Posts Tagged work

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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beating SAD this year

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognised condition which affects many people in the world. The Winter time has less hours of daylight and worse weather, resulting in negative effects in people. Its symptoms are depression, fatigue and poor health. However, less extreme symptoms may not identify itself easily. I didn’t think I suffered from SAD but this year I will take steps to get out of the downward spirals and get back into gear.

Over the years SAD has become a recognised condition. It has been covered by tv documentaries and earlier this year I came across this website about the condition. These sources talk about the effects and how common it is. Living in Scotland, where the best winter weather you get is ‘at least its not raining today’ It got me thinking about how the seasons affected me, and possible steps I could take to counteract it. Think of it as a new-years resolution, except a little early. This is my challenge!…

By no means did I suffer the extreme conditions mentioned in the TV programme or website, but thinking back over the last few years of my life I did begin to notice a repetition of bad events and feeling low. After I started university in October 2001, I was ready to quit my course after about 6 months. I didn’t leave the course however, and each year from then on January to March I felt drowned in course-work and exams. I always put it down to the upcoming exams and coursework times. I left my graduate job in April 2006 to work elsewhere. Each year something would come up at the beginning which would make me feel a bit down, gloomy, a little depressed.

Were all these things due to circumstance? Of course, some events like my exam scheduling were certainly not due to my doings, but looking under the surface of the basic events led me to think about my feelings and thoughts during the first few months of each year.
These feelings corresponded to the symptoms listed on the SAD website. Loss of concentration, lethargic and generally gloomy all round.

This year it will not happen again! I want to see the world as happy and bright as the summer days full of opportunity and fun! However I am aware that hope alone wont get me very far, so I have compiled my battle plan to combat the evil gloom that is SAD!

Thanks to the SAD website, I can now recognise the physical symptoms and change in conditions which allow SAD to take hold. But this time I will be prepared…

Weather conditions
The first obvious sign that winter is kicking in is when things start to get darker a lot earlier in the evenings. When day-light savings sends the clocks back an hour, the evenings are even shorter. Then the mornings start to get gloomy. Pretty soon its dark when you get up in the morning and go to work, and then its dark in the evening when you leave for home. So in actual fact you see no sunlight all day! I feel sorry for the people living in the far north or south of the world. There will be times when there is literally no sun at all for months of the year! Daylight regulates our bodies on a sub-conscious level, and its important to realise just how important this is for all of us.
To solve this, the SAD website has suggested the used of a super bright SAD light for use when its dark. My solution will be to harness the great power of natural light and take a lunch time stroll outside. It might be cold and dull, even at midday, its better than the strip lights and TFT screens in the office.
I picked up somewhere that the physical reason the body needs light is because your skin produces Vitamin D with the help of light. Without the Vitamin D, your body becomes more lethargic. A booster of Vitamin D may help with SAD, so I plan to take multi-vitamins which should help.

Prepare for the mornings…
The mornings are where I experience the worst difficulties. If I haven’t slept in, I’m made late looking for my keys, bad traffic or having to scrape the windscreen. The key to stopping running franticly late is to set and maintain a good routine in the mornings. The best thing for me about being early for work is avoiding the morning traffic, so it is a great benefit to save 20 minutes on the commute. Getting up in the mornings used to be a real nightmare, but after the decision to get up early in the mornings ( I find getting up with the alarm clock might be tough but it sets me up for the whole day.

I have noticed that I have been more recently been tempted by more snacks and chocolate that what I would usually have, which doesn’t help mental alertness or physical condition. The key is to recognise that these cravings become more evident during the cold weather and the importance of eating healthily to maintain your health, both mentally and physically. How can you expect to be able to work a full day if all you eat is chocolate biscuits and drink too much coffee? Being more strict on yourself is necessary to ensure you eat healthily. Make sure you give yourself enough time for breakfast in the mornings (I am especially guilty of that so I keep an emergency pack of cereal at work just in case I find myself without time in the mornings). With other people snacking more at work its especially easy to cave in when someone offers you a biscuit, or some are left in the kitchen area to share. For these times I make sure I have a piece of fruit handy, so when I feel the cravings I can eat that instead.

Physical Exercise
During the summer months I would go for a walk, a jog or walk in to town at the weekends. Because it is so cold outside now, it becomes very tempting to just take the car, or exchange a post-meal stroll with a video game or TV episode. Finding the motivation to go to the gym dwindles and excuses upon excuses mount up. I have a very quick regime in the mornings when I get up. I go for a 5 minute brisk walk round my street. This helps the blood flow and is far more effective than snoozing for the same time. Instead of being very cold when getting ready, its actually warmer than outside. Before leaving for work, I do a set of stomach crunches, push ups and leg stretches. I don’t expect to become Superman overnight like the ab-swing infomercials promise, but it is an improvement over the zero exorcise I’d have otherwise done. I feel that it helps at work, because for the days I don’t do this, I feel noticeably less focussed on my work. Now, for the times I don’t feel like exorcising, I tell myself the benefits of doing so and that inspires me to get into action.

The downward spiral
For some, the winter months can mean a downward spiral in which keeping each ongoing day becomes colder, less active, more depressing and lazy. It takes courage, effort and discipline to keep this from happening. Bear in mind its not the season thats directly controlling these results; consciously identify where the bad actions are happening in your own world and take charge to stop things from slipping. If you already feel you are in a low position, take some small steps to get back into your stride. How about setting your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier and have a healthy breakfast? My dad recently re-introduced me to the wonders of porridge. Add some honey and its tastier than any breakfast cereal (even the chocolate ones) and it keeps you warm when you take that first step out the front door on a cold December morning.

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