Weeknote 20th Jan – Simplification

I don’t really have much work stuff to share, but I thought it might be useful to talk about some of the anti-work things that are going on. How I’m going through the process of untangling myself from people and places and habits, in case it’s useful for others.

Obviously I’m still absolutely blown away by the kindness and generosity of DIT at my leaving do. The presents were so incredibly thoughtful, and I’ve been rereading the card every few days – not least because it helps me work out what on earth it is I actually *do*. Supporting, being wise, being kind – those seem to be the main themes. And that’s not a bad thing to be known for really, is it? Oh, and gossiping in pubs, of course.

I’m still trying to work out when in my life I’d do anything notable enough to warrant opening that bottle of Bollinger Grand Année – but I’ve got until 2040 to find something. I’ll take it as a vote of confidence that something I do will warrant it.

But with the flurry of all that behind me, this was a full week of looking at all the plans I made and dreams I’d had for this time, and work out what really matters. Where to focus.

It’s come down to three simple things really:

  • Getting over the emotional burnout from my time at DIT
  • Getting ready for the new job at GDS in February (but not in an impostor syndrome way – I don’t have to prepare, I just need to be in good shape)
  • Maaaaaaybe having some kind of creative artefact or have some stories to tell

It’s odd how the list has shrunk. Yes it would be great to have a whole load of songs written, to have got better at the bass again, or have seen a bunch of friends in remote places,…but not at the expense of those first two things. And definitely not by taking on some new stressful personal project that’s going to lead to any steps backwards.

So the days have become much simpler. Each morning I just think about those three things, almost like they’re OKRs, and say “what do I need to do today to get closer to those”. And that’s shown how much other environmental noise I’ve been carrying around with me – and how that’s been getting in the way of everything.

So this is the new desktop. All the postit notes that covered the desk/surrounded the monitor – gone. All those principles to remember, the Laurie Santos checklists, or inspirational musical half-ideas I ought to explore at some stage – all transcribed and thrown in the compost bin. The good ones will be back.

I deleted the Twitter and LinkedIn apps from my phone at the start of the week too. Even with notifications turned off, they felt like unhelpful patterns. I need to be looking in to myself and tidying up, not getting nudged into social validation during all this spare time.

Also, controversially, I’ve taken down the modular synth. I love it dearly as a place to get lost and discover the unexpected, but it’s too broad and exploratory when you’re just trying to cover ground quickly. I find that I get caught up in obscure technical problems when trying to make recorded audio from a sequenced jam link up with things I’m adding on later – and that sends me spiralling into gloom because that kind of task feels too much like Being At Work.

So for the next week or so: it’s just me, Ableton Live, the Push, the Prophet 12 synth and the plugins I had already. A large canvas where I can get tons done, but not so vast I don’t flounder. And I’m finding that work is more focused as a result. I’m getting more stuff to happen. I’m finding it easier to amass ideas for collating later. Sound design is less of a distraction. And I’m actually having more fun and feeling better about myself as a result.

Alongside this, I’m getting deeper and deeper into the piano again. I stopped having lessons when the kids were little and there wasn’t time any more – and then they were the ones being dragged along to Seb’s. But in late summer I decided it was time to broaden my horizons again, and so I signed up after over a decade away. Last term I was really just consolidating all the pieces I’d been working on solo – and fixing things. But since Christmas I’ve managed to get at least an hour of proper depth practice in every day, and I’m making just the hugest amounts of progress. A wonderful thing to be getting out of this time.

In other news:

  • I spent the best part of a day dealing with onboarding onto the systems needed for my new contract and the ensuing queries. That was a bit miserable.
  • I’ve booked myself two nights out – completely on my own. They’re quite me. On 1st Feb I’m going to see Tannhauser at the Royal Opera House; on the 15th I’m off to Ally Pally to see Carly Rae Jepsen.
  • I’ve had two very nice afternoons in a pub with a notebook. One of them followed on from a nice lunch with Daisy. These have been amazing for recovery. Just that feeling of being in a bubble while the world happens around you, while you try and stretch out 2-3 pints as long as you possibly can.
  • I’ve watched a lot of fabulous films. Living, The Fabelmans, Tar, Brian and Charles. And some less good ones.
  • I’m managing to meditate for a good while every day.
  • I’m having a run or a big walk every day. (Although the injury from September is sending me some warning signs right now, so I’m going carefully)
  • My posture’s definitely getting better.

Of course, I’m a product person, and really it’s down to measurable impact – against the goals I set myself, not some vanity metrics. And really that’s come out in terms of one big thing. For various reasons, I’d not really slept properly since April-ish last year. I’d wake up in a panic after about three hours, and just lie awake turning things over in my head for a few hours more, trying to work out how to fix whatever was bugging me from work. This had become utterly normal, and carried on all the way through family holidays, Christmas, whatever. And on Tuesday I slept through the night. It was bewildering to be woken up by Vicky getting up at 6:45am…but bloody brilliant. I’m hoping that’s the cycle broken, not postponed.

I’ll leave you with Carly performing one of the greatest songs ever written. Have a fabulous weekend.

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