If 2018 was about reconnecting with what makes me tick in new, changed circumstances, I’d like 2019 to be a year of putting a few decisive stakes in the ground. This will be a year for picking a few key strengths and focussing hard to take these to the next level while keeping free of distractions. It’s a year for getting back to basics, stripping things to their essentials and running lean. If it goes well, I will move onward with confidence in important ways and the amount of ground I cover should be noticeable both to myself and others.
So, three things...
Having decided to do this, I am determined to wring every ounce of value out of it. This isn’t an exercise in hiding away for four years to write something turgid that no-one will ever read. The point of having the qualification itself at the end is simply credibility that allows you to be in certain rooms that I have decided I’d like to be allowed into. Were it just about that, nevertheless I probably wouldn’t bother. But the process of doing it can also help me fuse together several disparate interests in ways that both expand and deepen my possibility and plausability space while giving me a point of difference across all those disparate interests. In short, I can start leveraging and making it pay off from Day One and it will become my ticket to becoming a professional insider/outsider. It’s also an opportunity to see how well I really understand the rules of the academic game, which will be fun in its own special way.
A PhD is a 3-4 year project. For me, winning in Year One looks like:
- Getting through all the tedious enrolment stuff and associated administravia without losing my temper (this would have defeated pre-2018 Danu without firing a shot)
- Nailing the structure of the thing so it hits all the right points
- Getting the core theoretical social science foundations in place and written to a high standard
- Starting to get meaningfully involved and make connections in the games for research space
- Devourng the relevant games literature and picking out the useful bits
- Becoming more literate in the coding and computer science skills I will need to succeed (in 2019 this will most likely entail becoming clear about what these are and establishing some sort of beachhead)
- Stretch goal: Publish an academic paper and/or become a contributor for a games publication.
2018 was a great year for validating this, but I want to be explicit about it and put on the big boy pants in 2019. I want to cultivate a reputation as a safe pair of hands to lead when serious, transformative change is on the cards – a diplomatic consensus-builder who will quickly get to the heart of things and bring everyone along the journey but who nonetheless won’t shy away from putting the foot down or throwing weight around where necessary to get where we need to be. Everyone can get on the bus and help plan the route, but if you’re not on the bus when it’s time to go you’ll be walking home and you’d better get out of the way.
Winning in 2019 looks like:
- Give me the ball. I am well-used to the sort of covert leadership that relies on influence without authority, but that will only take you so far. If I’m really going to hit the game-winner, I will need clear parameters, positional authority and sufficient resources. In a work environment that rewards entrepreneurial initiative, it will be up to me to figure out what this looks like as well as how, who and when to ask for it.
- I’m already a demon on the soft skills. In the space I’m working in, it would help to have a few more hard skills. Get my head around stats, data science and information architecture. Along with where I’m doing with the PhD, this will make the flywheel spin faster and I have the perfect occasion to get hands-on about this in my current occupation. Sieze all available opportunities.
In 2018, I noticed two major things about my routine. One was the amount of time, effort and tweaking it took to integrate something completely new and foreign – e.g. cooking – and the widespread effects this had on so many other aspects of life, including hobbies, social commitments, finances, mental health and productivity. The second thing I noticed was how changing the way you go about doing an activity – e.g. listening to music – has a staggering effect on the way you engage with that activity and what it means to you. In the case of Spotify, taking the time to learn and adapt to a new way of doing things (to which I was initially resistant) has completely reinvigorated my relationship to music.
In 2019 I’d like to harness those insights in service of a wholesale review of the way I currently do a whole bunch of things, because there is unlikely to be a better time and also because fuck it, why not? I’m not sure what this will involve or where it will lead, but some mutually-reinforcing ideas of what winning might look like are:
- After an 18-month experiment using an iPad as my primary computing device, I’ve decided it’s not giving me what I need. But what I need has changed, and also there are all sorts of new ways of doing things now too. Figure out and implement a computing workflow fit for purpose in 2019.
- Eat out less. Eating out is so habitual and embedded into the way I go about things at present that this will mean a major upheaval and unintended consequences. But it’s where I want to go. Figure it out.
- Spend less. I have some basic back-of-the-envelope ideas about how my budget and spending should look. Change whatever needs to be changed to get to that.
- Move house. Last year I put considerable effort into making the kind of space I’d like to be in. Now I need to mke sure that space is in the right place. Figure out what’s needed and get it done.
- Maintain relationships. I need to find new ways of doing this, because not only have I been objectively bad at it the past few years, but it has also been messing with my head. Figure out the kinds of relationships are wanted and possible and rearrange whatever needs rearranging to do make that work. Be there for the people that matter in the ways that matter.
- Have fun. I’m a very work-focussed and goal-directed person, and sometimes I forget that not absolutely every moment needs to be aligned productively towards achieving something. (Or more precisely, I sometimes forget that making time for simply playing and having fun is ultimately a better way of achieving all the things I want to do anyway.) Others may find the following surprising, but related to the previous point about maintaining relationships, I’m also someone who often does things I don’t really want to do just to be agreeable or to make others happy, while talking myself into the idea that I’m having fun. I need to cut away the fog surrounding all of this and just be clear, honest and unapologetic about what and who gives me life, and organise things around that. Do it and don’t look back.
2019 is going to be a big year and I will need to stay sharply focussed if I’m going to pull off the list I’ve made. That means I’m going to have to postpone or say no to things that don’t fit, even if I want to. The year ahead is also an opportunity to test my appetite for ruthless prioritisation of the kind I need if I’m to be the leader I want to be and apply this to myself. I can talk a good talk. 2019 is a year for walking the walk. Let’s go.