S03E08: Crunch

This week began really well, with a houseparty. It looks like it’s going to be finishing well too. There was a good bit in the middle too. All in all, a bit chuffed. Theme of the week: French


1 Thème de la semaine : On Tuesday I attended my first ever French meetup, and some very nice people told me I had a good French accent. This made me Very Happy, and I strongly suspect influenced my next morning, where I collared Jenny and we talked about existentialism⁰ before I went home feeling grotty. French studies was my undergraduate degree, and I love to speak it. Mind you, I’ve been told before that I’m a different and less pleasant person in French, so I was watching that too. I met some interesting and some less interesting people, but it was a lovely evening and I think I’ll make it a regular fixture. I’ve also been invited to a recurring French lunch of civil servants, so before long I hope to be quite fluent again. I’m improving my Russian at the same time too:

A screenshot that says “I want to know everything” in Russian and English

2 Career things. I went for an interview the other day and I didn’t get the job. I’m okay with that, because the feedback was detailed and immensely valuable as I head into my Future Leaders Scheme interview (link only available to civil servants). I also spoke to a Director about where I’d like to end up and he gave me some really good advice as well as a really interesting comparison — at a large consultancy firm, there are 23 promotions between my equivalent level and boss of the organisation. In my organisation, I’d only need five to get to the same place , which means within those levels there’s going to be huge variation. It makes me feel weirdly better — friends from uni who seem to get promotions every couple of years are actually probably just progressing at the same rate as me. They just get more frequent milestones.¹

Work is otherwise very good. I implemented fika and work-in-progress limits to try to get the team to slow down and do one thing at a time. Both have been moderately successful: we are shipping things and doing it faster, and we are communicating more as a team and learning things about each other. Some of that introduces tension, because there’s always a risk when you get to know someone that they’re going to be quite different from you in a way you weren’t expecting.²

3 I’ve already started to think about my goals for the next year. This is because I like things to aim for. By September next year I am aiming to:

  • have a basic conversational level of Russian
  • have a rank greater than 1200 in both daily (24 hours per move) and rapid (30 minutes per game for each player) chess
  • have a first cut of The Book, which has admittedly slid³ a little recently
  • be (re)starting an MSc

None of these are work things, but I think they’ll make me better at work. I have a number of thoughts like this, so if you’ve got £2.3m and would like to know more about experiments I want to do on my colleagues then get in touch.

4 Time tracking is turning up some interesting results. Inspired by fellow public sector digital hero Dan Barrett I’ve been tracking my time. It’s broad strokes, but here is the approximate time I spent in meetings this week:

A chart showing that on Monday I spent 1hr 35 in meetings, on Tuesday 1hr 51, on Wednesday no time at all, on Thursday 3hr 27 and Friday 15m

Thursday is the outlier, and also the day I came home absolutely wiped and ate an entire blackcurrant crumble.⁴ More than half of my day spent in meetings is too much, and that’s valuable information for me. It’s also deeply concerning, because — well, here’s my friendly deputy-director’s diary:

A screenshot of a diary. There are only 11.5 hours out of 47.5 in that week that don’t have something booked

Now, this is only one week. I need more data to be able to make a more accurate view, but my hypothesis is that anything above about 40% completely exhausts me. It’s also true that I don’t know the ins and outs of this DD’s diary — maybe each slot there represents a unique piece of work, and not a meeting.

5 I listened to a brilliant podcast — BBC Radio 5 presenter Nihal Arthanayake spoke to six people from the three security and intelligence agencies⁵. They were five women and a gay man. There are three reasons this was brilliant:

  1. That sentence would have been completely ridiculous fifty years ago, and I’m so pleased that I can write it now
  2. MI6 is apparently the Slytherin of the SIAs⁶
  3. When GCHQ had a big win they played mini golf in the doughnut, and that is so hilariously human that imagining it is making me laugh and laugh


This weekend I bought chocolate, marshmallows, and squirty cream having been inspired by this excellent looking recipe.

⁰ I talk about existentialism a lot, because it resonates quite strongly with me. You can read a thing I wrote, or watch this good video from the US-ian PBS, or listen to this episode from the BBC if you’d like to know more about it. Someone who read my thing said they liked it on twitter dot com, and as a writer that made birds appear and trumpets sound and, look, I don’t want to tell you what to do but if you enjoyed reading something and you tell the author you’ll make a friend for life so…
¹ slash pay rises
² cf. dating
³ I have never been more convinced that slid is not a word than right now
⁴ hashtag no regrets
⁵ MI5, MI6, and GCHQ
⁶ GCHQ, by the way, definitely all Hufflepuffs

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