Q1: 19for2019 update.

As Q1 rolled to a close I thought it would be apt to check-in with myself and my 19for2019. I booked a week off from work – a staycation – to progress some of my goals and give my batteries a chance to recharge before they hit zero (see…I’m getting better at this “middle ground” concept).

I started with a long weekend in Anglesey, to see my best friend and get into the fresh air. During my visits, we summarise what’s been of importance, clear our minds of rant-worthy topics, and focus on where we want to head in the coming months. We share dreams, frustrations and reminiscences over vegan food and outdoor activities, and I always return home the better for it.

I wanted to dedicate the remainder of my holiday to my various projects – items I’d documented on my 19for2019. In the past three months, I’ve felt varying degrees of accomplishment regarding this list. Some weeks it feels like I’ve made absolutely no progress, and sometimes I feel like I’m on track and fired by some kind of rocket fuel. Alas, many of them were not ‘ongoing’ goals, i.e. tasks which I can do every day. Some are long term goals, and will likely take the whole year to achieve. And so, it’s only natural that progress will feel stilted in some areas more than others. Yet, a week of life-admin is a perfect opportunity to re-group, assess the current reality, tweak anything that hasn’t worked, and create a go-forward action plan (along with reclaiming my sofa as a place to lounge as opposed to an overflow desk facility).

So here’s my update:

  1. Move House – this one has been moving at the speed of light since a minor bump in the road early on in the process. I have the draft contracts for both sale and purchase, so I could be in my new abode by month end. However, before we get too carried away…in a bid not to get overly excited before it became reality, I’m rather behind on the moving admin (removal people/packing/change of address duties). Tomorrow I’m determined to allocate at least an hour to the tasks to add a little injector-boost to the process. When a pack of legal docs arrived earlier in the week, I had a minor panic attack; it all seemed a bit too dense to deal with (especially in combination with the tasks below). But one morning I got up early and made it my first task of the day, writing a to-do list in my BuJo based on what was in the letters…I then felt much calmer and in control of the situ. I now just need to action on the to-do list…
  2. Diversify Income – this is still conceptual in my head. Does that count?
  3. Apply for PhD – well, one application has been submitted, and one interview has been conducted. It was, quite possibly, the weirdest experience of my life and I’m still none the wiser as to whether I have secured a space. But in the meantime, I’m developing my proposal idea based on their feedback, and trying to obtain further clarity and direction. My only peeve is that I hate ‘putting it down’ during the working week. I’ve made some progress this week and feel that June is a realistic target for a revised proposal. I’m enjoying the process and after a brief moment of over-excitement/panic at rushing for a Sept 2019 start date, I’ve decided that Sept 2020 is a better option; it gives me time to refine the idea further, apply for funding, save money, finalise other projects, and approach a few institutions. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away in the moment but I’m learning to choose the sustainable path rather than the mental one.
  4. CISSP – approval and funding gained from employer: tick. Accountability partner recruited: tick. We’re on chapter 2, with a view to studying one chapter every two weeks, and then we meet to discuss and complete practice papers (we really know how to live). We’ve booked an intensive course for July, followed by the exam. Hopefully we don’t turn up to find everyone is a super cyber geek and we’re the only plebs.
  5. Coaching Qualification – I completed a foundation course back in March which gave me an insight into what the qualification would entail: try before you buy, if you will. I expected it to be more of a marketing exercise, but it was actually incredibly interactive – we started working with materials and role-playing straight away. I subsequently enrolled and I’m now working through the modules and booking onto the training days as and when. It’s likely that I won’t qualify until September, but I’m making steady progress, with a view to completing one module per week over the next couple of months. From about May onwards I’ll need to coach people as part of my training, so if you’re wanting clarity on your future goals, or help in figuring out what your next steps should be then please get in touch for pro-bono sessions (in person or online or via phone).
  6. Travel to Berlin – check. See “Alone in Berlin” post.
  7. Travel to Rome – booked for later in the year.
  8. Fitness Bootcamp – Thailand – Ah. You see, I was anticipating that I would do this in September…until I looked online and found that it would be the rainy season. I have since contemplated booking it in 2019 for early 2020 (that counts, right?), but with various projects being juggled I will need to reassess whether that fits in with my life. TBC.
  9. Learn to play squash – check. I have now played three times with Mr. Taylor, which doesn’t quite elevate me to pro status, but I’m rather enjoying myself and bossing the sneaky low/short shots. I have also refrained from racquet-based violence. Win.
  10. Join Sober Community – I feel I was off to an early start on this one (see “Mulling on Club Soda’s Mindful Drinking Festival” post). I found a group of Sober Millennials who were all lovely but I’ve been unable to attend the subsequent gatherings due to pre-existing plans. Luckily they’ve started a newsletter which provides more advance warning of key dates which should help somewhat.
  11. Join Women’s Network – Also winning at this one. I joined a women’s club in London which seems to be a bit more diverse than financial services. It’s been great to meet women from many industries, all with their own side projects/goals/drive – truly inspiring! I’ve also made a friend or two…who knew?!
  12. Volunteer for Women’s charity – errrrrm, I donated lots of tampons to the food bank, but I haven’t yet organised something more formal. I thought this could be in the form of pro-bono coaching for women through a charity…to be arranged! Got to leave something for Q4 right?! RIGHT?!
  13. Teeth whitened – I procrastinated about this for a while because it seemed vain and cost money which I could be saving. But then I realised that I don’t spend huge amounts on other vain things (botox/fake things/etc), and I really do think it’s an investment. So I had my appointment this week – the moulds have been created, I’ve handed over the dough and I’m due back in two weeks. Watch this space for bright pearly whites.
  14. Replace towels – this was a quick win achieved in the first week of Jan. I went for a ‘petrol’ colour and had immense fun clearing out my airing cupboard….
  15. Commit to yoga centre – negative. I really need to sort this out, if only to get my osteopath off my case. It’s so easy to do though. I literally have to pay the money and then show up at least once a week. There’s one right next door to my work. Maybe my procrastination about this suggests that deep down I don’t want to do it?! But I love it when I’m there. Sort it out.
  16. Read all surplus books on my shelf: I’ve kind of fudged this one. I realised there were a few that I would never read, so I’ve listed/sold them on Amazon which reduced the pile somewhat. I don’t think I bought any new books for the first six weeks of the year and made progress through the majority. I gave up on one because it was so dire and such a disappointment (sorry Vita Sackville-West, I wanted to love you). And I’ve subsequently bought another pile which is now residing on the shelf, so maybe I’m back to square one?! Argh! I WANT ALL THE BOOKS.
  17. Grow blog writing: Well, I created the blog. I have since updated its interface which took far too long and almost enticed me to throw the whole damn laptop out of the window. I re-embraced social media in order to share the blog but quickly became infuriated with the narcissism of Instagram once more. I’ve recently reduced the frequency with which I’ve released posts, mainly because it’s been a race against time to fit in all of the above. I want it to have more of a direction in the future (I feel that I’m still finding myself, in the blog sphere and elsewhere) but for now I’m enjoying what it is.
  18. Understand philosophical schools of thought – I am nowhere near being even remotely close to achieving this. Not even started. The problem forever being that there are too many books and so little time. I have a feeling that this may roll into 2020.
  19. Confidential: No execution on this, but other goals are being achieved which makes this a work in progress.

While reading my life update is obviously absolutely riveting for you, I reckon it’d be more helpful if you had a few ideas to help you along the way of your own 19for2019. So here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Intertwine goals for maximum efficiency. I realised that some of my goals are related and will come to fruition when another has been achieved. This is a great way of creating goals which are congruent with our other goals, values, and with our broader life plan. For instance, a goal to diversify income could be achieved in tandem with a house move that will enable Air BnB’ing. Alternatively, the aspiration to volunteer for a charity could coincide with another interest, such as sports coaching. Rather than seeing our goals as discrete focusses, we can link them together. Ultimately we only have so many hours in a day available to us – while goals are meant to push us outside of our comfort zone, they’re not supposed to tip us over into the panic zone. Let’s keep in mind existing commitments and how we can combine for maximum efficiency.
  2. Not everything can be consistent. It is impossible to consistently work towards all goals or areas of our lives. I’m going to be controversial and suggest that the concept of balance is fundamentally flawed. Yes, we can work towards a balance over a longer period of time (say, for instance, a year), but the idea that we can be high performing across all spectrums of our lives at any given time is a misnomer. I have to reduce my training if I want to have the energy to study. If I want to attend a networking event one evening it may mean that my alarm doesn’t go off so early the next day. Some goals require little effort while others are ongoing projects. Indeed, I’ve managed to tick off a couple of my short term goals in Q1 (travel to Berlin, learn to play squash), but this has been at the sacrifice of progress in some of my longer term goals (FYI: long term goals are defined to take at least one year to achieve, short term goals being those you can complete within 4 weeks). They ebb and flow dependent upon deadlines, mental capacity, or time and money available. It’s not realistic to expect that we would contribute towards them every day or even every week – it’s about recognising what needs to be prioritised next and dedicating oneself.
  3. Re-aligning the time-frame is ok. Sometimes it’s best to admit that we are not machines and that we need more time in order for the deliverable to be worth it. Ultimately if it takes a month longer than expected, or there’s a six month delay in starting, then that’s ok…as long as it wasn’t because we were too busy watching Netflix. What’s important here is that we provide feedback to ourselves. What was the obstacle in meeting the original deadline? How can this be overcome in the future? What else could be done? Perhaps controversially, is this goal even relevant anymore? Life is a marathon, not a sprint. There’ll be other years that we can shift some of these goals into if we over-burden ourselves, or an unexpected event has occurred. As a society, we tend to understate the negatives and overstate the positives so perhaps the time-frame realignment is just a natural correction on over-zealous enthusiasm.
  4. Find a tool to support your goals. My BuJo (for the unconverted, this means Bullet Journal) has been a tool of magnificence. It helps categorise my goals across the Future Log, Monthly Log, Weekly Log and Daily Log – perfect for dividing up one’s short and long term goals, and breaking these down into more manageable/regular action points. It enables me to combine the professional and the personal which ensures that I still contribute to my own personal goals/development during the working week. An holistic approach like this also provides greater opportunity for practice – if ‘active listening’ is one of your goals then where better to start than in the workplace? I’ve already converted two people to the BuJo – you could be next! There’s an absolute wealth of content online on how to put one to best use, but don’t get too intimidated – start small and check out Ryder Carroll’s website in the first instance: https://bulletjournal.com/. It may not be the right tool for everyone – you may be wedded to the iPad. Irrespective of your choice in companion, make sure it’s a daily feature of your existence; it needs to be updated regularly and referred back to easily. By keeping our goals front of mind, it’s more likely that they’re going to be achieved.
  5. Recruit an accountability partner. Some of my goals gained pace in Q1 through the sheer nature of power in numbers; if there’s someone else who’s sharing your journey, it provides numerous benefits. An accountability partner acts as a support network, a champion, and a deadline enforcer – all rolled into one. There have been instances when I’ve questioned my ability to deliver on a (self-imposed) deadline, only to push through at the thought that it will reduce the value of our combined study session if I don’t succeed. A buddy also opens your mind to alternative approaches; I’m an absolute wimp at doing practice papers (cue flashbacks to endless GCSE/A-Level past papers), and yet they really can be the best way to cement knowledge – my accountability partner is all about the practice tests and I’m gradually learning to endure. Above all, they provide understanding and support when one week has been a bit tough, when the self-doubt has started to creep in and the text book seems incomprehensible. Why not accompany the goal with a friendly face, a coffee and a catch up? Personal/professional development is supposed to be fun and engaging – get creative in finding ways to ensure that you stay on point.

With three more quarters of 2019 to go, spring is a fantastic opportunity to revisit the goals that we’ve set for the year and alter our direction or change tack should we be veering slightly off course. One of my 19for2019 was to study towards a Diploma in personal performance coaching, which is now well under way. This was something which I thought would bring benefits to both home and work life; Google’s rigorous study of their management, code-named ‘Project Oxygen’, determined that coaching was the number one feature of the highest-performing managers within the business, (see: https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/the-8-biggest-things-that-google-managers-do-to-su.html for further detail). So, as I progress through my training I will require some keen volunteers who perhaps are looking to seek clarity on their goals or are looking for assistance in definining what their action points should be in order to get from A to B. I’ll be offering these out pro-bono, and these can be conducted either in person, online or over the phone, dependent upon location and preference. Send me a direct message if this is of interest and I can provide you with some more detail.

Above all, remember to enjoy the process of working toward these goals. In the words of Ernest Hemingway, “it’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”.

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