I feel there are four section to this blog: Writing, driving, travel and lifestyle.
Those first three make sense, don't they? I'm a journalist who reviews cars as part of his job, and is sometimes lucky enough to travel abroad to be given the keys. But what about the 'lifestyle' bit? It sounds a bit pretentious to me, like I'm trying to be a YouTube star; internet-famous, a 'brand', someone who charges for Instagram posts.
I actually don't have a problem with that career path at all, and am guilty of losing a half-hour here and there watching videos published by 'brand influencers'. But no, that isn't really what the 'lifestyle' bit is about. Instead, I feel it's more a collection of thoughts about how I'm aiming to improve my own life, and which someone reading this might one day find useful.
And so, to the first 'lifestyle' post.
Working in a newsroom and for a news website where the deadline is always five minutes ago means my job can be ridiculously busy. I get dozens of emails and phone calls each day, my inbox currently sits at an utterly shameful 5,215 unread messages, and I need to write a to-do list for my to-do lists.
And yet, on the quiet days I don't seem to make any progress through the inbox or the to-do lists. There is always, always a distraction, and often one which I kid to myself qualifies as work. Tweetdeck open on a computer screen all of its own, the spur-of-the-moment thoughts of the 1,400 people I follow scrolling past in a constant feed of equal parts news and nonsense. Then there's my hopelessly overflowing email inbox, given half a screen to itself and therefore also always in view.
Next is Chartbeat, a tool for monitoring traffic to the website I work for. That's on a television of its own mounted on the wall to my right, but is more often than not in a browser tab on my main display. Next to that there's Slack, the workplace instant-messaging app which is 99% office chitchat, 1% productivity tool. On the desk sits my work phone, always muted but often alight with another cold-call from a PR agency, and my iPhone, which is supposed to be a personal number but which also buzzes with unfamiliar numbers throughout the day. Then there are the personal messages from my friends, family and partner, the junk emails, the sales calls from Vodafone, breaking news notifications from the BBC, app update requests from Apple and God-knows what else.
I'm tired just thinking about all this, never mind being the poor sod sitting downstream with a finite amount of time, energy and patience to deal with it all. Oh, and then I have my actual job to do. Colleagues ask questions, request meetings and suggest pub lunches.
It's exhausting and it is All. My. Fault.
You see, you and I have control over every single aspect of this in our respective lives, so let's make some changes. Here are just three for now.
1. Nuke the inbox
Ok, so I didn't quite nuke it. But I achieved the whole damn thing, all 33,000 work emails. I then marked my entire personal inbox as read, emptied out the junk, trash, flagged and drafts folders and oh did it feel good.
2. Hide the inbox
Not in a defeatist sense, but there's really no need to have the inbox in sight at all times. Instead of it taking up half of one of my two work monitors, I now am in the habit of minimising it after each interaction. Now looking in there is on my terms, not the second I see a new email drop in.
3. Switch on Do Not Disturb
As distracting as my inbox was my iPhone. It was always on my desk, within each reach and sight, screen up and ready to distract me with texts, calls, WhatsApp group messages, emails and everything else I don't need at work. Now I have Do Not Disturb switched on all day and only check when I have a free minute. As with the inbox, notifications are now on my terms. I probably still check my phone way too often, but it's only when I have mentally disengaged from my work - and it's me doing the disengaging, not the phone. From day one I felt this small change made a huge difference to my concentration levels.
So yeah, 'lifestyle'. Not sunglasses, MacBooks and lattes (yet), but a bit of desperately needed self-help.