I'm getting ready for the New Year Resolution effort. What shall I resolve?
Taking a look at the week just gone – could it be described as 'typical' – I'm hoping to get some pointers.
Monday December 17
One of the time management things working in the UK and with colleagues on the US East and West Coast is handling the fact that 5:00 pm UK – normally construed as end of the working day, is 9:00 am US west coast – normally construed as the beginning of the work day. So I can easily do two days back to back in one day, as it were. How about resolving not to do two back to back days? Do I really want to take a phone call walking in pouring rain back from the station at 10:00 pm on the merits of using business intelligence/research in responding to an RFP? I have to recall from memory the PowerPoint I constructed on this as, fortunately, I have not yet got software that projects onto my retina a visual image of a PowerPoint as I am walking along. I think this is coming though.
Tuesday December 18
Well today I got up at my usual time, 5:30 am, and headed for the station. I could resolve not to travel on commuter trains, or within standard commuting hours. Oxford to Paddington requires speed to land a seat in the rush hour. It's impossible to get a seat on the Underground. Standing, it's not easy to respond to the overnight West Coast emails in a crush of people as one-fingered BlackBerry typing is laborious. Nor can I log on to finish the important document I started the evening before.
SIDEBAR I tried it out on the evening commuter train Kings Cross to Leeds the previous week because there were no seats. Linda and I had arranged to get the same train so we could work on our presentation. We stood at the cafe serving bar (same height as standing desk) working at the laptop -stopping it sliding with train movement, and keeping our own balance simultaneously. Fortunately the train emptied at Peterborough and we were able to find a seat and continue in relative comfort with our M & S G & T to hand. (Jargon buster: Marks & Spencer, gin and tonic)
A couple of meetings later I almost took a Boris bike instead of the underground to get to Canary Wharf from Waterloo but didn't – no reflective vest or helmet with me at the time and I've been inculcated with the US incredulity that anyone could cycle without a helmet. (One US cycle shop I went into – to get my bike repaired – more or less refused to release it to me when the assistant realized I didn't have a helmet to put on to ride it home. I bought a helmet). I could resolve to carry a reflective vest with me at all times to take advantage of all the shared bikes that are appearing in cities in order to avoid subways in commuting hours and I could resolve to revert to my UK insouciance about cycling without a helmet.
Wednesday December 19
Up to Halifax. I left the house to catch the 7:30 am train in the hope everything would work and I'd get the two connecting trains on time. It did, and I had a seat and internet access because I bought Cross-Country train Wi-Fi deal. This was great because I could post my Tweets for the day. I could resolve not to do any more Tweeting as I'm not convinced that the reward is worth the hassle of finding interesting things to Tweet about and the concept of anything being interesting in 140 characters is alien to me. Also it seems a colossal time-waster. I have to hunt around looking for stuff that conforms to my 'Tweet criteria', which means trawling through stuff. On the other hand a couple of times I've been pleasantly surprised by responses to some of my Tweets, and I've learned enough to win the local pub trivia quiz as long as it focuses on Victorian station architecture.
Thursday December 20
Off I go to London Heathrow (LHR) with a suitcase: not to travel anywhere for a change but to meet my daughter arriving from Sudan in flip-flops and clothing suited to 35C not 6C. She is shivering and glad of the white woolly hat and red duffle coat produced from my suitcase that instantly transforms her into a rather glamorous Santa Claus (in flip flops). We stop for hot chocolate in Terminal 4 (T4) arrival area and she remembers she has shoes. She delves into a suitcase, the size of which you'd need more than 7 reindeer to pull. I find the socks I have brought for her and then the scarf and gloves. She is now kitted up for the journey from T4 to some place where one can get the Oxford Tube (Terminal 5 or Central Bus Station).
On the journey to meet her I've already confirmed my resolution never to land or take off from T4 as there's no sane, quick way of getting to it – at least from Oxford. It's a colossal stress and waste of time. I already knew this as I took off and landed from London, T4 to EWR (Newark) the previous week. But it was too late to tell my daughter to change carrier to one that landed at Terminal 5 (T5) or Terminals1,2,3. Even BAA suggests you allow 105 minutes to connect between T5 and T4. This trip added to the time wasted waiting for the Airline bus from Oxford to LHR. I curse myself for not bringing my Kindle with me to read while waiting at the bus stop. I'd just loaded Obliquity (on decision making) onto it which has been recommended by two people already this week. I resolve always to bring my Kindle with me at all times – it would be useful in the queue in the Post Office as well. (15 mins today).
Friday December 21
I am sitting in my kitchen in Oxford on a work Skype call. I hear a phone ringing. Hmm, which phone is it? Landline, Blackberry personal, Blackberry work, ancient Nokia I use for UK calls while I'm here, or softphone on my desktop? In juggling the calls and then completing them before reverting to proposal writing I took a short break to list how many ways people can get in touch with me. (Yes, displacement activity – should I resolve not to do this?) It turns out to be twenty right now which surprised me: two US BlackBerries (own and business), UK cellphone (for while I'm here), Skype, UK landline, softphone on my laptop, three email accounts (personal, business, and university I teach for), postal system, LinkedIn, Twitter, Lync, WhatsApp, text messages (on any of the 3 mobile phones), BlackBerry Messenger (twice), and my blog. I think I'll resolve to limit communication channels I work in to 5 maximum – of course I'll need to run through a decision-making algorithm to prioritize them and then more activity in closing down some channels and dealing with people's reactions (especially mother's) at not being able to get through within 5 seconds. It may be worth it though as communication channels proliferate. Take a look at the Conversation Prism for a map of social media ones.
So the week ends with another G & T (Sainsbury's as I refuse to be trapped into customer loyalty programs) and here is my summary.
End of work week: proposed resolutions
Like any good consultant I've pulled out the key points from the above. They turn out to be the following resolutions:
1. I resolve not to do two back to back days (UK then West Coast)
2. I resolve not to travel on commuter trains, or within standard commuting hours
3. I resolve not to do any more Tweeting
4. I resolve never to land or take off from T4
5. I resolve to bring my Kindle with me at all times
6. I resolve not to partake in displacement activity that diverts me from the task in hand
7. I resolve to limit communication channels I am accessible by to 5 maximum
8. I resolve to carry a reflective vest with me at all times in order to take advantage of all the shared bikes that are appearing in cities and in order to avoid taking a subway in commuter hours.
9. I resolve to revert to my UK insouciance about cycling without a helmet.
Well and good. In fact terrific, because if I adopt all of them and stick to all of them I'll have plenty of time to get on with writing the second edition of my first book. But what would be the unintended consequences (to stay in consulting mode) of adopting them? Are the trade-offs and risks to rewards worth the adoption and discipline? I'm wavering. Some of them would be difficult to stick to – think of the repercussions of contravening the company's travel policy if I insist on traveling by a non-preferred carrier because it lands at T5 and not T4? Also I'll never get the book finished if I'm killed in a cycle accident because I'm not wearing a helmet. I think I'll make only one resolution – not to make any resolutions.
How about you? What are your resolutions?