New year. New beginnings. New adventures.
This time of year I like to reflect. In the quiet days of early January I take a look back at my aspirations for the year just gone, celebrating what I achieved and chalking up to experience what I didn’t. But it’s also a time when I collect ideas, make plans and dust down my bucket list with a sense of anticipation and excitement.
So what did I get up to last year?
Looking back at 2018
Twelve months ago I said that 2018 was going to be a year of simplifying my life. I wanted “to get back to basics, to give my time to the things that really provide me with rewarding experiences“. I set myself four goals – plus a fifth one my wife sneaked into the list:
1. Ditch social media
In fact, my aim wasn’t to ditch it altogether but was to cut down on the unproductive time taken up by social media. Compared with blogs, which have the space to properly develop and explore ideas, other social media platforms tend to focus on blunt soundbites, sanitised ideas and airbrushed images.
I’m pleased to say I’ve stopped using Twitter (the worst offender) and only use private Facebook groups as the main way to communicate with my Duke of Edinburgh groups (I stopped using Facebook for personal use many years ago). Instagram is the only platform I actually enjoy looking at, and I still occasionally share pictures. I haven’t missed this ‘wasted’ time.
2. Focus on quality over quantity
After five years’ blogging I took a three-month break in late 2017, and became much more selective in finding the things I wanted to say. My goal last year was to focus on improving the quality of my writing, acknowledging the therapeutic and rewarding benefits of creative writing.
In 2018 I wrote 33 blog posts, far fewer than in previous years. I’d like to think that their quality improved (others are the best judge of that), both in terms of writing as well as images. But part of the reason for my lower output was simply that work stepped up a gear and there was a lot going on on the home front. You can’t do everything, and choices often have to be made.
3. Focus on my main passions
My third aspiration was to simplify my life by consolidating what I already enjoy doing. In the past I’ve dipped my toes into new activities, such as sea kayaking for example. These were all great fun of course but with a finite amount of ‘spare’ time, a focus on new stuff inevitably meant time away from my existing passions. So my aim in 2018 was to focus on a smaller range of hobbies – mainly walking, camping and cycle touring – so I could enjoy these in more depth.
This was exactly what happened last year. I spent a week climbing the 13 3000-foot mountains in Ireland (completing the Furths as a result), I cycled Scotland’s coast-to-coast route and went skiing in the French Alps with my son. In between this I also found time for a few cycling day trips and wild camps, and also continued my Duke of Edinburgh volunteering. I led a Silver Duke of Edinburgh group for the first time in trips to the Cairngorms and Glen Tilt.
4. Give my time to things that give me something back
I aimed to practice the (difficult) art of slowing down, living one day at a time and being more spontaneous. So many of us lead busy lives and for me in particular, getting out of the fast lane and slowing down is an ongoing challenge. As I get older I’m becoming more conscious of the importance of getting exercise in the outdoors to manage my mental wellbeing. As a classic introvert, I crave the solitude needed to recharge my batteries so I can return home renewed and happy.
I’d say I achieved this in part although it’s unfinished business. Work has a lot to answer for but I guess its ultimately up to me to recognise and manage my stress levels. I already have some ideas of other ways to relax over the coming year.
The fifth goal sneaked in by my wife – all in the interests of jointly leading a simpler life – was to de-clutter. I think what she meant was that by clearing out the junk in our garage and loft we would be unburdened by so much ‘stuff’ hanging around our necks. An ideal way, then, to de-stress and also earn some additional cash by offloading our unwanted stuff on to new owners.
We partially achieved this goal. On the plus side, we now have a much clearer garage and loft, having sorted through boxes we hadn’t opened for the last 16 years. It’s amazing how you gather so much stuff through the phases of family life. My rucsacs now hang neatly in the loft and all my walking gear is organised into a couple of boxes. (At least, none of that has been chucked out – I have to admit it can be stressful letting go!). However, there’s still a little more to finish off so that’s a job for this summer.
Plans for 2019
Having just reviewed this list I actually think it still serves as a great set of goals for 2019 too. If it’s working, why change?
In addition, I’ve decided to add another few activities under number four: to read more, to exercise more regularly and to make sure I get enough sleep. I’ve challenged myself to read 10 books this year using my new Kindle. It’s not quite as many as the lady whose blog post I read today, celebrating smashing her 2018 goal of reading 120 books. But for someone who normally reads just one or two books a year it’s quite an improvement.
I have a rough plan forming around taking one trip away a month during 2019. The general idea is to give myself tangible goals to plan for, while also getting some exercise and exploring some new places. While I’m thinking about tackling a couple of classic routes that I haven’t yet had the time for – including walking the West Highland Way and cycling the Hebridean Way – I’ll probably also include simpler trips such as bagging a summit or having a wild camp overnight somewhere.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve already completed January’s trip, a short outing yesterday to climb the Corbett Beinn an Lochain in the Arrochar Alps. It was icy and cold, and more overcast than expected, but nevertheless a great remedy to get rid of the excess calories and sluggishness from the new year. I’m also sharing a couple of photos from a walk up Meall a’ Buachaille in the Cairngorms between Christmas and New Year.
I’m sure family life and work will take up just as much time as they have last year but I’m hoping that these plans will give me a sustainable balance between ‘work’ and ‘play’.
Whatever your own goals for 2019 I hope you have a very happy new year.