How Much Can You Do In A Year?
It's no secret that I detest New Year's resolutions, as evidenced by this article here. But I do think this is as good a time as ever to consider what your goals and next steps for the upcoming year will be. You're probably taking a week or so off of work for the holidays to visit family, relax, etc.
With all that down time (or at least time spent outside the office), it's easier to think about what you really want, where you really want to be, and what you're capable of than it would be while you're working a 40+ hour week with family commitments and everything else.
I don't know what your goals and dreams are, so I'm not going to tell you what you should do this year. But I will give a "year in review" of my own to lend to your thoughts and decisions for the upcoming year, and to (hopefully) appease everyone asking "What have you been up to?"
A lot can happen in a year. A lot has happened! These are what I'd call the highlights.
This time last year, my wife and I were living in a 3,000+ sq. ft. home in the quaint little southern town of Bainbridge, GA (named a Top 10 Most Redneck Towns in GA, and Top 10 for worst towns in GA to live). This is the area I grew up, and I'd returned with my wife to help boost my current career. In financial planning, it helps to know a few people, and since everyone there knew at least one of my family members, it made sense.
But we weren't happy. It was always muggy. There were no mountains like what we'd been accustomed to in Chattanooga. Everything was quite simple. And people were generally fake, polite only to hide their real thoughts and insecurities. And so this time last year, we were apartment hunting and job searching in Chattanooga once again.
After the first week of January, we moved back to the town we both called home, into an apartment totaling a grand 423 sq. ft. It was a change, sure. But moving into that smaller place helped me understand that I'm okay without a bunch of fancy things or putting on a facade of grandeur.
Coming to grips with this opened up so much more room for focusing on what I could do with my time. I began to focus on how I could do more instead of how I could get more.
During all this, I'd been working on a side project to read a book a week for an entire year - a project I did successfully complete, and which you can read about here. In general, the reading goal was about forcing myself to relax, to not get caught up in the rigmarole of work like I did with financial planning.
It also provided plenty of extra learning (something I'd missed since leaving school), and was the first stepping stone on my way to becoming a "real" writer - something I'm still working on, and likely will be for years.
As soon as we moved back to Chattanooga, thankfully, I was able to start working full-time with the tech startup a couple friends of mine had helped create, Text Request. I started out in an inside sales position. I'd been doing sales for over a year previously, and it was the obvious position to fill for a tech startup trying to figure out how to sell a new product.
This didn't work out very well. There were many reasons why I made the switch from my financial planning phase, and one of the prominent reasons was that I despised constantly being on the phone with people who didn't understand common kindness, nor care about the value other people can provide.
So I went to my supervisor, who just so happened to be one of my groomsmen not 6 months earlier. Over a couple of weeks, we had several conversations about where various needs in our company were, and how I wasn't happy (nor fulfilled) staying glued to a headset all day.
Eventually, he said something that was the catalyst for me switching roles within Text Request, and something I've written on separately. "Make the most of where you wish to make the most." In other words, if you feel passionate about working on something other than what you're currently doing, follow that passion and make it work. It's the startup dream!
That's what started my writing track. I'd actually written a little side article in support of Text Request's goal to revolutionize the way consumers communicate with businesses, and the team was very encouraging about that piece.
For a while I'd known I wanted to write, and I'd published a few pieces, but I really wasn't sure in what capacity I'd be able to write moving forward, or how good I could be.
Where I wanted to "make the most" at that time was through content and social media marketing, meaning that blogging and learning to navigate the whole realm of digital marketing was now my 9-5. And it was a blast!
In May, my supervisor and I went to Digital Summit. Effectively, this was the regional digital marketing professionals conference. There were two main takeaways for me.
One, we've got to do a few things and trust history that doing X will pay off well down the road. Two, I already know most of this stuff. It was a great educational experience, and a huge confidence boost for me - both of which provided a bit of much needed clout.
Shortly thereafter, I began writing for Lifehack.org. I'd already been writing a piece or two for Elite Daily and my personal blog here and there. But, at the time, Lifehack carried a more professional structure than Elite Daily. Really, this became a defining moment for my year.
There was so much to do, now! I was writing a piece a week for Lifehack. I was also still working on my reading goal of finishing a book each week. I was trying to help grow a startup, which takes far more effort and hours than what you're paid for. And I was trying to be a good husband and actually spend time with my beloved wife!
So I had to get better with my time management. I would get up more than 2 hours before I'd leave for work, and I'd use that time mostly to read, de-stress, and compose myself for the day's duties ahead. At night I would usually read and write for an hour or two, but I'd also make an intentional effort to be mentally present for my wife, who, like everyone, had her own stressors going on.
It's really not easy having goals and projects in addition to your day job. But it's so incredibly rewarding! It helps you to feel like there's more available to you, to be fulfilled, and to know that you can accomplish your goals.
I was reading heavily and intentionally. I was writing heavily and intentionally. I was trying my hardest to stay fully focused on every work-related task for eight hours a day, or more. And I was doing other things, like guest appearances on a friend's podcast series, and traveling every other weekend for some reason or another.
During all this is when I started to own that I am a writer. It was a large part of what I was paid to do, and it's what I chose to do in my free time. I'd been writing two, three, sometimes four solid, researched articles each week.
I'd also been reading 15,000 pages in the year (which I finished in November), giving breadth to my knowledge and general writing skills. I'd been featured in several other publications, and I also started writing for Tech Cocktail in October, all of which helped, in my mind, solidify that yes, writing is my thing.
In 2015, I've published 110+ articles and read over 50 books. To me, that's incredible! Half of those articles have been for work, but that means I've been producing that same amount outside the office. And what's cool about this is that anyone who wants to set their mind to it can do something like this!
Between Text Request and my own goals, 2016 is looking to be as full and productive as ever. And that gets me really excited! For company confidentiality purposes, I won't tell you everything we're planning at Text Request, but you can keep up with us as we grow here.
One of my personal goals is to published 100,000 words in addition to whatever I produce for Text Request (which will probably be close to 100,000 as well). I believe it was William Faulkner who said, "You're not a writer until you've written a million words," referring to this period as an apprenticeship, or the experience you need to be decent.
A million words is a lot to write, but I figure publishing 100,000 extra will be a good goal that will be both achievable and that I'll have to push myself to reach.
There's a lot that can be done in a year. As a young 20something, I feel that I've done a lot in 2015. And I'm hoping to do a lot more in 2016! If you're a family member or close friend who, let's be honest, probably read the first two paragraphs and then skipped down to the end, these are the abridged highlights of my year so that you know what the heck's going on.
If you're anyone else, I hope you'll look at this and start thinking about what you can do, and how your own life can develop so quickly.
I hate New Year's resolutions, but while you're taking the time off from work, you might as well use that time to think about where you want to improve and how you can go about doing that. If you need more information or tips on how to work through a long-term project like that, read this.