I hate new year.

An anxiety post and 2021 round up.

Earlier this evening I wrote a tweet that simply read:

I think I’ve mentioned before that new year is a big trigger for my anxiety. I find thinking about what I wanted to do and what I wanted to achieve (and may or may not have been successful) hard.

And then there’s a new year stretching out endlessly in front of me, days to be filled — time slipping by.

In the past few years I’ve tried to counteract this by setting some time aside for myself around this time to review and reflect. I find that the anxiety of this time of year often clouds out some of the better things that happened and clouds my judgement of what I might achieve next year.

And so, for no real reason other than to try to make myself feel a bit better, I’m going to review the year here to see what happened and to help myself to think through what 2022 might bring.

The start of 2021

I remember feeling this same way at the start of this year, but I guess in many ways it was worse. This time last year we knew we had vaccines coming, but not when, we were in lockdown and didn’t know when that would end. Christmas had been cancelled. I’ve just wrapped up Christmas with all of my family (including my brother and his girlfriend who traipsed all the way from Estonia and who I haven’t seen in over 2 years) so this is a much better way to start the year.

Coaching and Learning

I did several courses this year:

  • MOE Foundation coaching accreditation (and then coached a small charity founder later in the year)
  • Systems Thinking for Service Designers Modules 1 and 2 and learned about causal loops and stock and flow models, and,
  • Designing for Resonance, about Jungian psychoanalysis.

I created a piece of work with Ben from NZ government as part of the first systems thinking course — using causal loops to show how much Service Design does (or doesn’t) affect the wider system of government.

I also read several books for work including Beyond Sticky Notes, Building Successful Communities of Practice, Agile Comms Handbook, Thinking in Systems and Thematic Analysis but not as many blog posts and thoughts from real people (which I wish I had).

Speaking

I wrote a short talk about agile approaches to work wellness for Andy and crew at Corridor Camp, and then again for another department’s team.

I did a short talk at DeliverCon about how to create causal loop models using The Tiger Who Came To Tea, and then did a storytelling workshop later in the year for the Muslims at GDS network.

Sam from my Systems Thinking course also included my Tiger stuff in a talk he did:

And I was included in this guide about weeknotes:

Projects and work

I started this year with running the discovery for the community engagement playbook project, one of the LDCU’s Covid-19 funded projects which delivered discovery outputs in January.

In February I joined a new more corporate, organisational design project within my department, a ‘Sponsorship Review’ working directly to one of our directors. It was a step outside of my usual comfort zone and honestly, while it was eye opening I’m not sure I got all that much out of it other than being able to say I worked on a ‘high-profile’ thing — which actually, lets face it, is fairly important in the civil service — but means very little to me.

While I was away the LDCU team also beavered away to get the new digital skills training offer I’d designed set up:

Over the year I did more work on this and it was good to have a product that I could own for the first time in a long time. I enjoyed using all of the metrics I could to improve and report on it and to blog in the open about what we were finding — I wrote two further blog posts over the year about the offer, including one with interviews with 3 local government people who’d benefitted from it. Actually that was really one of the most fulfilling things about it — seeing how it was being used in practice in local government.

Several of the projects I worked with received follow on funding from the LDCU including the Quality Data for Children in Care project who went on to train several local authority children’s services Data Analysts in Python and developed a tool using a community development model.

I can’t remember too much of the summer except that I moved house and was settling in, work wasn’t particularly fun or fulfilling and the team changed and moved and things shifted and I felt like I didn’t fit anymore.

We did work on the next open round for funding and this was fine, but less smooth than usual given the number of new people in the team and delays for other reasons. Oh and Egle left which was sad.

I had to make some difficult decisions about my career in the civil service. I applied for a few jobs and got to interview for a couple I really wanted but also felt let down that I didn’t even make it to interview for others. I felt disillusioned and started speaking with people about opportunities elsewhere.

Part of the best thing about this whole process was that I got to speak with a lot of people about what I might do, people were really supportive and helpful and went over and above to help me show some of the things I’m good at (but bad at ‘selling’).

And ultimately I bagged myself a great new job with the team at Social Finance where I’m really enjoying my current work (and trying to work out how to do more and have more impact). I’m looking forward to working on things where I can really see my impact especially as we move into the new year.

Hmmm, so I’ve been writing this while watching Paddington 2, and (as I have been recently) I feel this post coming to a bit of an abrupt end as it’s now late.

I hope you have a lovely new year, and if you are feeling anxious or worried about the change in year I’d strongly recommend looking back and taking stock, I’d forgotten about huge parts of what I’ve put above — and I bet you have too.

Tomorrow I’ll be drinking some champagne, and going to bed at about 10pm because New Years are not for me and I don’t need to feel over-tired as well as anxious. So if you’re doing the same or if you’re celebrating in some other way that’s all good. I think we’re going to be ok in 2022, I believe in you.

Much love.

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Now: @socialfinanceuk Prev:@ldgovuk, Head of Digital at National Leadership Centre. GDS. Proud to be @OneTeamGov.

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Sam Villis

Sam Villis

Now: @socialfinanceuk Prev:@ldgovuk, Head of Digital at National Leadership Centre. GDS. Proud to be @OneTeamGov.

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