Weeknotes #75 — Taking on water

An ever-exhausting week, like bailing out a flooding boat where at some point on or around Friday I dropped the bucket and sank. The final few video calls of the week were like an out-of-body experience as Friday evening crept over me. I could feel my mouth moving but I was barely stringing a sentence together.

I cannot shake the feeling that I have less hours for everything than I ever had, despite having cut out almost three hours of daily commuting from my schedule. The weekends don’t feel like an opportunity to recharge, probably because my surroundings are the same, and I really want to get on with the list of various domestic jobs so that I feel like I’m making a contribution.

A week in which I…

  • Was home alone with my 13-year-old for most of it, with both my wife and our 10-year-old being back at their respective schools. He worked in the morning, we met up for lunch and then he’s been socialising with his friends on Xbox for most of the afternoon.
  • Marvelled as LeanKit continued to pay dividends for the time I’ve spent in setting it up. Our all-team meeting on Monday morning was driven completely by walking through the cards on the board.
  • Kept trying to move forward with so many big projects that I’m running in parallel. Of the five cities that we look after, there is only one where we don’t have a major active project on the go that I’m directly accountable for. The team are working really well, with a few short check-ins leading to a lot of work being done that is completely in-line with what we need, and people are picking things up without being asked. Still, I have to keep going through the list and asking myself whether there is anything I can do to move each one forward; I get to the end and then start again from the top.
  • Couldn’t believe that after 20 years in IT, I approached some business training sessions under the mistaken belief that we would be able to have a brief run-through and then skip off into the sunset with everyone being confident and competent in knowing what they had to do. The sessions were on the legal and compliance aspects of Microsoft 365, and I can now see that they are the start of a very long conversation.
  • Agreed a lightweight process with my peers and the CIO for launching new initiatives in the department. Not much science, but enough of a check-in to make sure we are all committing to something before we start it.
  • Took a big sigh when we found out that significant parts of our Beijing project has to be put on hold again due to rising COVID-19 numbers. There are still some tasks we can get on with such as purchasing equipment, but the in-office work is paused. We have to just sit and wait until we’re allowed to proceed again.
  • Was excited to attend a few new events organised at work which bring everyone together in our part of the company. Instead of running them as moderated webinar-style events, they were deliberately much more of an ‘everyone join as equals’ affair and it actually worked really well, despite having just shy of 200 people join. It seems that people have got savvy with the tools after so much remote work during lockdown! The content was very good and it felt like the organisation carried a new level of motivation away with them. I really hope that these events continue when more of us are together in the same place again.
  • Continued the fourth week of our ‘Random Coffees’ initiative. People seem to love it and the feedback has been overwhelming. We now have 70 people signed up for a randomly-paired chat with a colleague each week. My catch-up was with our Head of Risk and it was great to speak to him again after all these weeks. Hearing stories of people in lockdown at home with very young children, or with them going through what should be critical exams that they had been working towards, makes me realise once again how lucky I am that we fall somewhere in the middle.
  • Learned about how Salesforce fits into our business workflow, through a talk given by one of our team members.
  • Should start thinking about personal goals again, to feed the HR system. I don’t know anyone who loves, or even enjoys, this process. When I get some time to think I really want to work out how I can nudge the system towards OKRs instead of individual goals.
  • Had to spend time at the weekend writing up minutes for one of my steering committees. During the hectic week it never feels like the next most important thing to do, so I end up saving it for the weekend. I need to get out of this habit.
  • Reviewed the revised risk assessment for the re-opening of school. I continue to be awed by our amazing staff, who have put an incredible effort in to get everything working. Having seen the impact on my 10-year-old, I’m in no doubt that opening up school to more children is the right thing to do, even though it means that the ones who were previously back get less days in.
  • Spent some time with colleagues talking about Black Lives Matter and what their experiences and viewpoints are. I am very fortunate to work with such a diverse range of people, many of whom have had such a different experience to me. I wonder how long it will be before boards are asked to report on pay gaps from an ethnicity perspective in the same way that they have had to do between women and men?
  • Started reading Donald Woods’ Biko. I’ve had a second-hand copy of the book for ages, and now seemed a good a moment as any to get started. It was published just a couple of years after I was born and it is amazing to look at the transformation that has happened in South Africa during that time.
  • Started work on a presentation on Ride 999, which took place just over five years ago. I want to turn it into a short talk that I can give in our weekly team meeting at work. There are so many photos and so many memories; it’s going to be all about the editing.
  • Glowed with pride on Tuesday when a ramp test showed that my FTP had made a decent jump. Great news in that the training has been paying off, but bad news in that future rides will be tougher. The rest of the week was fine until I got to Saturday, where I just couldn’t handle the terrifyingly-named Spanish Needle -3. My legs flooded, my heart rate jumped through the roof, and I couldn’t go on. I made up for it by attempting (and also aborting) another ride before going out on the road for the first time since December, with my son.

  • Had a couple of house upgrades with blinds being installed in the new rooms, and a modern NAS drive to replace my almost out-of-support model.

Next week: Dreading the hectic week ahead. Another project steering committee to prepare for and host, rolling out laptops in China, kicking off our telephony project in New York, Album Club, an office quiz night, a presentation to everyone in our part of the company across six cities, and trying to keep all of the wheels on a myriad of wagons.

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