Here are the things that I want to achieve in 2015. Some are one off targets, some are habitual changes. Some are more to do with work, whereas other are more to do with life. I think all will be important for my 5 year plan.
I am thoroughly interested in startups and technology. I think they are the most important way we can change the world we live in. Because of this I read a lot about them; posts, articles, books etc. One thing I haven’t done, or perhaps have only started to do, is to read something and then take the time to actually think about it, asks questions such as: What does that mean? Does that impact me? How will that change the next five years? Does this interest me? Is there an opportunity here? I think some of these things I do subconsciously, but I’d like to make it a real habit that I do when I hear of a new interesting technology, startup or business model. I don’t just want to let these things pass me by. I want to be someone who think things through, deeply and formulates an opinion on them if I think they are interesting.
Both a method and an outcome to help with developing convictions is to write more. Writing is the best way I know to think things through. It acts as a forcing function. It forces me to think about things, even do a bit of research and actually understand what I’m talking about before typing it into a blog. Toward the end of 2014 I have begun to do this already, and a blog post every week or two had become my internal target.
I also see some other benefits of writing more. Share an idea, get feedback, judge interest, get some opinions, develop idea. Writing is part of a validation process that I’m yet to fully embrace.
Start to live in the future
By this I mean try to understand in the present what the world will be like in five or ten years. Its a phrase that investors often use. If you want to build a great company, you need to understand what the world is going to be like in 5 years and build for that. That means a world of drones, self driving cars and smart homes. Even if you don’t want to build a great company, but you just want to have a great career, it helps to be someone who lives in the future. For example, ten years ago it would have been a pretty smart move to major in computer science and build a a website that connects people online. Good work, Zuck. I think sometimes this can be easier or harder depending where you live. For example, living in Silicon Valley you are much more likely to be exposed to early innovations simply because a lot of the early innovation happen there. London is not a bad place to be though, so I have no excuse. Part of this also means to become a true early adopter, trying and testing new things out before they are really ‘finished’. I’ve already ordered Jawbone’s UP3, a wrist device that lets you measure and monitor your heart beat, as health tech has become one of my real focuses.
This is actually a goal that has carried over from 2014 and as a result is the one I am most keen to complete. I have changed my approach to this in some ways. Initially, when I set myself this goal, I meant I wanted to launch something I had built. This was actually a two step goal, first learn to code, then build and launch something. In that context I can now see why it wasn’t achieved. Learning to code is a very difficult thing to do, especially alongside a full time job. In my new approach to this goal I am focusing on the launching part, not the learning to code part. This means being leaner, more pragmatic and more resourceful. It also means leaning on the friendships and relationships I’ve built in 2014 when I need a hand. I will try to test ideas with basic sites or newsletters, things that can be easily set up without hours of work.
(I am still learning how to code, but if there is something smaller that can be launched first without code, I’ll go with that.)
In the above post I say that launching something is the goal of this list I am most concerned with achieving immediately. That alludes to this point: prioritisation. This is something I do mostly as a mixture of how important this is to me plus how easily can it be achieved right now. I’m not sure this is the best way of doing this. Sometimes, this means I skip over the really hard stuff.
In 2015 I’d like to get smarter about how I prioritise things. Part of this will simply be focusing more, ruling out the unimportant. The second part is to become better at judging the hard things against their potential payoff. There are many hard tasks that are worth working on even if they seem immediately difficult. In fact, they are probably strongly correlated. Things worth doing are hard. I recently saw this two-list method of prioritising, apparently a strategy used by Warren Buffet. I may start using a method such as this to mange my daily, monthly or weekly tasks.
Work life balance and understanding what that means for me
I have some large ambitions and in understanding that I realise I have to make some sacrifices. For example, I tend to get up very early and work on my own projects before heading to work. I also spend weekend learning to code. The flip side of this means less time spent with friends, less time going out and less time sitting around watching films. To date I have justified this by saying “well this is what I want to do, and I find it fun”. To some extent this is true, I do want to learn how to code, and I can find it fun, but I’d be lying if I said its always “what I want to do”. For me, this is really a variation of the work life balance question. On the one hand, I need to work hard achieve my lofty goals, on the other hand I want to enjoy my life too.
I’d like to really crack this in 2015. I want to really understand what the right balance is for me and how I can juggle all the tasks I set myself whilst also maintaining a level of enjoyment in my life. I’ve already begun to develop some methods. For example, I organise lunches with friends when I’m at work, rather than eating on my own. Two birds in one stones if you will, eating lunch but also socialising and catching up with someone.
I also think part of this is reassessing the way I view some elements of my life. For example, sometimes I see going out with friends as unproductive - I’m not working. On the other hand, really catching up with a few friends over a dinner is much more productive than messaging on WhatsApp independently over a few days. Likewise I often think of the gym as unproductive. Perhaps I’d make more time for it if I framed it as a productivity booster, the knock on effects of feeling healthier an more energetic.
In 2015 I would like to get rid of any guilt that I feel of being unproductive. I want to become comfortable telling people that I can’t do something if I have something else to do . I want to feel okay about using there hours to go for dinner with friends. Work in progress.
Work at friendships
Highly related to the above is working on my friendships. This means taking the time to nourish and build the relationships I have. Seeing friends and taking the time to socialise is not ‘unproductive’.
Relationships are a two way street and I want to make sure I’m there for each of my friends, the way they are there for me. This is even more important as each of my friends begin to work and life takes us in different directions. Unlike University, where we all lived within five minutes of each other and bumped into each other on campus, we now need to put the effort in. Make the time to meet, take the time to plans something. This is something I really want to stick to in 2015. I don’t want to lose any friends because I failed to make an effort.
Again, this is one that I have begun toward the end of 2014. Meditation is not something I grew up with or have really been exposed to. As someone who is deeply concerned with being productive, it is something that constantly comes up. People rave about it. For strength of mind. For calm. For productivity.
Peter Read has a great talk on how mindfulness can help entrepreneurs. This is one of the habitual changes I’d like to make in 2015. I want to find the time to practice mediation, whether it is daily or weekly I’m not sure, but I’m slowly becoming convinced this is something I need to try in my life.