easily and when I come back home from a day at the office it's easy to just drift off into the world of nothingsness (also known as Netflix), and it's just not very productive. It would've been wholly different if I thoroughly enjoyed watching stuff, but I don't, so it has to go.

Will these three things change my life? Maybe not, but I'm not looking for fundamental change. I'm looking for a more focused me. I want to write more, read more, think more. I'm excited to evaluate these small changes in a few months time to see what impact it's had, if any. Time will tell.

  The new-ish me. Bouncing and all.

The new-ish me. Bouncing and all.