Four Things I Learned In 2018 (And Three Things I Didn't)

Four Things I Learned In 2018 (And Three Things I Didn't)

I had a moment to reflect before the end of the year, so I thought I would share some of those reflections in a blog post that somebody out there might find at least mildly interesting..!

Four things I learned in 2018

1. Turn notifications off. Tried and tested.

Who hasn’t been hooked on their smartphone at some point? That was me - I couldn’t go an hour in the evening without clicking the notifications to take me over to Twitter or LinkedIn on my phone to see what people were saying about Northcoders. Or worse - I’d be constantly getting notifications of new emails or messages on Slack late into the night and be unable to get away from it or resist the temptation to peek. I was obsessed with work.

Now, it’s no bad thing to be passionate about your job, but nobody should let any aspect of their life take over their whole life.

When I finally turned off notifications for those kinds of apps in May, it changed my life - I genuinely felt free and happier than ever. I am now trying not to relapse..!

2. Patience pays

In March this year, I familiarised myself with the optimal stopping rule (read my blog about it here!), which roughly states that for the amount of time that you are willing to carry on searching for something, you should “look” for 37% of that time and “leap” the next time an option comes along which is as good as or better than the option you’ve already seen. It can apply to anything in life, from dating to searching for the best parking spot.

This year, that’s particularly helped with hiring. Now, I’ve made hiring mistakes in the last couple of years. I was determined to learn from them. This rule helped me do that!

We’ve made a fair few hires this year, and it is safe to say that being patient and meeting more candidates before making a decision has allowed us to hire the right people - despite that temptation to “see how it goes” with one of the candidates from the very first round.

Obviously that’s not to say that if somebody who ticks all of the right boxes walks in first, you shouldn’t use your common sense and make them an offer. Now, I’m not exactly renowned for being a patient person, but for things like this, being patient and trusting that voice deep down that tells you they’re not the one has helped us build a dream team this year. When it’s right, you know. Be patient. Don’t jump the gun.

3. Talk about problems before they multiply

I messed up earlier in the year by not doing this. By letting something really quite small that I was seeing and experiencing linger, it grew, and grew, and continued to do so until it became a fairly big deal that must have wasted a couple of hours of time to resolve.

And it did resolve - seamlessly - but had we just gone and talked about it together weeks beforehand, it would have been done and dusted and I’d probably have forgotten about it long before now.

I suppose you could argue it is a good thing, because I learned something pretty important..!

4. It’s not always good to be pressured into doing things you really don’t want to do.

Yes - we should all be pushing ourselves in some respects.

But some people will - sometimes inadvertantly - use this “give it a go!” “it’s a good chance to practice!” mentality to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Now, sometimes, it is good to get over fears. But that does not mean that because that’s sometimes true, we should all feel we have to do things that make us wholly uncomfortable just because somebody else thinks it’d be good for us (or them..!)

This is emotional bribery, and it is okay to stand your ground. There are thousands of ways you can push yourself - pick the ones that make you feel excited, proud, happy. None of us are ever going to want to do everything.

It is ok to say “No thanks, this isn’t one of those things I need to ‘push myself’ at”.

Three things I probably should have learned, but didn’t

1. Working hard 365 days a year isn’t a good thing

They say “you should be able to do your job in the time you are paid to work”. Now, I think that’s true, but I also think that for some people with high stamina, they can achieve even more if they work more.


Being unable to put work down even for a day is not healthy and leads to burning out.

I have not learned this lesson yet, but you never know, it might be in my “things I learned in 2019” blog post next year..!

2. Live below your means

Wealth, for most, is created slowly. I know this is true, I know I should be saving 10%-15% of my salary, looking after the pennies and resisting temptations. But somehow, the takeaways keep ordering themselves…

The only reason I am ending the year with more than I started with is because I spent November selling my worldly possessions on eBay.

One to work on in 2019.

3. Busy is a habit

There are plenty of variations on “busy is a habit” - some of us use “busy” as an excuse, others as a status symbol, a measure of self-worth, to mask fear of inadequacy; and for others it represents a lack of clarity on what is important.

For me, to be honest, it’s probably a bit of most of those. I have been trying to kick the habit of describing myself as “busy” when the truth is that I’ve not prioritised my day properly, or am simply tired (as an introvert, this happens to me a lot). I haven’t quite managed it yet..!

“Busy” does not necessarily mean productive - in fact it can sometimes signal the opposite. Sometimes it points to my failure to prioritise tasks. When I do it properly, I generally have highly productive days with the key actions complete hours before the end of the day, leaving time to help others with their tasks. Check out the difference between “Important” and “Urgent” tasks in my blog about scheduling.

These are the most important lessons I’ve learned (or wish I had) in 2018 - there are more, but I think these are the key ones. The most pain-free way to learn is by proxy, so I hope something in here is helpful to you!

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. See you in 2019!

Ruth Ng - Software Engineer & Digital Marketer in ManchesterRuth Ng
Software Engineer | Growth Hacker | Digital Marketer

Software Engineer
Growth Hacker
Digital Marketer