The start of a new school year and never-decreasing pressures at work are making me feel that my weeknotes are becoming a bit of a bind. I know I need to find a better style but I don’t think I would get the reflective value out of them if they were as super-brief as others that I read. I’ll keep trying.
Just like last year, having already had a few days off in August I didn’t feel as though I needed to take yet another day of leisure for the Bank Holiday so ended up working at home. Being a contractor means that I have more freedom to pick and choose when I work, and being able to invoice for it is a motivator. My main concern was the impending programme Steering Committee meeting on Wednesday which still needed lots of prep. As the Programme Manager, it’s one of the most important meetings that I run; I am organising the work and running the programme on behalf of the programme sponsors and their colleagues and this is a key point of focus where we get together. It is seldom straightforward to go through the process of assembling materials for the meeting that are as brief as possible, whilst still giving plenty of information on where we are and the challenges ahead so that they committee can do their job of steering effectively. The end result always looks small compared to the effort that went in. Monday was spent pulling all of the raw material together and getting the flow of the key messages in place; a call with my client that evening and a very long day on Tuesday were needed to get it over the line. The main focus of the meeting was to walk through and get feedback on our vision for our new IT architecture as well as to soften the ground on a complex internal budgeting discussion for next year1. We used a single diagram as a jumping-off point into the vision and it worked well, despite having some attendees following along on a teleconference. The work to prepare was well worth it.
For this meeting I put together a slide showing all of the decisions that the Steering Committee had made since its inception. Our meetings take place roughly every six weeks and it was interesting to see that we had three key ‘clusters’ of decisions a few months apart. This is really reflective of the programme where we have key points where we need to turn left or right and other times where we are just getting on with the work.
I was exhausted on Wednesday afternoon as the late nights caught up with me. Thursday was filled with lots of bitty meetings and Friday was similar. We held a short ‘go/no-go’ meeting for our plan to roll out software to our final city on our worldwide journey and it was brilliant to get the go-ahead. It felt a little emotional to now be at the final milestone of this part of the programme that we started a year ago. Although most of the team have turned their attention to the next, larger piece of work, we need to keep focused in September to make this a success.
I think I need to change tack with my daily routine. Somehow I need the really important stuff to be front and centre of what I do every day and make sure that I’m pushing the work along that will make a difference. Lots of great stuff gets done every day, but I with the days feeling ever-shorter as I get older I need to ensure that my focus is laser-sharp on doing the things that matter. Late on Friday afternoon an old tweet from JP Rangaswami popped into my head:
Every morning on the way in, I make a simple Must Do Today list, exactly five items. Sometimes keeping to 5 is hard, but I never allow more.
— JP Rangaswami (@jobsworth) September 9, 2010
…and eight years on, there’s no harm in trying it.
I had some valuable feedback this week on how I present myself to the team that I work with. After nearly two decades as an employee and just over a year of being a contractor, I am very conscious of being happy to be out of the loop of appraisals, bonuses and the politics of internal job reshuffles and changes. However, I need to keep my joy to myself and be sensitive to what they are going through as full-time employees. A good team is built through shared experiences and challenges so I should check myself before emphasising our differences.
The weekend came and went very quickly. My youngest boy started a new year of football training late on Saturday morning which now coincides perfectly with my wife and my eldest boy coming back from running training a little further afield. Something tells me that a regular family Saturday cafe lunch will be a feature for us this year.
On Saturday afternoon I drove over to Deco Audio in Aylesbury to get advice on buying a turntable and ended up coming home with a Rega Planar 2. I’m already in love with it — it sounds beautiful — and am looking forward to getting into a new hobby of collecting and listening to vinyl.
I had a catch-up with a fellow school governor on Sunday morning as I hope to be handing the Chair role over to them this term. I’ve been Chair for three years now and although I love it, it is very difficult to do with a full-time job. I’m very grateful to have someone willing to pick up the reins and will be very pleased to support them.
On Sunday afternoon the boys and I took our bikes along the canal path and found ourselves chugging along in gorgeous late autumn sunshine towards Hemel Hempstead. I went out grudgingly, as I felt that I had far too much to get done that day, and had an impending sense of doom that there was barely any time left for everything I needed to do. I soon felt awful for making my feelings known. Within a few minutes of being out on the bikes I was loving being out with the kids, feeling ashamed for being a grump and wishing that I was a better, less selfish person — or at least better at taking a step back, realising what’s really important and keeping my ‘to do list anxiety’ to myself where my children are involved. Nobody said it — and maybe I read into things — but as we rode along it did feel a little bit like a marker of the end of the summer holidays just before the boys start their new school year and our eldest goes to secondary school. They don’t seem fazed, and I think my wife and I are more nervous for them than they are for themselves. I hope they both settle in really well.
Next week: A focused, short to-do list every day. A big focus on budgets. A short presentation to parents who are new to our school on what being a governor is all about. And a farewell to one of our team members.