Writing Challenge Day 9: I Didn't Think I'd Ever Need... to Plan Properly

I’ve never been very good at planning. I’ve gotten through life on a wing and a prayer. A little luck and a fair amount of determination.

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This year, things changed.

Suddenly everything we enjoyed and took for granted was gone.

There was part of me that felt a little annoyed my freedom had been curtailed. The annoyance was surpassed by the community spirit instilled in us all to protect those we loved.

Then, there was another part of me that secretly thought lockdowns could be interesting for an introverted, studious, pod-dweller like myself.

It became clear to me there were benefits to lockdowns:

  • No more commuting. (I dislike driving as I was involved in a road traffic accident in January of this year and so I was glad to be off the roads for a while.)
  • No more fuel costs.
  • I had time to plan, to learn, to automate.
  • No more annoying shopping trips.
  • No boss peering over my shoulder.
  • I could spend more time with my children and my wife.
  • I could sit in my garden pod and plan whatever I wanted to achieve. I had time. I had space. I was extremely lucky.
  • Food whenever I wanted it.
  • Endless coffee.

Most importantly, I could buy whatever technology I wanted and learn about it (as long as it was for business of course).

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The planning started.

I started by researching and planning to buy myself a new display.
I researched about a hundred displays looking for that sweet spot where performance meets resolution.
I settled upon thirty-eight inches of 144Hz OLED ultra-wide 3840 x 1600 screen real estate. It had a whirly LED color wheel on the back too.
I planned to upgrade the memory in my laptop from 16GB to 32GB DDR4.
I bought an Android drawing tablet to create some art and to take notes during meetings at work.
I took a long time to decide which specification I wanted for a new tablet, as I specifically didn’t want a fruit-related technology product. I found a suitable device with attached stylus that fulfilled my requirements.
I had the best tech to serve my customers and I had everything I needed to be the most efficient I could be. I learned to utilize Microsoft Teams properly. I used the planner to plan my time.
I organized my passwords effectively. I used a free password manager.
My planning came in handy when toilet rolls started flying off the shelves this year.

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  • Pasta was popular. Almost impossible to get hold of.
  • Self-rising flour all sold out. Everyone was baking.
  • Supermarkets started to ration customers. Marshals were appointed to control consumption and greediness.

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I wrote down everything I needed and visited small shops and local farm shops to get the things I needed rather than going to the supermarkets.

 

 

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A change of routine.

Without the normal fun things I enjoyed and the social aspects of life I couldn’t do. I discovered other fun things to do:

  • Spent time with the family (something commuting four hours a day ruined before the pandemic).
  • I baked. Small loaves, large loaves. Practical bakery.
  • I walked more.
  • I fixed up my bicycle and went for a cycle.
  • I followed the news, like we all did. I followed the data and the graphs that came out daily. I became a little obsessive.
  • I played far too many games. I’m terrible at most of them.
  • I tinkered with WordPress websites.
  • I picked up a bit of AWS knowledge—mainly how to host using Lightsail. It’s very easy.
  • I studied the intricacies of internet scam artists via a plethora of YouTube channels. It’s one of my favorite pastimes watching the scammers get reverse scammed.

My main client told me I was classed as an essential key worker. What did this mean?

It meant I could travel around the country when required to do so for my work. I filed this letter away, not wishing to acknowledge its existence.

Working every day has been hard but I’ve been grateful for the distraction. It’s kept me from worrying too much.

Occasionally I’ve ended up disappearing down the odd rabbit hole.

While sitting in a project management meeting, I thought I’d run “planning for the worst” through a well-known search engine. Don’t do this.

I spent a while on YouTube watching “preppers” and forest dwellers who had “bugged out” from society. I realized I should’ve stocked up a little better and I should’ve bought myself some proper survival gear in case this situation got worse.

I luckily already had a biofuel heater and a supply of bioethanol fuel. If the power was cut off, at least my family would be warm.

I had copious supplies of dried noodle pots and 48 cans of Dr. Pepper.

 

 

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Are we there yet?

So, it’s been what feels like forever and things have got better.

Two lockdowns down and probably more to come. I don’t bother paying attention to the epidemiological data anymore and I’m concentrating on NetFlow and dashboards. I find it’s healthier.

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I plan my days using Kanbans and my effectiveness is measured based upon how many Dr. Peppers I’ve consumed and the jobs I complete. I keep a lot of notes every day, a notepad and OneNote filled with my own personal event log, times, people, and the odd bit of critical information.

We have a team meeting every day to organize our other meetings and to prioritize and prepare for the day.

We always run through:

  • Defect testing
  • Requests for change
  • Incidents
  • Root cause analysis
  • Project updates, planned engineering work, and methods of procedure

With each passing day, I wonder why I ever went into the office?

Working from home is much easier and I’m much more effective. I work with a large company and many of its staff are based around the U.K., so being in a geographically remote office isn’t efficient or useful.

I’m hopeful about the future and I plan a little more each day. I realize how lucky I am, and I take nothing for granted now. It’s fantastic to work with some great people, who really understand the timescales we’re working towards and fundamentally the direction in which we’re going with our projects.

It feels like nothing can stop us… almost nothing.

I know each of us has our own methods of planning to help us get through each day. Whatever you do and however you do it, focus on the important things and enjoy life.

Have a great Xmas!

Anonymous

Top Comments

  •  wise words, thanks Leon. I know exactly what you mean. 

    Thankyou everyone.

  • The lockdowns have been a little different for me.  I work on some networks that aren't connected to the outside world.  You can probably guess what this means?

    I don't work from home although our users went from less than 10% to 70% working from home.  I haven't missed a single day of work since SARS-CoV-2 hit.  I've probably said before in the beginning I had a letter to carry in my car in case I got stopped saying I'm ok to be out driving due to being an "essential employee" in the industrial base.  For a couple weeks here in Phoenix is was that bad.  When I was out driving there was almost no one on the road or freeways... it was weird.

    I'm ready for it to be over now bring on the vaccines... I'm ready.

    Bill

  • Remembering the prompt for today is "I never thought I'd need..." and then we can all fill in the blank, I'd finish that sentence with
    "...to turn things off for my own health."

    I've never been one who was "threatened" by information. I may not have liked a particular piece of news, or a program, or book. But over the last several months I have found myself deciding - with greater frequency - "I don't need that in my brain right now."

    While the reasons for that are both obvious and also unfortunate, I think the habit will serve me in years to come. Like actual food, it's not healthy to consume every bit of information that comes across our digital table (certainly now in the age of algorithm-directed social media).

    There's a reason firewalls begin with the implicit rule "deny all". I think a little more of that would help, rather than hinder my growth.

  • My wife is a bit of a hoarder, she likes to say a prepper   So I rarely plan anything in the house, as it would normally be contrary to what she had planned or wanted.

    Work wise, I always plan, but I often find that even the best laid plans can fall apart.  I find being flexible, and having fluidity helps.  Goes nicely with a can do attitude I guess.  But i've always said that you don't earn the £ when things go well.  You earn it when things go upside down and back to front.

  • I am not bad with planning, I suck at time management. I try hard not to be late for things, but I get so into a flow that I am unware how much time has past. My wife will vouch that this has been an issue at least the 30+ years she has known me. She can wake up from a nap and know what time it is without looking. Me I am lucky if I can remember if it is morning or afternoon and I am awake all day!

    I make it to the theatre on time and don't miss flights, but that is because I would rather be 30+ minutes early. If I had to schedule it to arrive just in time, that isn't going to end well. I think this is from growing up in the Northeast, particularly northern NJ by NYC. If you did plan on 2 hours to go 20 miles, you were going to be late or miss the event completely. Big traffic teaches you patience and that so much is out of your control.

    So work from home cause me tremendous stress because that interwoven work-life lived experience was all over the place. I won't go into all the family things that have happened since March but oh boy. Of course there was the take the entire company to remote work, when in maybe had been 10% to 15% before. That was fun. I ended up buy a device from timeular. It gives me the physical item to manipulate to track my time and what a difference it makes. I get an up to the minute idea of how I am spending my time. SO when the wife comes in and wants to talk about X, I get upset. I just flip it over to the personal side and I am good. 

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