At the beginning of last year, I made a promise to live simply, within my means and to focus on working towards some of my personal goals, rather than my professional. I summed it up in the New Years resolution, ‘to enjoy myself as much as possible and end the year with the same amount of money in the bank as I started it with’. Perhaps a little selfish, but by enjoyment I don’t mean parties and frills – but enjoyment of a deeper, soulful kind.
Things went well. I’ve not necessarily kept my movements simple with travel across the globe. Highlights include:
- Sailing along the coast of Costa Rica with my best friend and family.
- Taking a trip driving in my van along the length of Highway 1 in California on my own, bumping into a friend from the UK en route.
- A two week skiing trip with another friend in the Sierra Nevada with almost perfect snow
- Working with a huge NGO to help hire some of their most senior conservationists
- Working as an interim Executive Director of the Maybach Foundation
- Living in San Francisco for the first half of the year – I still love the city as much as ever
- Heading to Latitude and Hop Farm festivals and two weddings in the UK
- Spending the latter part of this year living in Watamu, Kenya and receiving a host of visitors
- Learning to kitesurf
- Finishing the first two chapters of my book
In addition to these adventures, I have taken a hard look at my life, my work and made significant changes. Here are 3 of the key changes that have resulted in one of the best years of my life:
1) The first, I’ve not worked a 9-5, nor maintained a steady work schedule. In fact, I’ve hardly set an alarm all year, nor kept specific hours in a specific place. (Which perhaps explains why I’ve no qualms that I’m writing this post propped up in bed on a Sunday at 10pm).
How – I’ve worked remotely, set up calls to forward to my computer and refined communication methods. I’ve automated many areas that were taking up time and removed bits of business that were a time-suck but didn’t guarantee income. I’ve stopped trying to respond to all emails. I’ve deliberately taken on less. Work has become something that is done when needed, rather than because I’m in an office.
The result – I feel like my work-life balance has been really healthy this year. Perhaps more life-oriented, but that’s great. Plus, I’ve earned more this year than I have any other year in my life. Part of this has been due to the overflow from previous years. Part has been due to trusting that things would work and having the confidence to make bold decisions. I’ve felt less encumbered by the day-to-day and focused instead on key areas of revenue resulting in a healthy me and a healthy bank balance.
2) Secondly, I’ve reduced my possessions dramatically.
How – I packed everything I posses in the UK into one filing cabinet, aside from a few pictures and clothes and threw the rest away or have given things to charity. In the US, I have two or three boxes which contain everything as I’ve hardly acquired stuff in my two years there. I’ve bought little new. More importantly, I’ve lived for long enough without possessions that previously would have upset me to loose to know that they are nice to have, but that I’m as happy without them. I know when I return to the UK and the US, I can probably cut my possessions in half again.
The result – I can move between places more freely and have begun to enjoy what I have, rather than what I haven’t. I’ve been able to travel lightly and even after 4 months of living in a small town, needed nothing when I arrived in a large supermarket for the first time. I want for nothing.
3) Thirdly, I’ve simplified my finances.
How – I’ve gone paperless with all of my statements. All of my important mail is now forwarded on to my accountant without my looking at it. I’ve transferred money into one account in the US and two accounts in the UK, a savings and a checking account. I’ve got credit cards that direct-debit from my checking account, one with Amex that gives me points, the other that offers cheap money when abroad from the post office. Rather than spend time and effort managing my portfolio, I’ve transferred the lot into an account that is managed in its entirety by someone else.
The result – I don’t have to check my mail, managing everything from the internet. I’m accumulating points. I haven’t once had to check my accounts, trusting in alerts that will let me know if something goes wrong – perhaps I’ll check over at the end of the year. In a difficult year in terms of the markets, I’ve still managed a modest return on my assets, with zero effort.
In conclusion, the somewhat mild experiment I set out on this year is working. Simplifying has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve taken on – so much so that I want to keep at it.
Thanks for all your support, I’ve been touched by comments both on and off this blog. The comments and my own successes have convinced me that this path is worth continuing with renewed effort. Whether or not people read, writing helps refine ideas and thoughts. It’s enough, even if I’m just talking to myself. If I can help, amuse or give someone else pause for thought, that’s a wonderful bonus.
Onwards. Oh, and a Happy New Year to you. May next year be simpler than the last.
Here are a couple of this year’s posts: