The perfect time for writing, reflecting & planning.

This time of year, the days between Christmas Day and the New Year, I naturally turn to reflecting on the current year, and on the new year to come.

How do I feel about the year that’s about to end? Generally a good year? Not so good? Did anything go well, and what could I have done differently?

What plans do I have for January? Do I want to change how I go about my day-to-day routines? What big plans do I have for the whole year, what do I want to achieve?

I love to write it all down.

I find writing cathartic, whether it’s a blogpost, the day’s to-do list, big plans for the future or simply getting down on paper how I’m feeling. Reflecting in this way is therapeutic, getting it all out of my head, and down on paper. It’s a way of processing my thoughts.

There’s such freedom in writing. Random words, imagined conversations, massive crazy dreams. Writing down how you really feel about something, and would never dare tell anyone.

Also it can help you come up with solutions. Getting down all possible options, making a massive plan of all the steps it will take to do something.

Here are a few writing exercises I’ll be doing over the next few days, that you might want to try.

Reflection

1. When reflecting back over the past year, a really nice exercise is to think of and write down all the things I’m proud of. What did I overcome, or survive? When did I do something that took courage. What did I find a solution to? Was there a situation I dealt with well? Who did I help? In which moments did I cheer myself on and get something done?

Those times you’ve felt nervous, or unequipped or unqualified, you’ve struggled with imposter syndrome – but then you did it and it was fine? That time you were assertive when usually you’d give in. That time you tried something new and loved it.

It can be hard at first, but if you push yourself to list every little thing you’re proud of, most of us can come up with quite a list.

Brief moments

2. It’s also great to consider moments of peace, contentedness, happiness, or joy during the past year. It doesn’t have to be something big, like an amazing holiday or event. Rather, those brief moments.

For example a lovely unexpected exchange with someone you didn’t know. A time you chose to do what you wanted over what someone else expected of you – and you relished in the moment. That time you took a few minutes from your busy day to sit on a bench in the sun and close your eyes, enjoying a feeling of peace.

If things aren’t going particularly well at the moment, thinking back over what you are proud of, and those little moments of joy, can help you get perspective. It wasn’t all doom and gloom – there were great moments.

3. Compare how you feel right now, with how you felt this time last year. How have things moved on? What are you pleased about? What are you frustrated at? If things haven’t gone as you’d like, you can spend some time reflecting on what you need to do to bring about change.

Future first

4. And on to what’s to come. What are my immediate plans for January, what do I want to get sorted at the start of the year? What’s bugging me? What practical things do I want to sort out, or what changes can I make to my routine?

(Download my morning routines guide here: 3 easy steps to a morning routine you love!)

5. Equally important – what do I want to enjoy or try in January in order to start off the year well? January’s the month where I like to hibernate, so which films do I want to watch, which books do I want to read, which recipes do I want to try cooking?

6. Longer term – what big plans do I have for the year, work wise, health wise, financially, personally, emotionally? However big or however long I think they might take to fulfil, I write it all down. I’m a big believer in being clear on your goals and what you want to achieve, and writing it down. For more help on this, see my vision boards guide here: How to create a vision board.

So there we go, a few tips on taking the time to reflect, reassess and plan. I hope these tips inspire you.

If you realise you need help in making this year different, I’ve recently launched my 1-hour Get Unstuck! coaching calls. Designed to get you taking action straight away, after a 1-hour call with me. Email me at joaopoku@gmail.com to arrange.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Career change – how to pick one thing and get started?

Something I often see with people who want to change their career, is that they’ve got a few vague ideas about what to do next, but they can’t see through the haze and just pick one.

How do you know which is the right one?

“What if I spend lots of time researching and going down one route, only to find it’s not right for me and I’ve wasted time? How do I decide which path to take? Why can’t someone just tell me what to do?!”

Pick one

The solution is – pick one. Just pick one and try it out. Stop procrastinating, stop wasting time. The only way to stop dithering is to take some action. Get some real insight and experience and you’ll know if it’s right for you.

You might have quite a list of possible options, from the safe and practical to the wildly exciting and (for now) completely out of reach. 

But most people will only have around 1-3 things they’re really seriously contemplating. 

Maybe your options are:

1) Stay put and go for a promotion. I’m stagnating in this role. Maybe more money and responsibility is what I need? Maybe I’ll love it? Or at least if I’m earning more and have a better job title I’ll feel better about my life?

2) Find a job in another company. Maybe my current role is actually ok, it’s just my company that I don’t like? If I were doing the same role in a really cool company, where I actually share the same values, maybe that’d be a good change?

3) Retrain as (fill in the blank). My secret dream. I think I’d love to do this, but it seems so out of reach. I’d need to do at least a year’s training. And the cost of the course will be loads…And I’m not sure I’m really confident enough to go for it, what if I’m no good? 

3 month rule

So the first step is, pick one and give yourself three months to gather information and start taking action. Ignore the other ideas for the time being. Don’t procrastinate around picking the first one, just pick the one that leaps out to you the most today.

Side note – by the way, this doesn’t mean that I think you can or should change career in 3 months. Of course it’s possible, but it took me waaaay longer, from the first moment I thought about changing. But 3 months is a good amount of time to get stuck into your project and a lot can be achieved.

Next, write a list of all the little goals you’d need to achieve to get there. Write down everything. First steps, like find out HR manager name, find LinkedIn account login, Google search where you could do a course in your area. Make each step small and achievable. Keep going through to the final goal – receive promotion letter and accept it. Receive job offer and accept it. First day of course!

Now put some time frames on your list – realistically how soon can you achieve each goal? Make it achievable but push yourself too, try and take a small action daily if possible.

Then, you are going to methodically work through your list, ticking things off as you go. You can add to it when you realise there’s a missing step – but DON’T add to the list just to procrastinate. Keep really focussed on achieving your goal.

Reassess

When it gets to the three month mark, you can reassess. Where have you got to after three months of research and (crucially) taking action? Have you achieved your goal? (Whoo!) Have you realised it’s not for you? Are you feeling uninspired by what you’ve found out?

Don’t worry if you’ve realised it’s not for you – this is good news! Because you can scratch this idea from your big list. Now you’ve got headspace to concentrate on the other two. You’re getting closer to working out what you really want to do.

Maybe in this time you’ve had a realisation, and are on a different path anyway.

The whole point of this process is to get you taking action. The number one cause of all my frustration and angst before going through my career change was thinking and worrying so much, rather than taking some kind of action.

As soon as I took things into my own hands and started doing, taking serious steps to change things, it all became a lot easier and more exciting.

Speaking of taking action, I’ve recently launched my 1-hour Get Unstuck! coaching calls. Designed to get you taking action straight away, after a 1-hour call with me. Email me at joaopoku@gmail.com to arrange.

Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

8 Things you need to know about moving abroad

A former client and friend asked me for my advice on moving abroad. As I started thinking, I realised that elements of this advice could be applied to all sorts; career change, starting something new, a side project. I hope it’s useful. Here’s my advice:

1. The fear. Once you take action, it gets better. Waiting is the worst.

The period before you make the move is the really scary part. That’s where it’s all unknown, vague, you can’t quite imagine how it’s going to be or what you’re going to do.

All your biggest fears come to head – will I be lonely, will I make any friends, will I end up homeless, will I hate it, will it all just be too difficult to cope with? I had all these fears before moving to Valencia.

Even things which are usually relatively simple or straightforward like opening a bank account or finding a place to live seem insurmountable.

Know that as soon as you get there and start ‘doing’, this particular fear will drop away as you’ll be so busy taking it all in and taking action.

2. Relax

So you’re there, you’ve been there a little while, and you might be thinking “what have I done, what have I done, what have I done…”

Give yourself time. Time to readjust, take in your new surroundings, learn how things work. Chances are the start might be a bit rocky and emotional, as you become a novice and just don’t know stuff. With time, you will.

3. Meeting people and making friends. Keep busy, ask for help.

Get out there. That’s all you can do. Say yes to as much as you can, try everything, talk to people. Keep your options open.

It can be daunting but you’re only going to meet your people by meeting lots of random people, and keeping going until you feel that click.

If big meet-up groups aren’t your thing and the thought of some big expat community makes your skin crawl, look for ways to meet people one on one. There are smaller localised Facebook groups which can be really useful and supportive.

I used an excellent ‘Conversation Exchange’ website as soon as I arrived in Valencia – where you arrange to meet people who want to practise speaking your language and vice versa.

So whenever I wanted, every night if I so wished, I had someone to meet for a drink.

I could enjoy being out and about and having company. And – it’s an excellent way to learn about your new home city or town, you can ask loads of questions and even get help or advice.

4. Explore. 

One of the most exciting parts of being in a new city. Make a massive list of all the things you want to do.

Plan trips/visits. Do all the cliches. Eat all the food. Watch films, sit in a cafes. You’ll get to know the city really well, you’ll have fun and you’ll be out and about.

5. Language learning.

Once you start making progress, marvel at it. Each new word you learn, sentence you formulate, question you understand, is a massive success. Use every opportunity to converse and persist. Immerse yourself in TV, radio, film, talks.

6. Celebrate your successes. 

Bank account open – great. Coffee date set up – amazing. I think we could all do better at this in everyday life – acknowledge when you’ve overcome something tricky, however small it may seem. You’re doing a good job.

7. Make a plan. 

Imagine how you want your life to be in a month, or 3 months, or 6 months. Then set goals. For example, in the next 3 months I want to: 

  • Meet at least one or two friends. 
  • Go on x number of dates.
  • Visit x, y, z.
  • Improve my language skills by attending/doing x every day.
  • Find a decent flat. 
  • Try x, y, z.

It helps you focus on what you want, and keep track of your achievements as time passes.

8. And remember

Even if it doesn’t seem to be working out as you imagined;

a) Give yourself time, you never know what’s around the corner. 

b) You can be proud that you’ve done something so many people dream of, and never do. You took that massive step and went for something you have wanted for a long time. It takes courage.

You’ve been brave enough to follow your heart, follow your dreams. 

Finally…

My main advice when moving abroad?

Enjoy yourself, enjoy the feeling of freedom. Along with all the practicalities and organisation, have fun. Do all those things that you dreamt of when you dreamed of your life in Paris. 

Every once in a while you’ll look around and think, am I really here?

If you’d like to try a coaching session with me, contact me at: joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Léonard Cotte on Unsplash