New Year “What Ifs” Part 2

IMG_5401

This is the second post in a three part series where I suggest various “what ifs” for the new year instead of typical advice about making resolutions.

Read Part 1

Part 2 contains some bigger, more challenging ideas about what you could possibly do during 2013 – and it just so happens that the first three are things which I did during 2012, so this is partly an annual review for me also.

What if.. you ditched the day job?

I’ve now been self-employed for 11 months. Honestly, I still feel a bit like I’m driving on a unfamiliar country road at night with only headlights to show the way (an analogy I read recently but can’t remember where!), but I do feel like I’m getting gradually closer to my goal of getting paid to do meaningful work that I’m passionate about.

I’m so grateful that I received enough redundancy/severance pay to keep me going whilst I tried out various ways of making cash as a freelancer. I’m not sure I would have lasted this long otherwise.

If you’re thinking of doing the same, please be prepared, be ready and don’t expect it to be easy. Was it worth it? Yes. But don’t expect miracles in the first year unless you have a very good client base and business plan. Allow time for emotional and physical recovery, especially if you’ve had a tough time of it at your job or been unhappy in your work for several years. And allow time for celebration and enjoyment too!

Below is a summary of Season 1 of the Ditch the Day Job Diaries, in case you missed it. To access all 14 episodes, you can subscribe to the newsletter.

What if.. you gave up drinking?

As regular readers will know, I gave up drinking on 1st October 2012 in order to raise money for Charity:Water and to experience a ‘Year of Clarity’. I was delighted to raise more than double my original target thanks to some extremely generous friends, family and readers of this blog. A massive thank you again if you were one of the people who contributed!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a drink, getting drunk is great fun, but for me it was beginning to have more downsides than upsides, and I wanted to see how things would be without it.

It’s now been 3 months, and whilst my social life has been pretty quiet because I’ve felt less inclined to go out,  I’m enjoying the novelty of being sober. I won’t pretend I feel great every day, but it has meant I’ve done more exercise and been a little more organised (though I still have a long way to go!). New Year’s Eve was the only time I’ve really missed having a wee drink.

What if.. you took up meditation?

I’ve now done 48 days of meditation using the Headspace programme and I’m really seeing the benefits in terms of how much more ‘clear-minded’ and generally better it makes me feel – I highly recommend it. This is something I don’t think I could have done if I was still drinking regularly.

What if.. you gave yourself until February to put your New Year’s goals into action?

December is a busy month, and the New Year can creep up on us, meaning we barely have time to catch a breath before the 1st of January, never mind deciding how we’re going to live for the next 12 months. During this podcast I recorded with Fabian Kruse of the Friendly Anarchist, he suggests waiting until the beginning of February before even trying to start a new schedule.

%CODE12%

That suits me this year especially, because I left my job at the beginning of February 2012, so my first year of freelancing isn’t strictly over for another month. That buys me some time to catch up.

Our mutual friend Michael Nobbs over at Sustainably Creative has also decided to take this approach, and is inviting people to join him in ‘a month of reflection and planning’ during January.

Giving yourself some space and time for planning is a great way of taking the pressure off. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, I’d advise you to try it, and I guarantee you will feel a sense of relief at not having to change your entire life all at once!

And you might even find, by taking the pressure off, you actually achieve more of what’s really important.

I’ll be back with the final part of this series tomorrow, in the meantime, I’d love it if you shared your achievements during 2012 in the comments.

What are you most proud of from the last 12 months and do you have any major goals for 2013?

I’ve Just Run Out of Excuses

Yesterday I left the civil service after almost exactly 10 years to the day I started. You can read some background to this in one of the previous newsletters. Somewhat spookily, given this was my last day of repeating the same routine over and over again, this happened on Groundhog Day.

Another coincidence – on the way to work, I was listening to a playlist of 120 cheesy songs and ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe came on just as I was approaching the building – at which point I started singing along at the top of my voice, obviously!

Man with a Plan or Unemployed Bum?

Because I voluntarily accepted redundancy, I will receive a decent lump sum. If I’m careful, I can survive on this for a year, even if I didn’t have any other money coming in.

My plan though, is to continue to work as a freelance copywriter, which is something I’ve been doing since I cut down my working week to four days at the beginning of 2011 – but now it will need to be on a much bigger scale because this time next year it will probably be my main source of income.

I also want to ramp up my blogging efforts again. The point of this blog was always to help other creative people find focus and achieve their potential – and I’ve only just scratched the surface so far.

Developing a new business as well as blogging is going to take a lot of focus and discipline, even though I’ll no longer be working a day job at the same time. Key to this is establishing productive habits and spending my days wisely.

I also want to ensure I have time for exercise and my own creative projects/experiments, whilst I have the luxury of being able to structure my own time.

Every Moment Counts

Every moment counts for me this year. It’s hugely important. But what’s new? I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t have done some legwork. I couldn’t have done this if I was heavily overdrawn or in credit card debt for example (I do have student loans but it was under the old system which means I can continue to defer them for the time being).

If I hadn’t already been paid for my writing and other work I might not have had the confidence to take the leap (even then it was a tough decision). My previous job, whilst it had it’s frustrations, did mean I got a lot of experience with digital media and marketing, and the fact I’ve been writing, blogging, using social media and producing audio and video content for many years is also a bonus.

Also worth pointing out is that over a year ago, on the advice of  Jonathan Mead, I set a very specific goal: to ditch my day job by 31st March 2012. This was before I knew the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy would arise. In fact, I forgot that I had done this until I looked at my calendar for 2012 a few weeks ago, but the intention was always at the back of my mind – never underestimate the power of committing to clear and highly specific goals.

One of my leaving gifts

Everything you do is a step in either the right, or wrong direction to achieving what you really want out of life. That’s what this blog is really about. Whatever situation you’re in right now, it’s a good thing to remember. Of course we can also put too much pressure on ourselves – rest and relaxation, enjoying life and HAVING FUN has to be part of the plan too.

This is an important post for me, and I’d  be really grateful if you would share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or wherever you see fit using the handy buttons below.

Oh, and why not join over 100 people who already subscribe to the newsletter and like CMC on Facebook, and over 1000 people who follow me on Twitter: @milomclaughlin

p.s. I know I dropped the ball with this blog last year but I’m back now, and I’ve got no more excuses – so expect big things :)