The Twenty-Something Series: What I’ve learned about myself in 2019

It's time to look back on everything I learned about myself this year and look ahead to 2020 - from setting goals to how to deal with burn out!

In the last couple of years, I’ve done a lot of work on myself.

I graduated university in 2016 and started a job on a prestigious graduate scheme. In 2017, I left that job (that I didn’t ever really want and that was detrimental to my mental health). I went back to see a counsellor. I started a new job at a company I love, building the career I actually want. I moved out. (And moved a couple more times since then…)

In 2018, a lot happened. 

My movie came out and my book sales spiked. I started writing again – something I’d struggled with for a couple of years, finally getting out of a funk where the only things I was able to work on were snippets of fanfiction. 

In 2018 I felt busy, and like things were looking up, but I still felt a little lost.

And this year, I took myself seriously. 

I had a larger online platform and a bigger audience for my books. I got to go out to the filming of my second movie, published my first books (plural!) in five years - including my first adult book. I started house-hunting. I got a permanent job at work, moving on from the fixed-term two-year contract I’d joined with. I made time to meet up with friends. I took myself to see movies I wanted to see, and arranged trips to the theatre, because that was something I really wanted to do.

At the start of 2019, I set myself goals. 

I’ve always had goals to some degree, but never wrote them down. I’ve thought, ‘I need to finish that book this year’, or ‘I’d really like to try that, this year’.

But this year, I wrote it all down, and held myself accountable.

I’m going to talk in a different post in the new year about how to set goals for yourself, and why you should, and I’ll also be posting about some habits I’ve changed this year.

But today, I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned about myself this year.

1. I need deadlines and I need to hold myself accountable

I’ve always known I work well under pressure and that, as a serial procrastinator, I work better when I have a deadline – but this year, I took that more seriously. (And hey – I wrote an entire first draft in under five weeks!) I told my agent when I’d send her things and (mostly) stuck to it. I asked my editors for deadlines, and met them all. I got so much more done because of that - and ended up working on seven different books.

And this comes back into what I said about holding myself accountable: even setting myself goals for the month (aka ‘deadlines’) for things like booking a haircut or replying to emails meant I actually got them done, because I was constantly checking back in on that list.

2. I finally found a way to budget that works for me

I learnt so much about my spending habits from actually tracking everything I was spending money on – from impulse purchases to the gas bill. I’ve been trying to do this for years and always known it’s something I should do, so actually succeeding has been a big deal for me. I wrote more about how I set myself a budget at long last here, but in brief: this taught me that while I’m in a fortunate position that I don’t have to stress too much about money and can treat myself every so often, I’m far less stressed when I’m more thoughtful about my spending, and can save up for bigger things.

Plus, this is something I know will save me so much stress when it comes time to sort out things for my accountant and the tax bill. No more scrabbling through diaries and piles of receipts trying to work out what that inexplicable £2.40 was spent on!

3. Go out and do the things you want to do!

For me, this is going to the movies and the theatre. I love listening to musicals on Spotify, so earlier this year I decided to take myself to see The Lion King as a treat (and to celebrate some book deals for The Kissing Booth 2!) while I was in London for some meetings – and I bloody loved it. I enjoyed the soundtrack to Six, so gathered some friends and made plans to see it. I was going to London to meet my agent last month, so made sure I organised it in such a way that I could finally go see Book of Mormon. I think I went to the cinema about five times at the start of this year – and a few times now, towards the end of the year – just seeing all the movies I wanted to see, and have zero regrets. My friend and I went to Disneyland Paris for her 21st birthday and have talked since about going back… so we are, we finally booked to go again!

There are things I want to do that I haven’t (like a girls’ trip to Amsterdam) that just haven’t worked out yet because of timings and cost, but it’s not because we haven’t looked into it or tried to plan it. So, really, I can’t regret those things.

4. Saying ‘no’ to things is... not my strong suit

On the flip side of doing the things you want to do, there's… saying no.

This is something I really need to work on more next year, but this year, it’s been quite the learning curve. I’ve had a few opportunities come up that I stop to consider if it’s actually worth it – it I want to, if it fits with my schedule, my platform, my opinions. 

For instance: I was invited to Poland very last-minute for an awards ceremony my book was nominated for – I debated over it, but eventually said no. I kind of wish now that I had gone, but I had other priorities at that time that needed my focus so I know it was the right decision. More recently, I was invited to some bar opening – which sounded cool and would have been a fun night out, but would mean a night away from home and an early start back to work, and on balance, wasn’t worth it.

5. Self-care is king and this is the hill I will die on

I talked earlier this year about what burn-out looks like for me. I’ve gotten better at recognising it since moving out and living by myself, and this year I’m pleased to say that I did an even better job of avoiding it! Sure, I’ve had rough days, but I don’t remember the last time I felt truly burnt out. I’ve learnt how to take care of myself better and make the most of my time, so I don’t feel overworked and run down.

Case in point: even when I was writing an entire book to a five-week deadline, I would sit down to watch a movie, or have a lie-in, and make time to see my friends. And at no point during those five weeks or just after the book was finished did I crash. It was all worth it.

6. I like learning things

I LIKE TO LEARN THINGS! This was a big part of why I picked Physics for my uni degree (well, and because it had some good career prospects) – there was so much to learn, and I really liked learning. 

I’ve watched some Crash Course videos this year, got listening to SciSchow Tangents (I’m still not over the fact that bubble wrap was a wallpaper, or that porcupines are rodents?!) and I finished the (level one) learning tree on Duolingo for German, and have almost finished it for Portuguese. I like learning! I find it very fulfilling, and fun.

(Look, if you haven’t realised by this point what a major nerd I am, I don’t know where you’ve been. I am a HUGE nerd.)

Languages have been especially rewarding – I can understand enough of people’s reviews of my book in German to tell if they liked it or not, managed to order room service in Portuguese when I was in Rio, and can respond to people on Instagram when they comment in French or Spanish. Next year – I’m thinking Italian. (Kidding. But knowing me, I'll probably end up giving it a whirl...)

7. I value productivity way too much, but I don't think that will ever change

There was an Instagram post from Girls’ Night In earlier this year that was prompting a discussion thread in the comments. I don’t remember the question exactly, but whatever it was, it suddenly made me realise my answer: I value productivity way too much.

I put a lot of focus on my ability to get stuff done, and how much I can do in a day. I am aware of this. I don’t think it is something that will ever change about me. But just recognising it has been a massive shift for me. If I get through a day and then realise I didn’t tick off 90% of my to-do list for the day, I can sit back and say ‘Well that’s okay, because you know you put too much emphasis on this. You can just try again tomorrow, none of this stuff is that important, none of it can't wait till tomorrow.’

And it’s also made me realise that if I jot down everything on a to-do list while I’m having a productive day, I actually feel way better for being able to see everything I’ve done ticked off on a list. It’s like the cherry on the cake for me.

And yeah, I know, productivity is probably not the thing I should be revolving around, but this year alone, it has helped me finish two Duolingo language courses, work on seven different books, get out to see my friends, house-hunt (if unsuccessfully), balance my day job alongside everything else, and watch a LOT of television. So… I really can’t complain about this one.

And now, I'm spending time reflecting and looking forward to 2020.

This year has felt like a really big year for me, and successful in so many different ways - even just down to the fact I got to see a few musicals in London. Now I'm deadline-free and the new year is looming, I'm spending some time looking back - with posts like this - and starting to look forward to consider what I want to achieve and do next year.

What has 2019 taught you about yourself? I’d love to hear – let me know in the comments, or over on Twitter where you can find me @Reekles!

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