Today I gave my 30th blood donation. The last time I was there a lady was celebrating her 100th donation! My goal is to get to 40 before I'm 40.
I went for the first time as a teenager when my Mum took me along with her. It was in the sports hall where I did trampolining and went to football camps in the summer holidays. At uni the donor team set up in the Students Union. And in my later 20s it was the community centre in the village I lived in. Now I go to the donor centre, a permanent space for the NHS Blood and Transplant team in Newcastle.
I love everything about giving blood. The staff always manage to create a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Today all the staff of a certain age were singing along to Hot Chocolate on the radio and I had a good chat that ranged from cooking new things during the pandemic to the importance of finding work that challenges and fulfils you.
I love seeing all the first timers... and the old timers.
I love the follow up; finding out when and where my blood has been used.
For the most part I sit in silence while I work. However, I've got a new clock in my office and it has THE LOUDEST TICK EVER. I have superhuman hearing, so it's probably not even that loud, this just means that repetitive sounds like this really bug me. So I've been thinking a lot about soundtracks that are conducive for work.
When I worked for universities in open plan offices sound was essential for a happy work day. In the quest to quiet the ticking clock I've found myself returning to some old habits.
When I'm working with words music won't cut it. Even instrumental. Instead, I prefer some sounds of nature. Services like Online Background Noises and Noisili let me craft a unique mix of the elements. And very occasionally I'll opt for a bit of coffee shop ambience, perhaps with some rain beating on the windows and a roaring fire in the corner.
I worked furiously yesterday to get a project finished for today's deadline. I was focused and systematic and I got more than I expected to done. That is, I finished all of the essential work and got most of the nice to have stuff done too.
Working up to the wire in this way is how I work best. I don't know any other way to be. Without the time pressure I rarely find the zone of focus and flow I need to really get things done.
I battled with this for a long time because it feels out of sync with my nature. I'm a planner and always organised. In a group, I'm the one who has thought of every eventuality and prepared for it. What I've come to realise is that this is what allows me to work effectively when time is limited. I use my time in advance to come up with a plan so that when it comes to those final hours I know exactly what I've got to do and how to go about it. That means I rarely miss a deadline.
So back to this latest project I've been working on...
After the rush and high of finishing on time I discovered that I'd got my dates wrong and the deadline is actually a week away! It feels so strange to have finished something so far ahead of schedule. I almost don't know what to do with myself!
On August 26 2020 I set out my intention to take part in #100DaysToOffload. A challenge to publish 100 blog posts in one year. Less than a month later, I fell off the wagon having published just six posts!
As of today, 1 February, there are 205 days until my year is up. That means to reach my goal I need to post roughly every other day between now and then. I want to reach that goal and re-establish a regular writing routine.
To get things started I've committed to publish every day throughout February. I'm using Austin Kleon's monthly challenge template to keep me on track.
A previous version of this template has space to add a reward for when you reach your goal. As I'm trying not to buy any new books at the moment (while I work my way through a monster to-read pile) I felt a fitting reward would be to pick up something from my wishlist. I've chosen The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova.
At hockey training last night we were working on match situations where one team has an overload. After a while, we paused to talk about how it was going. It felt like chaos and mostly we were running around like headless chickens.
Our coach gave us this advice for what to do when you’re under pressure:
be decisive in your actions
if it doesn’t work, change direction
protect the ball
As soon as she'd made the first point I knew what she was saying would be applicable off the hockey pitch as well as on it. In a non-sporting context, for the final point, I'd substitute your wellbeing for the ball. Other than that, I'd say they're all valid in situations when we're feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and under pressure.
What do you think? Where in your life could you apply these steps to make a difference?
There was a tweet going round over the weekend that asked you to name one thing your Dad taught you. I didn't respond because I couldn't pick just one. So instead, here's 10 of the things that came to mind (in no particular order):
that the crusty bits around the edges are the tastiest