Annual report...

Last year I created an annual report to help me reflect on the year and determine what it is that I need to keep the same, change, eliminate, or get counselling from to recover.  I found it a really helpful process so I'm going to try and make it an annual event even though I'm a little late with it this year.

1 What are your biggest accomplishments this year?

Last year I've achieved quite a few things that I wanted to, plus a few nice surprises.

  • I was nominated for an NUS teaching award by one of my students, this means an awful lot to me as it shows I'm appreciated and genuinely making a difference.  Plus I got a mug and some free food!
  • I won the Vice Chancellor's Teaching Excellence Award.
  • I passed my interim assessment on my PhD, although I'm still not sure how.
  • We moved into our new family home and got ourselves established after a much harder build than we expected.
  • I turned 40... quite a few of my friends I grew up with never made it this far. I feel blessed.

2 What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this year?

I'm a dreadful communicator.  I can sing, dance, argue the point about the most complex of subjects, but I'm rubbish at talking about how I'm feeling, particularly if I'm feeling negative, tired, upset, or worried.  I've plenty of friends who'd let me bash their ears if needed, but I choose not to, I bottle it up, burn out, creak along until I fall over.

177:365 - FBE...

I've been surrounded a lot by serious illness this year, from close family, friends, work colleagues, students... and I've got to admit it's been pretty scary.  There's been times where I've genuinely feared for those I hold dearest and panicked that there's about to be a big hole in my life, I need to let these people know more often how much they mean to me, I've learned that life is fragile and precious.

3 With a grade, how satisfied are you with how you spent the year? Why?

I'd struggle to give this a universal grade.  I'm made up with the new house, it's given us a lot of space and we can have friends round for parties and food which has helped us strengthen relationships with friends and have visitors stay for catch ups, this has really contributed to life quality in a positive way.  The glass is definitely half full...

148:365 - Glass half empty?..

As always there are parts of work I love, parts I'd prefer to have surgically removed, but I attended graduation for the first time last year and I really enjoyed seeing my students graduate, which bearing in mind I didn't want to go to my own graduation is quite something.  It was also nice that we went for a few beers with our students afterwards and I think they liked seeing that we're human too... we think a lot of our students, but sometimes feel we have to maintain a bit of distance.  I'm not sure we've got the balance always right.

I think on the whole I'd give the year a B, because I need to gain more balance between home and work and find some collaborators for my research to work with, but on the whole I'm satisfied.

4 What do you want to accomplish next year, such that it’s your best year ever?

  • I want to learn to relax.
  • I want to make progress on my PhD and I want to build a team around my research.
  • I want to survive my chairmanship with the IStructE in one piece.
  • I want to be more anarchic and chaotic in my thinking and behaviour, I want to challenge convention.
  • I want to surround myself with more brilliant people, to collaborate, contribute, relish....
  • I want to grow.

5 What new habits to cultivate that will help you to achieve your goals in Q4?

I hope to identify better places to work, either through sharing an office space with someone, getting a study buddy to work with or perhaps just working from home more often with a colleague/friend.  I really want to immerse myself in research the coming year, but would work better if I had someone to immerse myself with in the topic.

I intend to chill out a little more, I work far too many hours on too many different roles this sometimes results in me spreading myself too thinly.   More concerts, more beer, more silliness, more doing nothing from time to time...

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Once my chairmanship is up with the IStructE I am seriously considering walking away from several positions to free up time.  I've learned enough about roles to support/coach/mentor future graduates and I've no intention of pushing for a senior position.  I would like to become a Fellow of the Royal Society or the Royal Academy of Engineering, but I can't see that happening as I'm not linked to either institution and you're nominated for membership.

I will be more anarchic, I'm intending that this will be my last full calendar year as an academic (I plan to leave in 18 months time) and so before I leave I will challenge the system and try and leave a positive mark.  However, if I build a good research team around me with PhD students I genuinely could see me extending my timescale, or sharing myself between academia and an industrial role.  I will try my hardest to not become a passenger, I will be different, I will make a difference...

206:365 - Feeling blue...

6 What are your immediate next steps to achieve these goals?

I will make more time to spend time with the family, this year we started playing board games with the kids and going out for walks.  I just need to try and protect more time to head out with my wife.

Last year I said I'd start growing plants and baking with the kids.... the baking part took off and I learned a few basic recipes and even taught my daughter how to use the electric whisk.  I need to do more of this.

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I will grow, with purpose, focus, and a mohawk...

 

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