Friday, 1 July 2011

The Cheese Scone Moment

If you have never been to Cambridge then can I urge you to come and, if nothing else, sample the superb cheese scones at Michaelhouse Cafe.

It's a building that is more cafe than church but is also definitely the latter. I saw the most superb altar frontal there today - gorgeous colours and exquisite stitching.

I indulged in a cheese scone - and thought and scribbled and read while I munched. I was quite impressed with what I had accomplished by the end of half an hour. It made me think about how important cheese scones are.

It also reminded me of a talk that I went to about 10 years ago. It was called something like 'Are you a busy person?' I think I'm making this up actually but it's close enough to what it was about for me to leave it at this. During the talk the phrase that subsequently revolutionised my approach to work (and yet temporarily forgotten recently perhaps) was that busy people need to make time to go out and 'kick the leaves'. Literally this is no bad thing, but you need a permanent Autumn to do that; metaphorically of course what it means is that it is essential that you build in time when you walk away from what you are working from. Do something different enough that when you return to the task in hand your perspective has shifted just enough to allow the problem to be solved, the task you're doing is completed more quickly, the meeting you have coming up to be more fruitful etc... Now of course taking holiday could be one way of doing this, but holidays are when you try and completely forget your work. 'Kicking the leaves' is very far from this. It is a relatively short break, which allows the current issues and problems and all the unsolvable irritables of a working life to chugg along in the background of your mind whilst you physically do something and see something completely different!

For me - my 'kicking the leaves' activities range from shelving a trolley load of books, a walk through Kings College at lunch time, the cycle ride to and from home to work, and - yes - a cheese scone at Michaelhouse Cafe!

Now the point of this blog was actually to say that I won't be carrying on with cpd23 or even starting the new Cam23 Things. My scone reminded me today that actually the most effective work that I can do is not dependent on trying out yet another new 'thing' and constantly trying to fill my mind with new ideas and more and more cpd. It's about being selective and above all allowing myself time to 'kick the leaves'.

So - I shall continue to write occasional blog posts, and I will be very supportive of those who are part of cpd23. I think it's a great initiative but it's not for me, not now. I think I'll order another cheese scone.


  1. I think that is the nicest way I have ever heard someone say they aren't going to do something. And it makes perfect sense as well. Enjoy your extra scone

  2. They are very good! Even better with soup and a black coffee!

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  4. Funnily enough, I had come to the same conclusion for the same reason. Keeping things in perspective and making time for reflection is so important for effective management, and yet it is often overlooked.
    Disappointed there is no recipe though. :-)

  5. I'm sure it's in their recipe book :) But there you go - that would just mean having to buy another book and just think of the distraction then!

  6. I've never heard the "kicking the leaves" thing but it's so true. I am hugely tempted by cpd23 but am trying to be realistic about the amount of available time/brainspace in my life just now and not get sucked into it, so do understand.

    Now I really want a cheese scone...

  7. read your blog and made a batch of scones this evening for sustanance before other half went on swimming pool duty. Not as good as Michaelhouse but made the house smell good

  8. This is a great post, Libby! Thank you for the reminder to take a break once in a while. I actually find that doing the washing up is an effective 'kicking the leaves' for me. Something about the soap, hot water, clean smell, and methodical motion of washing lets me see the big picture in my work better. And, no, I haven't been brainwashed by other members of my family! :-)

  9. Hi Libby!
    I used to work in the Michaelhouse Cafe before being attracted into the world of libraries, so I know what you mean by 'superb scones'!
    Great post, you really gave a lot to think about. And I love your 'kicking the leaves' moment, I may pop by the Michaelhouse and share your moment with a good scone.

  10. Hi, thanks for this, it reminded me of happy days as a trainee in Cambridge, Autumn sunday afternoons, eating those lovely Michaelhouse scones and I even remember kicking up the leaves now and again.

    I know what you mean about CPD, I am currently taking part in CPD23, but you can get a bit bogged down with everything and I think it is important to be selective about what you do and do not do.