Friday, 14 November 2014

November 11

November 11th is a very important day to me. I am a pacifist, I don't believe in making war and I absolutely feel that it isn't a solution. But I know there are hundreds of thousands who have laid down their lives to give me the luxury of that opinion.

I respect the fallen for the difficult choices they had to make. For the sacrifices they endured and their legacy.

Whether or not you agree with the occurrences of war and even without romanticizing every individual that fell to be a heroic ideal it is always important to remember the fallen and those that remained standing, but scarred.

I can't link this to personal growth or learning or development. But it is vitally important and cannot be forgotten.

All gave some. Some gave all. #lestweforget

Friday, 7 November 2014


Reflective practice is difficult. Not necessarily in its nature - I've been the kind of person who analyses what went well and what failed all my life. Even taking lessons forwards tends to "just happen".

However, being brutally honest with oneself, announcing: "this was my failure and I need to not do it again" can be incredibly difficult to endure. To do it on a regular basis with the specific intention of truly improving is equally hard.

To give you a "real world" example: I am not the most physically fit person. I'm very healthy, I am not too overweight (unless you ask a fashion designer! Although to be honest, my doctor has hinted that if I chose to lose weight that wouldn't be a bad thing) but I'm not all that fit. This year I've been more active than at any other point in the last decade: I've taken up running, I go hiking semi-regularly, and I have been to the gym 38 times this year (yes, I'm counting). I know that my fitness this year has improved, but to aid my analogy it's been at a basic level similar to my personal default reflection. I've been doing activity and there has been some improvement in my physical fitness.

On Wednesday evening I attended a "Kettle-bell and core" class. In 45 minutes I had more of a workout then one of my 3-hour sessions pootling around the gym. It HURT. I didn't want to do any more about ten minutes in. I had problems physically doing the activities about 25 minutes in (why did he want me to do push ups? Why *quietly sobbing in the corner*). And I lost the energy to complain about 5 minutes before we finished. It hurt. It was unpleasant, it was difficult, it forced me to confront things I didn't like to admit. But I did it.

Afterwards, bits of me shook for a while and I was in desperate need of calories, but once I had rested and eaten I was fine. I'm going back next week and I know I will perform better and continue to improve. I may even demand more of myself from my gym sessions after a while.

Doing this blog; admitting what is wrong and publically stating I need to improve isn't pleasant or comfortable. But it is working. And if each week I learn one new thing and take it away with me: it's totally worth it.

I've also recently noticed that the personal "automatic" reflections I mentioned in the first paragraph are becoming less negative and more objective and that to me seems ideal.

Friday, 24 October 2014

We made it

It's half term. We made it this far.

What is particularly good about it for me is that I have now been in post for a year and I thought it would be a good time to think about what has happened over the last year and where I have developed most.

For me there's no question - When I took this job I was very concerned about my management skills as I had no background in this area and as an introvert, the prospect of managing a team was very intimidating. My management skills are significantly higher than they were last year and to have developed in this way is the single thing I am most proud of. I'm more confident, I know what being a manager means from this perspective and I trust myself to actually have the difficult conversations that are occasionally required.

In other areas, where I only have to manage tasks and deadlines I have also developed - co-ordinating the workloads of a team requires more finesse than I originally expected, but that is becoming more natural to me now as well.

I'm really happy and I feel my team are also confident in me going forward.

Now I'm going to spend four days asleep.

Friday, 10 October 2014

People and attitudes

This week my attitude has changed from "too busy to break" to "breaks are good".

Logically I knew this all along and took the line of "unfortunately, I just don't have the time!" Last week circumstances conspired to put me in a place where I had three breaks. I couldn't work during those breaks and I was with other people. The first time, I relaxed and enjoyed myself and returned to my desk slightly concerned about how much pressure I'd now be under to complete my tasks for the day.

Not only did I blitz through them, I wiped out half of my remaining task list.

On Tuesday I deliberately and voluntarily took a break. I am an absolute convert.


Additionally: I read this article. The article itself is interesting and useful but the comments are horrifying! This article has a lot of comments from people who hate their boss or feel they are hated by others because they themselves are exceptionally good at their job.

Am I wrong to wonder if they are the individuals who need to be fractionally more self reflective and wonder if maybe they are on the other side of the article?


Friday, 3 October 2014

This week I learned legalese

I've never been a fluent speaker of legalese and I don't pretend to be now. But after a week of reading various contracts and SLAs I can say with confidence that I either know what some of these sentences are saying, or I've become delusional.

Either way, I think that's as close as anyone can get to speaking legalese.


Friday, 26 September 2014

This week I learned not to anticipate

For various reasons this was a fairly stressful week. Systems were not working as they ideally should, my calendar was full of meetings and training and I, for several days, was dreading four events.

As each of the four events occurred my response was *exactly* the same:

  1. I know it's coming, and it has to happen, but it's going to be dreadful.
  2. It's happening soon, everything is falling into place and it's going to be dreadful.
  3. It's happening now and it's not dreadful just yet, but I'm sure it's going to get worse.
  4. That wasn't dreadful at all. 

This is not a good way to live your life. While I can argue that I was able to take steps to ensure some of the worst nightmare scenarios didn't unfold as a result of me anticipating them, I'm not convinced it's valid. After all, surely a modicum of common sense would give you the ability to prepare for disasters without necessarily anticipating them?

Systems are inherently predictable. While handing over the control of said systems is difficult for me, it should never *ever* be cause for such stress and wasted time.

Yes, wasted time. Because I cannot possibly function well if the larger part of my brain is fretting about the onset of some purely hypothetical situation.

I will endeavour to stop anticipating disaster. Perhaps I should set aside time to do a formal risk analysis for even trivial things and see if that will let me relax a bit. I mean, setting aside half an hour to risk assess on one day vs several days of being distracted has to be a more efficient use of my time, right?


Friday, 19 September 2014

This week I have been outwitted by technology

This field is always challenging: we find ways to use technology that may not be exactly in line with the original intention. Sometimes the task and technology to hand are wholly incompatible.

In such situations - in line with last week's lesson of managing my time well - I have learned that it's OK to step away from the problem altogether and admit I can't resolve it.

Maybe over the next week or two I'll find a tool that completes this task perfectly but until then we carry on the old fashioned way.

And that is OK.

Friday, 12 September 2014

This week I learned I don't have time.

I don't have time.

It's ridiculous, obviously false and at the same time overwhelmingly true.

I don't have time. Not because time doesn't exist but because I, in my dewy eyed summer enthusiasm, overcommitted.

Now the term has started, students are here, the real world is happening and all of the things I agreed to are taking up time that I have already run out of.

What I'm aiming to learn next week is how to say no; how to manage my time better and above all, how to accept that I cannot do everything, however exciting it sounds.