1921 Snapshot: Trade Unions and Societies at the GFTU

Today is the second and final day of the 2021 BGCM of the General Federation of Trade Unions. Current circumstances mean that it is of course online, but there is still plenty of important business up for discussion. I was particularly happy to see unanimous support for the Social Workers’ Union and the Association of Educational Psychologists’ motion to give children in England the same legal right of protection against physical punishment at home as children in Scotland and Wales. That is a fantastic step forward. Also, it is wonderful to see the indomitable Sarah Woolley being voted in as vice-President of the GFTU. When I first began this PhD, Sarah was particularly warm and inviting, and I’ve watched her make such a real difference for young trade unionists and for her own members over the past four years. I’m very excited to see what her plans are!

In honour of the 2021 BGCM, I have compiled a list of the affiliated unions of 1921. These affiliated unions relied on the GFTU as a centralised body that could represent their interests, give advice on union management and conciliation, and provide strike benefit should industrial action be taken. I think lists like these – with membership numbers and locality of their offices – really highlight how the world of work has changed over the last one hundred years. The types of trades that were represented also shows how the GFTU was at this point leaning towards specialist unions for highly-skilled craftspeople.

Name of OrganisationMembershipGeneral Secretary
Amalgamated Society of Anchorsmiths200C. H. Sitch, MP – Cradley Heath
London Jewish Bakers Union110Cllr I. Sharp – Stepney
Barge Builders Trade Union470T. Challis – Greenwich
Basket, Skip and Hamper Makers FederationNewly seceded 
Midland Counties Hosiery Finishers Federation4435G. A. Kenney – Leicester
Amalgamated Block Roller and Stamp Cutters358F. Rennie – Manchester
Boilermakers and Iron and Steel Shipbuilders103945J. Hill – Newcastle-On-Tyne
Rossendale Boot, Shoe and Slipper Operatives90224A. Taylor – Waterfoot
National Glass Bottle MakersNewly merged with the National Glass Workers Trade Protection Association 
National Glass Workers Trade Protection Association4000J. Thompson – Castleford
London United Brass and Metal Founders456J. S. Lucy – Barking
London and Provincial Union of Hand Sewn Boot and Shoe Operatives438J. W. Dickson – London
National Federation of Builders Labourers1330W. T. Mabbot – Nottingham
Mansfield Builders Labourers180W. A. Hopkins – Nottingham
Liverpool Carvers and Gliders30J. C. Mulligan – Liscard
Amalgamated Society of Carriers EmployeesLapsed 
Dundee Calendar Linoleum and Dye Workers3300J. Cunningham – Dundee
Amalgamated Card and Blowing Room Operatives79448W. Thomasson, J.P. – Manchester
Cleckheaton Card Dressers Society85L. Archer – Cleckheaton
Card Setting Machine Tenters Society261J. Midgley – Huddersfield
Associated Chain Makers and Strikers1520T. Sitch – Cradley Heath
National Union of Cigar Makers and Tobacco Workers4177A. Senton – London
Industrial Union of General Cigarette Workers160A. Dembovitz – London
National Union of Commercial and Industrial Employees157P. Rockliff – London
National Union of Vehicle Builders27267J. Nicholson – Manchester
London Society of Compositors15400T. E. Naylor – London
Amalgamated Society of Coopers4300R. W. Mann – Burton-On-Trent
Curriers and Strap Makers Union250A. E. Dowell – Cleckheaton
National Association of Coopers1560G. Harrison – London
Amalgamated Operative Cotton Spinners54886H. Boothman – Manchester
Amalgamated Society of Cricket Ball Makers270H. Belcher – Tonbridge
Ornamental Decorators Society56A. Young – London
Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers’ Union133132B. Tillett, MP – London
Radcliffe Dyers, Bleachers and Sizers569J. Hardman – Radcliffe
National Society of Dyers and Finishers15329A. Shaw – Bradford
Electrical Trades Union59000J. Rowan – Manchester
Engineman Cumberland Iron Ore, Firemen and Electrical Workers’ Association130H. Simpson – Cumberland
Iron Safe Engineers168A. Hill – Birmingham
Enginemen, Motormen and Firemen’s Association536J. T. Griffiths – Chesterfield
Progressive Society of French Polishers188R. H. Wood – Harrow
Amalgamated Furnishing Trades Association30901A. Gossip – London
Glass Bevellers’ Society 362H. J. Collins – Birmingham
Amalgamated Trade Union of Tailors and Garment Workers89730A. Conley – Leeds
Glasgow Gilders’ Society16R. Lockhart – Glasgow
London Society of Glass Blowers811J. Stokes – London
National Flint Glass Makers780J. Husselbee – Brierly Hill
Pressed Glass Makers Society258T. Melville – Gateshead
National Union of Glovers1070W. H. Tavener -Yeovil
Loughborough Hosiery Union1580W. H. Smith – Loughborough
Hinckley Hoisery Menders’ Association1012D. Young – Hinkley
Hemmers, Veiners and General Women Workers1500R. Levin – Lurgan
Amalgamated Leicester Hoisery Union8800Ald. J. Chaplin, JP – Leicester
Ilkeston Hosiery Union7600H. Bassford, Heanor
Denton Silk Hat Trimmers and Stitchers75F. Robson – Manchester
Amalgamated Society of Journeymen Felt Hatters4149Cllr T. Mallalieu, JP – Manchester
Journeyman Hatters Fair Trade Union459J. J. Hall – Ruislip
Amalgamated Felt Hat Trimmers and Wool Formers3665Cllr T. Mallalieu, JP – Manchester
Hosiery Warehouse Association315D. Young – Hinckley
Hollowware, Galvanised Sheet Metal Workers and Braziers’ Association1690Cllr S. Webb, JP – Stourbridge
North of Scotland Horse and Motorman’s Association1700P. Gillespie, JP – Dundee
Hinckley Hosiery Union3060J. Bailey – Hinkley
Hosiery Framework Knitters7361W. Hartshorn – Nottingham
Scientific Instrument MakersAmalgamated to the A. E. U. 
Hand Mill and Horizontal Warpers Association119W. Stewart – Glasgow
Iron, Steel and Metal Dressers’ Trade Society3550C. W. Davidson – Manchester
General Iron Fitters Association1812J. Fraser – Falkirk
National Union of Foundry Workers55761A. Todd – Manchester
Amalgamated Society of Ironmoulders645T. Charles – Llanelly
Furness Iron Miners’ and Quarrymen’s Union1293W. Lewney, JP – Dalton-in-Furness
Association of Ironmoulders of ScotlandFused with the National Union of Foundry Workers 
Iron mould is central Association6910H. Murdoch – Falkirk
Insulator China Furniture and Electric Appliances and Turners’ Association124L. Ravenscroft – Fenton
Dundee and District Union of Jute and Flax Workers15700J. F. Sime – Dundee
National Amalgamated Union of Labour161217J. N. Bell, JP – Newcastle-on-Tyne
Lace Pattern Readers’ Society47E. A. Barnett – Nottingham
Male Lace Workers Auxiliary Society328G. Simpson – Nottingham
Midland Leather Trades’ Federation500G. Power, MBE – Walsall
General Union of Associated Loom Overlookers9446E. Duxbury – Bury
Rochdale Machine Engine and Iron Grinders’ Society728J. Asquith, JP – Rochdale
Mill Sawyer’s and Wood Working Machinists Trade Society170J. G. Haycock- Tottenham
Midland Counties’ Trades’ Federation1428J. Taylor, JP – Dudley
Arboath Mill and Factory Workers1700C. M. Phimister – Arboath
Brechin Mill and Factory Operatives’ Union1150J. C. Hendry, JP – Brechin
Amalgamated Moulders’ Union3500J. Ryan – Manchester
Mule and Ring Spindle Makers Operatives327W. Walsh – Oldham
Tile, Faience and Mosaic Fixers’ Society180D. W. L. Sharp – London
Public Works and Constructional Operatives’ Union6434J. Ward, JP, MP – London
Amalgamated Scottish Aberdeen Painters456G. Sim – Aberdeen
National Society of Operative Painters and Assistants15755Cllr G. A. Isaacs, JP – London
Wallpaper Workers’ Union2500C. Kean, JP – Manchester
Amalgamated Scottish Dundee Painters390J. Kenneth – Dundee
Scottish Federation of Powerloom Tenters800J. Burt – Dunfermline
Tobacco Pipe Makers Society36
National Association of Operative Plasterers’ Labourers120P. Kenney – Leeds
National Society of Pottery Workers44974S. Clowes – Hanley
Scotch Power Loom Carpet Trades4268T. Wilson – Renfrew
National Association of Silk Workers3354J. Hadfield – Macclesfield
Portmanteau, Bag and Fancy Leather Workers Amalgamation1303C. Hyde – London
Amalgamated Union of Block Printers687R. Black – Ayrshire
Cumberland Limestone Quarrymen’s Association620W. Cowen, Whitehaven
North Wales Quarrymen’s Union6990R. T. Jones – Carnarvon
Amalgamated Quarry Workers and Sett Makers8967J. Slevin – Leicester
Liverpool Riggers’ and Mariners’ Trade Society127R. Reid – Liverpool
Screw, Nut, Bolt and Rivet Trade Society654F. Garner – Birmingham
Shipconstructive and Shipwrights’ Association46996Ald. A. Wilkie, CH, JP, MP – Newcastle-on-Tyne
Amalgamated Society of Shuttle Makers591T. Hurley – Blackburn
Surgical and Elastic Bandage Makers130F. Godfrey – Derby
Milford Haven Steam Trawler Engineers’ Union175J. C. Wilkinson – Milford Haven
Operative Spindle and Flyer Makers Society1404C. H. Whitehead – Leeds
Stevedores’ Labour Protection League5564J. B. Ruark – London
National Union of Stove Grate Workers4353Cllr A. Hutchison, JP – Rotherham
Amalgamated Society of Stuff and Woollen Warehousemen3469M. Titterington – Bradford
Leven Textile WorkersW. Robertson – Leven
Scottish National Textile Workers’ Federation3500J. Nairn – Kirkcaldy
United Tank Makers’ Society209A. Meager – London
London Ladies’ Tailors’ Machinists and Pressers970J. L. Fine – London
Dunfermline Textile Workers’ Union2250Miss Frew – Dunfermline
Portadown, Banbridge and District Textile Workers Trade Union2145L. Dell – Portadown
Newmilns and District Textile Workers’ Union3732W. Archibald – Newmilns
National Association of Theatrical Employees11496T. Cannon – London
Tin and Sheet Millmen’s Association2800Ald. I. H. Gwynne, JP – Swansea
Edge Tool Trade Society1027L. E. Thomas – Birmingham
Toolmakers Amalgamated SocietyAmalgamated to A. E. U. 
Tobacco Strippers Mutual AssociationMerged with National Union of Cigar Makers and Tobacco Workers 
Amalgamated Union of Upholsterers7124L. Leckie – London
Athletic Wood Turners and Machinists455J. T. Norris – London
Amalgamated Union of Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen6991H. Gosling, JP – London
Northern Counties Amalgamated Weavers Association224219J. Cross, JP – Accrington
General Union of Textile Workers84910A. Gee, JP – Huddersfield
Ulster Weavers and Winders’ Trade Union500W. O’Neill – Lurgan
Guernsey Workers’ Union381H. J. Field – Guernsey
Wool, Yarn and Warehouse Workers Union3356F. Egan – Bradford
Weavers’ Handloom Association200S. Wheeldon – Macclesfield
United Friendly Society of Wire Weavers43S. Ogden – Manchester
Wool Shear Workers’ Trade Union87R. Reed – Sheffield
Wheelwrights and Coachmakers’ Operatives’ Union4370G. E. Ball – London

James O’Grady 1866 – 1934

Chairman of the General Federation of Trade Unions 1912 – 1918

James O’Grady, MP and trade union leader, was born on the 6th May 1866 in Bristol to Irish immigrant parents. He entered the workforce at the age of ten, with only a few years at a local Catholic school behind him. After working at several different jobs, and almost joining the army, he began an apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker. After marrying Louisa James in 1887, O’Grady travelled up and down the country in search of work whilst maintaining a close connection with his hometown. Once O’Grady became involved with industrial politics, he soon earned a reputation as a sincere and convincing speaker, and he was popular with the Bristol dockers during their 1892 strike. He moved quickly up the local ladder, becoming president of the Bristol Trades Council and then two years later a local Labour councillor. One of his most notable achievements during this time was his foundation of a scholarship programme for promising school children.

O’Grady as GFTU Chairman 1912-1918

In 1898, the TUC held their annual gathering at Bristol, with O’Grady as their President. His solidly socialist speech rocked Colston Hall, and earned him an approving appraisal by Keir Hardie in the Labour Leader. It was the first time that the TUC had platformed such an overtly socialist presidential address. Unfortunately, that TUC meeting saw a fire break out in the middle of the night. Thankfully there were no casualties, but the vote to create the General Federation of Trade Unions was subsequently delayed until the following year. Perhaps an inauspicious start for the GFTU, but it is notable that O’Grady was the TUC president that year. He would be a founding member of the GFTU, and its Chairman from 1912 – 1918. In the meantime, however, O’Grady left Bristol for London to take up a post as a national organiser for the National Amalgamated Furnishing Trades’ Association, before entering parliament in 1906 representing East Leeds. Belonging to both the Fabian Society and the Social Democratic Federation, he was not afraid to take a minority view on certain contentious subjects, and could be relied upon to speak plainly but eruditely. He maintained his trade union connections throughout most of his political career, both within his own union and as part of the management committee of the GFTU.

L to R: Arthur Henderson, G. N. Barnes, Ramsay Macdonald, Phillip Snowden, Will Crooks, Keir Hardie, John Hodge, James O’Grady and David Shackleton. Photo: The Labour Party, 1906.

At the outbreak of war, O’Grady fell in with the left’s patriotic response with particular fervour. He joined the British Workers’ League in 1916, casting off his socialist principles (at least temporarily) in favour of nationalistic imperialism, but left after two years. His war work centred on lively and well-received recruitment campaigns, and he also used his good humour and friendly nature to successfully negotiate for prisoner exchanges. His speeches at the GFTU were peppered with appreciation for the spirit of solidarity, quick humoured quips and the occasional sharp barb. After accepting a position as general secretary of the National Federation of General Workers, O’Grady stepped down from the GFTU’s chairmanship in 1918. He maintained close friendships with several members of the GFTU, but particularly with its general secretary William Appleton, with whom he felt ‘had been very close… and very loyal to him’. He often spoke of playing billiards with his friends, and had a love of boxing.

James O’Grady as Governor of Tasmania

The National Federation of General Workers eventually folded in the face of larger general unions, and ceased to exist in the 1920’s. O’Grady was by this point well and truly ensconced in politics though, and spent a great deal of time dedicated to international concerns towards the end of his career. Having also travelled abroad extensively during his time as a trade unionist, he gained a reputation for cordial diplomacy and warmth. Although his close connections and repeated visit to Russia put him in line for a diplomatic position there, O’Grady was instead made Governor of Tasmania and a KCMG in 1924 under Macdonald’s government. It was a successful posting that he held for six years, although he had to leave his ailing wife behind in England. She died three years after he left, but he did not return to England until 1931. His next post, as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Falkland Islands, was short-lived: his health, which had been problematic for many years, began a terminal decline. In 1933, he came back to England to receive treatment for blood poisoning, and died in a nursing home the following year at the age of 68. He was survived by his children: Norah, Mary, Ellen Louisa, James Gerald, Eileen, Margaret, Terence and Johannah.

For more information, please see the Dictionary of Labour Biography Vol 2.

Pete Curran: First Chairman of the GFTU

Pete Curran, known mostly for his work as an MP and leader of the Gasworkers’ Union, plays a central role in my thesis as the first chairman of the General Federation of Trade Unions. As he significantly shaped the early days of GFTU, I have written a small biography to commemorate the anniversary of his death.

Born in Glasgow on the 28th of March 1860, Peter (formerly Patrick) Francis Curran was the son of Irish Catholic parents, George and Bridget Curran. After a brief education, he began his working life in a steelworks, firstly as an assistant to a hammer-driver, before working his way up through various blacksmithing roles. His interest in political and social problems began early, and he soon became an advocate for the Irish Land League, before becoming a member of the Social Democratic Federation.

Glasgow c. 1860s

His frequent appearances on street corners, particularly on Glasgow Green, quickly earned him a reputation as a fiery orator and outspoken socialist, which began to cause him problems at work. Perhaps because of this, he decided to move to London with his wife Mary, where he began work at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich during the late 1880’s. Of course, he didn’t leave his socialism behind, and he threw himself into the heady turbulence of ‘new unionism’ and helped Will Thorne and Ben Tillett form the National Union of Gasworkers’ and General Labourers’ in 1889.

After being appointed one of the first secretaries of the union, Curran had his first brush with notoriety in 1890. According to the Western Morning News, Curran and two other union men threatened the coal merchant George Treleaven that ‘they would do their best to crush him’ if he did not agree to stop employing blackleg labour. Three unions had been working jointly to co-ordinate a dispute at Plymouth, but ‘Curran had been the chief spokesman’ throughout all the meetings held with Treleaven and the other merchants. Curran’s evidence maintained that there had been considerable efforts to keep the dispute fair and amicable, and that it would have ended peacefully if Treleaven had agreed to only employ union labour. However, the case against Curran and his fellow defendants was strengthened by witness accounts from Treleaven’s fellow merchants, and they were convicted of intimidation under the 1875 Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act. Throughout the trial, Curran’s witness testimony had been punctuated with loud cheers and shouts of encouragement from his many supporters in the gallery, and ‘on leaving the court they were loudly cheered by several hundred persons’ that had stayed to support the three union leaders throughout the hearing.

Source: ‘Plymouth Right To Strike’, tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk

The support for Curran only grew. Led by the Plymouth Trades Council, there was a nationwide campaign to obtain support for an appeal. Nine months later, Curran’s conviction was overturned and a new legal precedent had been set that strictly defined ‘intimidation’ as causing violence to a person or destruction of property. That Treleaven’s Employers’ Association was then liable for all the court costs was the icing on the cake.

After this success, Curran was elected as national organiser for the Gasworkers’ Union, and he became a familiar face at the TUC, often found at the forefront of the younger, ardently socialist group of delegates. Due to his experience in agitation both with rank and file members and on a national scale, Curran built strong friendships with several notable leaders from both the political and the industrial side of the movement. He worked closely with Keir Hardie, Arthur Henderson and Ramsay Macdonald, and was central in the founding of the Independent Labour Party, and later the Labour Representation Committee. Through the forging of these connections, he was elected as the first chairman of the General Federation of Trade Unions, created at the 1899 TUC. As GFTU chairman he was known for his cordiality and focus on amicable dialogues between union leaders and employers. He tirelessly criss-crossed the country, investigating disputes and providing reports on working conditions for the GFTU quarterly publication.

He had also joined the Fabians, but left when they decided to take what he believed was a passive and non-socialist stance on imperialism and the Boer War. According to Henry Hyndman, at the International Socialist Congress in Paris in 1900, Curran gave an anti-war speech that was full of ‘such terrific energy and fire that he roused the enthusiasm of every delegate present’. Curran clearly had a strong aversion to war based on his socialist principles and belief in international solidarity. He steered the GFTU to act as representatives of British trade unionism on the international scene, inviting delegates from as far afield as Australia to take part in their annual meetings. He also encouraged many trade union leaders from Europe, America and Australia to contribute articles for the GFTU reports, so that British workers could feel better connected to workers from across the world.

Portrait of Pete Curran, London Illustrated News, 13th July 1907

Unfortunately for Curran, his political career was a little lacklustre. His first campaigns in the 1890’s resulted in resounding defeats; various rumours about his religion and accusations that he had deserted his wife during his 1897 campaign for Barnsley was a particularly painful episode. It is not clear if there is any truth to the claims of the desertion, but Curran did marry his second wife, the trade unionist Marian Barry, around this time. He turned his political attention on Jarrow, and finally won the seat in 1907. By this point he was also busy creating the Joint Board, a shared committee for the GFTU, the TUC and the Labour Party to work together as one voice of the labour movement. That he could link together these different organisations and inspire the differing elements of the movement to work together was testimony to his genial nature and general likeability. He liked to play billiards, and was often spoken of as a man that was in equal measures a work horse and a bit of a joker. This conjures up an image of a man that could give a rousing and inspiring speech during a long committee meeting, but be equally entertaining during the evening festivities of an annual gathering.

Sadly, the root of his jovial nature was perhaps something of a hidden struggle. In February 1909, he had to appear in court on the charge of being drunk and incapable in the street, where he was fined 10 shillings. This embarrassing episode may have led to his election loss the following year, but it was certainly linked to his death due to cirrhosis of the liver on the 14th February 1910. According to The Times, thousands of mourners attended his funeral, and the Stepney gasworkers’ brass band led the procession. Ben Tillett, his life long friend and fellow GFTU committee member, wrote a heartfelt obituary in Justice:

“To do the ephemeral, mundane work of adjusting wages and working conditions is, after all, a glorious drudgery. I am afraid the persons before the limelights imagine they are ” the people,” but the best work is done in detail; the teaching and teachers of Socialism have a splendid field of work; the patience that can endure must be made to understand as well. Pete Curran did his work in building up the present movement. As a trade unionist he helped to teach economic facts to the toilers, and was at his best when the Socialist movement needed champions, probably more than now. …For nine years chairman of the Federation of Trades [GFTU]; masterful, adroit, a mixture of the most exquisite blarney and the imperative…. In the Vahalla of warriors, Pete will find comrades. The movement has many things to thank him for… He has organised and initiated and helped to control the most important and recent of working-class movements. In his Irish heart he was a revolutionary and rebel; as all true Celts are… I wish the voice now hushed could still be heard to hurtle intense words of raillery, attack and appeal. I knew him first as a fighter. I weep over his grave as a fighting comrade. I shall remember him and the associations of the strenuous times; they are glorious memories; by them I will judge him and love him till the great Call. His best work will live till the revolution comes.”

Pete Curran’s funeral, London Illustrated News, 26th February 1910

The GFTU set up a Pete Curran Memorial Fund that sought contributions from across the world for his wife Marian and their four children. So many contributions came flooding in that they were able to raise over £700 (around £60,000 in today’s money), for his family. The GFTU placed £200 of the total sum into a separate fund for the children to access when they became of age for an apprenticeship or equivalent, and arranged for the rest to be given in annual installments to maintain the family until the youngest reached 16. That the members of the GFTU management committee took such time to care for his family, speaks to the feelings of genuine friendship and love that developed between these men that worked closely together. Trade unions often speak of members as brothers and sisters; here is an example of that familial connection that ran so very deeply.

Curran was many things to many people in the labour movement – he was a politician, an agitator, a socialist, an organiser; but I think that it was his role as chairman of the GFTU that saw his personality shine through the most. One of the arguments of my thesis is that it was his exuberance and general belief in building solidarity that was crucial in installing the new Federation as a significant force for early twentieth century trade unionists, and without him all the connections that they made would have been significantly weaker.

I’ll be blogging more about Curran, and his dealings with other GFTU members, over the coming year as my thesis takes shape. I’m always open to chat about the GFTU’s early history, so if you have any questions feel free to drop me a line!

Finding Time

I find it easier to write when I can have long, uninterrupted blocks of time to get a good run going. That’s probably the case for most people, but the lockdown conditions have made finding those long blocks almost impossible for me.

Once upon a time in Lockdown 1.0, my partner was furloughed whilst our children were home. It wasn’t easy, but we settled into a rhythm with him taking the lead with home school and me squirreled away at my laptop upstairs. The disruptions and the noise were distracting, but the sunny afternoons in the garden made it all easier to navigate. The dread of what was happening in the world crept in occasionally, but for the most part I could keep the thesis ticking over whilst my family and I were safe at home.

Now, enter lockdown 3.0. All of the dread, none of the sunshine or furloughed partner. We have devised ways to share homeschooling duties around his shift pattern, so it’s not me all of the time, but it’s certainly a lot harder this time around. The to-do list has been piling up, deadlines have already been missed, and my thesis still needs a large amount of writing before it’s submission-ready in September.

So, long blocks of time are simply unattainable at the moment, but not writing is not an option. I’ve been trying to get used to writing in short bursts, with varying degrees of success. Naturally, it’s much harder when I’m confronted with sections of writing that I was putting off. Especially as nothing feels like it will get easier any time soon.

To tackle this, I’ve started using an adapted pomodoro method. Instead of having several 20-minute blocks in order to battle through Writer’s Block, I’m just taking the 20 minutes whenever I can find them, and then leaving myself a word or two to pick up from the next time I have 20 minutes. The hardest part is feeling like these odd 20 minutes here and there are not adding up to anything.

I’m a sporadic bullet journal writer. Sometimes I’m super organised, with scheduled meetings and appointments all in order. Other times, I’m lurching from one forgotten task to the next as my journal lays hidden under a pile of papers. There’s been a lot more of the latter than the former during lockdown. In order to feel like I’m making progress, any progress at all, I felt like I had to see it. So I made a progress page:

Each time I set my timer for 20 minutes and write, I note down how many words I manage to get down paper. They don’t have to be perfect; they can be footnotes, broken sentences or half-baked conclusions. But they are words, and they count. It doesn’t matter which section I’m writing (I have another bullet journal section for that), just that I’m writing something. In between home school, emails, reading, house work, family time, shopping, life admin etc, if I can snatch 20 minutes then it’s going on this page. Now, in the past three days, look what I achieved:

Not War and Peace, but progress! Ending the working week by being able to see how the mini blocks of time that I found have added up is hugely motivating! I’m now halfway through a chapter draft that I want to finish before February, and despite all the never-ending things on my to-do list, the constant interruptions, the anxiety of the pandemic and the general PhD angst, I actually feel like I will make that deadline after all.