RESOLUTIONS FOR A BETTER YEAR
Every year, come hell or high water (or let’s be honest, hangover), I sit down at my desk on January 1st and make a list of resolutions for the year ahead. No matter how raucous the previous evening’s festivities, or alluring the thought of spending the rest of the day in bed, the half hour or so I spend properly thinking about what I want to achieve in the year ahead is a non-negotiable start to my year, and one that I’ve taken pretty seriously since I first started doing it about five years ago. For me, the symbolism of the first day of a brand new year is energising in a way few other things can match, and as someone with a lifelong passion for lists, I never feel truly ready to tackle the year ahead without first making what - to me - is the most important list of all.
There’s always something incredibly clarifying about the process – for starters, it forces me to confront all of the various goals that are floating around in my head (of which there are always quite a few!), and corral them into some semblance of a plan, retaining only the ones that I truly think will bring me fulfilment, and discarding everything else. In that way, my New Year's resolutions are something of a North Star, guiding my decisions as the year goes on. It’s also a valuable exercise, in that it encourages me to look back on the resolutions of years gone by (which is why I always use the same battered red Moleskine that I’ve now reserved exclusively for this purpose). Sometimes that means the warm glow of satisfaction at a year well spent, whilst others it’s been the burst of motivation I've needed, confronted with the reality of a whole year - or more - going by without me making so much as a dent on certain goals. Having just completed this ritual for the year ahead, I thought I'd share a few tips for making New Year's resolutions that actually stick, based on my learnings from years gone by.
WRITE THEM DOWN
Getting your resolutions down on paper gives you a clarity of thought that’s hard to achieve otherwise, and also gives you something to refer back to as the year progresses. If you like, go one step further and pin them up somewhere where you can see them on a regular basis, to remind you of the bigger picture when things are getting confusing.
SET SPECIFIC GOALS
This. Is. So. Important. Vaguely resolving to (for example) "get healthy" or "save money" isn't going to get you very far. To make resolutions that stick, you need to set easily quantifiable, measurable goals, and identify the specific actions that you’re going to take towards them. For every resolution you make, you should ask yourself "how am I going to make this happen?". Write that down as well.
HAVE FUN WITH IT
I love making something of a ceremony out of making my resolutions – brewing a cup of tea, putting on some music and sitting down at my desk for an undisturbed spot of *deep thinking*. Make the process a pleasure not a chore, and your resolutions will embed themselves in your psyche for all the right reasons.
DON'T MAKE TOO MANY
This is a mistake I've made far too many times – setting myself an unrealistic number of targets for the year ahead. Word to the wise: don't. All that leads to is feeling overwhelmed, and not really knowing where to focus your energies. Keeping things concise is the key to success here, so pick a handful of the most important goals to focus on, and forget the rest.
TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THEM
Telling other people about your resolutions - be they your friends, family, or the guy who runs your local corner shop - is crucial. Having people checking in and encouraging you is important, both as a source of support and as a way of keeping you accountable.
…And in the spirit of said accountability – I thought I'd share my resolutions for 2017. I find it useful to think about my resolutions as falling under one of four different quadrants to make sure I'm keeping things balanced, with my 'core four' generally being Work, Money, Wellbeing, and Personal Development. Whilst not all of these resolutions are directly related to my work, I’m hoping in one way or another they’ll all have an impact on my working life and leave me feeling more inspired, relaxed and productive over the year ahead.
GROWING WOMEN WHO
As I’ve mentioned in newsletters past my main goal for 2017 is all about making this community bigger and better, and finding new ways of connecting with creative women (particularly international members of the community – hold tight!) through more events, new resources, and more inspiration for your working life. That's as specific as I can get for now, but there's lots of great stuff in the pipeline - stay tuned.
IMPROVING MY DESIGN SKILLS
Whilst I have definitely have an appreciation for beautiful design, and a fairly decent eye for visuals, sadly my technical design skills are somewhat… lacking. I’ve been meaning to work on those for a while now, so late last year I signed up for a basic InDesign course that starts in a few weeks, and which I’m very excited about. (FYI, if you’re in the market for a new skill, now’s a great time to do it – most adult learning organisations have a new crop of courses starting in the next couple of weeks, so take advantage).
GETTING MY FINANCES IN ORDER
I bang on about women and money a lot (and plan on doing that a lot more in the year to come, don't sweat it), because I truly believe economic empowerment is one of the most important things a woman can aspire to, and something that underpins pretty much every other aspect of our professional and personal lives. Transitioning to self-employment has made me think much more deeply about the need to have some kind of long-term financial game-plan, in lieu of a waiting trust fund, company pension, or even a consistent paycheck.
With that in mind, I’ve committed to taking a more long-term view of my finances - more specifically, by investing £50 a month (an amount I regularly fritter away on unnecessary lattes and wear-it-once ASOS purchases), somehow, somewhere. I’ve long been aware of the importance of investing, but listening to this episode of Gaby Dunn’s excellent Bad With Money podcast a few months ago was the push I finally needed. I'm certainly no Warren Buffet, but the idea that you need to be some kind of corporate tycoon investing big figures to make investment worthwhile is a total myth – when it comes to compound interest (which FYI, Einstein described as ‘the 8th wonder of the world’) every little counts, and for me £50 a month is an achievable but aspirational start.
CUTTING DOWN ON SOCIAL MEDIA
In recent months I’ve read article after article about how detrimental social media can be to your emotional and mental health – which is nothing new, except I now find myself relating to said articles far more than ever before. I rarely feel happier, more relaxed or better about myself after a prolonged Instagram or Twitter lurk – instead I’m left with a creeping sense of panic at the idea that everyone I know (and let’s be honest, plenty of people I don’t know) is somehow cooler, better dressed, and more successful than me. Plus, there’s the added anxiety and guilt at having wasted so much time on something so acutely unproductive. Whilst I’m not suggesting a complete social media ban – I don’t know that there’s a more powerful tool for creatives to share their work and ideas in existence – I’ve resolved to be a little more restrained about my social media use this year, as a means of protecting my emotional wellbeing.
To be more specific I’m a) being more careful about what I’m consuming and exposing myself to on social media (which in practical terms has meant a mass unfollow of a swathe of FOMO-inducing accounts), and b) limiting my time spent online. An ingenious tip I recently read – and have already started putting into practice – is to log out of your social media accounts every time you use them. The extra couple of seconds it takes to log back in are often enough time to give you pause for thought and consider whether you really need to check Instagram/Twitter/Facebook, forcing you to break the automatic habit so many of us have of reaching for our phones and mindlessly scrolling.
Specifically, two books a month. This won't sound like much to most people (and once upon a time that wasn’t very much to me either), but it’s far more than I’ve managed to get through lately, and I’m pretty sure I can feel my brain atrophying as a result. I’ve vowed to make 2017 the year of my return to reading, by carrying a book in my bag/having one on my nightstand at all times, and wherever possible killing time by leafing through a book, instead of my current go-to of mindlessly checking social media.
Now that you've read mine - time to go make some of your own (and do feel free to share them with me)! Happy New Year.