Wednesday, December 21, 2016

back and forward

This year, unlike last, I work until the day before Christmas.  Last year, when Flucha and the baby were still in Heidelberg, I was gone a weekend earlier to get the trip to Argentina going.  The trip is the same this year, but getting there is easier.  It doesn't require hours on the train.  It could have been even easier, at least for Flucha, if I had traveled on the same day, but somehow our communication suffered a serious breakdown when we booked the flights.  We only realized a few weeks ago that I'd be traveling two days later.

Flucha and the toddler are now on the plane to London.  I'm sitting in the café by the terrace overlooking the gates at Zurich airport.  It's time to take stock.  The film of the departing year rolls by my mind's eye.  What was good and what can be improved for next year?

In terms of work, these considerations are rather acute.  I had my annual performance review this morning.  There was nothing surprising in it.  The year was good overall.  But looking at it with eyes sharpened by a sales training I attended over the last few months, I see that there is definitely room for improvement.

Before I commit two goals, formulated without too much thought, to writing, let's briefly review the year in trips.  The most shocking realization is that I didn't add a new country to my paltry list of 30 or so.  I traveled to the US four times, picking up 600€ delay compensation from United and Silver status with Star Alliance in the process.  Reading about my status achievement with considerable excitement I realized that there are almost no benefits.  Gold is where it starts.  I'm nowhere near it and hope I my travel intensity won't be high enough to reach it.

All other trips were in Europe.  I went to Germany, Sweden, France and the UK – multiple times and not for the first time.  Scrutinizing the trips I surprised myself by identifying one to the south of Bavaria, just a few hours in the car from Zurich, as the highlight of the year.  Murnau hosted a stellar conference and is situated in beautiful surroundings, but what made the trip a standout is that Flucha and the baby came.  We spent a few extra days and met my sister and family.  There was also beer and good food.  This trip had it all.

Regarding my goals for next year, focusing more strictly on achieving formal goal is an obvious point.  This was mentioned during the sales training, but one shouldn't really need training for this.  Still, my work is so varied and interesting that it's easy to get distracted and do what seems important (and maybe even urgent) at the moment.  I'll prioritize better next year.

Knowing how I spend my time is another point.  Often, when I look back on a day it seems all I did was read emails and reply to them.  Better than meetings, you might say, but it's not good enough.  I will group my tasks in eight to ten categories, install a time tracking app on my phone, and see how the categories fill with minutes and hours.  Maybe after a few weeks, I'll be able to prioritize and find enough spare time to read at least a couple of scientific papers a week.

Tomorrow will be busy at work.  Everything needs to be finished before I go off the grid for two-and-a-half weeks, but Friday is off.  A good opportunity to plan for next year and set concrete goals for myself – before I'm too busy with steak, ice cream and the beach.