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Project Slippers – Week 16-20 & Project Closure

It’s the fourth, and final, round-up of Project Slippers. After 20 weeks, it’s time to close the project.

The world isn’t exactly back to normal, but as you’ll read in the final item in this update, it was time to close down the project and embrace the next challenges.

So, what did weeks 16 to 20 hold before this week’s closure?

Let’s take a look….

Week 16 - Week Ending 03/07/2020 - "Go Go Gadget"

Two weeks ago, I mentioned I'd purchased a new gadget, so I thought it'd be good to give you an update on how it's going….

For anyone who missed it, I bought a fitness tracker in order to encourage me to spend more time on my feet and less time sitting in my office.

So, is the tracker still in use or has it been relegated back to its box and hiding in the cupboard?

I'm pleased to report that the tracker is not only still on my wrist, but it’s also making a positive difference to my lifestyle too. It reminds me when I've been stationary for too long, which is a good prompt to go and have a walk around the garden, and the total step count is also a good way of ensuring I'm spending enough time away from my desk.

For example, one day this week, my reminder came to move again and again I ignored it. I had far too much to do to go for a walk - even 5 minutes in the garden. I checked my steps and I'd only completed 1200 steps and it was late afternoon. It was a bit of a shock that I'd only achieved such a small number by such a late time in the day. It was enough of a reminder for me to finish my essential tasks for the day and get some much-needed fresh air.

It's also fascinating to follow the 'stressometer' results and the body battery level, which together tells me when it's a good time to take a moment to relax, breathe deeply and take a break. 

In conclusion then, I'm certainly glad I bought the activity tracker and I'm looking forward to being healthier (and happier/less stressed/more balanced) as a result.

So, in the words of Inspector Gadget…go go gadget action tracker….

 

Week 17 - Week Ending 10/07/2020 - “Hair Raising!"

It’s been an exciting and hair-raising week! Yes, that’s right, after a 20 week wait, I have finally been able to visit my hairdresser thanks to the next phase of the lockdown release taking effect. And needless to say, I’m very very pleased!

I know in the grand scheme of what’s going on in the world, my hair cut and colour is the smallest of events, but let me tell you a little about my haircut history so you can see why it was such a momentous moment for me….

As a teenager, I would often (with the help of my mum - thanks mum!) dye my hair various shades of auburn, using whatever dye was on special offer in the local shop.

When I started to work and earn my own money, I then invested in a ‘proper’ colour treatment. This was the days of highlights through a rubber cap; also known as torture! The hairdresser would put an extremely tight rubber cap on your head and would then pull strands of hair through minute holes in the cap using a crochet hook! Ouch!

Thankfully, as the years progressed, so did hairdressing techniques and some clever person invented the foil method. This involves strands of hair being expertly placed within foil, with the colour applied to those strands. My hair has a balayage effect, which also involves a darker colour being applied to the hair (the strands of hair in the foil have a lighter blond colour applied - are you keeping up?!). The darker blond/brown colour on the roots is then pulled gently through the hair from top to bottom. The effect is a range of colours and shades that look like I’m naturally sun kissed, when in fact, it’s all down to the skill of my hairdresser (thanks Amy!)

Now let me take you to 4 days before my regular 6 weekly hair appointment, which was the day Boris announced lockdown. As I listened to the announcement on the BBC, my mind raced to my hair appointment that was due to take place 4 days later. And then the text came from my hairdresser that she was cancelling all forthcoming appointments due to lockdown. I immediately booked an appointment for 3 weeks’ time because “surely it’ll all be over by then….”. How wrong I was. That appointment was also cancelled of course, so now plan B was needed.

It was time to dye my own hair! Without my mum to help me!

So onto boots.com I went to order a hair dye, and guess what was out of stock… yep, any form of mid brown hair dye! Every website was the same as the nation felt the impact of the lockdown on their locks.

Ok, so plan C it was….

Like all good Project Managers, I set about finding a pragmatic solution to the problem I was faced with. Thankfully, the solution came in the form of gentleman’s beard dye. Yes, really!

I ordered the product from eBay and waited eagerly for it to arrive. A week or so later, the parcel arrived and it was time to initiate Project Self Dye…

I followed the instructions carefully and very cautiously applied the dye to my roots, pulling it down the length of the hair as I’ve seen my hair dresser do hundreds of times (the foil stage was a step too far for me to attempt!). 20 minutes later, I rinsed off the dye and dried my hair to see the result…

And….

It was pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I bounced down the stairs and presented my new hair colour to my husband, wafting it back and forth so he could see the full effect.

“What?”

Ok, so this is a pretty standard response of a husband when a wife asks for an opinion on a hair treatment, so I wasn’t phased. I explained I’d dyed my own hair, and more than that, I’d dyed my own hair with a £5 beard dye - on my own! Without my mum!

“Looks good.”

Ok, this response is better!

“So why do you pay your hairdresser so much every 6 weeks. It doesn’t look any different.”

I decided to accept the “looks good” compliment and ignore the last bit! It worked so well, I repeated it a few more times during the lockdown period to keep my hair colour looking and feeling fresh.

Fast forward 16 weeks of lockdown and thankfully, this week, it was time for the hairdressers to open and I was able to get my full colour and cut, without a beard dye in sight!

It was lovely to see my hairdresser again and she worked her magic, although she too was impressed with my beard dye escapades! She also did a brilliant job in terms of maintaining the hygiene standards required to keep the virus at bay, and it was lovely to be able to contribute once again to a local small business.

Pubs and restaurants also opened this week, but that’s a trip I haven’t made so far. I’m quite happy being at home with my new hair cut and colour, and I’m sure my husband can see the difference really….

Week 18 - Week Ending 17/06/2020 - “Up, Up & Away"

Project Slippers has had a change of venue this week…and I should perhaps process a change request to now refer to it as Project Flip Flops, because this week's instalment comes to you from the Costa Del Sol.

No, I haven't zipped away on holiday, and I'm not writing this from the beach, but I did need to travel to sort out some long overdue matters at my property in Spain; including paying some all important taxes that were due, and needed to be paid in person.

So, how was the journey?

If you've been following Project Slippers, you'll know that I haven't ventured too far from home in the last 18 weeks. My trips have included essential visits to the supermarket, a walk or bicycle ride in my local area, and in recent weeks, I've been able to see close family, but that's been it; until now!

I was a little nervous about the flight in particular, especially after seeing images in the media, but it was handled really well by the airport and the airline. Masks were compulsory and all passengers behaved really well throughout the journey.

Everything was also incredibly clean, and as the flight wasn't very full, passengers were spread out to minimise contact between strangers. They really did do their best.

In terms of life in Spain, they are taking it far more seriously over here, and in Andalucía, it is now compulsory to wear masks whenever you leave home, even if you are able to ensure social distance. For example, if I walk down an empty street on my own, I still have to wear a mask, otherwise I can be fined 100 euros; and the police over here are very quick to hand out fines!

I have always worn a mask in the supermarket in the UK, so I wasn't worried about wearing a mask in public at all times…until I went for a walk at 7pm at night when it was still 35 degrees Celsius! It's extremely restrictive wearing a mask in the heat and after a short stroll, I had a bad headache as a result, so my trips out will definitely be restricted whilst I'm over here!

However, one place you don't have to wear a mask is in your car, providing you are travelling with people you live with. People who know me know I love cars, and I really love the car I have over here which is my Jeep Wrangler.

The plan therefore, is to spend lots of time with my beloved car (and my husband of course; I'll let him come along too!)

 Stay safe everyone…until next week…

Week 19 - Week Ending 24/07/2020 - “And That’s a Wrap!"

It's been a busy week for Project Slippers/Flip Flops. No, I haven’t been busy topping up my tan or sampling the local sangria; the complete opposite in fact!

This week was my final week supporting a Global automotive brand with a project to roll out a new system to all of their markets around the world.

I joined the project in November 2019; the days of going to the supermarket without queuing, starting meetings with a handshake, and greeting family with a big hug. Do you remember those times? It feels like a lifetime ago!

Whenever I start a new project, my first port of call is the stakeholders. I enjoy meeting the team, getting to know them and understanding their likes, dislikes, concerns and thoughts. For me, it’s all about making a genuine connection with the people I’m going to be working closely with in the coming months.

The next stop is the scope and detail of the project. Who are the suppliers, what are the contractual deliverables and what is the critical path? This stage is all about building the plan, introducing and embedding working practices and processes, and establishing the structure and rigour needed to ensure a successful project.

It’s also the stage that risks are assessed, and mitigation plans put in place. However, I admit I made a mistake at this stage. There was one risk I didn’t include in my planning…..a global pandemic! Who, in November 2019, could’ve imagined that less than 4 months later, the UK would join the rest of the world in entering lockdown. I certainly didn’t! I hadn’t even heard of Corona virus or COVID-19, and I certainly didn’t own the collection of face masks that I do now.

In January 2020, the lockdowns started around the world, beginning in China. The markets I was talking to in the Far East started to dial in from home, as they were gradually stopped from travelling to their respective offices. They were not allowed out for anything other than essential journeys, and the supermarkets were starting to run out of food. It sounded so scary and like something from a film! As the weeks, and the virus, progressed, more and more markets were affected. It was like a tidal wave coming closer and closer to us, until mid March, when it was the UK’s turn. My client initiated their emergency plan and Project Slippers commenced as we were all asked to work remotely.

The last four months has been a flurry of calls, emails, Teams meetings and text messages. I’ve worked closely with suppliers and stakeholders to ensure the deliverables arrived, questions were answered, and concerns were addressed. We all bonded over our personal and collective experiences of how the virus was affecting us and our families, but at the heart of everything was our desire to deliver a successful project, regardless of a global pandemic going on around us!

And today marks the last day of my engagement. Job done! I’ve genuinely enjoyed working with the suppliers and the stakeholders, and I’ve particularly enjoyed working with colleagues from around the world. I have learned many greetings in many different languages, and have friendly faces in every corner of the world. Hopefully I’ll make it to each of those corners one day so I can meet the friendly faces in person, and say thank them for their support.

As I’ve emailed everyone to say goodbye, I’ve been touched by the comments and feedback I’ve received. Here are some examples:

 

“Thanks for your dedication. Very impressive to work with you."

(Dealer Performance Manager, Korea)

 

“Thank you for all the guidance and assistance with this project. You have the type of personality that made me look forward to the weekly calls. Know that I will miss you a lot."

(Franchise and Performance Manager, South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa) 

 

“I really appreciate your sincere support." (Network Director, Japan)

 

"Thanks for bringing stability, control and focus to the project."

(Network Development Team, UK)

 

It wasn't all down to me though; a successful project is always a team effort, so a sincere thanks to everyone I've worked with on this engagement.

It's not quite the end of Project Slippers/Flip Flops though. I've decided to run the 'project' for one more week to give you a further and final insight into lockdown in Spain before I close and move back into business as usual.

Or rather, business as the slightly-different-usual….

Week 20 - Week Ending 31/07/2020 - “Project Closure…"

The time has come to close Project Slippers….

The trigger for Project Slippers, was, of course COVID-19/Corona Virus; a global pandemic that very quickly swept around the world, closing down entire countries, keeping people in their homes, and separating families and friends.

On Friday 13th March (what an appropriate date!), my major client initiated their emergency plan, which involved no more travel to their office locations. 10 days later, the UK Government announced lockdown. Shops, gyms, bars and restaurants were forced to close and the general public were asked to "stay home, stay safe". What this meant in reality, was only essential trips to the supermarket, one piece of daily exercise, and other than that, you had to stay at home.

As someone who has worked at home in various remits, for over 15 years, this wasn't an issue for me. I enjoy the focus working at home gives me, and certainly didn’t miss the many hours spent travelling each week. However, this time it felt very different. Not being allowed to leave home and not being able to see family and friends, was really strange, but it wouldn’t be for long, so I happily complied and started this blog to track the adventure.

Although the world is definitely not back to normal, I felt it was time to wrap up Project Slippers. It’s been an incredibly busy 20 weeks and I’ve just completed a successful project with a major client, so it’s time to enjoy some much-needed downtime.

If you’ve read previous instalments, you’ll know that I’m now in Spain, so before I close, I thought I’d give you an insight into how the COVID-19 situation is being managed here…

Firstly, don’t believe what you read in the media! Contrary to popular belief, and against what you may have read online and in the newspapers, Spain is not full of Brits falling out of bars drunk whilst forgetting all about social distancing! Whereas I’m sure those situations are happening somewhere, they are isolated pockets. I’m in Andalucía, where about 10 days ago, they expanded their law on mask usage to include anytime away from home; even if you’re walking down an empty beach or street on your own. It’s 38 degrees at the moment, and trust me, wearing a mask is hot and uncomfortable, but guess what, people do it, because if they don’t, they get an immediate 100 euro fine. 

Spain had a much more severe lockdown than we ever saw in the UK. At the height, people were not even allowed out of their homes for daily exercise, so there is a genuine fear of that situation returning. As such, those who live here are much more mindful of adhering to the rules now, in the hope of preventing a second wave.

My time here in Spain has been, and will remain to be, very different to 'normal'. We are not visiting bars, restaurants and shops as often as we would, but that's OK. We have all the comforts we need at home, and I'm still very mindful of remaining safe and healthy. I have been enjoying networking events and in person meetings, although they are generally held outside, and everyone maintains a strict 1.5m social distance. It's been great to see human beings again and to learn even more about how the lockdown has affected people from a personal and business perspective.

When the time comes to return back to the UK, we will need to self isolate for 14 days as per the new guidance from the UK Government, but that's OK. One thing the last 20 weeks has proven, is the ability to function digitally when we have to!

 To wrap up, I thought I'd share four things that I’ve realised as a result of lockdown:

  1. The value of toilet rolls and pasta! - At the start of lockdown, we all experienced lack of products on the shelves for the first time ever. Suddenly, the sight of eggs, pasta or flour on a supermarket shelf filled me with joy! Although I’ve never been wasteful when it comes to food, lockdown has given me a whole new appreciation of the very basics of life.
  1. Family - I love my family dearly, so not being ALLOWED to see them for so long, and then not being ALLOWED to hug them, hit me very hard. I will value every moment and every hug from now on!
     
  2. Freedom of movement - You don’t realise how much freedom you have until it’s taken away. I know the last 20 weeks hasn’t exactly been a life sentence in Alcatraz, and don’t get me wrong, I’m fortunate to have a beautiful home, with a lovely garden, and a wonderful husband, but when your freedom of movement is taken away, you really miss it. Everything from popping to the local shop for a browse, to ‘popping’ to Spain for the weekend, are, I now realise, luxuries that I was taking for granted, but no more!
     
  3. Diversification - As I’m sure you all know by now, I love my work. I’m fortunate to work in an industry I love, with fantastic clients and brilliant colleagues. I was also lucky to be working throughout lockdown; something which many of my peers were not able to do. However, lockdown taught me the need for diversification and I’m proud to now be a founding Partner of Atonic4; an alliance of four like-minded organisations who have created two brand new offerings….

www.Atonic4Commerce.co.uk - bringing innovative sales strategies to the automotive industry…

And…

www.Atonic4Learning.co.uk - supporting businesses to learn, evolve and grow after traumatic events (in fact, today is the launch of this service, so it's hot off the press!)

So, after 20 weeks, it’s time to sign off Project Slippers for the last time…

The project is complete, even though the scope at the start was unknown, the timeframe was open ended, and there was definitely no budget assigned. However, the stakeholders are happy (and safe!), which, in my mind, is a big success.

Hopefully the new business as usual will be established in the coming weeks, and there’ll be no need for Project Slippers Phase 2, but if that doesn’t happen, and ‘normal’ doesn’t arrive, perhaps I’ll be back with further instalments….

Stay safe everyone….