Talking time with ... Julian Innes
Today I’m exploring the transition from work to retirement with Julian Innes. Some of you may recognise him as the former “top dog” in the police up here in the North of Scotland. Following 30 years in the force he took retirement last summer at the age of 50.
During his career, he undertook an exciting variety of roles including director of intelligence and had to deal with some very high profile cases. He went onto become the North's most senior police officer - Chief Superintendent, divisional commander of the Highlands & Islands. Perhaps his largest challenge, however, came on 1st April 2013 when Police Scotland was formed. This replaced the previous 8 force structure and became the second largest after the Met, but we’ll come to that later!
How do you feel about your “time” in the police ?
I never had enough of it!
It was an environment where I would know what I was doing a year in advance. It was very regimental unless there was a critical incident. The routine was constant work.
Around 10 years ago I did an Open University degree in Leadership & Management. So, then I had to balance not only my professional work, but my studies, my wife and time with my kids. For about 5 years I think all I did when I wasn’t working was open up the laptop to get on with my course. I also had to work away from home up in Wick at that time. This period forced me to look at my time management, in terms of police work. I think that has helped me towards making that break towards retirement.
Can you tell me about the changeover to Police Scotland in 2013 in terms of the effect on you and your time?
Prior to the change I was working in an executive team of 6 people with 2 personal assistants to support us. There were also staff officers who could do some prep work for you. Then on the 1st April all that was gone with arrival of Police Scotland. I still had the same geographical area, but similar pressures without the executive of Northern Constabulary. Upon reflection, for the last 3 years of my career all that I did was focus on police work.
My usual day involved arriving in the office at 7.30 (Sometimes before) then home at the back of 6. Getting home did not signal the end of work though – I constantly brought work home. In the mornings I would read the local paper to get a feel of how the day ahead was going to be ! Even on a Sunday I would go in to do some prep work for the new week.
I didn’t sleep well during that period. There was a pressure on us all to be the best we could be and succeed in our new structure. Northern constabulary was working really well when it came to an end. We then went into a period of cultural change with a lot of fast time decision making for the greater good of the whole of Scotland. Sometimes, because of the pace of change, there was understandably no opportunity to consult with communities as we would have liked to have done. Decisions were being made for the right reasons but were impacting differently across Scotland. I ended up spending much of my time with counsellors and community representatives explaining what Police Scotland were trying to do. It was a very challenging few years. Nonetheless, I loved every bit of my time and would do it all again, given the same opportunity.
Let’s move onto life after the police…
Although I stopped working in May last year I didn’t fully retire until August due to the vast amount of time owed to me ! Those first few months off were good as I could step back from certain roles on committees etc. I didn’t get involved in too much during that summer period. I would definitely recommend to anyone retiring that they try and build in some capacity for a break before jumping into something new.
Having said that I do contradict myself a little. One day that summer when I was in my local bike shop (Helping a colleague with a new purchase) I was asked if I’d like a job ! I said I would come in a day a week just to see what it was like. I’m still there and love it. It’s not like work, it’s like a hobby. There is no pressure to sell anything. This is a complete contrast to where I was in the police, everything was target driven. The bike shop ethos is to “Help the customer make an informed choice”. Everyone who goes in is usually happy and leaves happier !
In the last week I was working in the police I received a card from the Highland Hospice congratulating me on my retirement and suggesting I might wish to join the board. I took this opportunity after speaking with a friend who is also on there.
How do you now organise your time?
When I retired I chose not to have the extensive planning that had been such a feature in my police life. Now I don’t even carry my phone at times which frustrates people! I have the ability to not look at it for days on end. This is quite refreshing.
For a while I didn’t use anything to keep a note of my time and I started losing track of the days which was good for me but perhaps not so great for others around me! I remember one day working in the shop and being asked “Do you know what day it is?” and I said "No I don’t and does it matter ?" I even said then "You will love it when you don’t have to worry what day it is!"
Very rarely did I pay attention to dates and 1 week rolled into the next. Once I got properly involved in the hospice role I started to need to focus a little on dates. I also started some other governance work. I was creeping back into needing to know days of the week again ! I went back to using the diary on my phone just to make sure I’m at the meeting I need to be at. I would say I’m about 5% as organised now as when I was in those last few years of the police !
I retired with the view of not going back into full time employment. Some others who have retired struggle with this. What we had in the police is structure, routine and discipline. Also, cops can miss “people” – the human contact. It would be easy to get depressed about the whole thing. I can go a day here and not see anyone and I’m happy with that. I do structure my days, probably from my police ways ! In the last year, I have only had a day or 2 where I have had nothing to do. I’m the sort of person who needs things to get on with. I’ve never really not go anything to do.
I’ve also taken on the “Everest Highlanders Challenge” - a mammoth challenge - cycling over 430 miles in five days and tackling the equivalent of Everest in ascent. I’ve upped my cycling, helped the coaching of others and the organisation of the challenge itself. To raise money for the hospice and to fill my days I’ve been doing jobs for people - painting, gardening, decking, all sorts. I manage my time by doing things. I can slot this in between working at the bike shop.
The challenge for me may be January, February when I’ve not go the same stuff to do outside that I do now.
If you could think back to your 20 year old self what tips would you give him?
In the workplace at 20 year’s old I was still the same was I was at 50 – fully committed and would drop everything for the police.
I would definitely recommend having something in place for managing time as I never did until I started my studies. Manage your time so you know what are the important things. I missed out on hundreds of things with my kids.
You need to be a little bit selfish. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out. Also, things can wait. I never allowed things to wait. I’m still trying to get the hang of that. If I start something I need to finish it, I can’t be coming back to it a week or two later – that’s possibly the way I was brought up and how I worked in the police. If someone has a problem, they report it and I want to get it sorted and finished. The other side to that is juggling 10/12 things, so you need to finish stuff to allow fresh things to come in. I think as I get older that will naturally slow down a bit.
Also, build in thinking time. It sounds a bit faffy but it’s worth it. It seems like a luxury but half an hour of undisturbed time is really valuable. Little bits of self discipline around avoiding distractions, like emails, are very helpful.
If somethings important get it done – and well before the deadline if possible to save yourself the stress. Recognise that you get better value from doing the important things.
If you need an odd job doing around your home (Before September!) and wish to support the Highland hospice at the same time, through a donation, then get in touch with Julian.
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