Choosing the right projects, focusing and unplugging: what I learned in 2018

Choosing the right projects, focusing and unplugging: what I learned in 2018

I don’t know about you, but 2018 has been a big and important year for me. There were challenges and success, and triumphs and some sadness, too. I learned a lot professionally and grew a lot personally, sometimes in ways that surprised me. But at the end of it all, I think it was a good year, with a lot to share. So, as 2018 draws to a close, I thought I would sit down and compile some of the most significant insights and reflections I’ve come to, so you can learn from them, too.

"Whether it’s an individual, or a company - think through the people before making a decision"

Choose your projects for the people

I am extremely grateful and proud to have so many offers from people to collaborate on their projects. But in the past, I’ve made the mistake of just thinking about the project itself when deciding whether or not to work with them, and then, halfway through, finding that I don’t really work well with the people involved. This wasn’t good for anyone. I may have learned this lesson the hard way, but you don’t have to.

When choosing your projects, think about the people you’re going to be working with, and choose for them. Whether it’s an individual, or a company – think through the people before making a decision. That’s what I did when I started working with Kazi, and I must say it’s a match made in heaven. Which is extremely important.

"Reinvention requires patience"

Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself

Earlier this year, I just suddenly lost my motivation to write. Some of this was from some unsuccessful projects, as I mentioned above, but more of it was just out of the blue. I knew I still wanted to do copywriting, but it was clearly time for something new.

So this year, I launched my own YouTube show, with the help of Peter van Keer and my girlfriend, Britt de Valck. Moving into a new field helped keep me on my toes and learning new things. I didn’t have any experience with how to carry myself on video, or how to structure interviews that were watched, rather than read. It was all a big new challenge, and of course there were early disappointments. Many times, I thought to myself, “I’m not good enough. I should quit.” But reinvention requires patience, and good things aren’t built overnight. And look at it now: more than 1,000 subscribers, yay!

"As freelancers, we always have the feeling like we have to be “on” 12,862 hours a week"

It’s important to unplug, and calm your rhythm

I never used to understand the importance of alone time. It’s the disease of modern life – we always think we have to be productive every moment of the day, everyone rushing around to show off how much they’re “crushing it” or “living their best life.” If I had a problem, I’d take refuge in more work, and this just created a downward spiral in mental health.

But after my aunt died suddenly last month, I finally let myself take the proper time to grieve and just “let it all out.” And the funny thing was, after giving myself some space for mental health, I was more productive when I got back to work. It’s easy to think that just working harder will make you more productive, but it doesn’t shake out that way. Burnout is real, and it happens when you try to do this. As freelancers, we always have the feeling like we have to be “on” 12,862 hours a week, but by unplugging sometimes, you make your whole self better

Don't focus on the negative

This one can be hard for me, and probably for a lot of us. When we’re driven to succeed and be perfect, it’s difficult to give yourself credit where credit is due, or not react to external negativity. I used to feel the urge to respond to every negative comment on Twitter, which was exhausting, mentally draining, and never got me anywhere.

This year, I realized that most of the time, “being mad on the internet” is just other people’s way of projecting their own insecurities, and also, that it’s just not worth the time to get into it. And it’s important to remind yourself that even though your work can always improve, and there are always things you can do for it, you’re usually your own worst critic. Don’t give in to the negative – your mental health will thank you for it.

Give yourself some praise sometime

We’re all working really hard, and always trying to improve. This can make it hard to recognize the progress you’ve made and the good you’ve already done. Remember that it’s important to give yourself some credit sometimes.

I look back at what I’ve done this year, and I think I can be proud of myself. I interviewed a lot of big names, like Seth Godin, I hosted TEDx in Antwerp, I launched a YouTube channel. And yes, there’s always more to do, but it’s good to reflect on what you’ve done, not just what lies ahead.

In short

Overall, everything I’ve learned in 2018, and all the ways I’ve grown personally and professionally all come back to understanding the importance of self-worth, and self-care. This doesn’t mean not pushing yourself to be better, or to succeed, or not working on improving and fixing your mistakes. But it does mean letting yourself understand that at any stage, you’re still the person you need to value, and not compromise with. Don’t get involved in projects that are bad for you, don’t refuse to believe you can grow and change, don’t be so hard on yourself all the time. If we’re constantly down on ourselves, it’s harder to be positive for the outside world, whether it’s your clients or your friends or family.

In 2018, I learned how to give myself more credit, and I hope in 2019, you can, too! Happy New Year!

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