The weeks have turned into a month. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a quarter of a year since I went into the office. Life is so different now. The country seems to have moved into a weird phase where nobody seems to quite know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. I’m still keeping myself at home as much as I can — I have taken the car out for two short drives in three months, and haven’t been inside a single shop in that time — but my wife has gone back to work at her school and our youngest boy just finished his first week back. TV, newspapers and social media are filled with images of people in groups, whether out socialising or at the many Black Lives Matter protests, which seems to normalise being together again. The whole ridiculous Dominic Cummings affair seemed to be the turning point. I am guessing that a combination of the government messaging falling apart in order to save him, plus the length of time that people have been told to stay at home, has meant that the pressure in the system is now being let out. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that there’s still a pandemic out there, with infections and deaths still occurring. I’ve bought some face masks in order to give me some protection when I do go out, and also to do my bit in trying to normalise wearing them. I hope we don’t see a resurgence of coronavirus cases in a couple of weeks’ time, but I get the feeling that people are resigned to it.
Work has been very intense over the past month. The adjustment to everyone working from home meant that our technology rollouts in São Paulo and Beijing have been delayed and are now taking place in parallel, with us driving the work remotely instead of being there in person. Added to that we have picked up more urgent projects to complete. I spend so much of my week in meetings that I find myself ‘defensive-diarying’ each Monday morning, blocking out any free time in the coming week so people think twice before adding more meetings in. I think it’s always been like this, but I used to give myself focus time by staying late in the office until seven, eight or sometimes even ten o’clock in order to get stuff done. We all get together as a family for dinner at six-thirty now, so that time has gone. I love being able to eat with the family every day, but I do struggle to carve out that time for ‘deep work’.
I spent a good couple of weeks getting our portfolio of work in order. We have around 140 ‘projects’, of which we are executing around 25 or so — which is probably too many. The more I use LeanKit the more I love it; the tool seems to let me do 90% of the things I need to in terms of ‘seeing’ and working with our entire portfolio. We now have our day-to-day tasks on one board, the portfolio on another, risks in a matrix in a different board and one more to manage a pipeline of internal talks that we hold each Wednesday. Having got things in order, I’ve been turning my attention back to executing on the things we need to deliver. We have some very hard deadlines coming up, and it’s going to be tough to meet them with everything being implemented in time.
This past week we had a department meeting where our whole team were given the opportunity to reflect on the best and worst things of the past three months. It was interesting to hear everybody talk about things they don’t normally get the opportunity to say. Despite being short of time, which I expect I will continue to feel until my time on this planet is up, I feel extremely lucky in so many ways. We’re all well. We have a wonderful house and we each have space to work and focus away from the rest of the family, and can come together when we want to. I have a job that, for now at least, is not at immediate risk of going away. I can do my job completely from home. I don’t feel as though we don’t deserve to be happy right now, but I also appreciate that there is a lot of luck and circumstance involved in where we find ourselves. We have friends who have been furloughed, others who are going through a redundancy process and one old friend who has been given a horrible medical diagnosis. We really can’t take anything for granted.
I need to get back into the habit of writing these weeknotes, and blog posts, more regularly. I love getting things down but somehow I usually find myself at the end of a Sunday night, with everyone else already up in bed, and the start of the next week is just around the corner. I’ve ready many types of weeknotes, but Ton Zijlstra’s look like the gold standard — a short, sharp summary of what’s been going on and a few highlights to look back on.
Some highlights from the past month:
- Tuesday night has very firmly become gaming night with a few of my close friends from school. F1 2019 is the game of choice right now and it’s brilliant; even if you crash out of the game early on it’s still fun to watch everyone else compete. I’ve not talked to my friends so often in years, and it has been lovely to reconnect.
- I’ve never been so fit in my life. Since we locked down in mid-March I’ve been on the turbo trainer or out for a run almost every day. Last month I hit the milestone of having ridden 10,000 miles on my bike and have clocked up 1,025 miles this year alone, all of which have been indoors. It’s how I start every day, and would probably be the biggest thing that I would miss if I had to go back to the office on a regular basis.
- Exercising is also where I’ve been keeping up with podcasts. As well as the usuals variety of politics and F1, I’ve been excited to find that the Stratechery newsletter is now available in podcast form, so I’ve been catching up with the backlog. I’ve managed to enjoy a couple of the excellent Bunker/Remainiacs livestreams as well.
- I’ve not found much time to contribute much as a school governor outside of our scheduled meetings. How I managed to do this while also travelling into London I have no idea, as the time available for it seems to have evaporated. Our headteacher and everyone involved in working or volunteering for the school have been doing an incredible job through the pandemic — it is a thankless task at the best of times — and must be incredibly difficult to juggle the needs and health of everyone concerned, particularly when the country has such a poor government. I have so much admiration for the work they continue to do.
- I’m determined to finish the jobs around the house that I’ve been putting off for years — completing the scanning of all of our old paperwork, and digitising our DVDs with a cheap optical drive so that we can watch them again. If I don’t do these things now while I am at home all the time, I’ll never do them. Good progress is being made on both fronts.
- Watched lots of films with the family. We have a good ‘round robin’ system in place with everyone getting a choice. Everyone looks forward to it, particularly when we get one of the many takeaways we’ve been enjoying, on the premise that we’re keeping local businesses going.
- Worked on closing down my company now that I am a permanent employee again. These things seem to take ages to do, no matter how simple the setup is.
- Had my second lockdown haircut. There really is no limit to my wife’s talents.
- Spent a lot of time exploring Bandcamp and finding some wonderful new artists to listen to. I’m much more trigger-happy in buying digital downloads and vinyl than I have been in the past, given how difficult it was for artists to make money even prior to gigs drying up as part of the lockdown.
Next week: Hoping to be back into a writing routine again.