Natalie Bell, MD
I’ve got one of those cheesy sayings when people ask what my career advice is: Don’t sweat the small stuff and celebrate the big stuff. It may be cheesy, but I stand by it, and I’ve tried to keep it in mind through these challenging times.
That said, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I reached a point a few weeks ago where I felt at a low ebb. I’m not really sure why as it was probably the same time that we could start doing a little more, so it should have been a positive moment, but certainly work-wise I was struggling. The more I reflected, the more I realised that the early energy, and the can-do attitude of the situation had started to turn into fatigue and weariness.
Anyone that knows me well, knows that I’m good in battle. I’m a competitive little scrapper and I get my energy from rising to and overcoming challenges. Incumbent pitch, we can do it! Overnight switch to WFH, come on guys! Rewriting all the agency plans, sure thing! Tribes Quiz, …actually, I always give that a good go but I’m terrible at quizzes! But lately I’ve definitely felt battle-weary, and judging by the people that I talk to, I don’t think I’m alone in that. The novelty has worn off, quizzes and social zooms have reduced, BBQs aren’t as exciting. Meanwhile working hours have increased, time sitting still at my desk has become dominant and coffee sees me through most days, with wine playing too big a role in my evenings. Worst of all, I can’t help feeling like I’m failing at pretty much everything, all the time.
So, a few weeks ago I had a word with myself as something had to change. I’ve been unlucky as I’ve been having an annoying back problem all through lockdown which has stopped me running as much as I’d like, but finally I could get back to the physio properly and things are improving. So, I’m out running again as regularly as my back allows me. I do it in the mornings before work (and trust me, I’m not a morning person!), and the days that I don’t run I go out for a bike ride with my husband and my 6-year-old son, Harrison, and we have breakfast somewhere lovely outside. I’m drinking less coffee, and wine is (mostly) just for weekends. I’m trying to protect 30 mins here and there in my diary to have time with Harrison, I’m doing more walking phone calls, and have been asking that meetings finish 5 mins early so I can stretch my legs before the next one. All sensible stuff, no miracle cures, but I definitely feel much more energised, more balanced and ready for whatever comes next. Small changes are making a big difference.
It’s clearly been a challenging few months for everyone. I’ve felt the impact both at work and at home, as sadly my husband – like many brilliant people in our industry – was made redundant as a result of this situation. But, both at work and at home I’ve made sure to celebrate the positives. I’ve learned to love gardening! Me, gardening. I’m a little bit obsessed with garden birds (yes, yes laugh it up) – but I can hear them so much more without the planes! I’m closer to friends and family than I’ve ever been before, whilst ironically being so much further away. Most importantly of all, I’ve spent precious moments with Harrison. I have spent every single bedtime with him, loving every book and never ever skipping ahead just because I’m too busy.
At work, I’m immensely proud of how the agency has pulled together, how people look out for each other, and how resourceful everyone has been. What we have delivered – in our work, in our client and media partnerships and through our culture is outrageously impressive. Everyone at MG OMD should be very, very proud. It’s not by luck that we win such wonderful awards.
So, have I stuck to my own advice? Don’t sweat the small stuff and celebrate the big stuff.
To be honest, I’ve reflected on it and I’ve changed my mind. My new advice? Try not to sweat the big stuff and be sure to celebrate the small stuff.