Mindful Diary: travelling in hope


Gratuitous dog pic

This is a bit of a life maintenance post written during the August effect of a lot of people being on holiday and a sense that you can breath a bit. I tried to lean into this feeling a bit as things have – for all of us – been on a war-footing throughout the pandemic and it feels as if we need to actively try and get the pace back to more sustainable levels. This of course supposes that things were sustainable before our todo list doubled with pandemic work but I’m sticking with that assumption for now.

I am however missing my August firebreak week and will definitely bring that back next year – the chance to think and write for a week feels both useful and indulgent but I am unapologetic about that.

I’ve written a few times about something I call (I think wistfully) mindful diary; its a heading for the stuff I do to try and get myself to a place where I think I’m controlling my own time to a great extent and working mindfully and proactively rather than constantly reactively. I am massively helped in this by having a brilliant assistant who tries to help me avoid my worse diary excesses but still it needs me to take this seriously and try and put the work in to plan so I share this here to connect with the other planning nerds…..

The current mindful diary looks like this:

  • Planning the week ahead as a close down to the week before — this is really a check of the diary for the week ahead to make sure I don’t need more than an hour to prep for anything plus making sure I start the week with a tidy todo list
  • Drop in times in the diary were really useful at CRUK and are now starting to really work at Adur and Worthing. It gives me a buffer where I can make sure I see members of the team at short notice when the diary is packed  (and when they need me!)
  • A day planner — a blow by blow list of meetings and why I am having them each day — this one I highly recommend as it makes you think about purpose
  •  Reserving more time which I don’t schedule until the week before so that I have time to respond to things as they arise rather than ending up with a bit of a car crash when urgent things pop up

Things to try for the autumn are:

  • Trying to build in more (shorter) firebreaks into my time so that I can actually think about things rather than just reacting – and stop this sensation of always trying to catch up
  • Going back to using the blogging to set my intent for the week. This works brilliantly but clearly depends on having time and the inclination to write. It works though as it helps me take a step back and make sure I am spending my energy where I can hope it has the greatest impact.

My big reflection at the moment though is that as the CEX (interim – travelling in hope there as well!) your time is inextricably linked on what is happening in the organisation and whether there is a rhythm to the work that you are plugged into. Yes, the unexpected will always happen – and thats part of the interest in the role – but getting on the front foot with the work is what keeps things calm which is why I am so pleased our organisational design work is taking a deep dive into how we plan and prioritise. I am still on the everlasting hunt for the hum but I think that a regular planning and prioritisation rhythm can help build that – and while as is famously said no plan survives contact with reality at least having a plan means that you are making active choices rather than just reacting – this goes for my mindful diary aspirations as well as for the bigger stuff.

PS As someone who panic buys notebooks when I feel too busy – despite having gone paperless about 10 years ago – this is my equivalent of the bullet journal but with less instagram potential.

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