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Failure modes

The boys have continued their tag-teaming efforts to keep us up at night: when it’s not one of them screaming his head off it’s the other. I can’t remember when we last had a longer stretch of good nights, meaning ones where there were ≤1 wakes between when Cal and I went to bed and about 6am.

They specialise in ‘cold start’ wake-ups: there is no period of shuffling around, making little noises and so on; no, it’s full-on AAAAAAAAAAGGHHHH blasting from the baby monitor without warning. Apparently the cult NXIVM used to require some of its elite members to ensure they were reachable at any time, and if their superiors were to ring in the middle of the night, they were expected to immediately pick up and say ‘I’m ready’. It’s a bit like that at my house lately and I have to say I make an extremely irritable cult lackey.

The worst failure mode of recent times. 😞

A trifecta of infections took my younger son to hospital for an overnight stay last week. He was discovered to have a bacterial infection and two viruses, paraflu and a rhinovirus (common cold), causing him to struggle to breathe.

I could write a whole other post about trying to get some sleep at the hospital but I… don’t want to. I have nothing bad to say about the medical care he received, but boy is it an unpleasant experience for the parent.

I spent the best part of Tuesday trapped in a chair holding my son who had no other place to be – there was a hospital bed but he would have tried to crawl off it and fall; there was the floor, but he had an oximeter on his foot that would have fallen off if he had been walking around. An oxygen mask had to be held up to his face nearly the whole time, meaning I could do nothing else with my hands.

At one point a nurse came by to check him over and turned on Teletubbies on the TV. Stuck sitting uncomfortably watching four adults in creepy costumes going ‘e-oh’ for hours with nothing else to do was at least as bad as mindless scrolling would have been. I got one toilet break and I used the opportunity to turn the bloody thing off, but when I got back, someone had turned it back on (probably to distract my son who had got upset when I left). Unfortunately I didn’t realise until I had sat back down with him on my lap. 🤦🏼‍♀️

Work is busy-busy-busy but interestingly so. The challenge for me when it gets busy and there is more than, say, one slow-paced project on, is spending meaningful amounts of time on one thing. The bigger pieces of work, like researching some company’s competition, need dedicated blocks of time and concentration to do well, but in busy periods I start feeling like everything is urgent and jumping from one thing to the next.

Another failure mode of mine is having a psychological need for clear decks before I can calm down to do some focused work. I want to feel like there aren’t a lot of tasks waiting, a lot of unread emails or a lot of empty teacups on my desk. I have been known to get into teacup spirals: let me clear out these teacups – ahh, that’s better, now I just need a cup of tea to get started – repeat.

I really loved Cal Newport’s latest podcast episode about the scourge of email, especially about the idea of process-based emails. He says email and the amount of it is not the problem; the problem is email that requires a response and especially the back-and-forth, asynchronous ones that he associates with the ‘hyperactive hivemind’ culture of work.

I don’t struggle with email too much but even so I thought the concept of preventing long and meandering email chains by introducing a process of dealing with the task in the initial email was interesting. It made me think of the common processes we have which waste time and what improvements might be feasible.

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