What have you improved during lockdown?

When lockdown first started I, like many I am sure, thought it was only for a short while. So, the first idea was to sit it out and enjoy the rest! To be fair, having passed the theoretical retirement age, I also felt that I had deserved a few weeks of sitting on the balcony soaking up the sun.

But as time went on boredom started to set in and I looked for ways to fill my time. Being in a different country to my relatives I soon became familiar with video calls on Messenger, Facetime, Skype and Zoom.

I also used this opportunity to tidy up my IT systems. My number of contacts was drastically reduced by deleting some that no longer even noticed my posts or hiding those that irritated me by constant re-posting of other people’s posts rather than having anything to say themselves.

This activity had two major effects. Firstly, I didn’t spend nearly as much of my life wading through lots of irrelevancies to find the couple of interesting posts. Secondly, I realised that I didn’t suffer from not knowing what people did every minute of the day!

But now there was the question of what to do with my more efficient IT platform and the time on my hands as lockdown continued.

My video linking skills soon expanded to include business tasks. I became a mentor to a business on the other side of the world, even if the time difference means it is morning for one of us and evening for the other.

I was able to give an interactive talk to a whole class in the UK and was able to deliver a business course to businesspeople over six and a half thousand miles away and business consultancy to another business an equal distance away.

These various interactions across the world have meant that I have needed to develop skills in all the messaging services mentioned at the start. My latest venture will come next week when I use Zoom to be a judge on a university entrepreneurship competition on another continent. This will involve listening to two hours of pitches and then judging panel decision making.

I have still found that the parts of my work that don’t require me to travel are still available and I am still writing projects for consultancies in their tender bids. But I have also used those writing skills to occupy myself with something I had always enjoyed, for my own sake, before I started out on the serious business of earning a living.

I have just finished writing my first children’s book and, although I am not a Duchess (!) I am quite pleased with the result. Much of my pleasure comes from the fact that I have been able to apply my own advice for businesses to my own new venture.

The first thing I did was to take advice from an experienced writer near where I live. Then I decided to write about animals that would appeal to children. It also had to become personal to me and hence the basis of the plot comes from life experiences.

The next thing to do was to research as much as I could, and to make sure that the animals in the story were native to the location, that names of the animals were names from that location and that all the elements of the story were factually correct.

To ensure that the book could appeal to as many people as possible, I also ensured that the book would act as one that children could learn from and that there were environmental elements in the book.

Market research continued as the chapters unfolded and I was able to read parts to a group of local children. These children were instrumental in vastly improving the language of the book from a consultant to a children’s writer.

Now it was time to return to my adviser having recognised that my illustrating skills were zero. She helped me to find the perfect illustrator and the drawings far exceeded my expectations.

Now it is time to seek further help to deal with copyright and ISBN numbers before seeking a publisher or deciding to publish myself.

As with the businesses that I advise, I have no idea if the book will sell, but early research has uncovered a niche market of grandparents who want it for their grandchildren. Whether it sells or doesn’t, the experience of learning the new skill has been invigorating.

It has also speeded me through the pandemic and book two is already in the process of being written.

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