225 – the first day of the rest of (the next bit of) your life

Today I didn’t go into GDS towers. Because I no longer work there.

There was originally a plan that I’d be working somewhere else today, but that fell through last Monday, with four days to go. Which – in summary – was a tad annoying. But I’m choosing to look on the bright side, given that I’d wanted a bit of time off really and it’s a chance to look around and think – yet again – about what I might want to be when I grow up.

I’ve been in this stage before though, after the BBC and ITV, and this time I’m determined to do it a little differently. If you’re like me, basically a massive introvert who’s quite good at faking it in a crisis, there are a few possible routes to go down:

  1. sitting under a laptop pressing refresh on your inbox and social media feed for hours at a time in the hope someone’s come back to you, but being terrified when the phone rings as you’ve not spoken to a real human in five weeks
  2. internalising what happened and buying a ton of books to make up for some gap or other
  3. filling the day with household chores so you don’t have to look the bank balance in the eye
  4. going to the pub for the whole afternoon and thinking solitary thoughts
  5. going to the pub for the whole afternoon with colleagues in a similar boat and drowning your sorrows together
  6. picking up some exciting new/old hobby which is more fun than actually working and throwing yourself into that, while your other half notices that you’ve increasingly neither a) done the washing up, b) got a job

In this case, 2 doesn’t apply – because it was just that my contract at GDS had to end. I’d been their for long enough, and it’s completely appropriate some folks thought it was time for me to move on. Also, at what point do I become an overpaid dysfunctional employee?

5 doesn’t apply either, because I’m the only one who’s had this happen.

So how do I avoid the solitary confinement, domestic displacement activity, pubsitting, or drowning myself in fun?

In short, I’ve written myself some SLOs and SLIs (not SLAs) and some health metrics. The SLOs are based on what I think “normal” should look like from the outside world. Not hitting them isn’t bad per se, but they’re probably an indicator that something else is up and I need to check in on myself. As ever, an SLI should be a reason to have a discussion.

They include things like:

  • An in-hours SMS should get a response within 2h
  • Between 70 and 90% of phonecalls should be answered, even if you think they’re spam

Meanwhile the health metrics include:

  • Spend an hour outside a day
  • Look for work, but don’t do it for more than four hours per day

Based on the list at the top, I’ve also added the health metric

  • close email and only open it at particular times

which led to me revising an SLO

  • email in-hours should be answered in less than four working hours, but more than 30 minutes

That gives me permission to actually do other stuff – including having space for some of the hobbies, domestic chores and recuperation I desperately wanted before starting the gig-that-was-not-to-be.

But once you’ve written these things down you start to notice the cheats. Your workarounds. Your twitches. Ways to deal with the dopamine. Ways to get the phone back into your hand or a browser reopened. So I’ve added one other health metric.

  • LinkedIn alerts and Twitter DMs are to be treated the same way as email.

Put the bloody phone down, Tom. Run outside and play. Run outside and play the ukulele.

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