A lot of people reflect on their year before it ends. On the last day of the year, I saw lots of posts of what people learned and accomplished in 2018.
Not me. I prefer to do my reflecting a little bit late. Since my birthday comes early January, it gives me a buffer to reflect on my year. It was an interesting year: I left a job I was emotionally attached to, I decided to go back to school, I joined a company I had admired for years, and I learned a lot in between. I write this as I’ve just been admitted to grad school, so the past year finally feels completed.
I learned when enough is enough
If you’re reading this, you probably know where I used to work. There’s no need to list all the reasons I decided to leave. While there had been times that I thought about leaving, I was loyal to the company. There was still interesting work to be done and leadership opportunities.
One day, I realized it just wasn’t working for me anymore. It was as simple as that. There was nothing that would make me stay. I gave myself a 2 month timeline to find a job, and I would move on.
I learned to not let people take the floor when you have it
This has happened a few times. During a talk or presentation, an audience member will either ask an a) slightly related question about a slightly related topic (“Do you know what X is?”) or b) completely related general question that challenges the entire point being made (“I thought you’re not supposed to use Y.”).
To be clear, I welcome questions. I usually give the benefit of the doubt because most people with questions have really great questions. However, I’ve done this enough now to know if it walks and quacks like a troll, it’s a troll.
I have still been caught off guard from time to time. I will have a moment that makes me think I misunderstood the question or wasn’t clear on a point. After a talk this year, I was mad at myself for not answering a question more quickly and moving on to the next. I let that person have the floor for more time than he deserved — I won’t let that happen again.
I relearned how to learn
In May, I joined Heroku (🎉). Two months later, I started taking online classes at NYU that I needed to be admitted into their grad program. After months of allowing my brain to run in autopilot, it was an adjustment. Somehow, I managed to balance everything I needed to learn for both without sacrificing too much of my personal time.
I replaced some old activities for new ones, and I slightly changed my lifestyle to be in the right mindset. It’s hard to summarize what worked and what didn’t work, but here are a few notable points:
- waking up earlier (I used to be a night owl, but I found out I get a lot done in the mornings)
- allowing my brain to have scheduled and limited idle time for watching TV or some activity with low ROI
- replacing music, novels and podcasts with school and Heroku-related articles, books and videos
- getting enough sleep (this is relatively new to me because I used to be of the opinion that sleep was time taken away from enjoying life)
- meditating and yoga (also new because I used to think these were synonyms for sleeping)
I’m privileged to have enough time to do all of these things in a 7-day week. My work days became slightly longer with the added school work, and my brain was clear enough to be able to absorb the information I needed. I used a Kanban board to manage my work, so I could deprioritize topics I didn’t need or would never get to.
While none of these are directly related to the learning process, I would not have been able to succeed (ish) without these adjustments.
While a part of me wants to list the bucket list items I was able to check off, I don’t think that’s where the real value of the past year lies. 2018 was great, but I’m more excited for where it will take me to in 2019.