I started the year with a lot of energy, high hopes and big plans. I even wrote them down and published them for all the world to see. You know, that wonderful idea of ‘accountability’? Well, I’ve just reviewed the list from that January 2014 post. The results weren’t pretty…
I’d achieved less than half my goals. Uh oh. If I were at school, I’d have earned myself a big fat C (ok, maybe C+ if I’m not being too hard on myself). Part of the problem was there was no teacher to crack the whip and keep me accountable along the way.
The previous year I did have a teacher, a coach I met with monthly. Coaching really did keep me accountable and on track. She’d be horrified to hear I’ve fallen back into old habits, like having “too many tabs” open in browsers (like, um… 50+). In fact, I’ve multipled the problem because I now use multiple browsers. On multiple computers. Even Safari on the iPhone and iPad removed its limit of 8, so now I have more on multiple mobile devices!
I’m absoluteIy 100% certain that I’m not alone in this.
I adopted a change in Attitude
The only difference this year has been my attitude to those excessive tabs. Every so often, I choose to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. I resist the old urge to sort through them all “in case some are really important”. (I know they’re still buried somewhere in a ‘favourites’ list if I ever think to dig them out again anyway.) I’ve learnt to move on, rather than give in to feelings of overwhelm.
My lessons from 2014
I’m writing this list, not just for myself while I review my own year, but also because you might find some gems of your own amongst these ideas… So here are some of my lessons of 2014, in no particular order.
- I tried co-working. There were some things I loved about being back in an office with other people. Laughter and chit-chat. Being productive. Meeting new people. Learning from them. Bouncing ideas off them. There were a few things that I didn’t love. Other people’s phone alerts. The girl typing with fake nails – click, click, click, click. Stupidly cold airconditioning. Having to get out of my pyjamas before midday… In the end, I decided I prefer my home-based office and established new routines to get productive. I now fulfil my needs for chit-chat and people-meeting at monthly networking groups.
- I discovered Toggl. I almost religiously use the Toggl app to track what I’m working on. It’s been amazing for my productivity. Firstly, it shows me how and where I spend my time (wrapped up in a nice little weekly report). More importantly, it keeps me very focused. Once I hit start on the timer, allocated to a particular project (especially one where I’m billing clients for my time), I stay on that task. I stop myself “just checking Facebook” because that would derail the accuracy of my Toggl timer. And it stops me multi-tasking. Try it yourself.
- I reduced my blogging frequency. And no, the world didn’t end! Even though I had only been producing a fortnightly blog, it used to feel like I was constantly blogging. And because I liked doing it, it became an excuse for avoiding other less pleasurable tasks. “No, I really need to get this blog post ready.” So I dropped down to a monthly blog. To maintain ‘routine’ I still try to finish one in the first 2 weeks of the month. Then I take 2 weeks off from it (although I’m always thinking ahead to the next topic…)
- I listened to podcasts on the run. I realised I’m incapable of sitting at my desk (with 3 screens in front of me) and giving my full attention to a webinar or podcast – there’s too much to distract me. I’d also been feeling guilty about spending too much time on outdoor exercise when I had work to do. So I put the two together. Now I regularly download podcasts to my phone and listen to them while I’m out walking or running. No distractions. No guilt. This one’s been a real work/life balance win. To ensure the activity is worthwhile, I always try to note down 2-3 things that I learn from the podcast (either while I’m stopping for a breather, or as soon as I get home).
- I expanded my social media channels. This year I joined LinkedIn. I also joined Twitter. I have to say I’ve grown to like Twitter, after my initial reticence. But I’ve slowly begun to realise what it is and what it isn’t. For me. Twitter is good for learning and for finding new content. It’s not good for finding or engaging clients. I repeat, that’s for me. Facebook is in the same boat. What I really need for my business are the networking opportunities afforded by LinkedIn and Google+. Next year I plan to shift my efforts and focus more on the latter platforms…
- I’m still searching for a diary/planner that works for me. Last year I used an online pdf-based diary. It worked ok, being so dynamic (eg. I could cut & paste outstanding items from one week to the next – not always a good thing!) But it proved problematic using it on both the PC and Mac, so wasn’t truly portable. In the past year I opted for a desk diary again. It’s a small format, week-to-a-page, forcing me to only write the most important items for each day. Which helped with focus. But not with planning my time.
So for 2015 I’ve ordered myself a Passion Planner. The hardcopy won’t arrive til January, but I’ve got the free pdf so I can print off the first few pages and get planning. Not only does it get me to focus on important tasks, but I can create separate To-Do lists for Work and Personal then schedule chunks of time across each day to achieve them.
I plan to revisit my goals and apply what my coach taught me in 2013, then make full use of this new planner to help myself achieve them.
2014 was a pretty good year for me at Right Hand Design. I’ve enjoyed working with all my clients, new and old, and have been constantly learning new things. Looking forward to an even better 2015…!