Weeknotes S9 Ep1

Hello 2020, and welcome to weeknotes series 9! (Eek)

Cartoon characters of the numbers 2020 wearing party hats.

Happy New year! Well, was it?

I hate new years, it is peak anxiety season for me. I have to work super hard not to fall into a “should spiral” as fellow awesome Letchworth human Holly would say.

When you suffer with anxiety — if you are lucky enough to be able to access talking therapy — one of the things they teach you is to look out for words like “should” or “must”. Those words are your anxious brain overthinking things. I find that new year is a massive trigger for me. I don’t think I’m alone.

I’m sure some people find it useful to remember that a new year is a new beginning, to revel in the chance to start something new, change and plan. I’m happy for those people, but it doesn’t work like that for me.

I find myself taking stock of all the wrong things, the things I didn’t achieve, all the ways in which I’ve failed, how I have to be better.

“I should do more work in my community, I should be a better neighbour and make more friends. I should do some training, get a new qualification.

And then there’s my house— I should fill and paint those cracks in the plaster, I must check the gutters, I should paint the doors that are partially painted, I must replace the crappy curtain with a lovely new blind, should find someone to fix the garden fence that is falling down…”

Last year I tried to combat this on NYE by creating two lists, the first, “What I’ve achieved in 2018” and the second, a softer, kinder “What do I want for 2019 really?” I put that second list away and didn’t look at it.

When I pulled that list out again on NYE I was really sad because I thought I hadn’t achieved. It put a dampener on my evening (aside from the migraine I also suffered). I got into a fug and went to bed at 10.30 (yes I was woken by midnight fireworks, and no, I wasn’t happy about it).

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, I pulled that list out again a few days later. I marked it up and ticked things off. Of 11 things on the list, I’ve achieved 6.5 of them.

And I didn’t feel sad, I felt really very ok about it, because no-one can see the future… right? Something about stepping away from the pressure of NYE and looking at the list again with fresh eyes really helped me to process it, some of those things were beyond my control, some probably too ambitious.

And, remembering my Work Wellbeing Wall I haven’t needed to take stock and create a list of what I think I achieved last year. It’s right there. This year, I’ve bought a planner to help me get to the bottom of some goals and think about steps to take. So I’ve been able to do some self reflection and take stock.

View at Medium.com

It means that now (as I’ve gone back to work this week) I’m feeling a lot more settled and ready to get going. The voices in my head have been quieter than they have been in previous years, still there, but easier to shut up. I know that I’ll achieve something whatever happens because that’s how life works, I know that there will be bad and difficult stuff too because there always is, but for once, I’m not terrified of it.

Are you actually going to write a weeknote or just witter on about New year?

Oh my god you’re so impatient. Yes, ok, I’ll crack on.

This week was my first week back in the team at the National Leadership Centre, and my first week as Acting Head of Digital without the support of Billy who is now spending loads of time with his beautiful little family.

School didn’t start until Tuesday so I wasn’t back in the office until then, and not long after I arrived I had a text from my nanny telling me she wasn’t well, so I had to leave again straight after our team meeting.

It wasn’t the start I’d hoped for and I did feel pretty stressed on my first day back, partly because of that, but also because of the state of my inbox.

It must have taken me all of two days to fully get it into a manageable state. That might be because I’m slower than I’d like because I can’t navigate everything yet, but to return to 100 emails after Christmas break is definitely something I haven’t encountered for a long time.

A spongebob type cartoon looks at a phone where the email counter goes up and up and up

I guess I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to deal with this for a while, I’ve heard other people talking about a kind of “inbox tyranny” and I didn’t really take it seriously because I hadn’t been suffering. But I’m starting to get it.

The team at LDCU worked so closely together and conversation was so frequent and free flowing that it meant as a team we didn’t need to spend hours tending our inboxes, I also practiced a lot of publish not post, writing and saving google docs rather than holding info in emails — I guess that’s rarer than I’d previously thought.

One of the great things I’ve found so far about working with Convivio is the number of new collaborative tools that the team use (Dovetail, Figma, Clubhouse, Google Docs, Slack).

I hadn’t really noticed how collaboration has become a function across all of those different tools, design tools, not just project management and documents. That happened while I wasn’t looking.

I think it’s awesome, but I’m also conscious of what a cognitive burden that has been having on me this week which I hadn’t expected, it’s added to the things in my inbox, and it’s also meant that I’ve had several different tools to look at and check in on.

The thing that I’m going to be more mindful of as I carry on in this role is the extent to which dealing with an inbox distracts me from some of the bigger thinking and planning that I want to do. I’m going to have to set some boundaries to make sure that I don’t get bogged down in a lot of the more granular detail.

And what else?

Well other than the above being a bit stressful, my first week hasn’t been bad!

The National Leadership Centre are gearing up for a really high profile event taking place at the end of the month, that means it’s all go right now. People are understandably busy, and the amount of work and planning that’s gone into the event is bewildering, but the team seem to be taking it in their stride.

I presented some initial ideas that I’m thinking about to my DD and they were well received, which is great, the next step will be to flesh them out a little more and to have some informal discussions with the team. I’m looking forward to that but it’s going to take a little while. I’m constrained by time, I know that May will roll around sooner than I expect so I think I’m going to focus on some smaller experiments and alpha-like activities that give us some really useful information that will help to shape the decisions that get made about future products. I’m excited about that.

There is immediate work that I need to do to make sure that we are ready for the event so I think that this month needs to be focussing on that above all else. It’s going to be work, but good work, and I’ll hold those ideas so that by February I’ll be able to think more about how to get those things underway.

On Thursday I met Hannah, we used to work together at GDS and she is covering my projects in the Local Digital Collaboration Unit while I’m away. I’m so pleased that my projects will be in her hands because she is brilliant and capable, honest, and will be able to bring real value to those teams. I’m also happy that I’ll be able to keep up with some of the activity via Hannah as I’ve been missing the work and seeing how everything is coming along.

Anything more?

I think I’ve said quite enough but I saw this tweet by Terence recently:

It seemed to me a really easy and useful thing to do, being a good way to track useful documents, as well as gage progress when you feel like you aren’t achieving, similar to my Wellbeing Wall.

I’m always intimidated by people who read a lot, but I realised this year that it’s people who read a lot of books. I hadn’t really taken stock of how difficult reading an actual book has become for me, and have felt guilty about my reliance on audiobooks. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not reading, I’m reading all the time, on my phone, online, over people’s shoulders on the commute (shhhh) so what am I actually reading?!

So following Terence’s lead, I’ve started tracking what I read in my own Trello board which I’m sharing below (rather than including a list of links in my weeknotes as I usually might) I’ll share a link to this board every week.

View at Medium.com

A picture of the Trello board.

Just in case anyone is interested, I’m also collecting some key quotes from the articles to give a flavour of them (when I can be bothered) and I’m labelling things so that I can refer back, and so that if you want to you can read articles by theme. The ones I have so far are…

  • Change
  • Digital
  • Social Care
  • AI
  • User Research
  • Service Design
  • Policy
  • Environment
  • Weeknotes
  • Leadership
  • Mental Health

Thanks and happy 2020!

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