Weeknotes #78–79 — Light and shade

A fortnight of light and shade. My downbeat, frustrated mood from a couple of weeks back carried on to the following week and I just couldn’t shake it. Work weighed me down, I seemed feel miserable and couldn’t find much joy in anything. But for no obvious reason, everything felt so light and breezy during this past week. I am not sure which one of the two ‘modes of being’ is more accurate — should I be stressing about my many impending deadlines or should I be assuming that it will all just work out ok?

The only thing I can think of that contributes to my mood is that I struggle with the weeks where I am in back-to-back meetings for a number of days in a row, feeling that my time is not my own. The pressure and frustration seems to crank up with each meeting. To combat this, on Monday mornings I now religiously block out whatever free time I have that week with some ‘keep free’ appointments, minimising the number of late-breaking meetings that go into the diary.

A couple of weeks in which I…

  • Saw our team start and finish a rollout of new laptops to all of our staff in China. It was an incredible job, taking staff through the Autopilot/Intune processes and then giving them the ‘white glove’ setup treatment despite language and time zone barriers. An incredible achievement to get it done in just over a week.
  • Was grateful that our Beijing office allowed external contractors to enter once again. We’ve now got our new-spec monitors on each of the desks, and the local contractor has carried out a server room audit for us.
  • Also managed to complete the server room audit in our São Paulo office. It’s now back with us to check that we understand the findings, and to plan the deployment of our new equipment.
  • Made a decision to go with a local vendor for a new telephone system in São Paulo. The implementation cost difference between the local solution and an alternative is too good to pass up. The beauty of it all being cloud-based is that if things don’t work out, we can easily change it.
  • Completed a review of our proposed new telephone system in Beijing. Of the five countries on our rollout, no two telephony setups are the same from a technology perspective, and the Beijing one is in some ways the most complex. We’re not quite there yet in terms of signing off on the work but I am hoping we can get it done early in the coming week.
  • Road tested a training course that we plan to roll out to most of our staff. Half of it is on functionality within Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online, and the remainder is on how we intend to use the tools in our specific setting. I’m very impressed by the trainer and am hopeful it will give people what they need for the upcoming data migration project that we plan to involve them in.
  • Relieved some pressure on myself by moving a couple of our upcoming Steering Committee meetings around. Sometimes I forget about the amount of control I have over events.
  • Attended a few more town-hall style work events. We have a brilliant colleague who gave everyone a brief masterclass on how to present yourself well on videoconferences. Updates from the revenue-generating side of the business were also very good; the idea to do them has come as a result of the pandemic but we should have started them years ago.
  • Spent time thinking about the structure of the team, and looking at the key roles that we will be hiring for over the coming weeks.
  • Heard the sad news that a colleague I worked with briefly many years ago had passed away.
  • Attended our final school Governing Board meeting of the year. The pandemic has made it feel like the end of term has come around even more quickly than usual.
  • Continued with the bike training, although I am incorporating a few more rest days into the schedule now. Abandoned my planned weekend turbo rides in favour of a run with my wife, a bike ride to Savill Garden with my 13-year-old son and a ride home on my own, all in the same day. I ended up with that lovely feeling of being a bit physically broken at the end of it, hoovering up food and looking forward to climbing into bed. It was really interesting to see on Strava the difference in ‘effort’ (and presumably therefore, benefits) between time on the turbo and time out on the road.

  • Saw our youngest boy turn 11 the day after he left primary school. It’s a strange feeling to know that they have both left primary school behind them now and we’ll soon be a house full of GCSEs and A-Levels before we know it. It was such a shame that the end of term was curtailed for him — yes, no SATS, but also no residential trip or social events. I hope he has enough fun experiences in his life ahead of him to make up for it.

  • Watched the Dacorum Sports Network awards for local schools. Our youngest son and his friends won a few different categories and it was lovely to see their football coach, one of the dads from school, get recognised for his contribution. Sadly the Zoom call was set up in such a way that it let people draw on the presentation; I am guessing that parents wandered off during the call and their young children ended up doodling on what they were watching.
  • Delivered a couple of special presents for friends, via James Buckley and Jody Watley.
  • Have been loving the return of the F1 to the TV. It’s so lovely to have the qualifying and the race to look forward to. I’m part of a random ‘F1 Geeks’ WhatsApp group and someone has added a friend to the channel who used to be a senior member of an F1 team. It’s been amazing to get their take on a whole bunch of different things.
  • Met up with friends on a couple of different occasions for a socially-distanced chat. I’m still pretty terrified of catching the bug, and it feels like it takes a lot of mental strength to get together right now. I definitely have FOGO, and think I am an outlier amongst my social groups.
  • Finished reading John Steinbeck’s The Long Valley. Definitely not my favourite of his books so far, and the short story collection format almost felt like a step backwards, with the clear exception of The Red Pony.
  • Continued reading Michael Lopp’s Managing Humans. I started years ago and put the book down for some reason. There are a lot of tips and advice to take in, but some of it seems to be sticking. Reading books in an alternating fiction/non-fiction way seems to be a good balance for now.

Next week: Another Steering Committee meeting, planning our next steps in Sao Paulo and Beijing in order to beat our deadline, and the first week of the school holidays.

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