Christmas and New Year holidays provide a great opportunity to evaluate your actions and see what worked and what didn’t. In this blog post, I’m going to review some of the stand out moments and lessons I experienced in 2012 and set out some goals for 2013.
Create more time!
2012 began with Zen Habit’s Top 10 Productivity Hacks. This article made me realise I wasted a lot of time doing things that could removed entirely, automated or outsourced.
Hire a maid
To gain quick wins and build motivation (read: Getting Real – Release Something Now; a blog post by 37Signals from 2005 that I’ve never forgotten), I looked at where I spent time doing unproductive things and outsourced the biggest chunk: I hired a weekly maid. At first I was worried about the financial implications, but saving four hours per week was/is worth it. Hiring a maid is now the first recommendation in my free newsletter.
Ride a bicycle
The second largest chunk was traveling. Not only did the London underground take forever, it also cost an arm and a leg each way. I decided to cycle more and using the cool Strava app, discovered that within the central 6-mile diameter of the city, cycling is the fastest mode of transport. Sometimes, a two-mile (3.2km) journey by bicycle was 20 minutes faster than via tube (subway). I calculated that over three years, cycling would save me fifteen entire days and £4500.
Finally, the third largest chunk of unproductive time was studying. This was a cheeky observation but true nonetheless. Studying and I just don’t go together. I can’t think of anything worse than sitting in a library, reading a boring list of facts and committing a hundred opinions of other people to mind. I prefer research projects, experiments and interviews – that was what I was good at. And so I wrote my Anthropology dissertation nine months in advance using such methods, and planned ahead such that I could do as much as possible of the latter than the former. The result: I finished my degree is almost half the time it normally takes.
Take more risks!
Reading books by entrepreneurs (see book reviews), I was often frustrated with phrases such as ‘move fast and break things’, or ‘learn to make mistakes’ because unlike those with millions of investment, I quite simply couldn’t afford it.
However, I had long known that my adversity to risk was a problem, and vowed to change it where I could. The first action was to introduce paid workshops at London Startups (my meetup group). I was scared that this would put people off, but in February, I invited a professional brand expert to deliver a workshop to a group of paying attendees. Eight turned up and I made a profit – hurrah! I then did it again for product development and gave my first personal workshop on Google search engine optimisation later in the year.
Putting the mugshot up
At the same time, I launched this blog - Communication Is The Key - with my mugshot on the sidebar. I had never had such a public online profile before, but the response has been fantastic. At networking events, people have recognised and approached me exclaiming they’re readers of the blog. This opens doors to conversation and opportunities (pay cheques). I also started writing for The Huffington Post although I must admit that I haven’t utilised this as much as I could have done.
Within this blog, I’ve made risk-taking a central element. For example, I spent hundreds of pounds experimenting with various Twitter programs and strategies to write the results up in a free eBook; and spent hours creating 20+ WordPress tuition videos giving them away in exchange for a Facebook ‘like’ (read: pay with a tweet). You’ll be interested to know that I’ve also experimented with paying for StumbleUpon traffic (only gained sustained growth for visual stories i.e. pictures), YouTube views (led to organic growth one of three times) and spent over £500 on SEO.
Make More Money!
I won’t bullshit you and say I’m not money driven, a large part of me is and 2012 was about making more of it. Passive incomes, automated cashflows, side incomes; I love it all. Yet, I really don’t feel I got this under my belt this year and is definitely an area for further improvement in 2013.
What I did learn however, is the joy of advertising for free online and picking up a few consulting jobs here and there. Small cash injections that make a big difference to the weekend plans. Using the same marketing technique, I also created nearly a dozen websites (WordPress) for various individuals and companies. As these are simple sites and I have five years of experience with WordPress, it’s a quick turnaround.
Most of you will recognise that this has been inspired by The 4-Hour Workweek and might be interested in the following case studies:
The largest achievement for 2012, in regards to money was securing a job at BR. An award-winning corporate communications agency, I’m learning a tonne and, God forbid, enjoying it.
Take more breaks!
In the hustle and bustle of London, it’s too easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget that an entire world lies outside. I’m incredibly fortunate to have Europe on my doorstep, and took full advantage this year traveling to the Tuscan hills of Italy to drink copious amounts of incredible wine, and to Barcelona for the thrill of lying on a beach with a city skyline behind. I’m also now heading off to Malaysia to spend Christmas and New Year’s with some family.
Holidays like this are great, but they’re expensive and far between. In 2013, I would like to get in the habit of creating more breaks, albeit shorter and cheaper ones, so that I’m not about to die before I head-off. Taking a note out of Ramit Sethi’s blog, I’ve created an automated system to put aside money each month specifically for this purpose.