I left my teenage phase this year and turned 20. This year came with a lot of growing up and a deeper understanding of who I am as an individual. Oh, and my beard finally connects!
This year went by in the blink of an eye. So fast that I barely had the time to look back and reflect on what went on in my life. After all, it’s easy to go about life day after day, just living in the moment and never looking back.
Making time to sit down and reflecting in the age of instant gratification is no mean feat. However, I think reflecting is essential. No business is successful without a strategic review every once in a while, and we are not too different. I look at life as a “project” and my daily tasks as the operating activities (I know…). The only way to keep growing and getting better is to put deliberate effort into it. Reflecting also forces you to be mindful about your journey throughout the year and the people and things that you should be grateful for.
I wanted to document some of the things I learned this year and things I wish I were better at. Hopefully some of these lessons can help you!
I’m competitive by nature and this means I try to be the best at every thing I do. However, this year I realised that it is damn near impossible to achieve that. I met so many brilliant people and found myself out of my depth in so many situations that I’ve decided to accept that I will never be the best at most things.
This has instead allowed me to leave my ego at the door and be more receptive to people smarter and better than me. I’ve started using phrases like “X and x is my opinion but please correct me if I am wrong” and “You’re better at this, can you help me?”. This simple shift in mindset has led to better overall results in things I’ve undertaken.
It is unbelievable how much time I was spending on things that weren’t getting me closer to my goals. Some of it was due to politeness and obligations and some of it was due to being distracted. I decided to take control of my time and started saying no a lot more than I said yes. This simple exercise allowed me to free up time for things that I wanted to try and accomplish.
Boy, this is a big one and probably the one that will follow me forever in some shape or form, and that’s completely normal! I’ve been through a lot of embarrassing moments this year and all of that has had an effect of desensitising me to it.
I’ve embraced the fact that I will continue to fumble in many situations, some of them quite important, and that’s ok! I’m only human and people usually don’t care as much as you make it out in your head. After accepting this reality, I felt quite liberated to try out things like cold calling people or approaching strangers in networking events.
One of the biggest growth drivers for me this year was to accept the hard to swallow pills from colleagues and bosses. I am not perfect and I never will be, but I can come close if I can understand my blind spots. People around you will undoubtedly pick this up and it is your responsibility to take this information and action on it.
Try asking for feedback after events, group assignments or projects at work. It will do wonders for your personal development. I am grateful that I am surrounded by people who feel comfortable to share harsh realities with me and I highly recommend having a circle of people in your life who are willing to do the same.
Life is too short to beat around the bush and some people are just hard to work with. I found myself in many such situations this year — be it with flatmates or people in group projects. Being confrontational is uncomfortable for all parties involved, but often there is just too much at stake to let politeness get in the way. Ripping the band-aid and having hard conversations this year allowed me to keep moving and stopped toxic individuals from being obstacles.
Things went well this year but behind the scenes there was a lot more that didn’t go well.
I’m somewhat of a techno-utopian, which is basically fancy-talk for, “I believe that tech can solve all problems.” However, I failed to realise that I was adding unnecessary complexity at times and over-engineering processes due to that ideology. Tech is not the answer to all situations and I need to be less biased in my judgement.
There is a thrill that comes with starting off a new project that I like to call the honeymoon phase. While this feeling is great, I found myself not being committed to the part that came after — the execution. Doing the actual work and sticking with a plan is the hard part and this year I realised I need to get better at following through.
Closely linked to the point above, I found that I was overcommitting myself, chasing many shiny projects. This in turn reduced the quality at which I was completing my existing work, or worse, sacrificing my health to stay on top of everything. I need to work on saying no more often.
My weight this year has fluctuated from 58kgs to 50kgs in the span of a few months and this is because I prioritised work to a point of exhaustion and mini-breakdowns. After numerous migraines and days where I would wake up dead tired, I realised that I can not treat myself like shit and be successful in my work.
I found out that it is difficult for me to stay level-headed in sudden challenging situations. My initial reaction is often emotional and this is something I have to gain control over. I found myself exercising cloudy judgement when the fix was relatively simple. I need to work on remaining calm and composed in such situations.
It’s your lucky day!! There are certain tools and processes in my life that helped me get through this year and I would like to share these systems with you, hoping that it will help you work better.
Review your to-do list the night before and prioritise tasks. I try to limit myself to 2 major tasks and usually have 5–7 tasks in total.
I obsessively take notes and categorise them. Be it meetings, talks or just my thoughts. I’ve developed a practice of documenting things, and it helps me be a lot more organised and I retain a lot more information.
This is not linked to a specific tool but it’s more about how I manage my device usage. I have become precious about what apps send me notifications and I’ve turned off those pesky red badges that are just begging for you to click them.
I have also deleted distracting apps like Instagram and Facebook from my phone. If I do REALLY need to use these apps, I use the browser, and that alone has reduced my usage significantly. This exercise is all about creating friction in your journey to use these apps. The harder it is, the less likely you are to go on auto-pilot and scroll aimlessly.
Another pro-tip is to keep your phone on Do Not Disturb when you need to be in long periods of intense focus. Notifications, even on silent, can be distracting. Save yourself the cognitive disruption and get rid of these simple flow breakers.
I hope these tips helped you out and it makes your life a teeny bit better going forward.
It’s been a great year and I’m grateful for your support. Thank u, next.