7 things I’ve learned this year

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For years now in December I’ve had a habit of considering the last 12 months, and noting down the top “7 things I’ve learned this year”.

How did your year go? How was it for you? Has the time passed in the blink of an eye?  Did you achieve a lot, or was your greatest success just keeping afloat? (Been there!)

It’s been an insanely busy year for me what with starting up my photography business and keeping (or trying to keep!) on top of all other committments.  So I’ve just been pondering wins, losses, successes, failures, and how I’m going to make next year something even better.

Here are some things I’ve come up with:

1) You actually do need sleep. (Bummer.)


things I've learned this year - to us Sleep Cycle phone app - screen shot
1) You actually DO need sleep. I know. So annoying at times.

You can’t get by on a permanent sleep deficit. You just can’t. No matter how many other things there are you’d rather do than sleep, you quite simply MUST get enough kip. If you don’t, it impacts virtually every area of your life.

You have no energy, you feel crabbit and rubbish, and you can barely think properly, never mind function properly physically. You put on weight, you’re running in permanent stress mode, and you lay yourself open to all sorts of illnesses and bugs. Your life feels like a big huge bag of crap, basically.

So get enough sleep. And even better if you use a sleep phone app like Sleep Cycle – it wakes you up at the optimum point in a half hour window, being when you’re in your lightest phase of sleep. If you’re in a really deep phase of sleep when a normal alarm clock wakes you up at a set time, you feel horrible, but this sleep app makes a huge difference.

Confession: I wear a FitBit for tracking sleep, and I was AGHAST when looked back over this year’s weekly sleep averages. Don’t ask me what they were because I’m waaaay too ashamed to tell you. 

But it’s going to change next year. I will get enough sleep!

2) Make a plan!

Text: decide what it is you wantWhoever said this was right. If you don’t have a plan for where you want to get to in life, you’ll end up wherever the winds blow you. That’s all very well, sometimes, but you’re at the mercy of others and random chance. Don’t you want more than that?

And one day when you’re very old (if you’re lucky to get to be very old), you’ll wake up and curse yourself for having wasted your life doing what other people wanted you to, being what they wanted you to be, and working your behind off to help them achieve their dreams.  Which is all very noble, but wouldn’t you rather be yourself and do what YOU want to do?

I’ve decided where I want to go and what I want to do. I decided very definitely what I want, I made a plan, and I pretty much stuck to it. Maybe not every day, but certainly most days. And it WORKED.

But the first step is deciding what you want.  You need to stick your pin in the map and then figure out how to reach it.

3) Don’t lose touch with your people|

bride and groom in 1960s bubble car, black and white
3) Don’t leave it to occasions like this till you reconvene with your tribe!

Make the effort to see your family more often because if you only see them at weddings and funerals, you never get the chance to really speak to them properly.

At funerals and weddings I love seeing loads of relatives I haven’t seen in years – so many interesting people! It’s just such a shame that at gatherings for these reasons, you get so little time with them.

Don’t make this mistake of thinking oh there’s always tomorrow. At some point, there will be no tomorrows, and then you’ll really, really wish you’d made more effort. Make the effort now. Plan visits. Spend time with the people who matter. Keep your connections alive.

I’ve got a list of the extended family I want to see more of and have marked off on it how often I want to make the trip to see them: annually, quarterly, monthly, whatever. Early in the new year, I’m diarising visits.

I am lucky enough to have some really smashing relations and I want to see more of them, but if I don’t plan it, it won’t happen as life just keeps getting in the way.

4) The early bird

front cover of the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
5) Definitely the hardest one for me, getting up early, as I’m a hardwired night-owl. They say it rocket fuels your day, though, and they’re right.

Getting up early in the morning, really early, before your household is up, can change your life.

Crawling out of bed at the very last minute, rushing out of the house so you’re not late for work, coming home after a full day’s work and then the evening shift with dinner and getting the kids to bed isn’t exactly conducive to working on your game plan, whatever that may be.

Get up early if you can, make it a habit, construct your life plan, and get your stuff done then.

That said, if it’s too much of a fight against your night-owl circadian rhythms, don’t keep bashing your head against a wall by trying this. 

5) Move more

Woman holding kettlebell doing exercise
6) Kind of fun at the time, and very effective. Just be prepared not to be able to walk for three days after you first do it!

Kettlercise is great excercise and it’s actually rather fun.

Now this comes from someone who pretty much hates exercise, unless it’s walking the dog. But I think I’ve now found something a bit more strenuous I can actually force myself to do.

There’s quite a lot of variety within a Kettlercise workout and it really feels that every single muscle in your body, including the ones you didn’t even know you had, get used.

Okay, so I can’t walk for three days afterwards, but it’s still worth it!

6) Limit your bad news consumption

The word news in large letters with computer mouse
6) It’s not usually that good, is it?

Be aware of what’s going on in the world but don’t entrench yourself too deeply in the news if you want to stay a happy person.

For quite some time, in the lead up to and after various political events here in Scotland, I got very heavily involved in what was going on, both campaigning and canvassing and keeping up with the news almost obsessively. And it just made me feel more miserable, seeing more closely all these awful things that are happening which I can’t do anything about.

I guess the trick is to pick what you can change, and try to pay a wee bit less attention to those things you can’t.

I also find watching the news on TV leaves me feeling particularly horrible: you’re right there in the middle of it and there’s nothing you can do about the awful things that have happened.

There’s a fine line between keeping yourself informed and getting mired in gloom and bad news. Pick your battles.

7) Work to live

Black signboard saying never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life
7) Yes, yes, easier said than done. But even if you never QUITE manage, you mustn’t ever stop trying.

Work to live, not live to work.

Yes, it’s an old cliche but it’s a trap that’s so easy to fall into.

Your work can be fabulous and extraordinary if you want it to be. But you have to really want it. And you have to … Well, see point number 1.


The road to hell is paved with good ones, but I still prefer the word “intention” to “resolution” as it seems more forgiving somehow. Less rigid. Like, if you screw up, you can just shout “plot twist!” and move swiftly on!

These particular intentions I’ve listed here aren’t that desperately hard to stick to, and they should make for a good, year ahead. I shall report back ..!

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