Our Head of Department, Tamsin Ford, is also Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and leads the Child and Adolescent Resilience and Mental Health Research
Friday starts with a run; it is frosty and I am tired, but the sun is out and thanks to David Byrne and St Vincent (Love this Giant), I lumber around the park and feel much better for doing so. Getting myself presentable and sitting at my desk for 9 am then becomes a bit of a scramble, but I just about manage it and settle into my office for the daily Zoomathon.
As it is the Friday before a bank holiday and some people have taken the day off, my diary is not as packed as normal, which is frankly a relief. Working from home has many benefits but days when meeting run back to back, without the need to travel between sites or even rooms in the same building leaves little time to think, or indeed move.
My first meeting is a rehearsal for an important presentation that several of us will be giving next week. We clarify who will say what and fiddle with the order and content of some slides; it is good-humoured and fun, but very important to ensure that the pitch we will make to potential funders runs well and is convincing.
With a gap between meetings, I start my daily battle to keep the number of flagged emails in my inbox at a level that I can tolerate. I try and respond to as many as possible (and is wise) immediately, and note those with draft manuscripts or bids to come back to when I have more time. I sigh at the number of “reply all” emails that I don’t need to see, but then there is also the relief that they can be effectively dealt with by pressing delete. This provides the dangerous illusion of making progress with tasks and inevitably swallows up more time than I was initially planning.
Time to grab a cup of tea before the next meeting in which colleagues at NatCen, ONS and NHS Digital with scientific advisers like me discuss which tables will be included in the second official report on the mental health of children and young people, due to be published later this summer. I do this meeting standing at my desk to stop myself from getting stiff and chair shaped. It occurred to me early in the first lockdown that working from home can be incredibly sedentary, and not unlike doing a long haul flight five days a week if you are not careful.
I make myself a sandwich for lunch, before a brief discussion with other senior clinicians to touch base with how the project to build a new children’s hospital and allied research institute are progressing, before switching video conference platforms to attend a research project management meeting. The project is led by a colleague and is progressing well.
This meeting is cut short for the fortnightly Cambridge Children’s Research Institute, in which a colleague presents fascinating work about how similar the difficulties of children with a variety of difficulties with schoolwork are, despite differences in diagnoses (ADHD, Dyslexia, no diagnosis) and the problems they report. I present data from the first wave of follow up of our national survey of mental health in children and young people, along with other data about how difficult experiences and poorer outcomes are concentrated among the more vulnerable in the UK as elsewhere.
Meetings done for the day, I get some time to work through tasks on my “to do” list. Today it is a couple of draft academic papers to comment on, a grant application that I am contributing to and a reference for someone. I find I can focus more easily in the late afternoon and early evening so save this time for writing and reading if I can.
A couple of hours later, I turn off the computer and look forward to a restful bank holiday, trying not to ponder jobs such as my daily “read” task that I have (again) failed to tick off. Who knew that as a senior academic, that time to read papers would be at such a premium?