Heatwave [en]

It’s 9am, Sunday morning. I’m back in my flat to check the temperature. It’s creeping up already. I close everything up and shed a tear.

I got the temperature under 27°C this morning. Downstairs, in the coworking space I’m lucky to be able to hang out in, it’s nearly 1°C cooler, but also rising. At 8:30, it was already too hot to have breakfast on my balcony, like I usually do.

Lausanne is hardly the worst-hit place. I guess the lake helps a bit. Other parts of the country are suffering way worse. France, Spain… India of course.

I’ve dealt with worse heat than now when I was in India, of course. But buildings here aren’t designed for heat. My flat covers the south side of the building. Even at night when the temperature goes down (not that far down) the walls are still packed with heat they ate up during the day. The bathroom downstairs is close to 30°, though it’s on the inside of the building, because it shares a wall with the heating room.

The heating room is an oven. Now I understand (maybe) why in India we just heat the water we need when we need it, instead of having permanent hot water running around in the taps. But that’s not all of it: a few days ago I realised the radiators weren’t cold. I’d turned of the central thermostat, but clearly, the central heating was still keeping them warm. I turned them all off manually, of course, but WTF. Shouldn’t central heating be turned off in June when we already had troublesome heat in May? SMH.

I remember my first real heatwave here, back in 2003. I was writing (dictating) my dissertation. I was living and sleeping on my balcony. It was exciting.

For a few years now, we’ve had these “exceptional heatwaves” every summer. They are not exciting at all now. It’s clear they are not going away. I bought a portable A/C two years ago. I have a bunch of fans. I’m seriously thinking about putting up a ceiling fan in my bedroom. I’m wondering if heat will drive me up in the mountains ten, fifteen years from now. The fact that this will not get better is sinking in.

Until recently, I’d managed to not feel too panicky about climate change. Not that I was in denial that it was happening, but rather that I had other stuff to get worked up about. I know that solutions to a global problem like this are not individual but collective, and there are people fighting the fight. But it’s not working. I read an opinion piece the other day that actually helped me understand Extinction Rebellion – particularly the “unauthorised demonstration” part that I previously looked upon rather disapprovingly. Governments and institutions need public pressure to prioritise climate change. It’s sad, but that’s how it is. Those whose interests do not go in the direction of protecting the environment have their own ways of putting pressure on governments, and they are not shy of using them.

So today, as I closed the windows in my flat to keep the heat out, some of the hope I used to have rolled down my cheeks.

Regarder passer le monde [fr]

En anglais, on dit “watching the world go by”. J’aime beaucoup cette expression. Elle sent les vacances, le repos, la sérénité de celui ou celle qui peut se permettre de s’arrêter un moment, perdu dans ses pensées, regardant sans vraiment regarder ces instants de la vie des autres qui défilent devant soi.

J’ai fait ça aujourd’hui. Je suis allée au parc, me poser sur un banc. L’idée m’est venue après un repas sur le balcon d’une voisine, qui habite plusieurs étages au-dessus de moi. Depuis son balcon, on voit la vie du pâté d’immeubles, les gens qui vont et viennent, les voitures qui passent, s’arrêtent, repartent. Depuis le mien, j’ai plutôt une vision un peu myope de ce qui se passe juste sous mon nez, dominée par un grand arbre plein de feuilles.

Regarder passer le monde. Regarder défiler la vie. J’ai réalisé que j’avais peu d’opportunités de faire ça. L’oisiveté ne me vient pas facilement, et je me rends compte qu’il est important pour moi de cultiver des “temps morts”, pour me reposer, me ressourcer, récupérer.

Même quand je ne fais rien, quand je ne veux rien faire, je suis comme tractée vers l’action. La vie numérique dans mon téléphone, évidemment, mais aussi lire, écrire, photographier, documenter, observer attentivement, cogiter… Ça m’est arrivé, dans le parc. D’abord, j’ai éteint le podcast que j’écoutais en marchant. Après quelques minutes de rien, j’ai voulu enregistrer mes réflexions et impressions. J’ai pensé à quelque chose qui nécessitait l’envoi d’un message à une connaissance. J’ai fait un effort explicite pour ranger mon téléphone dans mon sac, et juste regarder autour de moi. J’ai eu rapidement envie de prendre mon carnet pour écrire. Je me suis retenue. J’ai regardé passer les gens et les pigeons, regardé les bateaux minuscules sur le lac, humé l’odeur de l’été, et laissé mon esprit vagabonder.

Je me suis dit qu’il fallait que je revienne. Que peut-être, une fois, je fasse le saut de venir sans téléphone, ni cahier, ni appareil photo. Ce n’est pas évident comme idée, surtout de venir sans appareil photo.

Ça s’est plutôt bien passé, en somme. J’ai pu apprécier d’être là et de ne rien faire. C’est assez étonnant pour moi, de pouvoir faire ça. Toute ma vie, j’ai été courbée sous le poids de cette longue liste de choses à faire que je n’arrivais pas à faire. Un poids coupable qui venait appuyer sur mes rares moments de répit, parce que je devrais plutôt d’abord faire ceci ou cela. Et me reposer ensuite. Mais je savais bien que je ne pouvais jamais en voir le bout, de cette liste de choses à faire. Je n’arrivais même pas à entamer le début.

Depuis six mois, tout a changé. Je “gère” enfin. La liste existe toujours, elle est toujours longue (et le sera certainement toujours, merci hyperactivité). Mais j’avance. Les choses importantes et urgentes sont faites. Et même plus. C’est sous contrôle. Je n’avance peut-être pas aussi vite que je voudrais, mais j’avance, je vois où je vais, et je sais qu’il n’y a pas d’horribles mauvaises surprises qui m’attendent au détour d’un chemin. J’arrive maintenant à prendre du temps pour moi, du temps de repos et de plaisir, sans mauvaise conscience. C’est une libération.

Mais voilà, je suis encore en train d’apprendre à faire ça. C’est nouveau. Malgré moi, je me retrouve souvent un peu automatiquement à faire. Et mon cerveau a besoin de passer plus de temps en mode par défaut, j’en ai conscience. Juste là, me poser sur un banc au parc semble être une bonne piste.

The Job Market: Finding Where To Fit In [en]

I’ve been looking for a new job for a while now. And with time – and a few interviews – and rejections – I’ve come to an understanding of one thing that is making things tricky for me. Any good problem has multiple causes, so this is of course just one of them, but it’s the one that has to do with me, how my life played out, decisions I made, my experience, my skillset.

It’ll be a surprise to no reader of this blog that I have a rather atypical career path. Just having been self-employed for over ten years does that to you (and there is more). I don’t know about other job markets, but here, although everybody will tell you that having an atypical profile is an asset, recruiters are not readily going to pounce on you to hire you. And honestly, I don’t blame them: if you have interested and motivated candidates that ideally fit your “persona” for the job, why take a risk with somebody who doesn’t, however promising? We don’t like risks that much.

It quickly became clear to me that there was a big difference between jobs I would be capable of doing and jobs I had a chance of being hired for. There are many jobs I could do. But not that many where, in comparison with all the other candidates applying for that position, I would seem like the best person to hire.

Most of the time, it boils down to experience. Especially at my age and seniority level, they’ll often be looking for somebody who has “occupied a similar position for 5 years or more”. I haven’t, obviously. I have the skillset, but I don’t have the indicator in my career path that one would expect to confirm it. One of the reasons is that I have been self-employed most of my career, and the other one is that I learn fast. My experience goes a long way. But that’s not a very convincing argument on a job application.

The corollary is, of course, that when I apply for more junior positions, where less experience is expected, I don’t get in either, because I’m overqualified.

Now, where do I stand the best chance of “fitting the profile” when it comes to work experience? The answer is, as far as I can see, in digital communications/communication strategy, as this is the core of the work I did while I was self-employed, and the first two years after that. Digital transformation also fits the bill, but most positions in that area require more enterprise/organisational change management than I can demonstrate. So, I’ve been focusing my efforts on Communications Manager/Digital Communications Manager positions.

The problem seems to remain, however. Other candidates for the same positions often have more formal management experience, which is reassuring for a recruiter. I have to say this is starting to seem more and more like a catch-22. And knowing the value that I can bring an employer, not being able to get a foot in the door is quite frustrating.

Whether you’re in recruitment or not, I’m interested in your thoughts about this. Am I onto something, or am I “finding excuses” and I just need to try harder – or try differently? Have you found yourself in a similar or parallel position? What am I missing?

I’d like to add (because people who see me as The Freelancer, which I was indeed for most of my career, sometimes have trouble coming around to this) that I really want to find an employed position. I don’t particularly want to become self-employed again. I guess this is something I might detail in an other article!

I’m also aware that networking is the key. And I’m starting to think that in my case, it really is the only key.

Chez qui laisser l’inconfort? [fr]

Vous les femmes qui me lisez, je pense que vous connaissez bien ce scénario: on vous fait une remarque sexiste ou paternaliste, un compliment non sollicité, un truc qui s’apparente à de la drague lourdingue ou au sexisme ordinaire.

Généralement, mal à l’aise, on part sur la pointe des pieds. L’auteur de la remarque ou de la drague mal placée a toutes les chances de ne pas recevoir de “feedback” de la part des femmes qu’il met mal à l’aise. (Je dis “il”, car généralement, n’en déplaise au ceux qui s’écrieront “#notallmen!😭”, ce sont des hommes.)

Alors au lieu de juste disparaître, ou bloquer, ou fuir: dire les choses. Confronter l’autre, même maladroitement. Il ne s’est pas privé d’être maladroit, alors donc? Il n’avait pas de mauvaises intentions? Il a quand même le droit de savoir qu’il a foutu mal la personne en face.

Ce n’est pas à nous de garder l’inconfort. Il faut le remettre chez l’autre.

Il s’excuse? Est consterné, horrifié? Eh bien, il a peut-être appris quelque chose aujourd’hui sur l’effet que ça fait aux autres, et qui sait, peut-être que ça rendra service à la prochaine femme à qui il serait tenté de dire quelque chose de semblable. Laissons-le avec son malaise. Ce n’est pas à nous de le tirer de là.

(Soit dit en passant, ce qui s’applique aux remarques sexistes et aux approches lourdingues peut aussi s’appliquer aux compétences exercées entre les draps. Le gars qui ne sait pas s’y prendre pour deux sous et qui vous assure que toutes les femmes ayant passé entre ses mains étaient satisfaites… Peut-être que si l’une d’entre elles avait pris le risque de le mettre mal à l’aise en lui donnant un feedback honnête… Passons. Je précise que ce n’est pas pour rejeter la responsabilité pleine et entière sur les femmes, hein! Mais ouvrons notre gueule.)

Un autre cas de figure qui sort des rapports entre les sexes mais qui touche à cette notion d’inconfort. Vous fournissez des prestations en indiquant clairement que vous ne faites ni crédit, ni facture. Qu’on paie sur place, direct. Une personne arrive et demande, la bouche en coeur, une facture. Est-ce à vous de vous plier en disant “mais bien sûr”, pour ne pas la mettre mal à l’aise (et donc prendre le malaise sur vous), ou bien n’est-il peut-être pas plus approprié de lui renvoyer l’inconfort: “non, nous ne faisons pas de facture, nous avons bien précisé que cette prestation se payait comptant. Que proposez-vous?”

En prenant sur soi l’inconfort de la situation, on garantit à peu près qu’elle se répètera, avec nous ou autrui. En laissant la personne qui n’a pas respecté le cadre (implicite ou explicite) avec son inconfort, il y a une chance que les choses changent.

Pour beaucoup de personnes, c’est dur de ne pas prendre l’inconfort sur soi, pour épargner l’autre, même quand c’est l’autre qui nous met dans l’embarras. Ça vous parle?

How Your Struggles Can Shape Your Strengths [en]

How come I am so good at setting priorities in a work context, or helping others sort through their priorities, when I can spend a whole Sunday faffing around because I can’t decide what I want to do the most?

When it comes to my personal interests, I struggle with setting priorities. There are so many things I would like to do! The world is so interesting! Which book do I want to start with? Will I write or work on my photography? Shall I spend time on refining the documentation for my existing support group, or dive into a new communications project on the margins of that community? I’m sure some of you can relate.

So, I tend to view myself, internally, as somebody who has trouble setting priorities. But that is not how others see me. They often see me as decisive, clear-headed, rapidly capable of teasing out what needs to be done first or what is most important.

How come?

As with many things in life, it is my personal struggles that have honed these skills. I have spent an immense amount of energy trying to figure out how to help myself decide if I would rather go for a walk on my free day or sort through my holiday photos (two activities I enjoy). I have come up with countless strategies to break down projects into manageable tasks, and determine what must be done before what. I have spent hours thinking through the consequences of doing or not doing, so that where to start would become clearer. Because if I do not take the trouble to do this, when I’m alone with myself and with few constraints, I tend to slip and slide.

So, I have had a lot of practice doing this, because it didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve had to think it through. I’ve had to devise methods. I’ve done it again and again and again.

Put me in an easier setting, like work or facing somebody else’s priorities: I have a huge toolbox, and I probably don’t even need to use all of it.

The very fact that I have a personal struggle with – in this example – setting priorities in my personal life means that I have developed strong skills in that area. Skills that are an asset in my professional life.

Think of a young man who has to carry a heavy load of rocks on his back everywhere he goes. He might struggle compared to his peers when they go hiking. He may actually stumble and risk falling more, he will be tired, he will be slow. But if he can put down the load of rocks to go and run an errand, he will be the quickest and the strongest of them all.

What superpowers do you have that were born from your personal struggles?

Il y a mouvement et mouvement [fr]

J’ai toujours vu dans mon rapport au corps et au mouvement un paradoxe: autant je suis parfaitement à l’aise dans le sport, autant quand il s’agit de danser ou de marcher en rythme, c’est une toute autre histoire.

Ça ne se résume pas juste à la question de “sentir”, comme on pourrait croire. Quand on dévale une piste de ski à toute allure, ou qu’on est dans un combat de judo, on n’a pas d’autre choix que de sentir le mouvement. Le sien, celui de l’autre.

J’adore la musique, j’adore chanter, mais il y a quelque chose du registre de “sentir le rythme” et le manifester à travers mon corps qui m’est très difficile.

Ce soir, lors d’une discussion de fin de cours avec ma prof de chant (on avait justement fait un exercice très difficile pour moi, bouger et chanter en même temps), j’ai mis le doigt sur une caractéristique qui distingue ces deux sortes de mouvements, ceux qui me sont faciles et ceux qui me rendent toute pataude. Dans le mouvement sportif, ou le mouvement de tous les jours, on est dans du mouvement “intentionnel”. On cherche à faire quelque chose. Une action. A amener notre corps ailleurs ou autrement dans l’espace. C’est, d’une certaine façon utilitaire.

Quand on danse ou qu’on marque un rythme avec ses pieds et ses mains (une forme de danse, en fait?), on est dans un mouvement qui est plutôt expressif, je dirais. On ne cherche pas à accomplir quelque chose, on cherche à accompagner, soutenir ou marquer quelque chose d’intérieur.
Tiens, je me dis que ça doit sûrement exister, des typologies du mouvement.

Je me demande aussi s’il y a un élément “neuropsy” dans mon rapport très différent à ces deux familles de mouvements. Je sais, par exemple, qu’un exercice particulièrement difficile pour moi est de maintenir ma vigilance durant des temps morts de longueur variable, et d’agir ou non ensuite en fonction d’un stimulus (une lettre apparaît à l’écran: appuie sur la barre d’espace; si c’est un X, n’appuie pas). Je me suis demandé si ça pouvait avoir un lien avec ma difficulté de sens du rythme.

Par exemple, quand je chante une chanson, à moins d’être très entrainée, je rate tous les départs. Une fois dans la phrase, le rythme ça va. Mais savoir quand commencer, c’est toujours un problème. Si je tape des mains et que je chante en même temps je perds très vite le rythme des mains – ou alors je me concentre sur les mains et j’oublie de chanter.

Voilà. quelques réflexions que je voulais capturer. Si c’est un sujet que vous connaissez, je serais ravie d’en apprendre plus, j’avoue.

The Tweak to Google Tasks That Makes it Work [en]

I like Google Tasks. Most of my task management is paper-based, but when it comes to getting through my day, I’m married to Google Calendar. That’s where all my meetings are, and where, for a few months now, I’ve been scheduling my various activities for the day (including free time).

Here is what I use Google Tasks for:

  1. to pin a reminder for a “small thing” I want to get done today, but that I don’t think I need to schedule in order to get it done
  2. to pre-plan on which day of the week I’m going to get something done.

The second use-case isn’t much of a problem. When I get around to preparing my schedule for the day, the task in my calendar helps remind me that I need to plan time for that task on that day.

The first one is trickier: regularly, I will not get around to doing the task on that day (another story, but for the sake of this post, let’s just take this as a fact of life). This is where the handy “new” (I actually don’t know how new it is) feature that Google Tasks provides comes in really handy: if you let tasks slide, today’s task listing also provides one-click access to “pending tasks”.

Pending tasks are those from previous days that haven’t been done. From that list, you can easily mark them as done or edit them.

One of the reasons I had stopped using Google Tasks in the past was precisely because of what happen – rather, didn’t happen – when I let tasks slide. They would simply disappear from my awareness and get forgotten until they came back to bite me. The “pending tasks” feature prevents this, and it’s a godsend.

Parfois, j’écris des mots [fr]

Il y a des gens qui racontent des histoires. Ils inventent des mondes et des vies qu’on suit au fil des pages, hors d’haleine.

Moi, je raconte la vie, les idées, les émotions, et parfois des lubies passagères.

On a tous nos zones d’ombre ou de douleur, nos émotions difficiles. Certains s’asseyent dessus, tentent de les noyer, ou en font de la musique. Moi, j’en tire des mots qui parfois font pleurer les gens qui lisent, ou leur serrent le bide, ou leur font quelque chose qu’ils n’arrivent pas à mettre en mots, et moi non plus. Parfois ça ne leur fait rien, et c’est bien comme ça aussi.

Souvent, je trouve au fond de moi un petit éclat de braise, je souffle dessus avec mes doigts, et les flammes de sens qui s’agitent sur l’écran me surprennent moi-même. Je ne suis pas pour autant en feu, au risque de finir dans les service des grand brûlés. J’ai juste joué avec une flamme dans mon laboratoire, sous une chapelle bien ventilée, avec mes lunettes de protection et mes gants. Vous, vous avez vu la flamme, en gros plan, sans contexte.

Ne t’alarme donc pas, ami lecteur. Si l’inspiration poétique est morose, ce n’est pas pour autant que la poétesse broie du noir.

Untitled [en]

Everywhere I turn
Is something shining in the sun
Like a diamond
Like a pearl
A speck of life or love or fire
Catches my eye
Catches my breath
My heart runs off and takes me with it
I try to follow and keep the pace
I go left
I go right
A merry-go-round lost in the stars
Lights keep flashing in my brain
I singe my wings
The flame tastes sweet
Another one
Oh, look! Another!
I shatter in a million pieces
Sent across the universe
For if I were to remain whole
Those shiny things would steal my soul.

What Goes On My To-Do List? [en]

As far as I can remember, I’ve used lists as a strategy to keep track of what I needed to do. Lists of things to pack when I was a child, lists of things to deal with when I was a scout leader or youth camp organiser, lists of topics to revise or courseworks to work on when I was a student… and so on.

In 2006, I discovered “Getting Things Done” and the concept of “next action”, which was hugely helpful. I’ve used various tools and methods over the years but the one I fall back to in times of stress (which tells me it’s the easiest for me to manage) is simply to write down my tasks on a double page, as they come, and cross them out when they’re done. Once the double page is full, I start a new double page, copy over the remaining tasks from the old one, and go from there.

But what is a task? What goes on this comprehensive to-do list?

In short, anything that I’m going to have to think about, or need a reminder for, or risk postponing or forgetting in the daily flow of things. Anything that will not naturally get done. Brushing my teeth doesn’t go on it, because it’s part of my routine and I do it automatically. Things in my calendar (appointments, etc.) aren’t either. But “contact garage to get new tyres” is, as is “sort through mail”, because it tends to pile up and I haven’t succeeded in building a routine for it yet. I also put things I want to do in my list, like “go to the museum for the samurai exhibit” or “write poetry” because I know now that they won’t just happen if I don’t prioritise or plan them.

If I find myself going “oh, I need to do this!” or “omg, I’d forgotten about that!” it means it needs to go on the list. Time horizon? Within a month or two.

Isn’t a comprehensive list overwhelming?

It can be, but it’s certainly less overwhelming than trying to keep it all in your head and running around like a headless chicken (forgetting important things along the way or staying up late because you forgot a deadline).

How do you use it?

Making a list is one thing, actually using it is another (and maybe the topic of another blog post). The trick is to set aside (plan!) a little time each day to check in on the list and update it. What I do these days is excerpt a weekly list from my comprehensive list when I prepare my week. During the week I work with the weekly list to produce and plan my daily set of tasks.

What about work?

I’ve always had a separate planning system (and list, or notebook) for work and non-work. Work usually happens in a defined timespace, particularly if you’re an employee. This, by the way, explains why I often struggled with my personal life organisation even though things were going fine at work: it’s quite obvious that at work I will keep track of my tasks, plan my days, etc. It’s taken me time to realise I also needed to manage my personal life in a similar fashion – and implement it.

I’ve tried, it doesn’t work!

In that case, what is interesting is to examine how it didn’t work for you. For example, looking back to when lists and planning failed for me, I realised that the key element of failure is that I was not scheduling time to plan, update my list, and schedule. Planning is a task and it needs to be planned for.

What about priorities, deadlines, task classification?

Over the years I tried many shiny task management tools, and saw that anything more than just jotting down something or crossing it out adds friction, and decreases the likelihood that I will keep using the system. If something has a hard deadline I might forget, I’ll write it down with the task. As for priorities, I find that my intuitive feeling of dread when I look at a task on the list is generally a good indicator of what needs to be dealt with first. However, bear in mind that setting priorities for my personal projects is still tricky for me (not enough constraints, compared to a work environment which makes things way easier), and I may have more to say about this as I progress in that regard.

How do you word a task?

I’m more relaxed about this than I used to be. The most important thing is to write it down, so if how you formulate it is keeping you from writing it down… don’t worry so much about the words. But over all, “next concrete action” is always good, especially if you can express it in terms of behaviour. A typical example is “find garage phone number and call for tyres” rather than “change tyres” or even “tyres”. The less your brain has to work to transform the item on your to-do list into an action, the better. I find that when I’m copying over what’s left of my comprehensive to-do list, I’ll often tweak the wording of the list items to make them more actionable (and avoid copying them over a third time in a few weeks!)

Got more questions? Ask away in the comments.