My only goal for 2021 (and life)
New year, old me
I asked Twitter what I should write about for my first newsletter of 2021 and Lauren Razavi said she’d like to hear about my approach to goal setting. I told her that I don’t set goals, but then I mulled it over and realised that this wasn’t strictly true. I do have one goal, which will forever be a work in progress.
The only goal I have right now is to stay sane because in recent times I haven’t been able to say I’ve felt that way. A few weeks ago, it was the news that a new UK strain of the virus was raging rampant around the city I live in (London) that set me off. Fear and cortisol were pumping around my body, my mind was in a tizz and it was unpleasant as hell. My problem was urgent and I wasn’t too interested in waiting until January to address it.
Last year, I wrote that a peaceful mind is all I want for 2020 and in our last podcast episode of the year, I defined my version of success as ‘peaceful vibes in the soul.’ It’d seem that all I want from life is a peaceful mind, which shouldn’t be too much to ask for, and yet, particularly now, maintaining inner peace is almost a full-time job.
It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get back to a place that I’d say I was comfortable with. I now sleep through the night, I’m balanced and calm and I feel positive about the future. I can be quite flippant about sharing wellbeing tactics because we all know what to do and there are countless articles that tell us what to do. The real question is: If we know what to do, then why don’t we do it?
I believe that there is no ‘new year, new me’, the question needs to be: ‘how can I bring the old me into the new year?’ We need to design processes in our lives that operate from an honest degree of self-awareness. We also need to make any changes we want to make a priority, which will come at a sacrifice. For example, I have no idea how much money I’m going to make this month, but that’s because I choose to sacrifice the security of a regular salary because I want to read in the mornings.
And if you’re adding something to your life (read more, cook more, exercise more!), then you’ll have to take something away to make room for it. We’re all different, with different values and priorities, but here’s what’s worked for me.
Starting work later in the day
I need to exercise religiously at the moment because endorphins eat my cortisol and too much cortisol running around my body doesn’t feel good. This means exercise is my number one priority, so I can’t start my work until I’ve done it and because I like a slow start to the mornings and I’m waking up around 9am at the moment, it means I don’t start work until around 12-2pm.
Each morning, I put the upcoming day’s schedule in my google calendar, which removes any decision-making for the rest of the day. I create a realistic plan for my working style where I have one hour on (full concentration, no phone!), then one hour off (full rest, no emails or admin!) I can only do a maximum of three to four hours of concentrated work a day and so don’t schedule more than that.
Working into the evenings
I start late, I take big breaks and so this means that I work in the evenings. I like this because there isn’t much else to do, but I’ll not be doing this routine in summer. As soon as it’s still light outside at 9pm, I’ll be starting work earlier (exercising less, no doubt) and skipping out of the house at 6pm to be in the pub with my mates. But until then, I may as well have a chill morning and occupy myself with work in the evenings.
Putting my phone away
I see the phone as like alcohol or cigarettes. It’s, by all means, fun in moderation, but the phone is addictive and I feel awful if I spend too much time on it. At the peak of my anxiety, I was clocking over five hours on my phone a day. When I’m in a phone addiction period, I can feel myself itching for it constantly, but if I separate myself from it for long periods of time, the cravings pass. I also find it far more fulfilling to focus on my work or anything I’m doing without the distraction of my phone.
Setting timers on my social media apps
I’ve set timers so I get logged out of my social media apps after I’ve spent fifteen minutes on them each day. On the first day I did this, I’d run out of my allocated time by 10am, now I never reach my max time and I don’t miss scrolling at all. Like with alcohol and cigarettes, some people need to quit social media apps entirely, but I like to still see what everyone’s up to, but in moderation. We’re also often on our phones so much because we’re craving connection, which can often be cured with a phone call to a friend.
Limiting my news consumption
Hello another idea from the obvious pile, but this has been a gamechanger. I limit myself to reading my daily news summary in the morning and then that’s it. I don’t need the latest updates on how the world is still a bit shit during the day. I also realised that I was checking the news so much because I was looking for answers that weren’t there.
Watching less television
I love television, I literally wrote about how much I love television. However, I’ve noticed that I feel a lot better in myself when I watch less of it. Watching copious amounts of television can be numbing and, like the phone, it’s addictive and often designed to be so. I’m looking at you —average Netflix original show that ends on a cliffhanger, then plays the next episode before you’ve had a chance to find the remote.
Sometimes, I’m so tired that I can’t do anything else but watch TV, but at the moment I try not to watch more than an hour a day (and if I’m watching it, I put my phone away while doing so) and I feel better for it. But what to do instead..?
Reading, reading, reading
It’s hard to concentrate and to read when you’re anxious, so I tried reading books I’d read before and loved. I also carried my book around the house with me, like we usually do with our phones and I’d read on my work breaks or during any downtime. Reading has now replaced playing on my phone or watching TV.
Concentration is a muscle you build and now I can try new books again, I’m being ruthless at abandoning books that I’m not enjoying. I’ve cast aside four books this week. I’m not reading to show the world I’m an intellectual, I’m reading to keep my mind in good shape. So whatever your tastes or brain capacity, whether it’s teenage romance novels, Harry Potter or The Hungry Caterpillar, read that.
The most important thing for me is seeking out things I genuinely enjoy because there is no end destination, this is it. It’s a wonderful thing that we’re such different beings with different opinions, tastes and routines. January isn’t a time for punishing self-improvement routines with the hope of reaching a ‘goal’ at the end, because that’s not living, it’s suffering. So I guess what I’m saying is... life’s a journey and we’re living it now, so let’s do what we can do make it as pleasant as we can.
Happy New Year!
Liked this? Try We Have Plenty Of Time. Stop Thinking You Don’t Have Enough
📰 I spoke to The Huffington Post about what to do about work stress and spoiler alert… I say it starts with self-awareness. Read the piece here.
📺 We may as well chuckle at 2020 and this video, The Man Who Missed 2020 is an excellent chance to do so.
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