Weeknotes #1

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a regular weeknote for quite a while. They’re somewhere between a status update and a regular blog, purposefully inward-looking and more for the writer than the reader:

I feel like there’s so much going on all the time — life seems completely full up once I’ve added work, family, school governing and cycling together — and have long thought that a bit of writing and reflection would be great to get my head in order. I’ve tried keeping a digital version of the Five Minute Journal and it was quite useful for a time but I found myself accidentally missing an update and then struggling to pick up the habit again. If I was working on something until midnight I didn’t want to get into bed and then do even more writing.

I’m a believer in ‘working out loud’ and have tried over the years to practice what I preach by setting up internal blogs in my various roles but they have never caught on. I’ll keep trying. Some of the blogs I read today reminded me that there are connections to be made and just by putting yourself out there you are likely to make them:

There are some good guidelines and rules out there about how to do them effectively. The key one that resonates with me is how to talk about work in public without actually talking about work in public:

My biggest worry is committing to getting them done. Blog posts can take me hours, so perhaps it will be a useful exercise in brevity, editing quickly and developing a habit. Inspired by many, many others, and particularly Matt Ballantine and Dave Floyd whom I’ve been talking with this week on the WB40 podcast WhatsApp channel, here goes.


Work

I’m now over six months into my first contract and can’t believe how much time has flown by since I started. The programme I am running delivered on its commitments in 2017 and this year the challenge is to step up, continuing to get our first project delivered whilst launching a number of others to run alongside it. It’s difficult as we have a small team, most of whom have operational roles as well as being assigned to the project, and we rely on teams across multiple departments in the wider firm to get things done. We have a good people, we’ve been making it work and it’s great to be in a place where there is mutual support and challenge between everyone.

We’re dealing with a number of technical issues at the moment which are slowing down our delivery as we investigate and fix them but I am hoping we can make significant progress over the next couple of days. Cloud software is a complex beast. Although things are meant to be much simpler once you move things to the cloud and don’t have your own servers, there are still many, many things that can go wrong between a user’s PC and the data centre. There is no substitute to working through problems in a structured way, changing one thing at a time and observing the impact. I’m often trying to make sure that we use appropriate language where we have a number of correlated factors and don’t leap to a conclusion that one thing is causing another unless we can prove it.

I need to try and spend a good chunk of my time next week gathering strands together so that we can kick off the additional streams. I’m going to have to utilise a work modelling tool to plan out the big items and their dependencies; as much as I don’t want to I’ll probably resort to Project as the work is more complex and has more interdependencies than a bulleted list. I don’t have time to research and learn a roadmapping tool in short order (despite that being what I think would be best). We need to make sure we’re working off of a central list of things to do — we’re not bad at the moment but we still have more places where work exists than I would like. I can’t see us moving to a shared Kanban board anytime soon but it may happen over time.

School governing

We had our half-termly committee meetings on Monday and ended up going for nearly four hours again when we had been determined to finish them in three. I had a lovely note from one of our new governors afterwards with some tips on how to improve the meetings and I’ll take it on board; we’ll keep striving to do better and be more effective.

Our Governing Board is really strong now after all the recruitment we have done in the past couple of years. We’re in a good position for succession when some of our current governors leave us at the end of this year.

I love being a school governor but being Chair is very hard while having a full-time job. You can never shake the feeling that there is more you can be doing and that you’re not giving enough. I guess as long as I feel like that and continue to make a conscious effort to get on top and even ahead of things as much as I can I can’t be doing too badly.

The school’s in a very good place but we need to make sure we can demonstrate it when Ofsted come calling. We started a few streams of prep work last year so that we can be ready quickly when the call comes and we’re continuing to push the Board to challenge the school in all of the right ways.

Home

I got back on my road bike over Christmas although only on the turbo trainer as it was too icy and/or grim to go out. The turbo is pretty boring without a tool and I have a very on/off relationship with TrainerRoad, pausing and re-enabling my subscription as my commitment to getting on the bike fluctuates. I went for a proper ride a couple of weekends ago and despite misjudging the sunset so that it went dark while I was still an hour away I loved it and must get out more. When I think of exercise, episode 3 of the Hello Internet podcast always sticks in my head where they referred to each person having 100w to spread between four 100w lightbulbs representing family, friends, health and work. I know that I have to make the health one shine a bit brighter as it will help in all other aspects of my life and hopefully extend its duration a bit too.

In the same vein, when I go into the office I have again started walking between Euston and the office near Cheapside which takes about 40 minutes. A journey by tube takes 25–30 minutes so it’s a good way of getting 40 minutes of exercise at a cost of only 15 minutes out of my day. I’ve been trying to find the right pace between getting a little workout and going into a sweaty meltdown when I get to my desk and think I may have cracked it.

Family life is great. My eldest boy is currently in first position in the Chiltern Cross-Country League with one race to go and we’re very proud of him. He seems to have an intrinsic motivation for running and we never have to persuade him to go training. It’s great that the boys are older now and we can do more things together that we all enjoy. As well as making progress through season two of Star Trek TNG together we’ve been playing a few board games recently, our favourites of which are Beat the Parents and Fluxx.

I’ve always been an avid reader but I recently worked out that if I get through all my unread books at the rate I have been going over the past couple of years I will be over 70 by the time I’m done. Which is fine, just as long as they stop publishing new ones and I end up living that long. I’m halfway through Radical Technologies and enjoying it immensely — it’s a great primer on the key and emerging technologies of today and the impacts they could have on us. I’ve put Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia to one side for a bit as it is so dense and I’ve found the few minutes I’ve been able to snatch for reading aren’t enough to finish a whole chapter. I have a backlog of articles, newsletters and PDFswhich I am struggling to find a way to effectively weave into my reading. If anyone has any tips, please let me know!

Podcast-wise I’ve been keeping up with episodes of WB40, The Autosport Podcast, Troy Hunt’s weekly updates, Political Thinking with Nick Robinson, Remainiacs and Banking Weekly. All of them are excellent. I’ve also discovered a good Office 365 podcast. I subscribe to 154 podcasts, a ridiculous amount by any stretch, and tend to work my way through them in rotation. Honestly, I do prune the list and get rid of things I’m not interested in or don’t enjoy, and this is what’s left. I have a filter problem, I know.

Phew

I’ll wrap it up there. Future versions of this are going to have to take a lot less time to read and write. I suspect part of doing this well will be collecting things and jotting notes throughout the week. Let’s see if it sticks.

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