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New Year Goals: Work Less, Live More

05/01/2017 14:21

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It's around this time, when my bodily constitution is around 40% alcohol, 20% pigs in blankets and the remainder squishy, squidgy Camembert rolling over my waistband, that the post-Christmas regret sets in and I frantically scribble down a list of all of my favourite pastimes, whack the word STOP in front of them, and off I go, lumbering into the New Year, unlikely resolutions tucked in my back pocket - and the faint whiff of imminent failure (along with rotting sprouts) already carrying on the air.

Let's face it, the only way I'm going to stop all my guilty pleasures is if someone wires my jaw shut in the night, brings back prohibition and closes every nightclub in London (if Westminster Council have their way, the last one is a distinct possibility). Yep, I'm an embarrassingly old Graver (grey raver): one foot in the rave.

I don't mean to kill your "New Year, New Me" buzz as you skip off happily to the gym, chanting positive mantras and sipping on a green juice that you got up at 6am to prepare, but in my experience these out-of-character transformations tend to fall on their arse approximately three weeks into January when, suffering from stress, SAD and disillusioned by Dry January, my phone jumps back into life as various mates fall off the wagon...and back into the pub. Thank God for that. I hate drinking alone.

I'm not dismissing making positive changes to your life; on the contrary, I'm all for learning, improving and evolving, but I find that change happens when you're mentally in the right place - not because society dictates that the first of January is the day on which we ditch all our bad habits and become mung bean-munching paragons of virtue. It's just not realistic.

Change is more sustainable when it stems from passion rather than obligation. Last year I rediscovered my love of writing. Maintaining my blog has been relatively simple, as it's something I truly enjoy. Funnily enough, the diet and exercise regime I also pledged to keep up crashed and burned at the first hurdle. Strange that.

One day last year, having pulled an all-nighter and smelling like an overflowing ashtray, I decided I was finally ready to stop smoking. I haven't lit up since and it's been surprisingly easy. I'd half-heartedly vowed to give up the cancer sticks practically every New Year's Eve for the last 20-odd years, but I knew deep down it was just an empty promise mumbled to myself; my heart simply wasn't in it.

So this year I've decided to give myself just one simple resolution: work less, live more. I've worked relentlessly since I was a teenager, with just the occasional sabbatical to go travelling. Not being able to have a baby means I've not had the pleasure of taking those child-rearing years off work like most of my peers. I decided a few months ago that just because I wasn't blessed with the gift of a family why should I deny myself the greatest gift of all: the gift of time?

Over the past four years, since I downsized my home and life - reluctantly at first due to my newly-single status - I've noticed a shift in my attitude. Whereas in years gone by I'd spend every last penny of my wages on buying shoes, clothes and nice things for the house, now I think carefully about whether I really want or need that item...and usually decide against buying it. My motto has become buy less, do more. I want to spend my money on living not having.

So it's a natural progression that I've now opted to reduce my working hours in line with my simpler life. As of this week, I'm cutting my hours to four days in seven. Put simply, as I get older I value my time over money. I'm trading in a chunk of my salary in exchange for an extra day a week doing what I want; I'm effectively buying a slice of my life back.

The way I see it, no amount of money is more precious than time. As long as I have food to eat, a roof over my head and enough spare cash for a spot of travel and fun, I'm happy to make sacrifices elsewhere. Once you have the essentials in life, everything else is just future landfill.

Rather than slog like a hamster in a wheel five days a week, month in, month out, focusing my beady little rodent eyes on some abstract concept of a relaxing retirement, I'm going to grab a little sliver of my time back now, while I'm still young enough - and healthy enough - to spend it doing the things I love.

Because here's the thing: life is what happens whilst you're making plans for the future. Yes you can avoid risk, stick to your resolutions, get a pension, eat your greens...but for what? A couple of extra eventless years tagged onto the end of your life in an old folks' home, blanket across your knees, rheumy eyes gazing off into the middle distance? No ta - I want more free time now.

For me, 2017 is going to be about finding a better work/life balance, making memories and pursuing my dreams. I'm going to write my first novel. There, I've said it, so I'll have to do it now. It might crash and burn, but I have to at least try (I've actually started writing books before but given up a few chapters in...but hey, God loves a trier, eh?). I'm going to sprinkle salt on the slug of self-doubt and plough on.

Sometimes we're so focused on making a living that we forget to make a life. The calendar flips over at an alarming rate; before you know it there won't be any time left to do all the things you really want to.

When I'm drawing my final breaths and my life flashes before my eyes, I don't want to have to press fast forward on great boring swathes of Sam Walsh: The Movie because most of it has been filmed at work...

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