February 2021 will represent five years since our relocation to Cornwall from Milton Keynes. As we approach this not insignificant milestone, I thought I would review our time here and reflect on the outcomes we have achieved and the challenges we have faced since the move.
When looking at transformation projects in business, I find it helps to have short and medium-term goals, to help visualise the direction of travel. Whilst all projects vary and therefore need tailoring to suit, the basic goals template I work from are:
- Short-Term Goals (1-2 years): These involve detailed thinking and planning to design and implement the change.
- Medium-Term Goals (3-5 years): These goals are more to do with expectation setting, and visualising the result of change or outcome, which you expect to be achieved.
Whilst our move was not planned as a project, we had discussed at length the challenges and benefits of relocating, so it seemed sensible to treat it as such. In our discussions, we had identified some realistic opportunities and goals and, in our minds, had separated those into short and medium-term objectives as follows.
- Relocate and establish a routine
- Pay off the mortgage
- Enjoy the benefits of living in Cornwall
- Create a home
- Start a holiday let business
- Buy a boat
- Enjoy the additional benefits of living in Cornwall at sea
We hadn’t set any specific timelines for delivery of the short and medium-term goals, instead we listed them in priority order. It may seem obvious but, to enjoy being at sea you first need a sea-going vessel and, be proficient enough to skipper it!
My previous articles about our relocation covered the first eight months of the move and looking back, we had completed goals 1, 2 and 3, and had started on goal 4, a 12-month refurbishment of the house. By the end of year two we had completed all our short-term goals and, had been granted planning permission to convert the barns into a two-bed holiday let (the first stage of goal 5). Christmas 2018 delivered goal 6 although it has taken us a further 18 months following a few early mishaps*, to honestly say we can tick off goal 7 and fully enjoy Cornwall at sea!
*Unless you want your anchor cable – and the anchor attached to it – to become a tourist attraction for fish and divers alike, it’s wise to check all parts of the boat for damage regularly. See here for a lesson learned article
Have we achieved balance?
Taking stock since the move although we have achieved most of what we set out to do as we anticipated, the work-life balance has been the hardest challenge to get right. Since moving to Cornwall, I have enjoyed a consistent run of work which has blended a range of assignments across the South of England and as far as north as the West Midlands. I have learnt that combining a long commute has to be balanced with selecting the right accommodation (almost always self-catering over hotels) and, the flexibility to work one or two days from home.
In 2020 I started a 10-month project for a client based in Buckinghamshire. It was full-time for the most part and required a significant amount of time spent on the various client sites. I was able to work from home on a Friday though the requirements of the role required me to be on site at 9am, which meant leaving home at 4am on a Monday morning! After several months, this became untenable so, after discussing with Rachel I changed to leave on a Sunday afternoon at 4pm instead. This small change would I believed, provide a balance of having the weekend with the family and reduce the tiredness of an early Monday.
I was wrong. it affected everyone’s Sunday and drastically cut short our family time.
I discussed the situation with the client and remain grateful that they understood the importance of the work-life balance and were happy to offer me a little flexibility in the role. The compromise was to reduce the contract to work 4 ½ days and travel up on Monday morning instead, leaving at a far more civilised time of 7am. The impact was instant, balance was restored and everyone benefitted from the compromise.
It just goes to show that you never stop learning and, I now know the limitations of what works for me and my family. That said, no plan survives contact with reality nor the impact of COVID-19 so since March 2021 I’ve been working full-time from home on a blend of projects. I am fortunate in that, so far, the family haven’t complained that I am spending too much time at home and tipping the balance too far the other way, but I’m sure they’ll tell me if I’m getting under their feet! Watch this space…