Listen to yourself, read less and other lessons from the past year

Listen to yourself, read less and other lessons from the past year

This was the first time for me that I really took some time to reflect on the past year in a deep and structured kind of way. Seriously, I took a whole week off work. I used it to review, access, think, ponder, plan. Relax.

The most important thing I learned in 2016 is to always listen to yourself. Of all the books, advice and wisdom out there, you are the best person to know what’s best for you. Yes, advice is good. Learn from other peoples’ experience, mistakes and successes. But at the end of the day, do what feels right for you.

Here are some other lessons I took from last year.


Read less, but be thorough

Lots of people advocate voracious reading – 50, 100 or more books in a year. I’ve been there, spending every free minute of my time with books, trying to achive the goal for “books read” I’ve set at the begining of the year. But in the past few years I’ve noticed the number I shoot for has gone down sighificantly. 3 years ago it was 75, down to 35 in 2015, last year it was 15 and this year it’s 10.

Anybody can blast through a book on Audible on 2x speed – but what do you take from it? I find myself reading books I’ve already read, the second time really taking my time and absorbing the knowledge in the pages.


Be selective

The cruel reality is there’s a limited amount of books you can read in your life, so be protective of your time. Don’t be afraid to leave a book unfinished. If you find that it doesn’t speak to you, don’t force it. You might have read it at a wrong time in your life. You can always pick it up later – or not. There’s also a possibility that it just isn’t as good as you thought it will be.


You shouldn’t read books just to read books

Take time, make reading interactive, make comments, argue, stop and explore your thoughts, read between the lines. Draw parallels with your own life. Write things down.

You might put 100 books as your goal for the year. Or 5, maybe just 1. But whatever your goal is, select the book(s) with care and make the most of it.


Step outside your comfort zone, but enjoy the process

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new. Brian Tracy

Most personal growth happens when you are a bit uncomfortable. It means you are taking on something new, something where you don’t have a lot of experience. But you are willing to learn and master it, which is great.


Access your progress along the way

At the same time, make sure to be aware of your feelings. There is a difference between being outside of your comfort zone and doing work you don’t like.

What skills are you getting from this activity? How long will it take? Is progress measurable? What are some key performance indicators (KPIs)? Is there potential to start loving this new work? For it to someday become a part of your “zone”?

Don’t torture yourself

Be prepared to step back if needed, there is no need to suffer. Know how much discomfort you are willing to accept. Your efforts might be better spent doing and learning something else. Ask yourself (and/or your boss) – “Does this new skill significantly add to your skillset and value to the company?”

Don’t be a perfectionist

Fight perfectionism. You don’t have to be 100 % sure of something before you do it.


Follow the 80/20 rule

In most cases in life, the 80/20 rule applies. You spend 20 % of time to do 80 % of work; but you need to spend an additional 80 % of time to finish the remaining 20 %. And more often than not, “80 % perfection” will do.


Decisions are reversible

Don’t spend too much time on decisions you can easily fix. We often mull over tiny decisions as if our life depended on them. Well, it doesn’t. If somewhere down the line it turns out the decision wasn’t necessarily the best, it can probably be fixed with minimal damage. Put your ego aside and don’t be guided by the fear of mistakes.

But if you insist that the decisions in your field of work are indeed final, you should know that research shows people are happier when they make a decision they can’t take back. Irreversible decisions make you rationalise the choice you’ve made, making you more content with it along the way. People who know they can change their minds about a decision are often not as happy and keep coming back to the choice they’ve made.

Either way, let it go and move on.


3 More Lessons

I’ve prepared 3 more lessons I’ve learned in 2016 in the form of a mindmap.

Download Mindmap