Hello lovely people of the internet. How are you? I’m feeling fairly anxious today.
But, I have a lovely new scented candle which is burning on the mantelpiece, some flowers on the windowsill (that I somehow had foresight to order for myself earlier in the week) with lavender and eucalyptus in, so it smells pretty lovely too. That’s helping.
And hopefully writing will enable me to centre myself a bit, though I’ve struggled a bit this week to craft something out of the noisiness in my head. So I hope this makes sense.
This week has been a tough one, and in honesty, it’s the first week into my new job where I’ve found it hard. So I’m going to try and work through some of that because I think there are a number of reasons for it.
Zoomed out versus zoomed in
My confidence is pulling me in two different directions at the moment. I feel like I have a really good view of my team’s mission and vision and where we need to get to. I’ve had some opportunities recently to talk to people outside of my organisation about that and I’m able to explain where we are and what we are trying to achieve so that people can understand it.
And I enjoy that. I enjoy thinking further ahead or puzzling things forward, I do think that’s one of the things I’m good at.
My team are working within a lot of ambiguity at the moment, we are watching our funded projects and looking for things which will have a great impact or things that would be really high value if we opened them up and shared them with other organisations.
Other people in my team are reliant on understanding those things so that they can get their own work done. But at the moment we don’t really know what those things will be and I’m not comfortable about making predictions yet about what will be of highest value. This is probably in part due to not having the context of being in local government before, but I don’t feel able to fully trust my spidey senses enough yet to zoom in on details.
Sometimes I worry that I’m too zoomed out generally as a person, and that I’m missing details of things or missing other facets of the work, so I’m also wondering whether my inner impostor is at play here.
But that brings me on to…
Playing catch up
Being part-time I necessarily have to prioritise what I give my time and attention to. But there are a lot of moving parts to our work, and not being around at the end of the week I always feel like I’m just trying to catch up come Monday.
Recently I’ve missed out on a few announcements (like people in the team moving on) or decisions being made, and it’s meant I’ve found myself feeling like I’m two steps behind and not able to move as fast as other people. I’m also acutely aware of feeling “out of sight, out of mind” and all of those other anxieties of being a part-timer.
Some of those anxieties play out in this excellent thread following Kit’s question about what parents wish their colleagues knew about them:
I’m also wondering if three days a week is actually even enough to do this work…
Is it the pattern or is it just time?
I’ve written a couple of times in this series about my working pattern . There are the main logistics of travel into and out of London on my half days, which, when you’re a parent (and are perpetually exhausted by organisation and logistics at the best of times) being in the office doesn’t feel like a big enough pay off when you could get more done at home.
I’ve found myself explaining to people that if I’m at home I can do an extra hour or so work and I’ve found myself flexing a bit to have calls outside of my working hours so that I can keep up. Whereas if I’m in the office I have to rush out exactly on time or risk being late to get to school and collect my little one and then try and catch up later.
But then… then… is that a sign that three days per week isn’t enough? Possibly, or…
Finding my flow
I wasn’t able to articulate this until very recently when I saw this tweet by Sophie about balancing ceremonies for part time workers:
Being in the office less means that meetings stack up. It means that when I am in the office I generally don’t have long periods of time to really get stuck into work and give things the thinking time that I want to.
This is worsened on weeks where I need to get out and travel to see teams or have meetings outside of the office.
I’m going to try and ring-fence Thursday mornings for getting into bigger pieces of work, doing the reading I want to do and doing the synthesis.
I’m monitoring these things for myself and trying to understand how they fit together, I’m not trying to moan or gripe but to keep an eye on how things are working so I can gauge my effectiveness. I want to work out how these things fit together and how I might improve it.
It’s not a reflection on my team who are all working really hard and pulling all sorts of cats out of bags to keep the mission on track. It also doesn’t distract from the mission, I feel really lucky to be part of the Local Digital #FixThePlumbing work that we are doing because I believe it will be hugely impactful, but I’m keen to make sure I’m working effectively so that I can be part of ensuring that.
And what else?
I met with some people from Social Finance who are supporting the three funded projects that I’m currently working on, and I travelled to Stockport to meet one of our funded projects.
I really love these kick off meetings and getting into a room with a load of people I don’t know yet to understand their project and their constraints. Plus I’m really nosy and just love learning about new things.
If you’d have told me several years ago that I’d be sat in Stockport talking about Social Work (as part of a career in tech) I would not have believed you.
I would have believed you even less if you’d told me I’d love every minute of it, but I’m really enjoying taking in all of this new stuff.
Just like in Worcester a couple of episodes back, I again got to do my favourite line “I’m new here so I’m going to ask some stupid questions” and I love when I get to say that because it’s a good signal to myself that I’m building that intelligent understanding. The team from Social Finance are also really nice, on the ball, and a friendly support to the team.
I’m becoming increasingly interested in (and excited by) all of the non-tech things which I’m seeing emerge out of my projects but that are still eminently reusable and useful, and I’m wondering how we account for those things.
Being in Stockport meant I missed the Local Digital Collaboration Unit roadshow in Bristol, but it looked awesome so I’m looking forward to attending the one in London this Wednesday. If you’re going, see you there!
I bailed on the Weeknotes meetup that Steve had arranged on Tuesday night because (my brain is still shouting retreat! retreat! hide! But what I will tell people is that) I had to get up early (5.30am) on Wednesday for my trip to Stockport.
I had FOMO about that. But I went home via Crosstown and bought my other half birthday doughnuts (which I also ate and they made me feel a bit better).
I’ve also spent a lot of mental energy this week worrying about our presentation for SDinGov which we haven’t written yet. I am running out of time and wondering when on earth I will find some to get this completed. On the plus side there were a couple of great tweets which I totally intend to steal and use…
In other news…
My other half is in the process of finding a new job, and we are also in the process of trying to find a nanny to help with childcare (can you spot the theme running through this weeknote?)
I came across this great thread about innovation in childcare this week – did you know the childcare industry in the UK is worth £11bn. That’s a huge number.
I was listening to Bob Mortimer on Desert Island Disks. I enjoyed his story about accidentally setting his house on fire when he was younger by lighting sparklers indoors. They made so many sparks that while he cleaned up all the marks on the walls and floor in the kitchen the sitting room caught fully on fire. I feel like there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
I have been watching Russian Doll on Netflix and enjoyed it a lot, it’s very funny. I especially liked how it used Alone Again Or by Love in the final episode because it might be one of my favourite songs.
Actually I did a lot of thinking about the music in this and the music in Killing Eve because both have some extremely good choices in them.
This was a long but interesting read about class and social mobility…
And finally, here’s my playlist this week.
 Not just this series, Sam. You literally bang on about this ALL THE TIME.
 It really frustrates me that it’s 7 and not Seven because when I studied sub-editing I was told you should always spell out anything below 10 and I want to call it the Seven Lenses.