Week 52: The clock is ticking

"I must stop procrastinating; I'll start tomorrow."

It was my birthday earlier this week. It seems unlikely (to me, at least) but I was 59. Which means there’s only a year to go until I am 60.

I’ve never really been bothered about those big “round number” birthdays. I’ve sailed through 20, 30, 40 and even 50 without any worries at all. “Age is just a number,” I’d say when asked (or some equally pointless nonsense).

But 60 feels different. I can tell it’s going to feel really different by the way I’m already thinking about it when it’s a year away. At 60, it’s going to be difficult to persuade myself that I’m still actually pretty young. By 60 you’re not only supposed to know what you’re going to do with your life - you’re supposed to have done most of it.

And I have a year left to get to that point.

Hold that thought.

Those of you who have been following my work for a while now might remember my “2020 Vision” project (or, more accurately, projects). I gave up my job and I planned to give myself six months to work on various ideas and see if any of them could be made into a sustainable business. I spent three months working on three different things with varying levels of success.

And then the pandemic hit.

I mean it didn’t hit me in any real, measurable fashion. I was already working from home, so my daily routine didn’t change. I was planning to live off my savings for six months, so I didn’t need to get involved in any of the government financial schemes for business owners. There was no reason for anything to change.

But everything changed.

I completely lost my focus. March’s project was to write a book. But I didn’t get a quarter of the way into it. My concentration was shot to pieces. I was spending too much of my diminishing mental energy worrying about infection rates and government briefings.

The second half of the year is a bit of a haze. I ended up taking on a contract for the last three months of the year - remote working of course. But as the end of the year approached I was adamant that I was going to have another try at building a business in 2021. So I ended my contract and started 2021 in pretty much the same position as I had started 2020 (except with a global pandemic raging in the background).

2021 didn’t start well. I was completely unfocused. I dabbled with a few things. I made tweaks to a lot of websites that I run. I released updated versions of most of the Perl libraries that I maintain.

I didn’t make any money.

Then an old client got in touch offering some work maintaining a codebase that I used to work on. I asked if they would consider a part-time contract and they said yes. So that’s where I am right now. I work two days a week for my client and the rest of the week is free for me to do what I want. And the contract brings in enough money for me to live on so I’m no longer burning through my savings. It’s all working out rather well.

Except, that I’m still not making much progress on my own projects. I needed something to push me into getting on with building a business.

And that’s where the 59th birthday scare comes in. I now have a deadline. I want to achieve something - have some kind of business going - by my next birthday.

So that’s the plan. I’ll spend two days a week working for my client and three days a week getting back to some of the projects I wanted to work on last year. Initially, I plan to finish the book and work on a project management tool that I’ve been building with a potential business partner - more about both of those projects in forthcoming emails.

And, in order, to keep myself on track, I want to share my progress with you. I’m going to send out a weekly update to this mailing list every week. Hopefully, the thought of having to tell people what I’ve achieved each week will mean I’m driven to actually achieve something.

Oh, and notice that the title for this piece is “Week 52”? That’s another little piece of psychological trickery. I’m giving myself a countdown to my 60th birthday; a target to aim at.

If you’re already subscribed to my mailing list, I hope you’ll find this slight realignment of it interesting. If you’re not already subscribed, I hope you’ll consider subscribing in order to keep up to date with what I’m doing.

See you next week.