Weeknotes S3 E1 2020

Ever expanding draft posts, back to school and lock down learning.

Don’t be draft

There’s a very long winding weeknote sat in my drafts that I’ve been adding to for around 2.5 weeks. I’ve got to the point where I suddenly realised I’d be better off splitting it out into separate blog posts than spend more time trying to edit it until I’m happy with the whole thing.

This weeknote similarly threatened to become an ever expanding post that never saw the light of day. So I’m trying to publish this tonight to resist the urge to keep fiddling/editing.

I don’t know what’s going on with the publishing procrastination. I think I’m often writing these things at the end of the day where my head is crammed with stuff but conversly I never feel it’s fully formed enough to hit publish.

Bah! I don’t like this thinking. I need to reassert my belief that weeknotes should be rough around the edges and partially formed as a representative work in progress rather than retrospective coherence.

Back to school

Kids have been back to school for two days. It was a nice slice of normality for everyone, even though it was just six children per class. And with that, the school year is done!

I think we’ve learned that my home schooling isn’t up to snuff for a more prologned period of staying at home. But I’ve kept us all safe, fed and enterntained since mid-March, and we’re all still talking to each other (maybe more so?!) so I guess there’s something to be said for that.

Have no idea what this all looks like in September and what might change between now and then. Knowing that we have to attempt to ease back to ‘life as normal’ but also knowing that that Covid-19 hasn’t disappeared and may not do for some time is quite the mental balancing act. Trying not to let thoughts race days or weeks into the future remains a useful tactic (.. that I’m not terribly good at following).

Lock down learning

I was asked recently what we we’re doing or have done differently that’s helped keep things going. It’s taking longer and longer to recall this stuff. Novel practice is no longer novel. Trying to identify and hang on to that which is working better now actually requires real concerted effort.

Conversley, as restrictions slowly lift, there will be a temptation to revert back to ‘normal’ and not necessarily because it works better but because it’s more comfortable. This tweet succintly sums this up…

I think this is a difficult challenge, especially to help those who have tried to cut and paste office based working patterns unchanged into the virtual collaborative realm and found it wanting.

All of this has made me realise that not everyone is aware of the meta-work. That is, not the work itself, but examing how you might improve the doing of the work. (That feels very inelegantly explained, but hopefully you get the jist)

I suspect offices will re-open and some people will flock back to them, which is absolutely fine because not everyone enjoys working remotely. But (in my most humble opinion) we must resist the urge to adopt this as the default mode of work.

Two questions we should keep asking ourselves and each other…

  1. Where does the office add value?
  2. Am I/Are you sure <response to question 1> is the best way to do that?

Experiment 1 — remove work things from phone

When I went on leave I pretty much muted all the work stuff off my phone to ensure I actually took a break. I don’t get a lot of notifications, but the notable absence of them made me realise how even the awareness of a new one arriving diverted my attention.

So, I’ve gone a step further and removed everything off my phone bar that which might be useful in a pinch (but kept notifications muted).

The upshot is I can only respond to work things when I’m actually sat at desk/computer. This has introduced a helpful degree of friction, since if I’m not sat in my office, I can’t accidentally catch sight of a notification. I must admit, it also feels surprisingly uncomfortable.

But it does also feel like it’s helping with the switching in and out of work/life modes which is something I know I’m terrible at doing generally, but especially now that work/life occur in the same space.

Experiment 2 — Now, Next, Later

“The problems are at the boundaries” a very wise person once said. (I’m seeking attribution for this because it’s remains consistently true regardless of what you apply it to)

Working with other teams can be really tricky, especially at the moment where it feels like we’re in the eye of the storm (pre-covid work continues because it remains essential, but unforseen challenges are just over the horizon and are likely to test what we think is a priority).

A lot of cross team collaboration is often hidden away in emails or meetings. Outside of defined projects it can be tricky to fully grasp what’s being thought about, refined and actively worked on.

I’m experimenting with a ‘Now, Next Later’ Trello board with a couple of teams to help make what we’re working on together more visible. And hopefully it give us a bit more of a tangeable framework to identify what we should be prioritising NOW.

These boards are automatically synchronised to our main team Trello board which helps avoid duplication of effort and the cognitive load of trying to keep on top of different lists of things.

Generally these things are used to ‘roadmap’ products and services. We’re still quite teams based at the moment (as opposed to thinking about things as services) but I wonder if this is might be a useful way to introduce people to some different ways of working?

Perhaps the ultimate goal is to scale this up and have a big singular organisational one of these? Making absolutely everything visible and priorities explicit. An organisational roadmap?

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