The stress of mornings

From the moment of my waking up to arriving at my desk: this seems to be the most stressful part of my day. There is so much to fit in, and two little people who just don't seem to get the concept of time or being late.

It has got me thinking about my mornings and how I can make them less stressful. And the answer is simple. Work from home or a cafe those mornings that I also have to get the kids to school. Do not even attempt to get into the office at the same time everybody else is trying to get to the office. Do the opposite of what everybody else is doing.

The answer to my stressful mornings maybe as simple as not trying to meet an arbitrary arrival deadline. I will experiment with this over the next two weeks.

Working hours

In my head I know how ridiculous it is to think that the most important thing about my work is that I am sitting at my desk at certain hours for a certain amount of time. But I am finding it hard to challenge and shake that sense of guilt when I am not at my desk when I feel I am suppose to be there.

It is a legacy of being a consultant for so long, billing the client by the hour and having the feeling of being watched.

I am encouraged by those I work around that they don't have this assumption. They encourage me, implicitly more than explicitly, to where when and where suits me. Results are paramount over location.

Today I tried to do it all...find the fastest way into school, workout in the morning, and get into work before 9. It was a failure on most accounts...but it lead me to this new way of thinking.

So tomorrow morning after dropping my kids at school I will be doing some work from home before heading into the office. I will avoid the peak hour rush. I will be more effective and less stressed when I do work.

When encountering a new culture

I am tempted to offer all sorts of suggestions at my new place of work. Things are different here. There are different assumptions; different constraints; different rituals. My immediate reaction is to want to do things that way I am used to doing them. 

I am parking this urge for the time being. While I will offer a few suggestions, my focus is on asking questions and understanding the way things work here first.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that this organisation is functioning, and functioning well. Therefore any reactive suggestions from me may not actually be that useful. It may be adding unnecessary process, or not aligned with the values of the organisation. I want to understand how and why it works first, and then bring my experience into the picture if I think it could help.

The second reason is that I want to unlearn some of my unhelpful habits and assumptions, and the best way to do this is to observe how somebody else does it.

I think that through this approach both the organisation and I will benefit.

Favourite shape

When I was a kid my favourite shape was a circle. There was a TV show called Play School and during one segment they always started by picking one of three windows. If the circle was not chosen, tears on my behalf would ensue. 

Back working in the CBD and an office this week, it is apparent that the favourite shape of the workplace are the rectangle and square.

Desks, monitors, meeting rooms, offices, partitions, doors, streets, windows, corridors. So may rectangles and squares, everywhere I move and everywhere I look.

I have not done any research about this, but I reckon the shapes we surround ourself with influence the way we interact and out ability to create. Straight lines are easy to build and put together, but I think they limit our ability to think about the connectedness of things, the blurring together of spaces and ideas.

In our natural habitat there is barely a straight line to be seen, let alone a corner. Coast lines, paths winding through forests, tree limbs, even the outline of our own bodies.

I would like to see different shapes brought into the places we move through and pause in. Shapes inspired by the world around us and what is inspiring for us, rather than efficiencies of building and construction.

A simple way to start is to bring the complex and fluid shapes of plants into our indoor environments.

The trick to being on time...

...is to be early.

It's as simple as that.

What a joy it is to be early. It is less stressful. The journey can be enjoyed. When arriving at the destination there is time to read, to stop and think.

And if things go pear-shaped along the way, at worst it probably means arriving a couple of minutes late.

Reflections on work: the weirdness of being in an office

I am working out of a co-working space with the organisation I have just joined. I love co-working spaces, but coming back into one I have a sense that while they are on the right track, the future of work looks nothing like what they currently look.

What I am imagining looks much more like a forest that an office. An urban forest. There is loads of natural light and plant life. It is weather proofed. It has places for people to meet under trees and on grass.

There is no pressure to be sitting at your desk because there is no desk. It is a beautiful gathering place for ideas to be shared and collaborations to be had, and then for people to go out into the wider world and do the work they need to do.

Coming back to an office for the first time, it just feels odd to be so removed from the outside world, to be in a bland space with sterile air and artificial light. I find myself wanting to just go for purposeless walks and be outside.

Reflections on work

I'm not sure if this will be dry or interesting, but over the next few days I am going to post my reflections on being back in paid employment after 18 months of working for myself.

I want to note what seems weird and strange and different this time round, before I become normalised to all this craziness.

If I had no clock...

The strange thing about checking the time is that it slows me down. The very act of checking the time takes time. Knowing that I am running late makes me stressed and less effective in doing what I need to do. Knowing that I am running early tends to relax me and slow me down.

However, there is that thing about deadlines and how they tend to make me get stuff done. 

So then, would it be useful to not check my clock at certain times? Like in the morning when we are all rushing to get out the door. Would it be more useful to simply focus on the necessities of what what needs to be done, and let time take care of itself?

An experiment for the next week as I go back to work, and my mornings get doubly crazy.

Threats of violence

Early this week I was threatened in violence. I don't want to say too much about the specifics as although I no longer feel threatened, I certainly do not want to antagonise the situation. 

What I do want to say is that this was the first time I have been threatened directly with violence, and although I only felt under threat for a few hours, it gave me a very small taste of what this must feel like for those who are constantly under the threat, or worse the reality, of violence.

I don't really know if it was bravado or legitimate or drug induced, but there was no mistaking what was said. I did not want to leave the house. I was concerned for my kids.

I have no idea what it must be like for those who constantly live under this reality, but horrible, stifling and oppressive are words that come to mind.

I'm not sure what else to say other than I stand with and for those who are in this kind of reality.

Less hangups

I am noticing that my kids have less hangups than I do. For the time being anyway.

For instance, whether they listen to TripleJ or classical music, they treat take them both on their merits, enjoying them according to their own tastes as opposed to what they are suppose to enjoy or their friends enjoy.

At their age, I wasn't allowed to listed to 'pop' or 'rock' music...it was of the devil. And classical music was of the old people.

I am pleasantly surprised about how minor it is for them to listen to either; to enjoy or not to enjoy according to how they as individuals feel. Long may it last.

After vulnerability

It is a bold step to be vulnerable, to be brave: to share something on Facebook that makes you feel exposed; to share something with a group you have not shared with anybody before; to reveal your faltering feelings to a loved one.

After this has been done a few times, in no longer takes bravery to keep doing it. Especially if the process is to keep going to new groups to be vulnerable for the first time, or to keep posting things on Facebook that put you out there. 

What I am starting to think is that there is something more. Something about committing to a group or a relationship, about continuing to show up even if there is nothing particularly vulnerable or exciting to reveal. Its like there is an initial step of putting yourself out there, and then not going and looking for the next post-vulnerability hit or accolade (or hangover).

I'm sure Brene Brown would have quite a bit to say about this, and I admit my thoughts are raw on this matter. But speaking from my experience I don't have too much trouble showing up and revealing who I am to a group. What I seem to find harder is making a commitment to keep showing up, persisting, just as I am, feeling vulnerable or not.

Leaving me hanging

One of my pet annoyances right now is when people leave me hanging. Its those times when I am trying to organise something with somebody else, they say they will get back to me, and then don't get back to me until right before the time we were scheduled to do something.

This is annoying for obvious reasons - I have put things on hold to do something with them, and if they cancel at the last minute I have often missed the opportunity to do something else.

I'm not quite sure what to do about this yet. It sometimes has its benefits in that a late cancellation can free up time I didn't think I was going to have. But when it involves my kids, and I have set expectations with them about some kind of activity or play date, it becomes hard to explain why we can no longer do that thing.

I think that a one-off occurrence is forgivable. People are doing their best amongst competing agendas. But for repeat offenders I have three options: put up with it; say something about it; or stop organising things with that person.

For the time being I am putting up with it.

Living arrangements

Yesterday I went to inspect some other places to live. I am happy where I live at the moment, and don't think I want to move, but I did want to see what else was out there, particularly for less rent than I am now paying.

What it got me thinking about was, what I am looking for in a place to live anyway? What would be the thing that would get me to move house?

Here are a few things that bubbled up:

  • being close to my kids school
  • being close to where I am going to do most of my work
  • a place with a backyard or very nearby park for the kids
  • a place that has a great vibe for working from home
  • a place that is close by other people who are aligned with my values and thinking
  • being close to my broader family

To summarise, it seems that the key factors are being in and around the community I identify with, and being in a beautiful space, both natural and built.

The place I am in right now has some of those elements. I think the community element could be improved, the cost could be less, and it could be closer to nature. For the time being though, I think it is enough.

Time away from work

There seems to be a myth that tells us if we spend a significant amount time away from work, away from a regular employed job, it will have long-term damaging consequences for our career.

I am here to say that I think the opposite is true. That this is a myth that serves the short-term interests of employers and keeps employees feeling trapped.

I have two experiences in taking career breaks. The first was when I walked away from my IT career for 4 years to pursue the creation of three small businesses. Not only did I have some of the best working experiences of my life during these 4 years, but when I came back to IT at the end of it I ended up being paid more than twice what I was paid before I left.

The second experience is right now, where I have taken 18 months of any type of paid work while I start some of my own ventures. I am about to go back to paid employment next week, and although I am not going to be earning the same kind of wage I was before I took this time off, I come to the job with a totally different perspective to work and know that the value I can offer is more than triple what I could have previously.

You are not stuck. You have options. They do not always seem obvious. They are not always easy. But in the end following your curiosity will be better for you and those you serve than staying where you are and following the rules.

Alone

I am staggered at how easy it is to feel all alone in this world. I have developed a new network of friends. I have deepened old friendships. I am close to my extended family. I live inner-city. I am on social media. And despite all this there are days when I wonder if I still know anybody.

Those days are more common just after I have parted ways with my two boys. Yesterday was one of them. After a solid week of being with them over the school holidays, the contrast yesterday was tangible. I spent the day not wanting to be with anybody, or talk with anybody. My introvert needed some attention.

I think I am ready to be with people again today. Ready to remember that I am not alone.

Get that one out of the way

The first time I do something I am often surprised at how badly I do it. I'm not sure if this is arrogance or ego. I assume I can be good at things first time round.  

What I have learnt is that the first time is bound to be poor. It isn't about quality. It's about learning.  

For example I took my kids to the snow yesterday. I had no idea the ordeal this would become. But we all learnt so much. We all want to come back one day. And the kids got a taste, feel and smell of something new. 

No comparison

I remember growing up thinking that I wanted to do better than others. I wanted to achieve more than my dad did.

Now that I have kids of my own, I realise there is nothing more that I want than for my kids to achieve more than me. And my idea of achievement has shifted so much that it is nothing like what I used to imaging achieving when I was a kid.

Achievement for me now means something more along the lines of the awareness to know myself and listen to myself, awareness of the reality of the context of my existence, the courage to live according to the truth I understand from this awareness, and the skills to put this courage into practise.

There is no competition. We are all on a path that is bound to the path of those around us. We are all here to help each other grow and achieve. I thank my dad for helping me the way he has. I enjoy nothing more than helping my kids on their own path.

Extra-cirricular

What if by the time my kids are 25 it is discovered that team sport is a horrible thing put kids through?

This is probably unlikely. However I am going through a process of trying to work out what extra stuff kids do? My kids do swimming lessons (although sometimes they are not too keen), play in a basketball team, and have done some soccer. What are the skills that are most important for them to develop? 

Here are a few categories:

Necessities

  • Swimming basics so they can have fun in the water and not drown

Good for coordination

  • Martial arts
  • Dance
  • Gymnastics
  • Music lessons
  • Team sports?

Good for creativity

  • Dance
  • Circus
  • Music lessons
  • Lego?

Good for socialisation / team work

  • All of the above?

Not sure that helps me that much. I think my rule of thumb will be, if the kids are into it and it is not add stress and cost to my life I don't want, then they can participate. Otherwise it is a no go.

Casual Sexism

A growing awareness I have is that amount of casual sexism that exists in my language. I am not sure what prompted this, but it has come to my attention with more regularity the number of times I use a masculine word or phrase when it is not particular needed.

I think this kind of unconscious sexism is prevalent in our culture. I posted a picture on Facebook over the weekend of a pedestrian crossing that has a graphic of a walking green women instead of a walking green man. Why is it that all the graphics are men? 

These kinds of changes bring to light how tilted towards the masculine so many things are. It seems to me that there are some fantastic change being made in Australia, like the introduction of women's teams into the AFL and other sporting codes. I am sure there are many more ways that as a society we are unaware of 

Other things I ask myself include: Why are most movies dominated by male characters? Why are the children's books I read to my kids dominated by males, whether they be human or animal?

Hopefully in 20 years time when we look back these kind of things will be a source of embarrassment due to how far we have progressed.

Benefits of missing out

It is morning, and I check my diary for what I have on during the day. There is a 9:30 coffee with Chris, but no location. I email Chris to confirm we are still on, and where we are meeting. Five minutes later he calls me back, apologising as he cannot make it after forgetting to put it in his diary.

I am annoyed. I was looking forward to hanging out with Chris this morning. I don't know him that well, but he seems like an awesome guy. We tentatively make arrangements for the following week. I wonder what I am going to do with my morning.

I drop the kids and school and then drive to my favourite hood - Fitzroy. I drive around the back streets looking for a place just to hang; a cafe that could possibly meet my current weird dietary requirements. I see a face; a familiar face. Rodney! 

The last time I saw him was about 10 years ago, before we both left this city. So much has changed since then. There is nobody in the world I would more like to hang out with right now. Warm, genuine, thoughtful, Rodney.

I park the car, walk to the cafe, and then over to where he is sitting.

'Rodney', I say. We hug.