A year in review, and looking forwards

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A short reflection on the year, and some thoughts on what I need to be doing better in this new year (and decade!).

The last year has been pretty good, I think. It’s certainly gone by quickly. Work has been good – intense, but good. Much bigger organisation than I have been used to than before, much bigger team… with all the benefits but also challenges which that brings.

I’ve been super-lucky with the people I work with – Neil is a great boss and we get along famously, which makes life a lot easier than it would be if that were not the case. The people who were here when I arrived have all been incredibly welcoming and supportive, as well as positive about the changes we have made. On top of that, the folk who we have recruited during the year have all had an amazing impact, each person bring their own unique improvements to what we do and how we do it.

I moved into a new flat, which was great. Much closer to the people I needed to be closer to, as well as a five minute walk to the station, which is very handy! It’s a nice space too, and I feel very comfy and at home there, which was not the case for my previous place.

I’ve managed to find the time for more reading – literature rather than blogs etc – which has been a good thing. A mixture of actual real life paper books, plus stuff on a Kindle (had to buy a new one as I managed to lose my previous one!), plus audio-books – mostly during my fortnightly long drives to and from Lincolnshire.

This kind of reading does wonders for my well-being I think – providing that occasional escape from reality that’s so needed from time to time, as well as giving me the chance to think about things that don’t normally crop up. I do feel slightly annoyed with myself that I haven’t written down anywhere all the books I started and finished – it would have been good to have a proper list to see exactly what I got through in the year.

Looking forward, there’s some key things for me to get done in 2020.

In work, I need to get some roles filled on my team to enable me to take a step back and focus on the areas where I can really add some value. Right now I’m covering too much and am dragged into areas where I shouldn’t be so involved – not least because it’s stuff I’m not actually always very good at. Getting my management lead roles filled will help so much with this.

I also need to improve the way I communicate at work, and this will take a bit of creative thinking. I am generally at my best, I think (colleagues probably will disagree!) when I am wandering around the office, chatting to folk, but this is hard to scale and has resulted in a situation where the knowledge held by the team differs wildly in terms of who I have spoken to more than others. At the same time, people don’t like lots of emails, nor an over-reliance on tools like Teams for comms, so I suspect a balance is needed between individual chats, larger all hands style get-togethers, and the odd bit of writing delivered by whatever medium suits it best. It would be good to be able to innovate a bit and be creative with different formats for the latter.

I’d like to better monitor and track exactly what I am doing and achieving at work – not least because as one moves up the org chart into more managerial positions, it’s sometimes hard to really define the impact you are having. Terence Eden’s suggestion seems a neat one to be able to monitor this stuff without it turning into too much of a chore.

Another work-related thing is that I want to do better with my reading and writing about work-related topics. I chuntered on about this back in March, and then didn’t do anything about it until November, which outlines what a challenge I’ve found it. I must acknowledge a truth pointed out to me by Paul Brewer before Christmas, that I tend to be a lot more busy in sharing content when I’m looking for a job – that’s where the motivation comes from. He’s definitely right, and it is perhaps a good sign of how settled I am in Croydon that I don’t feel the need to be promoting myself, or what I think, quite so much.

However I am definitely feeling it as a negative thing, that I am not reading or writing enough. This presents itself in a number of ways – I find it harder to know what I think about things, having not spent the time understanding various viewpoints and writing about them to process how I think about them and what the right things to do are. It also means I become a bit insular, and not developing my own thinking in response to what is happening elsewhere enough.

So, the things I would like to start doing to fix this are:

  • dipping into Feedly every day to get some reading done
  • bookmarking good stuff in Pinboard, and regurgitating them out into Twitter via some automagicery
  • keep publishing weeknotes when I can
  • maybe, maybe find the time to restart Digital Digest, using the bookmarks as a starting point

Finally, I need to connect more often with some of the amazing people in my network that I just don’t get to speak to enough. Maybe this could take the form of having at least one chat with someone every month – even if it’s just a phone or video call – for that regular opportunity to share stories and experiences with great people who I just don’t see often enough.

Health wise, I really need to get my diet sorted. The days of my being able to eat what I like and it have no impact on my waistline are very much over! I’ve started today as I mean to go on, fruit for breakfast, soup (no bread!) for lunch and am resisting the biscuits and other snacks as best I can. I also need to better control my diabetes – again whether it’s because of age, I don’t know – but the last year has seen a more than usual number of ‘wobbles’, which is worrying.

Alongside this, I need to improve my fitness, which really is woeful. I suspect I have done no serious exercise since I stopped playing football when I was 16! Honestly, it’s embarrassing. I need to acknowledge my very low starting point here though and not embark on anything too strenuous to begin with! Any suggestions welcome, but colleagues have already recommended that I should start walking the 7 flights of stairs to our floor in the office rather than take the lift, which sounds reasonable (by which I mean exhausting).

Finally, to keep getting through the (e/audio)books, maintaining a decent balance between challenging and entertaining reading, and maybe (again, maybe) start to scribble down a few creative words of my own. I’m not sure what that actually means in practice, but I have always felt almost a yearning to write creatively, but have never dared to start due to the fear of disappointing myself.

To track 2020, I’ve decided to do something I’ve never done before, but I have bought a paper diary with one page for every day, which I am going to use to write down what I’ve done, read, eaten and anything else noteworthy, in an attempt to carve out some space for reflection and build up a bit of a log for how I am doing on a daily basis.

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