My six resolutions for the coming year
This time of year is usually a time of reflection on the previous twelve months as well as planning for the new year. I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve because I don’t like the expectations that come with it. Everyone else seems to be having more fun, or is more optimistic about changing their lives based on the calendar change the following day. For me, September was always the time for setting resolutions and feeling optimistic about have better habits. No coincidence that this is when all things back to school are in full swing. As someone who spent a lot of time in formal education between the school years, university, doing a PhD and then teaching, September is my time for new starts and planning ahead. This year, however, September slipped by in a blur and so I’m joining the rest of the world in making my resolutions now for the year ahead. Or the nine months ahead – I reserve the right to return to my September resolutions if I feel the need!
1. Develop systems and procedures
I’ve always resisted routine, part of what I enjoy about being my own boss is the freedom and flexibility that comes with it. Sometimes freedom can mean not being sure of what to do next, what I should be doing at any given moment and why things haven’t gone the way I wanted them to. I would like to grow my business in the future, and eventually, have others working for and with me. In order to make that happen and to remove some of the stress of a more freeform work day this year, I’m going to develop systems and procedures around all of the stages of my working week. I have to confess even typing “systems and procedures” makes my heart sink a little, but on the other hand, the thought of not being paid for work done because I forgot to send out an invoice, puts my instinctive misgivings in their rightful place. 2019 is the year of professionalising the admin side of my business.
2. Get better at following up
For the past few years I’ve done some pretty intense networking. And it’s paid off in terms of building a reputation, winning new clients and getting referrals. However, I’ve always been a bit reluctant to follow up with people I’ve met and actually ask them to meet up or if they need my services. The more passive approach of waiting for them to get in touch has been more my style. It works up to a point, but I know that I could do better. So this year I will follow up after meeting new people, perhaps I’ll even develop a system for more effective networking.
3. Start writing for myself more often
With all the networking, administration and business development work that I’ve been doing to keep the wheels turning it sometimes feel as though I don’t do enough of the work I get paid to do – writing. One thing I started doing during the past few months is blocking off days to be a “maker” rather than a “manager”. The plan is to use this time to write, for my clients and also for myself. During the summer I finally did “The Artist’s Way,” a twelve week programme which you can think of as the couch-to-5K for creativity. I’ve let writing morning pages slide and I used to regularly journal which has also fallen by the wayside. As someone pointed out to me it’s much easier to write something when you can send an invoice afterwards! And while that certainly can help with motivation I know that doing the non-work related writing makes me a better writer overall and a happier creator.
4. Track my time
I installed Toggl over the summer but have not been very disciplined about using it effectively. One mistake I made was not to track my non-client related time, the time I spend networking, working on the admin side of the business and just drifting through the day on the internet. There have been too many times when I get to the end of the day and wonder what I’ve been doing all day. Clicking on the Toggl icon will, I hope, make me more aware of how I choose to fill the chunks of time during the day. I’m never going to be one of those militantly productive people who can account for every minute of every hour - after all, I’ve written before about the importance of boredom especially for creativity. But it would be useful to know roughly what proportion of my time is taken up with different aspects of managing my business.
5. Read more books, read less on screen
This is one of those I know I should resolutions. I spend most of the day looking at a laptop screen and then end up unwinding at night by looking at another screen. Then I wonder why I find it hard to switch off after the light goes out. So, I’m going to start reading some of the many books that are stacked around my room. It’s time they stopped being decorative trip hazards and started being used as they were intended. I’ve already taken Twitter off my phone and have decided on which book to start reading first.
6. Strive for balance
In October I signed up to do circuit training classes twice a week locally – it was a belated new school year resolution. I had been kidding myself that the freedom and flexibility of my work life meant that I could exercise whenever I wanted. Turns out that I never really wanted to! Knowing that I have to be in a certain place at a certain time each week and that I’ve paid for the weeks ahead means that I can’t make excuses not to go. Seeing the improvement in my fitness and my sleep quality is motivation to continue during the coming year. I’m also resolving not to work at the weekends and I plan to have at least one holiday in 2019 where I leave my laptop behind.
So there we have them, my resolutions for the year ahead. Not all work-related but I’m sure they’ll all have an impact on my work. I’m going to put a reminder in my calendar for May or June to check back and see how I’m doing. Watch this space. But not in the evenings, read a book then instead.