Home-working: Two weeks in…
This week I have been thinking a lot about time management and about the way I manage my own workload and my time – and wheres and hows of I work through projects. So moving into a new flat on the 31st of Dec – and promising myself that I would use that new flat as a new a solid base for working on projects, in attempt to save money spent traveling & conversing in coffee shops, to cut down the unnecessary distractions of traveling and working ‘on-the-go’ (which is still important, but not so good for focusing on longer term/larger pieces of work) and thinking more about the distinctions between work and time off.
There has been no one-sized fits all, *winning* approach at the moment, but if I’m going to be kind to myself, I’ve noticed a big difference in my concentration levels over the last month or so (reading more, for longer – many years of internet-ing can turn you scatterbrain, I’m sure) which I would like to continue. Also, rather than juggling 5 things at once and sitting down and blasting each of them night before, I’ve been budgeting my time and working on them across week. Don’t get me wrong, if something comes up and needs to be done sooner rather than later, then I’ve been able to do that in the way I’d usually do it (mobile, laptop oot – done.) but I don’t think I’ve ever been so aware of the preparation time for things and how that needs to be considered, especially when you don’t have a guaranteed salary/bursary and/or a set period of hours that you work.
Not everything that you do can be measured in deliverable outputs – and maybe that’s the frame of mind I’m having to let go off after 4 years of being in the PhD environment. The space the PhD gave me to pursue short term contracts and to work between areas of interest has been invaluable – and I am very grateful and fortunate that I have been able to do that. But at the same time, as I spend this year focusing on the balance before I return, that I have a while to go until I get used to the ways of working that suits me the best.
When I was registered as PhD student, the way I worked allowed for the title of being a ‘PhD student’ as an excuse for the randomness of my working lifestyle, always thinking that once that is done and I’m graduated I will get a more stable job and work and representation just one organisation. Now that is stripped back, I am left in a position where I am more open to questions about my wider plans and forced (or even encouraged?) to think about such emerging work practices and my (and others) expectations surrounding them.
Reflective work practices, rebooted.
Anyway, the point of this post and the rambling that preceded it has been sparked by a discovering on one of my internet travels over the last few weeks. I caught up with an ex-colleague from Leicester’s blog (@llordllama) who had made the leap from librarianship to becoming PhD student at the University of Nottingham. I found myself reading his blog right back to the start of when he registered for the program in September and was really inspired by the fact he had decided to write a paragraph for each day of the week. When all those short, little things are put together (like finishing a book – or attending a meeting), you can see at a glance (over time) about how much goes into a week and if it is beginning to make some progress that might not be so obvious at the time. I certainly wasn’t doing anywhere near the amount of stuff that I should have been doing through my 3rd year of my PhD, that’s for damn sure.
With that in mind, I am going to begin writing up a blog post (do a little a day) to to be published on either a Friday or Saturday evening that captures a little bit of what I’ve been working on, where it is at and where I am going next. I worked out today that I probably now have 4 part-time ‘grown up’ jobs on at the moment, all of which are contracts that end between March and June, and feel interconnected in someway, albeit not through official job titles or organisations. I’ve thought about applying for a full-time job and working on only that, the easiest solution to being able to reclaim the evenings and weekends as obvious times for the leisure stuff, but I feel that at the moment I need to capitalise on the variety of roles I’ve been offered, not only so they can feed into each other for bigger ongoing projects, but also as an opportunity to really focus on what my specialist “services” actually are. I don’t think this way of working is something I will be able to do for the rest of my life – but I guess what it does allow me to do is carve out a more focused niche that means I can say with more confidence that a project or activity is suited for me, or if it can be recommended to somebody else.
The Weekly Round Up: 21st of January 2013-25th of January 2013
Monday’s are blocked out for working on a project at UWS that is evaluating the impact of the London 2012 Cultural Program in Scotland. I’ve been working on this with Gayle and David since July 2012 (wow, the time has flown on that) It has been commissioned by Creative Scotland- who are the client – and my role on the project is predominantly research assistance, but also to develop a report around measuring impact of the program’s events from social media data gathered. This week I’ve tasked with checking the data accuracy and will be working on finalising my part of the social media report over the next week or so. I’ve learnt so much about research project management and Scotland’s cultural sector from working with the team and in this particular context.
I got home and I ended up wiping my white board clean and drawing out a chart of how I was going to manage my week. I aimed to force myself to stick to it, at least in roughly timed out blocks. It worked!
Finalised a funding draft report that I had started for a SFC innovation voucher around a project called “Digital Burns Night”. Even though Burns night is today (25th), working with the Burns Federation as a client, we (as part of UWS – and hopefully John Popham, who came up with the initial idea in the first place when we were working together on Our Digital Planet a few months ago) are hoping to develop a plan to work on an event, live stream and mobile app for Burns Night in 2014.
I needed to address the whole ‘sitting on my arse and treating my home as an office’ angst that was starting to bubble, I made sure that I was going to do nothing that day apart from work at home. I had the draft of Wester Hailes’ Digital Sentinel media policy for my community media development contract for WHALEArts to finish, as well as develop 3 pilot taster sessions for training different levels of community reporters who would go on to work for the developing news agency. Writing about community media, my ultimate passion (radio, film, events, citizen journalism, you name it) started to make me sad about not working with people like John Coster and Tina Barton of Citizen’s Eye on a regular basis anymore – and it also felt hypocritical to be developing a policy for another area when I hadn’t been involved in a front-line citizen media project since Citizen Relay ended. I’m also not teaching at the moment, first time in 5 years now, so not getting the chance to just communicate new ideas, have them challenged/discussed and to reflect on that, you don’t realise how important that is if you are in just a minor position of influence as far as knowledge sharing is concerned. So, I contacted Sunny Govan Radio (who are very local to me, and I hear do amazing and interesting things) about volunteering as a trainer. They got back to me on Thursday and I am going in for a meeting next Wednesday. Again, this is an opportunity to pursue new things and to challenge some of the restlessness that I get if I spend too much time in my own company. :-)
Lastly, after all this over-thinking and chatting aboot freelancing angst on twitters, Tony @poprock suggested I get in touch with @DeskUnion, a local start up that matches freelancers with available desk space, with the aim to promote co-working, and perhaps do a guest post (which I did and was published on Wednesday over —> here)
Wednesday was good. Started the day with a coffee in the west end with Joanne, another freelancer who had got me to write something for Free Pint magazine a few years ago. Although we’d ended up following each other twitter for a good wee while, it wasn’t before I moved back to Glasgow last year that I realised we both lived in the same fine city. It was great being able to finally get a date to sit down and basically have a natter. It was good to compare stories but also note that some of those angsty feelings are perfectly normal and remembering to focus on the good things that make it all worth while.
I walked back from the West End to Cessnock over the Clyde, which I love living near. The walk did me swell. I think much of my need to pap about all the time is the space I get to listen to tunes and just look at things. Don’t always need to be going anywhere in particular. Worth remembering that.
Came back, blasted the media policy document that had been hanging over me for a while. As I am writing this on Friday, I feel like I always have to tell me present self that you do need to take time away from it if you are troubled by its progress in order to get it done – but if only it was that obvious at the time. As I write this blog post, I am either avoiding some other things that I need to do, or am I taking time to reflect before I blast that too. Who knows?
Started another proposal around further work with a recent client in terms of training on social media and understanding analytics and measurement of impact online. Hopefully find out more about that next week.
Thursday was an early start as I made my way through to Wester Hailes for a group meeting about updating of what people are currently working on for the area – I was presenting on what I had been up to in terms of moving the Digital Sentinel forward, and the context of the media policy and why it, not only needs to be in place but will need ongoing revision as a living breathing document that is shaped by the community and those who intend to use the sentinel. It was an exciting meeting, but also highlights the future challenges. I definitely feel that stage one of my involvement is complete and I guess I’m ready to get stuck into the fun part which is getting the project off the ground and making it real enough to hand over as an actual thing that isn’t just an idea on paper.
Had a lovely coffee meeting (in our usual tinderbox) with Cathy from CILIP Scotland this morning. We were finalising the details of me working with the organisation as a Digital Policy Officer for 1 day a week until April. So like that, I picked up another contract that could lead to even more exciting things that link to CPD and the library services. The work begins next Tuesday – and excellent end to a week which started with nae confidence and a January fuelled angst. I’m very excited by what may come out of the work I’ve been tasked with.