Principle Accountant Bolton at Home
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Balance and baking: Mak’s work-life attack

Great British Bake Off 2020 star and management accountant Makbul Patel explores how to manage your work-life balance from the comfort of your kitchen.

18th Jan 2021
Principle Accountant Bolton at Home
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GBBO Makbul Patel

Yes, our collective eyes rolled as we limped from one unwelcome lockdown to another. 2020 drew to a close but the state of our Covid-wreaked world stayed the same. Fatalities continue and misery is heaped upon our lives from many angles - the claustrophobia of lonely Christmasses, dark winter nights, and no end in sight to this crisis. 

Unprecedented, challenging, the ‘new normal’ are (just a few) words we have become sick of, so I will not use them again. I promise.

Regardless of what I did in 2020 and the adventure I had with the Great British Bake Off, I am still firmly grounded in real life. There was no ticker-tape parade for my Round 2 exit and one thing remains certain: I will not be giving up the day job any time soon.

So, how do I cope with reality while the world is closing in?

Something that has kept me sane during the pandemic is using my time in the kitchen to better utilise my time at home and create some enjoyment, or balance if you will.

One thing is abundantly clear, our lives are worth more than the daily grind. I am no therapist but needless to say I have a perspective I can share.

Working in finance can become monotonous. Spikes of excitement are often very spaced apart. For me, working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. I miss the office and my friends at work. I need to be kept occupied, and that is where my kitchen has saved my life.

It might not be big, but my kitchen is my kingdom. The possibilities and potential are endless. Maybe it was this enthusiasm that got me onto the Bake Off - that or my sorry droopy face (though I must admit my Kouign-Amanns were rather tasty in the auditions).

My kitchen experience is immersive. Nothing I do in it is other worldly or terribly difficult. It absorbs me, and allows my non-accounting brain to switch on (mind you, there are times when I wonder if I have an accounting brain at all).

A quick swipe on my Instagram would tell anyone that my bakes are all very simple; nothing is too fancy and everything is achievable for the average baker. To me, the experience of baking and understanding the processes is just as important. I am not a perfect baker, nor can I make fantastic looking biscuit tea-sets (easy with the jokes), but baking takes me away from everything else. It takes me away from the glare of the screen - and we have many screens to be taken away from.

So, how does all this fit into accountancy?

Well, the words I impart are only my unique insight into my life and how baking works for me. Baking might not be your thing - who knows? What I do know is that baking, simple baking, is for everyone. If you haven’t already, then I suggest you try this: make a simple cake. The simplest of cakes - it’s not rocket science, as we tend to say in our trade.

  1. Start with four eggs. Weigh them. Crack them into a bowl.
  2. Add the same weight of self-raising flour, soft butter (or margarine works equally well) and sugar. Mix it all up, thoroughly.
  3. Bake it in a medium sized lined and greased cake tin - 160 degrees, 45-50 minutes, in a preheated oven. The cake should be golden brown and a skewer (or knife) should come out clean when inserted in the middle.

In a few sentences I have described an easy-to-remember recipe for a Victoria sponge. Let it cool, fill it with jam, have it with cream. You could push the boat out and have it with custard - spoil yourself!

If you divide your day up, allowing time for work, time with your family and time for yourself, it will become easier to get us through this long tunnel where the light is always being taken further back. But we’ll get there.

Wishing you happy month-ends, stress free year-ends and no adverse variances in your work. My accountancy brain is showing signs of life!

Let us know in the comments whatever it is that helps you to manage your work-life balance.

Replies (1)

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By Michael C Feltham
22nd Jan 2021 11:01

Work Life Balance? In the kitchen?
Cooking the books, perhaps?

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