Ten days into the New Year is as good a time as any to reflect on 2019.
2019 wasn’t particularly eventful (or maybe it was since I changed jobs… but in view of meeting my better half in 2018 and more life changes to come in 2020, a job change pales in comparison). However there were some key learnings and (I’d like to think) growth. Here goes my attempt at summarizing for posterity:
One: I change my mind easily
This discovery about myself came through the series of work-related u-turns I underwent in 2019.
First I became unhappy with work at my previous company, so much so that I had a mild (?) outburst with a colleague and my partner which involved a good measure of hysterics. The frustration and feeling of pointlessness came so suddenly that the next day I told my boss I was planning to leave the company in the next 6 months. I had my mind made up.
And then as the months wore on, as I started seeing the fruits of my labour (I had launched a mobile learning program and feedback was coming in from participants), I changed my mind and thought: work’s not so bad. Let’s stick with it. I still wasn’t keen on corporate life but decided it was good enough for the time being.
Then, once again, mid-year I did a u-turn and this time really did decide to leave and began job searching, which brought me to Agoda, where I currently am. I was excited for the change but was still in an exploratory mode: let’s give corporate another shot.
Then life at Agoda is so unexpectedly great that, lo and behold, I changed my mind again: now I love corporate. Okay, maybe love is a strong word. But I can certainly easily see myself doing this for a large part of my remaining life. Which is basically a complete u-turn from where I was this time last year.
In short, yes, I change my mind easily, and completely.
Two: Speaking up isn’t that hard – even I can do it
So, two of the challenges I had back at my old company were speaking up in meetings and speaking up when I’m not happy about something.
In the first case, I simply wasn’t very good at cutting in in a flow of conversation. The team had a number of outspoken people and meetings tended to be a round-robin of them sharing their thoughts or disagreeing with one another. I always waited for an opening, a pause that was long enough to chime in. But this almost never happened. With the result that I was mostly silent in meetings unless spoken to directly.
At Agoda, I’ve gotten better at this. I’m not sure how or why. But I’ve learnt to cut in. I’ve gotten used to speaking up as another person is tapering off. And now I’m actively participating in meetings. It seemed impossible before, but now that I’m doing it… it’s really not that complicated.
The second issue is a little trickier: speaking up when I’m not happy. My partner has often observed my fear of confrontation and attempt to avoid it at all costs. I remember still all the fuss I was making at my old company when I wasn’t happy with what a colleague did but was finding a million mental excuses not to “confront” them about it.
I’m happy to report that this has changed at Agoda. On many occasions, I have spoken up when a colleague (even those senior to me or above me in the chain of reporting) did something that frustrated me or I felt was not acceptable. And in all cases it has led to good results. A stronger relationship and smoother working experience.
And in no instance did it feel like a confrontation. One colleague even verbally expressed their appreciation that I did so: if not, they wouldn’t have realized and continued doing it, which would have soured the relationship eventually.
Three: It’s about priorities, not balance
A few months into my time at Agoda, a female executive came to speak at the company. Of all the many cool things she shared, one thing stuck:
It’s not about work-life balance. It’s priorities. At different times of your life, priorities change. Maybe now it’s work. But if you have a baby, they will become your priority. So it’s not about balancing equally. It’s about knowing what your priorities are and allocating your time and effort accordingly.
This sharing shifted my perspective on how I view work and life. I did always use to think of it as a balancing act. But once I heard this, I agreed completely. It’s about what your priorities are at any given moment.
And knowing this, it makes decisions much less complicated. For example, coming up this year is a big life decision. Instead of doing a mental cost-benefit analysis, I simply ask myself: what matters more? And the answer is clear.
And from then, everything flows effortlessly. So yes, life decision made. Let’s see how that (to use work-speak for a bit) gets executed on and what the rest of 2020 has in store.
I can probably come up with more learnings, but I am a firm believer that less is more. Plus, three is kind of a cool number.
What has your reflection been on 2019? What does 2020 hold in store for you?