January 2024

My first public journal post for 2024. I'm going to try this out as a monthly thing - so far not many attempts or formats have stuck! We live and learn and I'll keep trying to find something that sticks.

The Vibe

The vibe has been chilled. I've had pretty much all of January off from work, which has provided some much-needed rest and space to think. It's been a staycation - half planned, half because of circumstances (wife with COVID and some financial constraints). At the end of 2023, I was probably heading towards another burnout. I think I had two episodes in that year alone, but this time, I recognised the signs and, with my leave approaching, was able to switch off and not go down that path. Christmas away with family was a quick defuse of the situation, but I felt that I wasn't really present for my family during that time.

January kicked off back at home — with a plan to eat better, exercise and get my shit together. Part of getting my shit together was enrolling in the Focus Course. I came across the course via a blog post earlier in the year that discussed the busted flywheel that leads to burnout -

This really resonated with where I've been at work for the last year, but maybe longer. It does describe where I get to in terms of work and life at my lowest points. I don't suffer from depression - but this flywheel perfectly describes me at my worst. It's great being able to recognise something, but I needed to make changes. With two weeks of the focus course complete I have gone back to look at my core values, articulated a vision for my life that I feel good about, and started to work on some goals. This all ties in to making some changes to diet and exercise and I feel much more mentally prepared for the new year. The sense of impending burnout has gone and now I feel more focussed.

There are still two weeks of the course left, so there is plenty more to do, but my next big step is to feel more practised. To embed the changes into my everyday life. The challenge comes from going back to work and school and the drumbeat of the everyday returns.

Going back to the gym has been good. I do enjoy doing something more physically engaging and feeling better connected to my body - which often feels more like a flesh suit my brain is wearing.

One of the things I have been thinking through and working on has been to create a side hustle, something that I can challenge myself with but also open up some new possibilities. I've spent the last 7 years working on designing better learning experiences and I've created a bunch of resources and processes to do that. My plan is to build on that over the year and create some opportunities to share that. I'm hoping to have a starting point up online in the next month... so keep an eye out.


A couple of my favourite snaps from the month.


Based on what I've been watching, reading and listening to I'd recommend the following:




Design Systems Burnout

This article was a nice framing of the idea of systems work. I understand the feeling here about working in a system and the feeling of burnout. But I liked the two articles linked out - All Work is Care Work & A unified theory of fucks and I can relate to those connections. The reasons for systems work is care at scale. Rather than care as a one-to-one specialised commodity, can we provide greater independence and self reliance?

All Work is Care Work

I want to call this piece out on its own for its message about work:

All work is care work. Not a statement of fact, more an outlook, a mindset. What if you asked, of your tasks and projects, “For whom am I caring?”

The answer can be yourself. That’s a valid answer. It’s often not only yourself but yourself and another – or more than one another. The reader of the published article or book. The neighborhood. The future children and grandchildren and/or your childhood self. The forest, the planet, all things living.
 Maybe true care, even when directed, turns out to be warmly concentric. By caring for one whom, you’re also caring for many other whoms. Maybe true care has no hard edges; it radiates outward.

A unified theory of fucks

Both above articles referenced this piece by Mandy Brown. This is great on a couple of fronts. I liked this description of burnout:

I used to tell this story, about my theory of fucks. The theory goes like so: you are born with so many fucks to give. However many you’ve got is all there is; they are like eggs, that way. Some of us are born with quite a lot, some with less, but none of us knows how many we have. When we’re young, we go around giving a fuck about all kinds of things, blissfully unaware of our ever-dwindling supply. Until one day, we give the last fuck we’ve got, and we notice that the invisible bag of fucks we’ve been carrying around all these years is finally, irredeemably, empty. We have no more fucks left to give.

But I liked this more hopeful and engaging description:

This is one of my answers to the question of, why give a fuck about work? Why love your work? It won’t, of course, love you back. It can’t. Work isn’t a thing that can love. It isn’t alive, it isn’t and won’t ever be living. And my answer is: don’t. Don’t give a fuck about your work. Give all your fucks to the living. Give a fuck about the people you work with, and the people who receive your work—the people who use the tools and products and systems or, more often than not, are used by them. Give a fuck about the land and the sea, all the living things that are used or used up by the work, that are abandoned or displaced by it, or—if we’re lucky, if we’re persistent and brave and willing—are cared for through the work. Give a fuck about yourself, about your own wild and tender spirit, about your peace and especially about your art. Give every last fuck you have to living things with beating hearts and breathing lungs and open eyes, with chloroplasts and mycelia and water-seeking roots, with wings and hands and leaves. Give like every fuck might be your last.

And this message:

Because here’s what I’ve learned: if you give your fucks to the unliving—if you plant those fucks in institutions or systems or platforms or, gods forbid, interest rates—you will run out of fucks. One day you will reach into that bag and your hand will meet nothing but air and you will be bereft. You will realize the loss of something you did not know you ever had. But if you give a fuck about the living, about all your living kin in all the kingdoms, they will give a fuck right back.

Working in and around systems fucks get lost in the system, but there is value in the system if it is about the living. Focus the system on empowering those it touches, that will earn you fucks!