Weeknotes, 20th January 2023

In-person client meetings, work travel, balancing new business in an anti-growth business: my week in review.

A snowy mountain and loch framed by tree branches
Ben Lomond seen from the shore of Loch Lomond

This week I:

  • Started with a kick-off meeting with a new client in Scotland. I went up a day early to explore and had an amazing walk under the snowy shadow of Ben Lomond. Being there in person for the meeting was great. I love asynchronous remote work, but it was really nice to get to meet new clients IRL and get to know them better.
  • Thought about work travel. I travel very infrequently these days – this was only the third time I’ve flown for work in almost 5 years of self-employment. I hadn’t been on a plane at all for three years before this. It got me thinking about how I used to travel across Europe for work a couple of times a month, and how glad I am that I don’t do that anymore. It was exhausting, I was always sick, I felt horrible about the environmental impact, and it was tough being away from home so much.
  • Wrote and read user manuals for me. To help get to know my new clients better and make sure we’re aware of each other’s quirks and ways of working, I suggested we all write a ‘user manual for me’, an idea I pinched from Cassie Robinson: read a blog post and get a template here. I love this as a tool to speed up the process of getting to know one another’s preferences and quirks.
A screenshot of a doc called 'A user manual for Lauren'
I've added a transcript of the content in this image at the bottom of the page, rather than as alt text for ease of use.
  • Did lots of user and stakeholder interviews, desk research, auditing, and coordinated it all in Dovetail. I love this tool and it’s become absolutely central to my work over the last year or so. It gives me process and structure, and makes collaboration and knowledge sharing much, much easier. The only issue is that I wish it was a bit more open in my scenario of consultancy. It’s hard to let clients into the space, because without having a licence that would be prohibitively expensive (for me anyway) you can’t restrict their access to specific projects. I spend lots of time writing reports to present findings that I’ve captured in Dovetail, and it’s a big waste of time. I’d like to be able to send people to Dovetail to read the findings and/or download a nicely formatted report to send to them. This is a frustration I have with so many tools – why can’t I get a nice report on that research, tree test, card sort, survey, etc? It feels like a significant unmet user need.
  • Wrote an edition of 10 Things for non-profits. This time it’s all about knowledge sharing – you can read it here.
  • Got a lot of new business enquiries. Given that at the end of last year, my pipeline was running dry, I’m incredibly excited about this and grateful beyond belief. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting whiplash from just how fast things change. And the rub is that I need to be sensible about how much I take on. Yes, I want to do everything and make hay while the new business sun is shining, but, I have to make sure it doesn’t come at the cost of quality of work, or my wellbeing. I’m not interested in running an agency, or growth, or making a lot of money, but I am very interested in doing more good work for good organisations, and building a more sustainable, consistent living.
  • Thought about Jacinda Arden’s incredible example of leadership: “I’m leaving, because with such a privileged role comes responsibility – the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

Image transcript

  • Conditions I like to work in
    • I like dedicating solid chunks of time to specific projects/tasks
    • I like talking things through/ collaborative working for coming up with ideas, understanding things
    • I like working on my own, in silence for writing
  • The times/hours I like to work
    • Monday to Friday
    • I’m better in the morning than the afternoon
    • In the dark bits of winter I tend to start early and finish early (c 7-3) but this is flexible
  • The best ways to communicate with me
    • Slack messages for most things, especially if you want a fast response
    • I can be a bit slow with emails as I tend to read/respond to them all in one go
  • The ways I like to receive feedback
    • I really appreciate specific feedback, e.g. I hate this because a, b, and c mean that x, y. and z’
    • I worry if I get no feedback at all, or if I get the sense people are holding back 
  • Things I need
    • To be able to ask lots of questions (including some stupid/obvious ones)
    • To be able to change my mind if I learn something new/things change without worrying that this will be seen as weakness
    • To feel good about the purpose, values, and ethics of the work I’m doing
  • Things I struggle with
    • Getting detailed info or feedback in an email, as I’ll normally have follow-up questions
    • Keeping on top of my inbox
  • Things I love
    • Simplifying complex things
    • New tools and bits of tech
    • Coming up with metaphors
      Drawing and diagrams to help me understand things
  • Other
    • I find long meetings easier with regular breaks
    • If you hear weird groaning noises on a call, it’s my dog Tilda (she has a lot of emotions)
    • I’m a carer and sometimes have to change my schedule at short notice

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