I love this time of the year. Everywhere you look there’s optimism, new expectations, excitement overall. There are “best of 2023” lists and “what’s hot/what’s not” charts all over the place, and gym memberships skyrocket. For me, being able to wrap up the previous year and really think about what I want to achieve this year is one of my favourite January activities. This year one of my objectives is to write more, so why not come along with me on the journey?
Reflecting on 2023
The first thing I did as part of my start-of-year planning was take a good long hard look at 2023. I didn’t achieve all the outcomes I really wanted to have, and didn’t deliver all the things I would have liked to. But I did do a lot of learning, too. Overall, it was an average year – which is to say, things are looking up from the pandemic era! (Always look on the bright side, right?) – but definitely could have been better and more satisfying.
Reflecting on 2023 helped me reset my values (am I doing the things I want to be doing?) and articulate my big goals for 2024 (what kinds of outcomes will best represent my values?). As well as thinking about whether I was focused enough on the “right” things last year, rather than spreading myself too thin. Which brings me to…
My Values (2024 version)
In my opinionn, our values are the bedrock of happiness. When we act in accordance with our values, we feel confident, positive, and successful. When we don’t, even the best success feels a little colourless. I think our values change over time as we grow, and our needs and desires evolve. It’s always nice to spend some time thinking about what my values are, if any have shifted in priority, and what kinds of actions really pay respect to my values.
- Family: This one surprised me a little because of the priority I am applying to it. Family has always been important to me, but in 2023 I felt a lot more distant – probably due to the physical distance from most of my family (who are in Australia) as well as the feeling of missing out on major events Down Under. This year, I plan to be much more intentional about spending time with my family.
- Communities: From conferences, to customer events at work, to Christmas parties, I realised that it’s a core value of mine to really connect with people face to face as well as online. I have always loved community building and engagement, and I realised from my reflections on last year that going out with people was one of the most important and valuable parts of my year. I also got thinking about the types of communities I’m in and the ones I want to participate in more.
- Creating content: I really, really like sharing through content creation. I was doing this a lot last year, of course, with a lot of video content for my job, and I can see myself doing it more with intent to deliver a bigger project (rather than just having content as “one off” pieces). When I make videos for work it’s pretty easy to see how it’s aligned to a marketing campaign, new product launch, etc., but these are point in time events – I’d love to be able to create evergreen content that lasts at least the whole year.
- Personal growth: And while the obvious person in this value is me, I actually value everyone around me growing as well. I love to mentor as well as participate in mentoring, so I think this value is really about implementing changes that will improve (y)our lives in a positive way. Taking risks is also part of this growth trajectory for me, and while last year was about a lot of risks: well, let’s just say I already set my own first growth opportunity in motion well before 2024 even started, by changing roles at work..!
- Focus: I realised that having a lack of focus is hindering me, so while I’m listing this at #5 today I’m not sure if it’s a true value yet for me or not. I would describe it as “having a finite set of objectives to work towards” rather than “spray and pray” and it applies across all facets of my life, from professionally to personally. For example, I’d like to really set some specific goals for dog training this year – while I set them last year I don’t feel like I had enough focus to complete them, and so I’d end up doing random dog training courses, repeating things we already knew, or spending money on something I didn’t need.
My Focus Areas (2024 – JANUARY version!)
So this is a good place to discuss my focus areas. I’ve heard these called different things. “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” is the one that always comes to mind and I like that it’s really pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, rather than the achievable. So here are a couple of focus areas and the values they align to.
I used to be a prolific writer! I think that it takes a lot of practice to actually write well, and you have to churn through a lot of junk before getting to the good stuff – Michelangelo didn’t start with David, after all. I think this is one of the hardest parts of adulting, because there are always things to do that don’t involve being crap and frustrated. Regardless, I know that I’m going to have to write more if I want to get anywhere this year, so I started NOT ONE BUT TWO! blogs – this one here, at withahat.net, and my more technical/professional blog over at phoebegoh.com.
We’ll see. It’s kind of like having two Facebook accounts. I’m showing my age.
I miss study in a way that I didn’t think I would. School, university: it’s all about following the curricula, completing the work set that week, and then doing the exam or end of semester assessment in that order – it’s like everything is drawn out for you in a neat little template. The Real World(tm) is not like that at all: there are many competing priorities and unfortunately this is one that I’ve let slip a little bit as I’ve been learning more on-the-job stuff (like managing a team).
This year I ditched the unrewarded team management and I’m back to being an IC! That means that I feel much less anxious about applying my time on myself, which I know is a good lesson in itself. There are a few things I’d like to learn, but I’m going to start with brushing up my technical skills in the cloud providers, automation, and containers. We’ll see if I get through all of that huge wishlist but at least I’d like to get into the habit again.
So yeah, the other thing I let slip for the last few coronavirus-ridden years was my mental and physical wellbeing. Not to say that I wasn’t doing stuff but really, not doing a lot. And I definitely felt the impact of that. I think this year prioritising my own wellbeing (which I think of as fitness but also includes travel, self-care, meditation etc!) will be an interesting focus area. I actually want to make it part of WHO I AM, rather than an activity, so we’ll see if I can get to that state of enlightenment.
Check back in February to see how I’m going on these general topics, but hopefully I’ll also be writing about them in the next few weeks so we can start to see how they’ll actually play out as goals and projects!