Starting a Sabbatical

I can hardly believe that one twelfth of my planned sabbatical has already gone by. How did I ever find the time for a real day job?

As I’ve structured much of my sabbatical around mini personal “projects”, during the first month I’ve developed a structured approach to my time, to ensure I achieve what I’ve set out to do.

For days I am not at a university, on the road or involved in other activities my “working day” often follows the same pattern:

  • Start of the day – brisk walk for at least an hour – most often in the local countryside but fitted in elsewhere as necessary (this month I’ve also had urban walks in York and London)
  • Rest of morning – “work” – primarily innovation related reading, research, university lecture and module development
  • Afternoon – “creative writing” – work on my new novel (see below)
  • Evening – family and friends time – plus attending a creative writing class once a week and more writing if everyone else is busy

In this way I’m getting quite a bit done…

The first month has seen me relatively heavily involved with Leeds University Business School (LUBS). As well as guest lectures we had a great Friday afternoon with the MSc Global Innovation Management class.

Nov 2015 pic2 smaller

The round table discussion centred on overlapping themes – a day in the life of working for IBM, challenges (and benefits) of working for a large enterprise, leadership, management & communication challenges and skills. I kicked off each topic with my own thoughts and we then had a wide-ranging discussion. The questions asked were brilliant and I hope it was as useful for the students as it was for me.

The LUBS focus on innovation management as a topic and emerging profession is great and I’m delighted to be helping develop the new “Innovation in Practice” module. The reading I’m doing for this has reminded me how passionate I am about the topic. Whilst technology has changed hugely in the last few years, core roles and skills needed to make innovation happen are much the same – as are the blockers. This topic deserves a blog of its own. The latest Boston Consulting Group 50 Most Innovative Companies release is an interesting read as ever. Its fascinating to see which companies are still in after 10 years, which have come in, moved out etc.

So far I’ve spent less time with Loughborough Uni – there are only so many hours you can fit into a month. I did give a guest lecture on using IT for business innovation for a corporate audience which generated a lot of debate – as intended. I’m now heads down and working on planning some very positive research and publication ideas for 2016 with a couple of Professors.

My favourite personal mini-triumph of the month has been kicking off work on a new novel (after a 30 year break). The inspiration behind this has been an evening class on the topic at York Uni Life Long Learning Centre and I’d highly recommend it. I learned so much. One of the exercises led to an idea for a short story – writing the short story led to thinking “there’s a novel in here” – and I am now planning it out and working on the early chapters. No its not about technology and/or innovation…!

One area not progressed as planned has been the garden. The new raspberry bed is still at the ideas end of the funnel. Mainly because it’s been too wet – although the high winds brought down one of our old trees which I was planning to remove so that’s one job done.

As we get into the festive season I’ve managed to catch up with quite a few friends – old and new.  We’ve had our annual local friends Christmas dinner and a great late night was had by all (thanks to Catherine and Clive for hosting). This week I traveled down to London and caught up with current and ex-IBM friends taking in The Comedy Store which was very good (thanks Neil) and had a  very nice evening out in Leeds with my new LUBS friends (thanks to Vicky and Matt for inviting me!).

In between I managed to make a quick first visit to the Royal Geographical Society in London to see the brilliant “Enduring Eye” exhibition of Frank Hurley’s fantastic photographs (now digitally remastered) of Shackleton’s “South” Antarctic Expedition. I absolutely loved this and highly recommend it. Free entry too (I do live in Yorkshire) and I bought the book for someone to give me for Christmas…

Enduring Eye

Looking at my spreadsheet based calendar, 2016 is going to be a busy year. One of my findings from the sabbatical so far is that, just like any job or task, time management and self motivation are critical. When the work shackles are off you need something to get you out of bed in the morning. I really enjoy my daily morning walk and use it to plan out some of the things I’m going to do. This is likely to be something that carries on post sabbatical. I understand better now why joggers do what they do but I like my pace better. I love seeing lots of wild life including the local wild deer that thinks it’s a sheep.

Anyway have a great festive season. The next sabbatical update will be in January but I may do a side blog on innovation roles, management and culture in the meantime, time permitting.

Diolch yn fawr, Tony.