Sam Radford

May 19, 2024

Writing struggles, work-life balance, top TV shows, and favourite books

It’s been a while! I always aim to blog at least once a month, but several months have now slipped by. The longer it goes, the harder it is to get going again.

“I’ve got nothing to write about,” I convince myself.

There’s one top tip that’s never failed me though. I just have to remind myself to do it.

The tip? Start writing.

Literally, start writing. Anything. Gibberish, even. But begin putting some words – any words – onto the page.  The first step opens the door to momentum. Writing begets writing. The act of writing something – anything – cultivates the environment where better thoughts and ideas start to flow. Without that first step, nothing happens.

I can’t promise this will work for you, but I recommend giving it a go if you’re struggling to write.


Away from not writing, I’ve been giving plenty of thought to my working life.

I want to do good, meaningful work. I want to be stretched. I want to work hard. I want something that motivates me to give my all.

But I don’t want work to be my life. Forty hours is more than enough. I want my evenings and weekends.

And this year I’ve tried to be better at walking away from work. I’ve been deliberate about switching off and enjoying my life away from work.

I’ve made a deliberate effort to take a proper lunch break every day too. Life’s too short to spend 8 – 9 hours straight, slumped in front of a screen.

All told, being more disciplined about when I finish work, and having proper breaks in the day, have led me to feel more fruitful with the work I’m doing. (Note deliberate use of ‘fruitful’ rather than ‘productive’; we’re humans, not machines.)

One enduring challenge remains too many meetings. Sadly, that’s not something I have full control over. Though I have been experimenting with Cal Newport’s tip from his book Slow Productivity. He suggests, for every meeting that gets added to your calendar, block out the equivalent amount of time as unavailable for meetings. That way, you never spend more than half a day in meetings. It’s not always possible, but it’s been helping me so far.

Give it a go if you’re in a similar situation.


If you’re in need of something a bit different to the same old, same old you’ve been watching on Netflix, I can recommend Shōgun on Disney+.

It is the best thing I’ve seen this year. Set in early 17th century Japan, the story is based on James Clavell’s novel. It follows John Blackthorne, an English navigator whose ship is wrecked on the coast of Japan. He becomes entangled in the treacherous political landscape of feudal Japan. It’s culturally and socially fascinating. I was gripped from start to finish.

Another show I’m enjoying is A Gentleman in Moscow, on Paramount+. This is based on Amor Towles’ book of the same name. I was somewhat hesitant about whether to watch this as I loved the book. It is, by far, my favourite novel from the last five years. I needn't have worried, though; the TV series is proving equally magnificent.

The series follows the story of Count Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat who is confined to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in the early 1920s. Crossing multiple decades and an ever-changing political landscape in Russia, Rostov forms unexpected relationships with both hotel staff and guests. It is rich, full of depth, and delves into themes of love, friendship, loyalty, duty, as well as finding meaning in the day-to-day.


I’ll finish this post with mentions of a couple of my favourite books I’ve read (or listened to) so far this year. Top of the list is Rory Stewart’s Politics on the Edge. Unlike many political memoirs, he actually has something to say, and something worth saying. He has done important work that warrants writing about. He's also brutally honest about some of his political colleagues. He highlights many of the ridiculous systems and processes that make politics a no-go zone for good people who genuinely want to make positive changes. He's a Tory, and that will be enough for many to ignore this, but it's a great read. Well, in my case, it's a great listen.

My favourite novel of the year has been Stig Abell’s Death Under a Little Sky. It follows the story of Jake Jackson, a high-flying ex-city detective. He inherits a rural retreat from his reclusive uncle and seizes the opportunity to start anew. But the detective cannot escape his past. And when a woman's bones are discovered at a village treasure hunt, he's back to being a detective, trying to identify a dangerous killer in the seemingly tranquil village setting. It's immersive, atmospheric crime fiction at its best. 


Have some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you – do hit reply or drop me a note. Want to get these posts in your inbox? Sign-up.

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About Sam Radford

Husband, father, lover of books, writer, tech geek, sports fan, and pragmatic idealist from Sheffield, England.