“…When are we seeing your first article in 2018 on circumspecte.com?”
That’s one of the questions a reader sent recently. I’ve been asking myself the same thing. Really, Jemi, when? Of course, once someone else asks that question, it does give some pause (and pressure). Are you doing this thing or not? Alors, here we are. My first Circumspecte post of 2018.
Last year, I had this whole plan of starting the first quarter with a review of the previous year and mapping out my plan for 2017 – it didn’t quite happen. First, I had laptop issues and then technical issues with this website. By the time I resolved those, I had client work and travel on deck, and then it just seemed too late into the year to be in ‘planning mode’. It’s so necessary to have a gauge on where one has been, where one is, and where one hopes to go, you know? So I was gung ho on making that happen for 2018, hence the relative silence. In other words, I’ve been in reflection mode. The good news is that my time away has been fruitful so far; I’ve even chosen my word for the year: Purpose.
Why I Choose A Word for The Year
What’s a word for the year? For the past five or so years, I’ve centred my goal-setting around choosing a word for the year. My word for the year is the word I keep at the forefront of my mind throughout the year. It’s what guides the decisions I make, actions I take, the lens through which I view, live and review my life in that given year. By choosing purpose, I’m setting the stage to live more conscientiously and be more intentional with what I choose to do this year. Why purpose? For the longest time, my biggest fear has been not fulfilling my purpose in life – whatever that means. I’m still trying to figure it out, but even as I get inklings of what that is, it’s still so easy to get caught up in all the other stuff: the distractions, the silencing of your truths in order to conform to others’ ideas and principles, the sometimes misguided notions you have of who you ought to be. Yeah, I know, it can get very vague and philosopher-ish. But so far, it’s been a lot more effective for me than say, new resolutions. No shade. Once I choose a word for the year, I begin to brainstorm what that actually means for me – what actions I need to take, which habits have to go or be formed, which tools I have at my disposal, how I plan to stay accountable and measure it all. So, for 2018, here are some of the tools and principles I’ll be using to live more intentionally and (hopefully) be more productive:
I’m an introvert by nature. I go inward or envelope myself in solitary activities in order to recharge. That could be reading, listening to music, writing, or watching films. It could also be talking, although it tends to be with just one or two other people and largely ‘deep’ conversations. Over the years however, I’ve become a bit of an ambivert – meaning I have equal measures of introvert and extrovert tendencies – or a situational extrovert, as I learned from Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’. Basically, I can turn on my ‘extrovert’ persona when necessary, example when managing an event, leading a training or public conversation. Transformation abilities notwithstanding, I’m still very much an introvert at the core, and for folks like me who create and/or write, reflection is so essential.
With the busyness of life, the constant distractions from our tech gadgets and the ho-hum of social media (and working in that domain), I’ve kind of put my moments of introspection, as I used to call them, on a back-burner. The result? An almost instinctive urge to share everything, form an opinion immediately, reactwhenever we encounter information. We no longer chew the cud; the leisurely appreciation and pondering of what comes our way. Instead, we jump in the fast food line, pick up our order and dive right in. Now that I think about it, it probably influences what Stephen Covey aptly describes as listening to reply, in lieu of listening to understand. This year, I hope to do more listening and reflection about the information I encounter, my day, responses to people, things and situations, and my intent. I also plan to apply the Islamic principle of ‘Zikr’ (to re-member), by being more intentional about spiritual practice and prayer. The concept of praying through writing is particularly appealing to me, and so I’ve purchased my first ever dua or prayer journal to help me in that stead (pictured at the top). Alhamdulilahi, so far, so good.Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. - Stephen Covey Click To Tweet
Fitness & Wellness
If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably come across photos of my meal preps or videos of me gushing on too many endorphins. If not, let me bring you up to speed. In 2014, I had a health scare that woke me up to how stress and sitting too much can literally kill a person. Two years into being a freelance consultant and solopreneur, I realised I was doing to myself what my 9to5 lifestyle had done to me. Although I worked out occasionally and paid attention to what I ate, I was swimming blind. I needed a system to gain expert insights, track my progress and have a point of reference for what was actually going on in my body. And so, in November last year, I subscribed to a fitness program and bought a Fitbit (health tracker). Three months later, I can literally feel the change. Not only have I lost 8kg (17 pounds), but I’m sleeping well, and have more energy throughout the day. I know exactly what goes into my body (because I cook 90-95% of it), and I’m generally happier. This year, I hope to improve upon my fitness and challenge myself continuously. Why? Because #ThatFitLifespills over into other areas of life like mental wellness, relating with other people, and productivity. It’s all about the happy hormones, people!
As they say, nature abhors a vacuum. The minute you take something off your list, there are a thousand and one other things more than ready to take its place. I learned this the hard way, back in 2016 and those lessons have stayed with me since. In more ways than one, 2017 was also my year of yes. I was intentional about making myself available to family, friends, readers, acquaintances and entire strangers who would email me for coffee, to share insights and so on. I also did this through ‘teaching’; I participated in about 20-30 workshops events, speaking and host engagements. Why? I wanted to ’empty myself’ of the insights, lessons, experiences I’ve had over the past decade or so, especially where career development, digital marketing and entrepreneurship are concerned. In that regard, my year of teaching and ‘yes’ was very successful. I learned a lot and got to take on numerous opportunities for enriching conversations and engagements. But now, I’m all emptied out and it’s time to turn the tide, maintain some balance, and prevent a full-blown burnout. Enter, my year of ‘no’. This year, I’m going to be more intentional about the engagements I choose – both in terms of personal life and work. Because time no dey. I’ve already had to turn down about 10 of such, which sucks for me too, believe me. But ultimately I think this will help me improve my overall relationships and offerings, helping make me deliver quality services and value when I do choose to engage. So, if I happen to say no to you, please don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me.
Lights, Camera and Video-Making
It’s curious to think that after a decade of content creation and blogging, I still have that annoying voice in my head that asks me why I think anyone will want to read what I have to say. That voice has laid to rest too many a post, but this year, no more. Besides that voice, I think my struggle – yes, struggle – with consistency partly has to do with me feeling – dare I say it? – a bit bored with writing about the same things, especially where Ghana and African development is concerned. It can get depressing, so I need to keep things fresh and mix things up. Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that there are more videos from regular folk like you and I online. Take a look at your Facebook timeline and you’ll see what I mean. That’s because video-making and marketing is where it’s at. The US and many other Western countries considered 2017 the year of online video. I’m gonna go ahead and predict that 2018 is going to be the year of video in Ghana. I started making videos in 2006 and published my first YouTube video in 2007. Since then, I’ve been largely on-and-off with my video blogs, especially since moving back to Ghana (internet costs, speed and what-not). One of my content creation goals this year, is to be more intentional about creating videos which add value, challenge thinking, and invite conversation. And I’ve already begun – you can watch my first video for the year right below. Oh, and make sure you subscribe to my channelso you don’t miss any of my videos.
Long Form Reading, Writing & Learning
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. The 4-Hour Body. #AskGaryVee. The Goldfinch. These are titles of four of the I-don’t-know-how-many books I’m currently reading. Yes, you read right. Currently reading. All of them. It’s madness, I know. It not only makes me less than productive, it makes it hard for me to actually glean what exactly it is I’m getting from them. The last two books I really immersed myself in are Start With Why by Simon Sinek and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – both of which I highly recommend. See, I can recommend them, because I can vouch for them, because I actually remember, reference and apply what I read. So for 2018, I’m hoping to be a better reader and maybe even get my certified bookworm status back? First on the menu, finishing those four. I’ve also signed up to Audible’s audio books to “read” while working out. Reading, writing and learning kind of go hand in hand. From my experience, I tend to write and learn well, when I’m reading well. Now, if I can train my brain to relearn how to jump headfirst into long form content, imagine what that will do for my attention span and productivity. Enough said.
Minding My Business
And no, I don’t say this to be rude. Nor does it have anything to do withmy PSA about prying marriage questions (we’ll come to that eventually). I literally, plan to mind my business – Circumspecte – this year. After passing the 10-year mark and experimenting since I went full-time professional blogger (among other things) in 2015, it’s time to bring a bit of structure to this baby. That means a lot of learning, and a ton of work, but the vision for this company is slowly becoming clear, partly in no small part to you, our readers. Our reader survey provided much needed insight into some of the things you guys want, and we’ve already started putting some of them into play. Take for instance, our brand new e-shop, where you get to purchase our CirqPicks – a selection of products inspired by our travels and curated specially for you. Or the Freelance Africa Facebook groupwe started after many of you responded to my article on the realities ofbeing a freelancer in Ghana. And let’s not forget the Accra edition of our CirqMixer (networking event) for our small but growing community of readers (catch the highlights below). I’m always open to hearing what you guys think, and this year, I hope to get better on that front as well, so stay tuned for more from us.
So there you have it – the principles and tools that will be guiding my 2018 and hopefully helping make it my most intentional and purpose-driven year yet! Do any resonate with you? Let me know. Got your own goals? How do you go about setting goals and planning for the year? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you! Thank you for being part of the Circumspecte experience. I wish each and every one of you, your best year yet!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.