I’ve had a big year. It’s been crazy busy. But talk to anyone that knows me, they’d roll their eyes and say, “well, duh… when ISN’T Kat busy?”
And they’re right. Though until now I’ve managed to be consistently busy without actually achieving much. I had almost nothing to SHOW for said busyness.
But this year was different. Something changed. For the first time in my life, the end of the year rolling around didn’t fill me with a sense of dread and guilt, triggering the question, “What have I actually done with my year?!”
It’s an amazing feeling. But so I don’t have to write if off as a fluke, I want to get to the bottom of it. Figure out what I did to turn my busyness into productiveness…
Busy vs Productive. What’s the difference?
These days everyone seems to lead busy lives. Work, social events, hobbies, children, housekeeping, errands, passion projects, good causes… Netflix (hey, we all do it!) But how much of what we’re doing leaves us feeling satisfied at the end of the year, able to say “Yep, that was a good year!”?
I’ve never been one to give myself a pat on the back at the end of each year. I thought it was because I was a perfectionist or had crazy high standards. But now, looking back on 2016, I feel a little burst of pride for everything I’ve achieved… and I don’t think it’s because I lowered those standards.
No, I reckon this strangely positive feeling exists because it was a Big Picture year. A year where almost everything I did was contributing to my long term goals. And better year, by the end of it, I could see that I was a step closer to achieving them. Financial, physical, intellectual, aspirational – everything I chose to make a priority this year. Intentionally. As in, wrote down on paper, over and over.
Huh. I think I just found one of the keys to productiveness. See, most of my life I’ve been fairly reactive. Dealing with stuff as it came up, feeling like life was a game of Survivor, not one where I had control over any outcomes. I didn’t save any money, I erred towards “emergency” (aka last minute) fitness challenges rather than playing the long game, and I figured jobs were things you looked for on Seek when the thing you were currently doing got too depressing.
My new philosophy.
This year, I began with the end in mind. We were going to be travelling to Italy for a longer stay (as in a quarter of a year… EEK!), therefore I needed cash money. Enough that I could afford to pay rent at home while gone, and ideally only work part time while there. So I started doing the math and figured out my 12-month budget to include all of that, as well as “real” savings, tax, day to day stuff, and career development costs. I worked it out so I would take on up to twice as many jobs as I would generally like to work in a week pre-Italy, so I could back off once on my trip.
And guess what? I’m writing this from Italy having achieved that goal! But money wasn’t the only thing I treated differently this year.
My body was something else that had bothered me previously, and rather than attempting another ridiculous 8-week challenge, I decided to talk to a doctor and see if it was even working properly. Turns out it wasn’t. She created a plan to get me back on track, and slowly but surely – with small adjustments to my eating, and (mostly) regular workouts – I started to see my old body reappear. I’m not where I want to be yet, but after loathing the state of my body for the past 2 years, it’s nice to be able to fit my old clothes and feel like my goals are now achievable!
Oh, and then there’s the fact that I became a real life business owner. Sure, I started that ball rolling in 2015, but it was in February this year that things started falling into place and I went from having 1 client (my mum) and zero clue about what I was doing, to being a full-time copywriter with a huge client load, and more money coming in than going out. Yay.
*There’s always a disclaimer.
You should know that this isn’t meant to be a braggy post. Keep in mind that I’m admitting to you that it’s taken me 29 years to have a productive year and become financially responsible. That’s not something I’m proud of, but since I know I’m not the only one with these struggles, I thought it was worth sharing. And I should also share the darker parts of the year. Because being this productive wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
Things you should know:
1. Being productive didn’t stop the busyness. I was INSANELY busy. All year. Often working 6 days a week (occasionally 7), sometimes ’til late. (Though that was only sometimes because I took too much on… the rest of the time it was because I started the day off battling my tendency to procrastinate and didn’t get moving ’til after lunch.)
2. There were melt-downs. Some of the jobs I took on were scary and highly stressful. As most of the well-paying jobs are. I had anxiety attacks, some moments bawling my eyes out while curled up in the foetal position, and lost count of the times I told my partner I wanted to run away to somewhere remote and live off the land. But those moments passed and I carried on.
3. To our disappointment, “fun stuff” (surfing, skateboarding, painting our miniatures, singing, reading, socialising) was always the first to get bumped off the to-do list. 2017’s priorities list will include these things up the top.
4. Some days – even weeks – were total write-offs. Unproductive disasters. During those times, achieving anything at all felt impossible. But thankfully moments don’t matter when you zoom out and look at the big picture. I heard Tony Robbins say (no idea whose quote it actually is) that, “We overestimate how much we can do in a year and underestimate how much we can achieve in a decade.” Good, right?!
The moral of the story?
Savings and financial freedom start with budgets.
Dream bodies start with better diet choices and gentle exercise.
Career achievements start with goals and constant training/development.
Nothing worth achieving ever happens overnight. A lot of what “fell into place” for me this year was YEARS of work (and embarrassing mistakes) in the making.
If you feel like you fell flat on your face in 2016 and want 2017 to be better, DON’T start the year with grandiose promises to yourself to transform everything overnight. Start with little stuff every day. Stuff that doesn’t require melodramatic Facebook posts or investments in overpriced gym equipment.
And most importantly, when you find yourself getting busy and stressed, ask yourself, “Do I really need to be doing this? Is it making me happy or getting me closer to my goals?” If it isn’t, maybe it’s time to let it go. Marie Kondo your schedule, so to speak.
Keen? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.