As the year is drawing to a close it’s time for some end-of-year reflections.
Last year my new year’s resolution was simple: whatever you do, own it. Even if you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, do it with confidence. I think it worked out pretty well so this life rule is here to stay!
It also helped me during the period of intense personal and professional growth this past year, which was nothing if not eventful. Here are the top 5 things I learned over the last 12 months:
Sometimes the most productive thing is a nap
It might seem obvious but it isn’t. A lot of high-achieving, ambitious people think that our body is not a vessel to carry your brain around. Except that it isn’t. Our body and mind are one and if you’re not feeling well, you won’t be able to use your brain well.
Being tired or sick only leads to spending many hours trying to finish a project, when it could be done much quicker if you were feeling your best. The most counterintuitive fact of life is that when you’re rested you can get things done faster and do a better quality.
In other words: health (both physical and mental) should always be the top priority. The older I get the more I understand the old saying “healthy body, healthy mind”.
Life is full of opportunities
Sometimes it’s easy to think that if you don’t take this opportunity, go to this event, talk to this person right now, your life will be ruined and the door will shut forever. This is not true. Opportunities are like waves: there’s always another one coming, and next time you’ll be more ready for it.
It might seem cliche but when the time is right, the opportunity will materialise itself.
For instance, if you feel like you really have to go and network but the sheer thought of doing so makes you want to cry - just stay home. You wouldn’t be able to charm anyone when you ultimately don’t want to be there. There will be other events and other opportunities and one-off things are rarely make or break.
I think it requires quite a significant mindset shift to think in this way - at least it did for me, but it’s a much less stressful and much more wholesome approach to life.
Get the darn help
For real, even if you think you’re already getting help - you’re probably not doing it enough. The world doesn’t need heroes single-handedly saving the world, especially at the expense of themselves.
Nothing big was ever built alone so why try to achieve the impossible if you have people around you can rely on? Or why try to learn every single thing in the world if you could get an expert to do it for you (often faster and better)?
Sometimes you’ll get help for free, sometimes you’ll have to pay for someone's time, but you can’t do it all alone. I kept hearing this before but this year showed me that this is absolutely crucial when trying to deliver complex projects.
Anything is better than nothing
Everyone knows that progress is better than perfection but I’d take it down a notch. Any decision is better than no decision, even if you feel you haven’t made any progress and it ultimately doesn’t seem to make sense.
A while back, I asked one of my mentors at Google how she’s dealing with these kinds of decisions. She told me she was looking at how quickly you can verify whether it was a good call or not. I think that’s a pretty good strategy.
Sometimes we have to make decisions without having the data required to make them. A simple tell tale sign is when you’re procrastinating on it a lot or it seems extremely daunting.
So if you’re facing one of these, just take any decision and move on. It’s very rare that you won’t be able to change your mind later, but at least you’ll be able to make progress and - hopefully- gather data from the outcomes.
I remember when we were going to showcase at Develop, I had no idea what and how to prepare for our stand. I’ve never been to a gaming conference before, let alone showcased at one. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I’ll need, how will people react, and what we can achieve during the conference…
In the end it turned out that half of my assumptions were completely wrong. Another 30% would work in different circumstances, and the last 20% were spot on.
I learned from that experience, wrote it all down and when it was time to prepare for exhibiting Insomnia 2 months later - things were much easier. The target audience was different this time too so there were new challenges and we got a lot of things wrong again but it’s ok.
We do our best given the information we have, which keeps us moving forward. It’s much better than going in circles unable to decide on the direction.
And this leads me to my last point:
Things are never done
I used to think you should deliver your projects finished and that means they’re perfect you don’t have to touch them ever again. This year I learned the concept of “finished” is flawed - nothing is finished forever. It’s more of a “that will do for now”.
We’re always learning, growing and improving. What seems good and done now - won’t be so in 3 months. I’ve looked back at things I’ve done mere weeks ago and thought to myself “wow, I really had no idea what I was doing back then” - then I redid it and in a few weeks I had the same feeling looking back.
Eventually I learned that nothing I do now will be “finished” for long. It’s more of a transient state before I learn how to do it better. Now I don’t get too attached to any of my concepts and ideas because I know that there will be a better version of it a few months down the line.
That removed a lot of pressure and expectations to have things completed to some high standard - I still do my best every time, but I got rid of the perfectionism that used to hold me back and made me feel like I’m not good enough.
All in all, 2023 was quite a transformative year for me. I learned a lot, reshuffled my priorities and now I’m looking forward to what 2024 brings! And my resolution for it? Do it guilt free!