Giles Watkins, author and legacy pledger, on Bristol’s ‘magnetic force’

Giles Watkins (BSc 1986) spent some of his formative years at Bristol writing for the University paper Bacus and has since gone on to write a sell-out book on sleep Positive Sleep: A holistic approach to resolve sleep issues and transform your life, via a career that spanned sales, marketing, oil trading, learning development and general management. Giles credits Bristol with giving him a wide breadth of experience and the confidence to pursue his passions. After working overseas in many different countries, Giles can now be found living back in Clifton where he started out as a student many years ago.

He was popular in his first year in Clifton Hill House halls of residence, due to the frequency with which he would return from visiting an elderly relative in Redland replete with cake and a bottle of rum – not quite what his parents had in mind when they told him to pay a visit!

Although Giles grew up near the New Forest, his father traced their family history and discovered that many previous generations of Watkins came and lived in Bristol. Giles feels there is some kind of ‘magnetic force’ which has brought him back here. Many family members worked for the GWR, including his paternal great grandparents, who retired to a flat in Parry’s Lane, Clifton in 1937. Unfortunately, when on holiday in 1940 their flat was badly damaged in an air raid and they relocated to Wales.

As an Economics graduate Giles had his pick of career choices, with recruiters very keen to have a Bristol grad on their books, describing them as very well rounded as well as a high academic achievers. So how has he made the transition through various industries to become an author and coach-consultant?

‘I had worked for almost three decades for major organisations, and in 2015 I decided to leave that large corporate world. I was interested in making the change to coaching small to medium businesses instead. I studied for a Master’s in Change Management with INSEAD at their Singapore campus. While studying, I reflected on my decade of sleep issues, and decided to write my thesis on how I would like to change this. Following my thesis publication, I began to get invitations to speak and run workshops about sleep, and eventually this snowballed into being asked to write my book Positive Sleep. Although primarily aimed at business leaders – if you’re not sleeping well you can’t lead well – I do believe the advice is helpful for anyone who may be struggling. A lack of sleep can damage your business and your relationships because you don’t have the energy to engage with your people properly, you lack the clarity to make better decisions, and you never have time to switch off.’

‘Nowadays I split my time between working as a consultant and running sleep workshops for organisations. Often the workshops are part of a wider programme of wellbeing, with sleep as a foundational part of that. In my view the four key pillars of wellness are sleep, diet, exercise and mental health. But I believe sleep to be the key – if you get your sleep in a good rhythm and in a way that you are comfortable with, then you have a better opportunity to manage your diet and exercise. For example, there’s no point trying to exercise if you’re exhausted from poor sleep.’

Giles also explained why he has pledged a gift to Bristol in his Will.

‘I think it’s about reflecting on what you want your legacy as an individual to be. I see the University of Bristol as an academic organisation that I have experience with, that I trust, and that I believe will be around for many years to come. I’d like my legacy to contribute to an institution that’s done a huge amount of good for me and will continue doing so for others.’

‘Bristol really was a life-changing experience for me. Some of my closest, enduring friendships stem from my time at university. I learned so much, had so many opportunities. Leaving a gift in my Will for future generations at Bristol is in part my way of saying thank you, of giving back.’

‘I’ve also sadly had a number of people close to me die at a young age, and people passing away has made me think about getting things in order, about making sure that my wishes will be met.’

‘As a legacy pledger I get invited to all manner of interesting events at the University, and I get to make some great connections. There’s a real community feel to it all that makes me feel I’m still a part of the University of Bristol.’

If, like Giles, you would like to support Bristol by leaving a gift in your Will, you can contact the Planned Giving Team. Legacy gifts over the years have enabled a variety of wonderful things including scholarships, PhDs, and research. You can ensure that Bristol’s excellence lives on by making a gift in your Will today.

Details on how to leave a gift in your Will are available online.

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