Posts Tagged confidence

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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My first role at toastmasters… and I screw it up!

Amongst ruining someone else’s speech last night because I didn’t time it properly, I kept on forgetting to turn the cards over to indicate the times during speeches, kept on annoying the other people next to me for help, and had a wonderful evening! It taught me that this is the perfect place to screw up.

Last night I was given my first role of timer at my 4th meeting for the Toastmasters in Edinburgh. Each member takes turns of taking the various roles held in each meeting. This not only helps to maintain the structure of the meetings by having such roles, but also allows more participation and experience in organised speaking. Apparently its the easiest role to get into but that didn’t stop me from completely ruining it….

30 seconds or so into the first speech and I forgot to press the start button on the timer. In the prepared speech I never turned the cards over to show the speaker how they were doing. I had to ask the name of the person speaking..

If you ask my boss, he will tell you my abilities at time keeping, especially in the mornings. And this level of ability was certainly visible in my role of timer. Thankfully the clock took care of the actual timings and the other guys were there to help me out when I was about to do something seriously wrong.

If I had been nervous about doing the role beforehand, or giving a small speech at the start about doing the role, it certainly wasn’t as nervous as waiting till the end of the evening to be given an evaluation on my part. Yes I did badly, but it was then I realised that doing this was exactly what I needed.

Every time I have gone to the Toastmasters meetings I have felt apprehensive because I didn’t know the people well, the thought of impromptu speaking was deadly frightening and the thought of screwing up a speech was just unimaginably scary. And screwing up is exactly what I did. But at the end, I was given some incredibly encouraging feedback, told not to worry as it was my first shot at the role, and for most people speaking, my role of timer was done absolutely fine. Turns out I didn’t screw up as bad as I thought.

Being given encouragement and positive feedback was really important to me which helped me to realise that going to Toastmasters is one of the most important decisions I have made in a long time. Its a very supportive atmosphere and even though people will stumble along the way, it certainly is the place to do it as you will be picked up and you are helped to improve.

I would definitely encourage anyone who wants to work on their communication skills to look into it. As I have experienced, it teaches more than the technical skills of speaking effectively, but also prepares you for the things that can go wrong. It isn’t nearly as bad as all the horrible thoughts in my mind would have me believe it would be. With my newly bestowed confidence, I can’t wait till the next meeting where I take on the role of Table topics master…

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