It’s that time of the year, so I’ve just completed my annual personal review. This is something I do every year, although in a slightly different form. I was thinking about publishing it here, but it felt too personal. I couldn’t. Maybe next year.
(I use this Year Compass form which is excellent; it supports multiple languages, and you can choose whether to complete it online (PDF) or print it and work on the hard copy. I recently found this one which seems good, too. I had already completed this year’s when I saw it, but I’m thinking of combining them next year, taking the best of both in one customized version.)
In the meantime, I thought it might be worth sharing some of the insights of this second annus horribilis. I think we all hoped that things would go back to some kind of normal this year, especially with vaccines available. But, unfortunately, it seems we were mistaken.
No matter, no matter; new year, new prospects, I always say, the ever optimist. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Top Three Things I’ve Learned This Year
- I Need Meditation and Yoga to Feel Good.
This year, I struggled a lot with attention, or rather, the lack of it. Not being able to focus when working on a book (or doing anything, really) is stressful and anxiety-inducing. As I mentioned elsewhere, I had already reduced social media and news intake drastically but, obviously, not enough. So, I did an app audit and reduced the number of apps on my smartphone, deleting both the ones I seldom used and the attention stealers (you know which ones, don’t you?). I also took a time-out from social media (I’ve been sober for six months now!) and stopped reading the news. They have a way of trickling through anyway (especially the bad ones), and, fear not, I haven’t missed the news of the first woman to become Prime Minister in Sweden or the Omicron variant. I pruned blogs and newsletters as well, keeping a few core ones only (Austin Kleon, Seth Godin, Oliver Burkeman, Mason Currey, for instance). No TV except on Fridays and Saturdays.
And yet, I struggled. Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t meditated or done any yoga in some time. Like, in a long time. A very long time. So, I’ve just taken up mediation and yoga again, and I’m almost back on track! The wild monkey mind is not easy to tame, but I feel good about where I am at the moment.
If you haven’t meditated before, Pema Chödrön’s wonderful book Meditation: How to Meditate is an excellent place to start. It’s short and simple and beautifully written.
As for Yoga, Adriene Mishler has this wonderful YouTube channel called Yoga with Adriene, where you can pick and choose from a variety of yoga sessions, and they’re all free. If you don’t know where to start, she has a series of videos for beginners.
This is by far the most important lesson of the year. It’s incredible how these practices impact my mind (and body), something I tend to forget. I’ve now included yoga and meditation in my daily tracker to make sure I don’t fall off the wagon again.
- Tim Ferriss: Forget New Year’s Resolutions and Conduct a ‘Past Year Review’ Instead
- Chris Bailey: How to conduct an end-of-year productivity review.
- To Nap or Not to Nap? Naps Win. Of Course.
Partially related to the above. Whenever I could, I would nap after lunch since in high school (I’m not kidding). I don’t seem able to function optimally for a whole day without some rest. I don’t necessarily have to sleep, but I do need to lay on the bed for half an hour someplace dark and quiet. I did this at work, too, whenever I didn’t have any meetings or calls around lunch. I would eat a quick lunch then go and lay down for 30 minutes (the perks of working from home, long before Covid-19 taught the world how to).
What did I do this year, knowing all this? In my search for efficiency, I started skipping my naps. More time for me and my book, yay! Only it became “nay”! The result was that I had more awake time, but I was too tired to do anything worthwhile (my house shines, though, there’s that). If naps were good enough for Churchill and Einstein, I guess they’re good enough for me, too. And I’m not alone to think that. I’m back to my post-lunch nap now, together with my cat, who seems to be the wiser of us.
(By the way, I love that nap line from “The Darkest Hour” movie when Churchill is asked to meet the King at 4 pm, and he replies: “I nap at 4.” I was SO tempted to tell that to my boss sometimes when he wanted to have a meeting at 1 pm). There are so many great lines in that movie, brilliantly written by Anthony McCarten; here are a few more.)
- Connecting with Friends in More Meaningful Ways
I think of myself as a person who values friendship and friends; in fact, being a good friend is one of my core values. I thought I was a good friend; I know I’ve tried. But how was I a good friend?
If we take birthdays, I would always make sure to send a message to a friend on their birthday. Note I said “send a message” (as in DM), not send a card or make a phone call. We’re all busy, I was busy, and I thought my friend was busy too, so a short and quick message to congratulate her was an efficient way of dealing with that.
But was that a good way of keeping in touch? Since many of my friends are scattered on four continents now, social media is the only way to keep track of what’s happening in their lives. I could see their updates and would occasionally comment on something, and then I’d, of course, send a DM on their birthday. Even at Christmas! I was a good friend, wasn’t I? Wasn’t I?
I thought about this and realized it was a superficial way of being a friend, more like a social obligation. So this year, I’ve started creating personalized birthday and holiday cards (now you know where that Freebies section came from) and writing e-mails with a few more lines than “Merry Christmas”! Handwritten letters would be much nicer, of course, but I need to be realistic. I feel that what’s important is writing more than a DM and more than once or twice a year. And making phone calls as we used to, despite the logistic challenges of different timezones.
Does this make me a good friend? I don’t know; you’d need to ask my friends. But I think I am a better friend at least.
As I’m planning 2022 now, I’ve added reminders in my calendar to reach out to friends every now and then, not only during holidays.
… and Three Tiny Thoughts
- The more I write, the more inspired I am.
- Perfectionism is a subtle form of arrogance.
- Sometimes optimism is just wishful thinking (if not plain stupidity).
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