How to put off doing stuff. Procrastination. I have been having some trouble actually getting started and writing anything, and it turns out that what I have mostly been doing is in fact just procrastination in one form or other. It took me a while to realise this. I believe there is hope and it is treatable! Here are classic examples of it.
- Convincing yourself that domestic chores, e.g cooking, cleaning, are not procrastination, they really need doing and they must be the absolute priority, despite the fact that you are exhausted, have not got anyone coming to visit so it does not matter too much for another day or so, and there are alternatives available in the freezer. Now where did I put that duster.
- Doubting yourself. A complete killer to action and usually the biggest one, in my experience! Yes the negative voice in your head is very loud but I decided that the only way to beat it is to just start typing. There are always going to be better people out there and if you use that as a reason to stop then you definitely will never achieve what you want!
- Daydreaming. Not a good idea. One can waste literally years of their life on this and that is not recommended. It’s nice to spend time listening to lovely songs on Youtube or lie on the bed throwing a pencil. Just not for hours. In my experience this is usually another way of actually not dealing with something, and an avoidance tactic. And a pretty useless one, sadly. You might learn some song lyrics though so at the most it might be useful for those pub quizzes that are clearly going to make all your dreams come true! Maybe setting a time limit is one way round this. Say to yourself “I will achieve X by 3 o clock, and then I will have total free time after that”.
- Fear. Yes it is terrifying but maybe check whether you want to actually do it. If you really, really want to do something, you will find a way. Why waste time worrying about it, when you know you could be starting sooner rather than later and could produce/find something amazing once you start?
- Fatigue from the day job. Hmmm, this one is fair enough isn’t it? Or is it….. I have made excuses about being tired and not having time, but when I have really thought about it I have actually managed to squeeze in half an hour after dinner, and I have found myself getting into the zone and then able to just keep going! Once you do something that you actually enjoy, as no doubt people know, you get energized from it and it motivates you to keep going! And somehow watching that second episode of Friends seems much less vital. That leads me conveniently to the next point, actually.
- Watching bad tv. And not just bad tv. Horrible TV. Or comfort viewing, i.e watching things you have seen fifty hundred times already and know by heart, word-for-word, backwards and forwards. Why we do this I am not sure, I suspect it is a combination of the above and it is another real killer of achievement! If you are watching a new series that happens to be bad, for the sake of research or out of curiosity, fair enough! But if there is no good reason other than you do not feel like trying something new and you want to watch something that makes you feel safe, even though you know it is not the most important thing that you should be doing right now, then in fact it is actually doing you harm.
- Picking a fight with someone. Usually an unsuspecting family member. Let them say one wrong thing and all your frustrations are unleashed in a torrent of abuse. This is probably in fact a result of your not achieving what you want and you feel angry and resentful about spending your time doing things you have to do rather than things you want to do.
- Reading and re-reading. Ok, you have seen a recipe that you like. Try to set a time limit rather than being indecisive and pondering whether you actually want to do it or not. Self-doubt sets in, you are not sure you have all the ingredients, will it require advice from the better cooks that you know, you google further techniques, you start to google “what’s the best way to poach an egg” etc.
- Eating … reaching for the snacks because you have convinced yourself that you are slightly hungry when in fact you really just need to get on with other things. This could be another way to remain safe and comfortable. Maybe limit yourself to one and then make sure you turn off the TV and get on.
- Staring into space and thinking. About anything, and everything. Contemplating all sorts of things and overthinking some things. In large doses this is probably not productive and not helpful. Sometimes it happens without one realising, but best avoided for more than a few minutes. Do give yourself a few minutes of thinking time though because you definitely will need it to contemplate and get your thoughts together now and then.
As I said at the start, it can be really hard to recognise. Just taking action and making this list helped me to get started so please don’t let doubt and fear keep you back too. I hope it goes well.
Also see my post on top 10 things to do during lockdown https://ayeshahamid.co.uk/top-10-things-to-do-during-the-lockdown-period-especially-if-you-are-living-alone
All based on very recent interview experiences! Note that competency based questions seem to be popular for mid-level interviews, hence a fair few of these are included. Not a definitive list as an interviewer can always ask something unexpected. But if you can have some excellent answers prepared for these questions, you should be on your way to being well prepared!
- What do you know about our company? Obviously this one is going to come up in some format! Be prepared with some facts and figures, check out their latest financial statements and think of a few insightful questions which demonstrate that you have done your research. e.g I read in your financial statements about a new operating system and was wondering if this would have a direct impact on your department…
- Can you give me an example of when you drove through change in your organisation? At mid-level, a person can often be asked this. The example you use could be a fairly simple one but it should always end with some clear benefits to the organisation you worked for at the time, ideally financial ones.
- Why are you the right person for this job? Use this question to effectively sing your own praises. Have three or four reasons ready, back them up with strong examples and link them to the requirements of the role.
- What were the more challenging questions that the auditors asked you during their audit? This has been thrown at me before, it could also be used as an answer for an example of a difficult technical situation (see below).
- Tell me about one of your weaknesses. Use something that is non-crucial to the role you are interviewing for and describe it as a point for development rather than a weakness. An example could be something that you have not yet had experience in but plan to learn in the future.
- Tell me about a time when something did not go according to plan. Always end on a positive. Aim to find an example that ends with you saving the day, so to speak! Make sure that it showcases your strengths and shows how you are able to overcome difficulties.
- Tell me about your biggest achievement or what you are most proud of to date? This does not necessarily have to be recent but anything that demonstrates how you added value to the organisation is good. What positive feedback did you get? Mention that too but be sure to mention why you got the praise.
- How would you explain something to a person who is not an accountant, give me an example? Choose something that shows how you modified your approach and perhaps modified your material for non-accountants. Show how your approach helped to achieve the desired result.
- Give me an example of when you used your negotiating skills to influence the opinion of a colleague or stakeholder. As before for previous questions, make sure that you end on a positive and state what benefits it brought to the team or organisation.
- Can you give me an example of a technically challenging situation? Think of an example that is as high level as you can. What was the challenge, how did you overcome it, what was the result. Again find an example that demonstrates how great an accountant you are at the end of the story!
- Can you give me an example of a challenging time at work and what you did? This could be dealing with a difficult person perhaps, or finding a way to adapt to a new system. Again make sure that you find an example that showcases your talents as an accountant and ends on a positive with you demonstrating your skills.
- What are the key financials of [the type of company that you are interviewing for, e.g] an insurance company? This should not be too hard to answer if you have done your research, even looking through their financial statements and maybe one of their competitor’s if you have time should help you find this out.
- Can you tell me what this gap in your CV was? It is easy to forget what you were doing but make sure you check your CV as part of your interview preparation and have a good answer ready as to what you were doing e.g travelling for a couple of months in Morocco.
- Tell me about how you think you demonstrate our company’s values. I have been asked this question several times recently! Always look at their company’s values and have an example of how you can demonstrate each one.
- You have described yourself as (a strong team player). Can you tell me about a time when you have needed to work as part of a team to achieve a goal? Make sure that the example you give shows what your role was in the team and what benefit you in particular brought to the team and to the department or organisation. e.g did you spot an error that could have brought about reputational damage?
- Tell me about a workplace system or process that you have improved. How did you do this? How did the changes benefit your organisation? Have an example where you can go into detail if needed. Give a clear mention to the ways it benefitted the organisation!
- Can you think of a time when you have had to deal with two conflicting priorities and explain how you decided which was most important? This is about demonstrating your time management, organisation, communication, prioritising skills. Make sure you choose an example with a positive outcome.
- Tell me about a time when you had to mentor someone. How did your approach benefit them? This would showcase your mentoring and possibly managerial potential. The example could include how they benefited and, as a consequence, how the organisation benefited too.
- How do you like to be managed? The interviewer asks this so that they can see what kind of person you are and whether you can adapt to different management styles so give an answer that shows you can work well with different types of managers, ideally with an example.
- Give me an example of when you got buy-in from senior management. The idea is for you to demonstrate your influencing or negotiating skills, and finding if you are able to do that with people who are more senior to you in the organisation. If you have not had much direct contact with senior management, you could use an example of when you passed a suggestion to your manager, or if you influenced someone in your team for an idea that they were not initially receptive to.
I hope that the above helps to make the interview preparation process easier and, ultimately, I hope that they help you get offered the job!
This is my personal Top 10 things to do during the lockdown period. I have geared it towards people who live alone, like me, in case anyone is finding it hard and is looking for new ideas, but hopefully this would work for people in other situations too.
Lockdown has affected us all in different ways. It can be challenging mentally. Aside from keeping yourself healthy and having some form of exercise (although that is also featured below), talking to people (also mentioned below), and of course working (from home if you are one who is able to do so), the following is a list of ideas prepared through talking to people and trying to continue a normal routine as much as possible. I thought I would share them even if some of it might be stating the obvious, as I found that having some sort of routine helped me greatly, and stopped me endlessly looking at the news or spiralling into negative thoughts!
- Online courses. I cannot recommend some of these enough. Currently some sites are offering discounts for a limited period of time, with some offers aimed clearly with the knowledge that more people are at home now most of the time. Sites that have some good courses include Reed.co.uk, Udemy.co.uk and Skillshare. This is a good time to continue learning a language that you may have given up on, or maybe try to learn a whole new skill that you may have wanted to do for a while! Fancy an online make up course? Or a car maintenance course? A fairly impressive range of choice is available.
- Baking. This can offer a productive way to spend time and is a chance to try out new recipes if you now have the time. There is also the obvious benefit of not having to share what you have baked (unless you want to, as long as you are following the government rules of course!). Personally I find it to have a cheering effect too. Days are always better with a bit of homemade cake!
- Read that book that you have left sitting on your shelf, or have started a few times, thought “this looks so good but I really need time to get into it properly because it is huge!” and then have abandoned regretfully. It could be War and Peace, or it could be that pesky Game of Thrones book three (that could be just me).
- Try out a new recipe. Bear with me here. There may be a recipe that you have seen and kept as something to try when you have a bit more time/energy. Trying new things and succeeding or learning from them if it doesn’t quite go right are great ways to build up confidence in one’s cooking skills. It could also be a good way of using up ingredients for which you have limited ideas. The main supermarkets, Asda in particular, have some good recipes online, or the BBC Good Food app is always pretty dependable. Otherwise Guardian online recipes have some rather exciting varieties to offer too, and access to all of those is free.
- Go for a walk, ideally somewhere green if possible! Fresh air helps to make one feel alert, and it also really does help to see the outside world at least once a day. Explore your local area and see if you can find a hidden green space that you never knew about before (I did!). If it is raining or cold, or you need to remain near your laptop, Youtube has a good choice of workouts available ranging from three minutes to over forty minutes long. There are some fun dance workouts on there which make the time pass quicker than on a treadmill! Personally I enjoyed the 10 minute dance workouts by “Movewithcolour.com” on youtube (they have recorded a few options, disco funk, old school, Britney bitch, classic 80s, and the instructor’s asides are amusing “Make sure no-one’s home when you do this move”).
- Continue watching the TV series that you have been meaning to watch, including those that you have recorded eight seasons of but only got up to the third episode due to social life constraints or similar. You’ll probably get a feeling of slightly smug satisfaction when you have completed a series! (also you can finally talk about it with other people).
- Keep in contact with people using facetime, whatsapp video call, and even the old-school way! Schedule in time to reach out to people and call them! We are lucky that technology can make us feel more in contact.
- Get some things booked in for the evenings, ideally at least three evenings per week. There is a great list of things on the Meetup website, for example, that has now gone online due to the new circumstances. There are guitar socials/jamming sessions, book clubs, quizzes, lectures, online raves…. There are also theatres that are now doing live streaming, including the National Theatre.
- Online speed dating? This may seem like an odd time to do this but some companies are offering this as an online experience with tickets sold at a reduced rate, for example dateinadash.com. Worth a try if you are so inclined and if other factors may normally stop you such as lack of time.
- If you are finding that you are noticing things that you are missing or not missing, or that you would like to change going forward, this might be a good time to jot them down in some sort of journal (even in your phone). When this passes (and it will), it could help you to reassess what is important to you in life and help you to make changes for the better.
This really helped me during the lockdown period and hopefully will continue to do so going forwards, I hope it can help a few others too!
See also my post on procrastination. https://ayeshahamid.co.uk/best-ways-to-put-off-doing-important-stuff