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

Parents
  • Thank you  great read.

    For me I took a new role with in the organization in January, so a lot for me changed.   I was already working from home when things went weird.   For me I really didn't know what all went in to Managing a program to the extent i am now.   I had worked previously in small arms of the business more focused.  I was the Director of IT for a company owned by the parent.   Now I manage strategic programs and often find my skills which i worked 24 years to hone and make better, change from a jack of all trades to a need to me a master at something.   I now spend more time planning, what i feel i limbo as there is little I ever do with the actual execution.   I have been a leader for years but very hands on with my teams.  Not being able to jump in and do what I see needs done kills me.   My role however isn't the be the best IT person in my area, but more some provide the vision to those who can deliver the quality and user experience I can not.  

    I never knew how much I worked on an island at times, I fully believe i compartmentalized myself.   Now I am forced to bring teams, departments, leaders, and even companies together and managed resources, time, talent, and technology.   To say I was prepared for how I would have to approach it is a lie.   I was not.   I have had to learn a great deal about project management, more than I ever did in the past.   I have had to learn and read more this year than any previous.   Learning has become harder being isolated from the companies as well since you can not as easily build in the real world when you do not have the real work in your house.  By that I mean when you are working on something specific for work, in a Lab, Plant, office, you have that tech already there, and many test environments.   I work in heavy manufacturing and mining.   this is not as simple as sitting in a dark room and building some A.I. or simulating in a program, you have to put on the steel toe boots, hard hats and PPE and get to work.  I never thought I would admit it but I miss the plants, the dirt, grime, and need to wash the car after every third day to the residue of the plant sitting on it.  

    2020 taught me I was not prepared for what came next.   I had my Diet Dr Pepper, Water, TP and more in ample supply, but I found my arrogance and full lack of knowledge in strategic planning was sorely lacking.  I have had to maneuver myself throughout the year to ensure I am not only getting on the right track personally and professionally, getting the programs on track, but also trying to contribute to the organization I have called home for the last 8 years in new ways.

    But I always say, if it was easy it wouldn't be fun... 

Comment
  • Thank you  great read.

    For me I took a new role with in the organization in January, so a lot for me changed.   I was already working from home when things went weird.   For me I really didn't know what all went in to Managing a program to the extent i am now.   I had worked previously in small arms of the business more focused.  I was the Director of IT for a company owned by the parent.   Now I manage strategic programs and often find my skills which i worked 24 years to hone and make better, change from a jack of all trades to a need to me a master at something.   I now spend more time planning, what i feel i limbo as there is little I ever do with the actual execution.   I have been a leader for years but very hands on with my teams.  Not being able to jump in and do what I see needs done kills me.   My role however isn't the be the best IT person in my area, but more some provide the vision to those who can deliver the quality and user experience I can not.  

    I never knew how much I worked on an island at times, I fully believe i compartmentalized myself.   Now I am forced to bring teams, departments, leaders, and even companies together and managed resources, time, talent, and technology.   To say I was prepared for how I would have to approach it is a lie.   I was not.   I have had to learn a great deal about project management, more than I ever did in the past.   I have had to learn and read more this year than any previous.   Learning has become harder being isolated from the companies as well since you can not as easily build in the real world when you do not have the real work in your house.  By that I mean when you are working on something specific for work, in a Lab, Plant, office, you have that tech already there, and many test environments.   I work in heavy manufacturing and mining.   this is not as simple as sitting in a dark room and building some A.I. or simulating in a program, you have to put on the steel toe boots, hard hats and PPE and get to work.  I never thought I would admit it but I miss the plants, the dirt, grime, and need to wash the car after every third day to the residue of the plant sitting on it.  

    2020 taught me I was not prepared for what came next.   I had my Diet Dr Pepper, Water, TP and more in ample supply, but I found my arrogance and full lack of knowledge in strategic planning was sorely lacking.  I have had to maneuver myself throughout the year to ensure I am not only getting on the right track personally and professionally, getting the programs on track, but also trying to contribute to the organization I have called home for the last 8 years in new ways.

    But I always say, if it was easy it wouldn't be fun... 

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