Posts Tagged communication skils

Review of 2009 and Plans for 2010. Part 4: Work-life and discipline for goals

This post is a continuation from my previous entry about my review of 2009 and plans for the next coming year. (

Setting and achieving goals is something that has greatly benefit me in 2009. At the start of the year, I did little in the way of forward planning or goal setting.

It just didn’t occur to me that I needed to maintain goals to forward myself from where I currently was. After all, I shared a flat with my girlfriend, had a car each and a reasonably well paid job. It was a comfortable situation and each month I had enough disposable income to buy whatever I reasonably wanted.

That said, there were occasions where I felt frustrated about my situation; some things just never turned out the way I thought they should have done. Working a 9-5 job constricted my free time and I wasn’t meeting new people like I used to when I was traveling or at university. I didnt have the time to see my friends quite as often as I’d have liked and I couldn’t get away for a couple of months at a time because my holiday-allowance at work was too short.

At one point I used work as a scapegoat. Because I was being ‘forced’ to work the best hours of my day away, I consequently was too tired in the evenings to do anything exciting. The weekends were then just time of refuge where I would rest in order to prepare myself for the next week. Because of this job, I was spending all my day on a computer, spending the majority of my day staring at the same screen. I talked to the same small group of people every day. To me it didn’t feel like a brilliant realisation to come to. Programming is my hobby and I was getting to do what I loved, but at the expense of other sides of my life. And after all, I had spent so many years aiming to get to this professional level.

It wasn’t till nearer the middle of the year that I started taking personal development more seriously and started making goals.

By planning out goals and thinking about what it would actually take to achieve them, I began to realise the strength of consciously thinking about what I actually wanted to have; what was realistic and what I thought I wanted but on reflection, turned out to be pretty stupid requests.

One of the most productive goals I aimed for was to have more up-time outside of work time. By getting up at 6:00am instead of 8:00, I found I could make it to work for 7:30am instead of the latest allowed time of 9:30am. And instead of taking a full one hour lunch break I took half hour breaks instead. The result was I managed to finish work at 3:30pm instead of the 6:00pm usual time. This extra time in the afternoons was amazing! I had the time and energy to work more on the things I actually wanted to do outside of work. Whether it be putting my feet up, do some reading or play some games. It was the first time since started professional work I felt I wasn’t time-poor.

Then an amazing transformation happened. I began to realise that I work wasn’t the incapacitating monster I had envisioned.  I began to see work for what I remember it being in high school; a hobby of problem solving and taking on interesting tasks which helped other members of the team achieve their goals in their own work.

Another major goal I worked on was becoming more proficient with reading and in particular photo-reading. Previously reading was a chore for me and consequently I didnt do very much reading. However the last few months have been a real adventure and I have found myself become interested in a larger range of subjects.

For 2010 I would like to continue to work on the goal-setting areas more vigorously. Essentially it is just a simple feedback loop. Consciously discover how things can be done differently and then experiment with making changes to see how it has an effect.

I want to maintain the 6am starts throughout the year, which sets the enables the capacity to do my job and yet still have enough time to work on myself. There are times when I become lazy and I will have a few days or weeks of getting up later, allowing the snooze alarm to get me up at 6:30am or even 7am. Whilst these are still much earlier then my previous wake up times, the lack of free time later in the day makes it a real challenge to be alert and able after work.

For 2010 I need to work on my discipline to keep up challenges I set myself. Maintaining motivation is also another key element to achieve goals, though I am not so worried about any lack of this. The more I seem to do towards personal effectiveness the more I seem to be motivated to do it. Its like a snowball rolling down a slope, gaining mass and momentum all the time. Every goal I set myself and achieve is helping. Whether or not the goal gives the outcome I wanted isn’t as important as having completed the goal itself.

Of course it would be great if every challenge you face gives you immediate satisfaction and benefit but sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan.

My website is an example of this, so far it hasn’t had quite so many views or generated income as much as I’d have expected but I feel I have greatly benefited by sticking at it and writing up content to it.

I aim to keep on looking at ways to improve and set new goals to explore what things can really help me and others.

Experiments I have already started are to try vegetarianism (started from 2nd January 🙂 ) and to look into driving a car which runs on LPG instead of diesel or petrol.

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Review of 2009 and Plans for 2010. Part 3: Communication skills & Toastmasters

This post is a continuation from my previous entry about my review of 2009 and plans for the next coming year. (

Communication skills have become a topic of focus for me over the last year. It began with a work training course about creating business ideas and pitching them to business minded people in order to receive funding. Because my company is heavily involved with engineering, the classes were geared towards geeks and had a communication-based focus about them – opposite to the technical focus we were used to in Uni at our various courses. I guess this is something they thought we needed to learn.. This is something I enjoyed very much, because time and again I felt that I had great ideas throughout uni and work-life but short of something I could code together to illustrate, the ideas never seemed to make the light of day. I was a very nervous speaker and giving speeches was the worst task I could imagine. Yet it is a very necessary part of business and idea development.

The course left me with a hunger to improve my communication skills. Previously the easiest way to stop the nerves was to avoid speeches or confrontations whenever possible. However now I was willing to face the fact that this was something that scared me and that in order to proceed, hiding away from it was not the answer.

I discovered the Toastmasters group shortly after and went to my first meeting in March last year. Since then I have attended every other week and participated in roles and speeches. In October I took the role of Toastmaster for the first time. It was a very nerve-racking ordeal but I got through it OK without dieing. On later reflection, it showed me that when it comes to social gatherings, its important not to act on nerves. Toastmasters helps to work on things like nerves, as well as communication skills in the form of feedback and speaking tasks.

One unexpected thing about the Toastmasters group is the people I’ve met there and engaging in their own views. Its actually pretty hard to get away from it when they give a speech about their favourite topics. I’ve met Life coaches, NLP practitioners, veteran Toastmasters, engineers, students and other beginner Toastmasters. By meeting every couple of weeks and hearing what they have to say, they inevitably give off a particular view to a subject which is diverse and inspiring to me and makes me challenge my own view. Quite a change from the usual haunt of workmates in the same department and friends who share the same general interests as me.

The end result of this is huge. From my initial view of wanting to improve my speaking skills, my aims have catapulted to other sections of my life such as challenging my own beliefs of the world, to more accurately planning what it takes to become more happy and goal setting. This is a topic I would like to mention later on in another post.

Plans for 2010

I aim to keep on going with the Toastmasters group. Its a very clearly structured environment and because its so encouraging for progression, I dont have to worry about planning what I’ll do. I’ll be continuing my speeches courses, taking roles and chatting to the other toastmasters.

One particular aim I’d like is to meet more people from diverse backgrounds. Its interesting to meet people from all walks of life and can have an influence over your own path. To achieve this I hope to keep on looking at more clubs and meetings which might achieve this. A few months ago I discovered where people can join groups of a particular topic of interest and then have real life meet ups to discuss the topic. Edinburgh has loads of groups and I attended one to go for a visit to a local attraction.

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