in Life

2015 in review: what I’ve done/what have I done

I like doing these year-end review posts (see 2013 in review and 2014 in review). The year-end is an excellent opportunity to sit down and reflect on what’s happened, as well as strategise for the year to come.

2015 can be summarised as a year of focus, productivity and learning.

I learned to identify what’s important, to say “no” much more and to really focus on the stuff that’s going to make a difference. I learned how to focus on happiness and how to get a hell of a lot of work done.

Let’s get to it.

Productivity

I can also honestly say adopting the Pomodoro Technique has completely revolutionsed the way I work and I’m a very significant amount more productive as a result. I genuinely can’t imagine working without it or something similar.

I’ve done some really good work this year, including stuff for my degree, freelance work for clients that I’m really proud of and a post every week since September on BlogBettr.

Learning

The long essays I had due at the end of my second year were the first where I looked beyond the reading list and really went out to find research which excited me. From there, spurred by my dissertation, I’ve seriously narrowed in on what it is I’m actually interested in. I’ve now started independently pursuing those things and trying to understand them better.

I’ve also started just appreciating learning much better – which is amusing, because I have about five months left in full-time education, something I’ve been doing for the last eighteen or nineteen years. Classic timing.

Books on the right hand side are my rapidly expanding “to read” titles. I actually cleared last year’s list for the first time in a long time.

One of my goals for last year was read more books and – probably for the first time – I can honestly say I’ve done that. I’d like to better document what I’m reading, but highlights include:

  • Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Really helped me get clarity on what I needed to focus on.
  • A Sense of Direction by Gideon Lewis-Kraus. A slightly odd tale of travel and pilgrimage. I just really liked this.
  • Cameron’s Coup by Polly Toynbee and David Walker. A fantastic, no-punches-held analysis of the last five years of government in Britain.
  • Treasure Islands by Nicholas Shaxson. The book which got me interested in my dissertation topic. It’s the book on tax avoidance and extremely well written.
  • The Spirit Level by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. A sustained thesis on why equality is better for everyone which is extremely thoroughly argued. Everyone should read this.

I have a huge list of books to finish currently, and another list of books I’d like to read after that. Hat tip Nat Eliason for his excellent advice here.

If you actually want to read more… you first have to stop lying to yourself. You have plenty of time to read. You simply choose to spend it on other things.

Habits and goals

At the start of the year I appreciated that habits were the key to getting traction in doing things consistently, but something I didn’t appreciate was habits need to be paired with purpose.

Just saying (as I did at the start of the yearI want to do Headspace every day because I’ve read that over time it’s healthy is insufficient. Saying I appreciate my physical and mental wellbeing so I’m going to replace half an hour of work with half an hour of meditation and working out is much better.

Initially I only stuck sporadically with the habits I wanted to adopt, but since I’ve started pairing them with purpose I’ve made much more significant and consistent progress.

Pairing mental with physical wellbeing has been a big bonus for me this year, and the New York Times’ 7 minute workout is now something I do every day right before meditating. It’s only seven minutes (so short enough that you don’t have an excuse not to do it) but that’s enough time for it to still be decent workout. Once a week I’ll run 10km, as last year.

Travel

I’ll be honest, having done two big travelling trips now I’m increasingly over the whole fetishisation of travel for travel’s sake. I’m much more appreciative of what’s here rather than what’s to be found elsewhere. That said, travel remains a big goal for me and in 2016 I’m planning on taking a month-long trip for the third year in a row.

I had the privilege of taking a month to visit the Balkans and Turkey this Summer with my friend Joe and we had a really excellent time. Met some interesting people, saw some incredible places and had some wonderful experiences. We also spent a good chunk of time reading and writing and just appreciating the time we were having.

We went slightly further off the established track than last time and were appropriately rewarded with adventure. I also went to Austria and Strasbourg.

The future

I’ll be graduating in 2016 and from there I’ll be able to do anything I want. Within reason, of course. I’m looking to freelance as my full-time gig and I’m excited about that but also aware it represents a significant challenge.

In 2016 I’d like to get better and working out when not to work (and focus on relaxing + friends + family) and also try and reduce my food waste to more or less zero. The two aren’t related at all, but are both changes I’d like to make.

I’d generally like to continue with a lot of progress with what I started this year, including regularly exercising and meditating, writing (mostly) every day and generally increasing my productivity. Also reading more, mini-breaks and generally having a good time.

I think that’s everything for this post, for this year. Here’s to an awesome 2016.