I'm a big fan of introspection and self analysis, and what better time for that than the end of another year? As always, my life has changed beyond recognition in the last 12 months, so a bit of reflection is in order. I'm a long way from fully getting my life in order (who isn't?), but I'm closer than a year ago.
Here are 16 meaningful things I did in 2016 (in no particular order.)
2 - Stopped drinking alcohol. It is not something I am against, I just happen to not find it enjoyable. Plus, I had become reliant on using it as a means of overcoming introversion in social situations, which was not healthy. Even since starting university, this has been stuck to. I prefer to work and read in the evenings, not go out. I think this was a good decision to make early on in life.
3 - Deleted Facebook and Tumblr, blocked 30+ distracting sites on my computer and turned off all notifications. Cal Newport's TED talk on the topic prompted me to quit social media. One of my rules is 'once you have established someone gives good advice, follow as much of it as possible.' Newport is one of those people. So I did and have not regretted it once. All the excuses I made about why I had to keep it were just that - excuses. I am still inspired without Tumblr and I am still sociable without Facebook. Or rather, I am not less sociable than I was before (see number 2.)
4 - Started this blog. I have been blogging since I was 13, though I had taken a break from it. Back in April, it was time to return to content creation. I left behind my old site (despite its relative success) and began again. For the last 8 months, I have posted a new essay every 3 days. Despite being busier than ever, I will continue to do that. As much as I would love to post daily, it is not feasible at the moment.
5 - Let go of toxic people and found more positive ones. I learned I don't need a big group of friends. A handful of wonderful people is enough. After all, you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time around. If someone is bringing me down, I stop seeing them. It is as simple as that.
6 -Adopted three little piebald mice. How can I explain how much I adore these tiny creatures? I walked into a pet store one day and fell in love with them. Maude, Mabel and Millie came home with me in February. Sadly, Mabel was put to sleep in September after developing a tumour. Her two sisters are still healthy and bring me a lot of happines. Mice are the perfect pets for a minimalist - they
8 - Devised a daily planning system which works. It has changed the way I work and it is super satisfying.
9 - Travelled. I spent a total of 7 weeks out of the country. Every moment of it was precious and beautiful. I also flew alone and went abroad without an adult for the first time. Yes, I am technically an adult myself. I just happen to be a long way from seeing it that way.
10 - Learned French. I have spent at least half an hour per day on this throughout the whole year and am proud of the results. Each day of working begins with a burst of French study. I recommend Duolingo and Memrise for this.
11 -Quit watching TV. In many ways, 2016 was a year of creative subtraction. I cut many things out of my life and figured out how to hone the rest. `Just like social media, I have not missed it. The average person spends the equivalent of 13.6 years of their life watching TV. Giving up on it equates to a whole lot more time for reading, writing and being with people.
12 - Moved out and embraced adulthood. Even though I have always been quite independent, moving out has been tough. Let's not discuss that I accidentally hoovered up three pairs of underwear last week. Or that I only figured out how to pay rent last week. Or the fact that my fridge currently contains half a bottle of solidified avocado oil, some herbal tea and 4 tins of tomatoes. Let's also not discuss the person who is currently practising opera singing at 7am in my building.
13 - Watched around 500 TED talks, reada lot of books and listened to 1000+ hours of podcasts. Each year can be measured by what was learnt throughout it. I also must have listened to Conor Oberst's new album (Ruminations) over one hundred times. It is that good and is by far my favourite album of the year. I have yet to absorb all the beautiful nuances within it. Listening to a single song or album on repeat is an effective way of inducing a creative flow state. Ruminations has a tonal consistency which makes it ideal for this.
14- Studied a lot, passed my A levels and got into university. This means I have probably spent most of this year in the library. I adored my A level courses
15 - Worked on building better routines and habits. There is a long way to go with this, but I have added lots of positive things to my days, with some interesting results. These include; waking up at 6am, meditating, learning 4 different languages and so on.
16 - A bunch of other things which shall remain private. Needless to say, I am proud of them.
My resolutions for 2017 fall into 2 categories; start and continue.
I tend to avoid focusing on things I want to stop or reduce, as that can be quite inefficient. The habits I have chosen to add in are ones which serve as what Charles Duhigg calls keystone habits. These are things which have a wide impact on your life and create other good habits. Here is what is in each one:
- Start saying yes to one invitation per week. 'It's cold' and 'I have no time' are not valid excuses. Productivity means nothing if I am not enjoying life. I will be adding a reminder to my calendar each Wednesday to do this.
- Start getting up early again; by 7 am every day. Sleeping in until 2 pm is not cool and is wildly unproductive. I am trialling getting up at 4am to see how it works for me. Today (the 29th) is my first attempt at it. Experimenting with extremes is my preferred means of finding a balanced middle ground.
- Make at least one plan for each weekend (anything from going to see a movie to travel.) I will be adding a reminder for this too. Having parameters for my time helps me to stay focused and not spend the whole weekend working.
- Meditate daily (start with 10 minutes per day.) This is another habit which I fell out of practice with upon starting university. I have noticed a definite decline in my mental state as a result.
- Make more phone calls. Ring someone at least once a week without any agenda. I did this every night back when I quit the internet for 6 months in 2015. It was always rewarding and fun. Likewise, this will go in my calendar.
- Tracking time spent on work and writing in a spreadsheet. This will force me to be more productive throughout the day. In the past I kept meticulous spreadsheets recording every detail of my life (sleep, fluid intake, supplements, energy levels every 2 hours etc.) It was was a little bit over the top. Nonetheless, I will also be tracking hours of sleep, exercise and diet.
- Work out for at least 1 hour per day, six days a week. 30 minutes cardio and 30 minutes strength/flexibility work is my usual routine. I am prone to knee injuries so I also foam roll for as long as possible each day.
- Watch at least one TED talk each day. I have written about why here if you are interested.
- Don't remake deleted social media accounts, or unblock blacklisted sites on my computer.
- Read 2+ books per week. I usually read whilst doing steady state cardio (and I am a fast reader) so this is not a hard habit to maintain.
- Eat a vegan, gluten-free diet. I have been pretty sloppy with this lately, so I am working on getting back to what makes me feel the best.
- Make daily plans, with three main objectives set and a time plan in my calendar.
Some more specific, measurable goals for the year are:
- Continue to grow this blog and write a third, much more ambitious ebook. I also intend to start making Youtube videos.
- Move out of crappy student accommodation and into a private flat.
- Read at least 100 books and keep track of all of them.
- Travel to Berlin and Thailand during the summer. This post by Charles Chu inspired me to plan on spending a month in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I am super excited.
- Strengthen my crappy knees and work on improving some chronic health conditions. I will be working on a new element of this each month, doing the necessary research and seeing relevant experts. Like everything, this will go in my calendar.
- Work up to 30-minute meditation sessions. This will not be possible every day, but I would like to develop that capacity as I have never managed more than 20-minutes in one sitting.
Let me know what you did this year and what your goals for 2017 are.
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