Stories of Men

Work stressing you out? Try this… 

Do you work too much? Or perhaps you feel as if you don’t work enough? 

Do you feel taken advantage of at work? Or do you feel as if your talents are underutilised? 

Does what you do at work fit your values and goals? Or do you feel as if you’ve had to make compromises in order to make money?

There’s so much to think about when it comes to work and it can often seem as if an ideal solution is beyond our grasp. But there are steps that we can all take to improve our mental health at work.

1. Set boundaries. Psychological studies have shown time and again how important it is to achieve a meaningful work-life balance. We’ve all read so many things about work-life balance over the years. 

But we can only do this if we set genuine boundaries. This can start by making sure that you have clearly defined working hours. Outside of those hours, you should give yourself a complete break. 

But how many people really do this? That means not checking emails, or work platforms, and making sure that any work-related WhatsApp groups are on silent while you’re out of the office. Takes a good amount of discipline, for sure.

Start to make ‘free-time me-time’. Cringey line I know, but very very important.

I’ve been on holidays with ex-partners and mates who are checking their work emails daily. I’ve done it too because I’ve had my own business for over 10 years. I’ve had good people that I know will look after my business whilst I’m away and yet I’ve still not had the discipline to switch off. This sounds counter-intuitive, right? The urge of the dopamine hit to click the emails was all too much for me.

Nowadays, I have a 6pm curfew, after which I will not check work emails. I try to stick to this as much as possible. This gives me enough time to recharge my batteries so that I can deal with work queries and challenges with a fresh and energetic perspective once I do go back to work. When I went on my emails before, I was clicking on the phone app without even realising I was doing it! Like a zombie…looking for a dopamine hit.

2. Prioritise tasks. If you feel that your workload is too heavy and that you’re spending too much time trying to deal with the mountain of tasks cluttering your in-tray, take some time to go through them and work out what really needs to be done right now. 

It’s beneficial to realise that not every task is essential and taking the time to work out what is and isn’t a priority will help you to use your time and energy more effectively. 

This exercise helped me a lot:

3. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. We can all want to be that star-employee who goes above and beyond to show how flexible and dedicated we are. This is a great mindset to have but, if you’re not careful, it can quickly lead to people taking advantage of you (or as I like to say ‘taking the p*ss’). 

The more you say “yes”, the more tasks will come your way until you find that you are drowning in all of the projects you have agreed to take on. It made me more anxious too. 

If you just have too much going on at work, then it’s time to speak to your boss. Let them know that you need help or that perhaps you need someone to take over a part of your workload. It’s much better to speak out as soon as you know you’ve taken on too much than to allow the situation to build up and become even worse. This drifts into ‘people pleasing’; a topic I covered here.

4. Make use of the art of delegation. Another approach to having too much in your in-tray is to ask the question “Does it really need to be me who does this?”. Perhaps you’re in a position of seniority and you have members of your team who are not using their talents to the full. Be ready to delegate tasks that could be done by others, thereby freeing you up to focus on the things that truly need your attention.

In my case, establishing a management structure in my company meant that I no longer needed to be involved in the day-to-day aspects of the business. So I was freed up to think of more creative ideas and ways to grow my brand. I made sure I was free to be in the position where I could be most useful and productive. I was free to work ON my business instead of working IN my business. Big difference.

5. Be prepared to speak up. If you feel that your talents are not being fully recognised, or you feel as if you just don’t have enough on your plate to keep you feeling productive, then speak up. I’ve always appreciated my staff telling me this over the years. 

Let your manager know that there’s more you could be giving to the organisation and that you want the opportunity to show it. Try to be constructive. Make specific suggestions on areas within the business where you think your efforts and energies could be made use of.

I once knew a teacher who, instead of just complaining about the materials he was using in his classes, offered to develop brand new materials which he believed would be more engaging for his students. He did this and both he and his students were happier. His students got better classes and he had found a new outlet for his talents.

6. Try ‘Ikigai’. What is Ikigai? I hear you ask. Well, allow me to demonstrate:

Write the answers to the following questions on a good old-fashioned piece of paper:

  1. What do you love? 
  2. What are you good at? 
  3. What does the world need? 
  4. And what can you get paid for? 

Now spend some time thinking about an activity that would link the answers to these four questions together. Write that down too. Did you come up with anything? 

If the answer is “yes” then you have discovered your Ikigai, congratulations! 

Ikigai is a Japanese term that translates as “reason for being”. And the beauty of it is that each person’s Ikigai will be unique to them. Your Ikigai is not just a job: it’s your passion, your mission and your vocation. 

It’s the activity that you should be pulling out all the stops to pursue. How closely does your current job match up to this? If the answer is “not very” or “not at all”, then it may be time to start refocusing your energies into another profession. 

To find out more about Ikigai, and how it has benefited me and my work decisions, read this article.

7. Don’t be afraid to start again. So many of us continue in the same patterns of dissatisfaction because we are afraid to make that crucial change and start again. 

As the saying goes, “it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up one you don’t”. There are many reasons to be resistant to change but there are often even better reasons to embrace it. Your mental health is one of them.

I’ve learned that ‘sunk cost fallacy’ can really screw your decision making. I see people do it in their relationships all the time even when they know the other person isn’t right for them: “we have a house and a car together. It’s taken us 5 years to get to this point. I can’t give all that up.” 

Why hold on to material possessions when it comes at the expense of your happiness? Is it really worth it?

The problem is that we don’t want to start again. We like the comfortable. An interesting book I’ve been recommended that is on my list (and has good reviews) is this one.

I really do believe we’re in a comfort crisis by the way; it’s a topic I’m going to write about in a future blog post if there’s interest?

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           PROFESSIONAL
 

Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

          PROFESSIONAL

 

Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  

 

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 15 YEARS

                 PERSONAL

 

Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.

           PROFESSIONAL
 

I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 10 YEARS

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

           PROFESSIONAL
I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 
 
INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE: 11 YEARS
                 PERSONAL

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

           PROFESSIONAL
 
I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 
 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!

                 PERSONAL
 

Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.