Well. Hello. Happy 2019.
How are you feeling about being back at work?
I came back this week, late, flustered (after my train was cancelled ) and straight into a stand up where it suddenly dawned on me just how little I remember of what I was doing before Christmas.
So I’ve been feeling a little discombobulated this week. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Hopes / Resolutions / Anxiety
So far in January I’ve been doing a lot of stock-taking. 2018 was an extraordinarily hard year for both me and my family. And, as I started my new job and headed into Christmas I really hoped I could relax through the month.
But I guess life doesn’t really work that way and a few things that happened threw me off axis a bit. Those things just made me feel really sad and dulled everything, making any fun slightly less shiny.
Christmas and New Year are pretty anxiety-inducing for me at the best of times and this year wasn’t much different. Come NYE we had no plans (again) and I really had to work hard to take a deep breath and think about things objectively so that I didn’t descend into… something.
I spent some time on my own with a gin and tonic in a jazzy glass with flamingos on it, writing a list of some of the things I’d/We’d achieved over the year. It helped me to focus not just on the things that had been stressful or worrying or hard, but the things that I/we achieved too despite all that.
Then I wrote a list of things I hope for in 2019.It was titled:
“What do I want for 2019, really?”
I deliberately didn’t make these resolutions, they are just things that I hope might happen. I know this year will bring loads of change.
I’m not going to share that list except to say it includes things like I hope by December next year my little boy will be riding the bike he got for Christmas on his own. My hopes are small (but huge) domestic and personal.
And I guess, unlike a lot of recent new years this one was different, because I managed to talk myself out of my anxiety and relax about not having the most fun, or dwelling on the parts of my life I need to improve.
That’s a good start to 2019 I think.
I do have some other resolutions but in the same spirit as above they aren’t solid, just some things I want to do more of…
I want to get to an 80% state of vegetarianism/pescatarianism (is this a word?!). I know, objectively that eating meat is terrible for the environment and I should probably pull up my socks and pack it in entirely. But I’ve been a meat eater for 36 years, and I need to be kind to myself.
I’m setting an 80% goal so it doesn’t seem unreachable.
Also, if I had set my goal at 100% I would have already failed by lunchtime on new years day when the cafe I was in brought me a steak pasty instead of a cheese and onion one.
So how much of the 20% of meaty meals will be a result of embarrassment at complaining in cafes? Who knows.
Secondly, I want to be mindful of, and reduce the amount of plastic we are using in our house. A lot of focus for plastic packaging is based on kitchen products but I have a ton of plastic in my bathroom from shampoos etc, as well as drawers full of beauty lotions and potions.
I want to spend less on beauty products which I don’t believe further womankind, and to buy products that are more ethical when I do (including in terms of packaging and plastic). I tried to do this in 2017, but in 2018 I totally went back to my old ways.
I want to swim more and Sketchnote more often and better. In particular I want to get better at using page space because I always seem to have lots of white bits that might have been better used. I’m going to do some reading and some more practising.
I’ve also given in and bought a planner. As a stationary addict I believe this to be a thing of great beauty. It has a hard cover, not one but two ribbons for placeholding and lots of structured pages, which I love. It also has a section to track positive habits, which is really lovely, and is proving useful.
That’s quite a long preamble isn’t it? Last night I really thought about just deleting it all and putting it somewhere separate. But it’s here now and though I am not averse to cutting great swathes of words, I’m going to keep it for reference so that this time next year I can check in.
What about work resolutions? Being as this is supposed to be a weeknote about work and everything. Well, I really just want to quickly get to something that feels like a steady state. I’m still new, and I still have a lot to learn.
I can see where I’m adding value but at the moment it feels patchy. I am eager to find my flow and return to some autonomy as a result. It will come, I’m not worried, but I need to be careful not to just fill any gaps that may come up because I think I can and I want to work.
I also want to learn more about the department generally and engage a bit with it on a corporate level because it’s so different to where I’ve been before and I hope I’ll be able to find time to do that.
This week I’ve picked up the work strand for our Local Leaders Digital Accelerator, and I’ve made contacts with the projects I’ll be leading on, that’s exciting and I’m looking forward to hearing more about what they are up to.
I’ve been appreciative of the network this week, Terence and Prateek have helped me out with things in my day job which is very generous. After speaking with Tom I’ve been able to use my network to help him find someone to speak with at the Cabinet Office.
Andrea told a great story at breakfast about something called Car Park Theory which I have tried to look up and failed miserably, because, you know, car parks and car parking and theory tests.
So I’ll paraphrase terribly here and if anyone can attribute it I’ll add it later.
You arrive back at a car park late at night, there’s only one car other than yours and it’s parked all over the place, across several spaces and seemingly with no consideration for other drivers.
But what you haven’t seen is that when that car parked there, everyone else was parked so badly that they had no other way to get parked.
You fill the space that’s left behind by others.
It’s a really interesting story and a reminder to just roll back the clock and think about what happened before that lead to the result. It was also interesting as we were talking about building teams and how it feels to be part of a team and find your voice in it.
It’s useful to consider if the spaces we are leaving for people in teams are “difficult to get into” and what that means for practitioners or generalists. Perhaps generalists are more inclined and willing to fill whatever gap is left.
You can read more about what happened at breakfast in Jenny’s notes here:
A lot of people read and were talking about this article this week about burnout:
I personally found it a really interesting read and a lot of it rang true for me.
What’s most interesting about the article is that it posits burnout as a long term position for a lot of people (Millenials? Yes, maybe, but probably others too) and not an acute thing with a specific cause and endpoint.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now after conversations with Morgan in particular.
I read the article quite soon after reading this one about corporate bullying:
It describes the writer’s experience of bullying and that the person making her feel that way had absolutely no idea of what he was doing, but was just thinking solely about their work. There’s something relevant here about expectations and not recognising people’s needs and ways of working. Assuming that because you are working everyone else is, which is a tough thought based on what the writer above thinks about burnout.
When we’re focused on ourselves and our anxieties the drive to “just keep working and everything will be ok” won’t just have an impact on us but the others around us which is something to be mindful of. This also relates to what I was thinking recently about perfectionism and setting expectations for ourselves that we unwittingly judge others by.
I’ve been reading this book called Is Democracy Failing? It doesnt really get going until the final section but it’s a useful reminder about things that I kinda knew but wasn’t necessarily directly taught.
Anyway  I like the graphic design, and the small chunks of text make it really easy to read. I’m wondering if this will start to become more prevalent as nobody has any concentration anymore.
And finally, here’s my playlist for the week. Enjoy!
 January 2019 and I’m already going on about trains, I know, this doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year — sorry all.
 I’ve used a few too many anyways this episode I think, sorry about that.