I’ve been really busy for the last few days – back to back meetings, no time for food, no time to think. I thought I was heading for an evening of just dozing on the sofa, but instead I find myself energised and excited about the possibilities that have revealed themselves during a few days of hectic activity. I feel motivated, stimulated – my brain whirring away on envisioning future scenarios, tentative list making, feeling empowered to move things along. I’ve been reflecting on the specifics that created such positive energy, that have given my week a real buzz. And it wasn’t anything complicated. In fact, it was a series of really quite small things, but with big consequences.
Monday. I had almost given up on a particular piece of work. After almost a year, there was little progress, no increasing engagement, I was bored and frustrated. Someone new engaged with the work – offered some new insights, completed some tasks that had been hanging around, had an aura of ‘can-do’, shared my forgotten vision. Boom! I was back in the zone. Sometimes other people’s motivation is a fast track to your own.
Tuesday. My PA screens all my incoming calls. He is brilliant at diverting the cold callers, the conference salespeople, the marketers. He is also brilliant at fitting people into my diary, understanding what the priorities are for me, so that no-one feels put off. Earlier this week he left a message on my desk, with a phone number and a little explanation about a man who had been put in touch by a mutual colleague and wanted to talk to me about volunteering. I confess I groaned. But I phoned. I spent 20 minutes talking to a delightful man who wanted to support the faculty, had some great ideas, knew some great people and wanted to work with us to help take forward some pretty exciting projects. Boom! Full of exciting possibilities. Never ignore something that seems inconsequential. Strangers turn out to be friends. Unexpected great stuff is really great stuff.
Wednesday. A Very Important Meeting with Very Important People. To make a case for something, answer some difficult questions, justify risk taking, convince of long term positive benefits. I was anxious, concerned about appearing defensive, of being parochial. I was rehearsing the arguments. A colleague said ‘For goodness sake, this is your stuff, you know it inside out’. At the meeting – tense, challenging – we talked about the future, about the vision, about what would be possible, about the aspirations of staff, the potential of ambition, not just for my own area but for the broadest possible benefits. The required approvals were given. Boom! Release of tension, progress on big, important stuff, a bigger picture painted. Massive air punch (outside the room) and shared the good news. So, be bold. Believe in your plans – understand how they will work, be sure about the returns, articulate the benefits beyond your ‘selfish’ interest. And listen to those comments that remind you quietly that you have knowledge and enthusiasm – an unbeatable combination and a great platform for confidence.
Thursday. It’s a long time since I’ve had the time to put in a personal bid for research or project funding. A few weeks ago I asked someone to help me write a very short bid for some internal project funding – a very small amount, just enough to help me do a literature review I’d been thinking about for months, but not getting round to. They turned my stream of consciousness notes into a bid, I submitted and promptly forgot about it. This week I heard the bid had been funded. I couldn’t have been more thrilled if it had been a million pound Research Council grant, not a couple of thousand pounds. That colleague had helped buy me some me-time to work on something close to my disciplinary heart. Boom! Personal satisfaction, anticipation, reconnecting with something important to me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with important, but small things that are personally meaningful – people are kind, helpful and collegiate. It was a great reminder of what terrific people I work alongside.
I could easily have filled this page with the stress, the tiredness, the long hours, the demands, the frustration. But it’s the buzz that stays with me. Always the buzz of things coming good, small or large and mostly because of other people and their unexpected and often unconscious influence.