Less, More & None (2021) – Review

Less

  • allowing my task list to build up
    • I am really pleased with the way I managed my time this year. I maintained a good balance between my day to day tasks and larger projects. There were no changes to the systems or tools1 that I use, but I did adapt the way I approached some aspects of my job, improving my delegation and making best use of mornings to get two to three smaller tasks off my plate before the day has really begun.
  • looking at my mobile phone when people are talking to me
    • This is the second year now that I have been a lot better with this. I still find that I have to remind myself to put my phone away but I have built up some better habits around my phone in general that have helped a lot.
  • reading doomscrolling the news
    • I also did well with this. While I did keep up with some of the news surrounding the pandemic as well as the current political landscape2, I managed to direct my attention towards the culture and lifestyle sections of the paper most of the time. I was far happier spending time reading about people, places and ideas that could enrich my life rather than dwelling on everything that is wrong with the world.

More

  • exercise
    • I am sad to say that other than walking regularly, I failed to make exercise a priority in 2021. I have no genuine reason or excuse for this and plan to find ways to make sure that it is a priority in 2022.
  • reading
    • I read 52 books in 2021. That is two more than my target and 11 more than 2020. I posted a complete list of everything I read on this blog.
  • saving money
    • We carried on where we left off in 2020 and added significantly to our savings. 💰💰💰
  • seeking opportunities for personal growth
    • Reflecting on this goal, I am not sure what I was considering exactly all the way back in January 2021 but I have achieved a few things this year that I am proud of:
      • I have finally achieved a sense of equilibrium at work and feel better placed to develop myself further as a leader and to be able to consider the next steps in my career
      • I have been (re)learning French
      • I have cooked regularly for my wife3
      • I have finally taught myself how to tackle cryptic crosswords, and while I am far from being an expert, I now understand the rules and can work my way (slowly) through the Guardian cryptic crossword
      • I have continued to develop my appreciation and knowledge of Jazz – in particular piano-led groups4 and the development of the be-bop and hard-bop styles.
  • writing
    • This just did not happen and I do not have an answer to how I get back to writing regularly. Maybe I am not supposed to right now? I will likely include writing in my goals for 2022, but I think I need to reflect on the type of writing I want to do and where it is published to better understand where/how it fits into my life. I enjoy writing but since I completed my M.Ed in 2013 and took on more senior roles at work, I have consistently struggled to make it a regular habit.

None

  • making excuses when it comes to exercise
    • See my response to the first item in the ‘more’ section.
  • skipping my ‘morning reading’
    • I did not miss a single day and ended up re-reading the entire ‘Holy Bible’, not just Paul’s letters as I had intended. I did not make as much headway with ‘History of Western Philosophy‘ by Bertrand Russell5 but I did re-read (again) ‘Meditations‘ by Marcus Aurelius and I also finished ‘On Writing‘ by Stephen King, which was as much a biography as a guide to writing well.
  1. See bullet point two in my review from 2020.[]
  2. All I see when I think about the state of the world is the ‘This is fine’ meme taken from the comic by KC Green.[]
  3. at least once per week[]
  4. Brubeck/Clark/Evans/Garland/Hancock/Monk/Powell[]
  5. I am going to make this the sole text for my morning reading in 2022.[]

What I Read This Year

It was another excellent reading year in which I met my goal to read more than 50 books in 2021. As the pandemic continued to plague us1, I found myself drawn toward re-reading a number of books that I had read before. There is definitely comfort to be found in the familiar. On top of the books I read this year, I was no less inveterate with the amount of news articles and blog posts that I consumed. Although, in-keeping with another of my goals, I avoided as much doom-leaden news as I could.

  1. Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations (r2)
  2. Dahl, Roald: Fantastic Mr. Fox (r)
  3. Dahl, Roald: Danny the Champion of the World
  4. Dexter, Colin: The Dead of Jericho
  5. Dexter, Colin: The Riddle of The Third Mile
  6. Dexter, Colin: The Secret of Annexe 3
  7. Dexter, Colin: The Wench is Dead
  8. Dexter, Colin: The Jewel That Was Ours
  9. Dexter, Colin: The Way Through the Woods
  10. Dexter, Colin: The Daughters of Cain
  11. Dexter, Colin: Death is Now My Neighbour
  12. Dexter, Colin: The Remorseful Day
  1. Flea: Acid for the Children
  2. Glei, Jocelyn K.: Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done
  3. Kiedis, Anthony (with Larry Sloman): Scar Tissue (r)
  4. King, Stephen: On Writing
  5. Kureishi, Hanif: The Buddha of Suburbia (r)
  6. le Carré, John: The Looking Glass War
  7. Murakami, Haruki: Sputnik Sweetheart
  8. Murakami, Haruki: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle3
  9. Packer, Dr J. I., et al (Ed): Holy Bible (ESV) (r)
  10. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone4 (r)
  11. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (r)
  12. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (r)
  13. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (r)
  14. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (r)
  15. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (r)
  16. Rowling, J. K.: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (r)
  17. Rowling, J. K.: Tales of Beadle the Bard
  18. Shakespeare, William: Macbeth (r)
  1. Simenon, Georges: Pietr the Latvian5
  2. Simenon, Georges: The Late Monsieur Gallet
  3. Simenon, Georges: The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien
  4. Simenon, Georges: The Carter of Le Providence
  5. Simenon, Georges: The Yellow Dog
  6. Simenon, Georges: Night at the Crossroads
  7. Simenon, Georges: A Crime in Holland
  8. Simenon, Georges: The Grand Banks Café
  9. Simenon, Georges: A Man’s Head
  10. Simenon, Georges: The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin
  11. Simenon, Georges: The Two-Penny Bar
  12. Simenon, Georges: The Shadow Puppet
  13. Simenon, Georges: The Saint-Fiacre Affair
  14. Simenon, Georges: The Flemish House
  15. Simenon, Georges: The Madman of Bergerac
  16. Simenon, Georges: The Misty Harbour
  17. Simenon, Georges: Liberty Bar
  18. Simenon, Georges: Lock No. 1
  19. Simenon, Georges: Maigret
  20. Simenon, Georges: Cécile is Dead
  21. White, T. H.: The Sword in the Stone
  22. Wolf, Virgina: A Room of One’s Own

In 2022, I intend to continue my journey with the inimitable Inspector Maigret; immerse myself in George Smiley‘s battle with his nemesis Karla; and return to the fantastical realms of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and Tolkein’s Middle-earth.

  1. Pun definitely intended.[]
  2. (r) Indicates ‘re–reading’.[]
  3. Easily the most enjoyable, strange and challenging book I read this year.[]
  4. Revisiting the world of Harry Potter during the summer holiday epitomises the pull towards comfort that I felt this year.[]
  5. Having completed the Martin Beck series last year and the Inspector Morse series early this year. I needed to select the next detective, whose world I could lose myself within. I settled on Georges Simenon’s Jules Maigret and have not been disappointed. I am already 20 books in to the series of 75 currently available from Penguin.[]

Less, More and None (2020) – Review

Less

  • (cont.) spending time on ‘urgent but unimportant’ tasks
    • I did a much better job of this in 2020. I was able to be more strategic and to delegate tasks more willingly. Something I have always struggled with.
  • tinkering with apps and organisational tools (I need to pick a system and stick to it)
    • I broke this down into three areas (notes/schedule/projects) and settled on one app to manage each of them:
      • Drafts for writing: ideas, notes, lists, blog posts and reference material.
      • Fantastical to organise my day: lessons, meetings, calls and events.
      • OmniFocus for task and project management.
    • I also made some changes to my daily and weekly reviews that kept me better organised.
  • avoiding difficult / time-consuming tasks
    • I did well with this as well, in part due to the improvements I made to my organisation as noted above. In particular, I started using the ‘forecast tag’ in OmniFocus for these tasks and also scheduled time in my calendar for when I would work on them. This meant that they were always visible and would not be missed in my daily review. Scheduling time in my calendar meant that progress was made on them each day until they were done. Incremental progress FTW!

More

  • trying new foods and recipes
    • Jennifer and I are always exploring new recipes but we did even better this year building a wide range of new meals into each month. And like 2019, we struck a healthy balance between meat-based dishes and vegetarian ones.
  • rediscovering old music
    • I immersed myself in Jazz, exploring a wide range of styles (hard-bop, modal, avant-garde…) and musicians. I improved my knowledge of the genre’s development and discovered a number pieces that entered into regular rotation. My top three tunes for the year are:
    • Having spent a lot of time over the years listening to the more avant-garde and challenging work of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, I was surprised to see how much I leaned toward smooth and modal Jazz over the course of the year. Red Garland, Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner (all pianists) featured prominently. Maybe I am mellowing out!?
    • In addition to this, I also revisited a lot of music from my youth (80s/90s). According to Spotify, my most listened to artists this year were: Queen, Radiohead and Nick Cave.
    • I spent some time listening to classical music too; mostly Beethoven, Chopin, and Fauré, so the piano featured prominently there as well. Maybe I should learn to play the piano in 2021?
    • I made a number of new playlists in Spotify and updated some of my existing ones. They can all be found via my Spotify profile.
  • visiting new places
    • This did not happen for obvious reasons. Instead we made the most of our local area while doing all that we could to keep ourselves and other safe. The time spent here at home was not wasted though, I read more books than I have done in a long time.
  • mobility exercises and yoga
    • I failed miserably with this one unfortunately, and I haven’t done as well with my running over the last three months of the year either. Exercise has to be a habit and requires commitment. I will be re-committing to this in 2021 and ensuring that I can forge good habits to get back on track.
  • (cont.) writing
    • In terms of writing, I never truly found my mojo. That said, I did publish 24 full blog posts (20 more than 2019 ). Two blog posts per month is not what I was aiming for at the start of the year. As with exercise, writing has to become a habit. I will be committing to working towards this in 2021 as well.

None

  • (cont.) looking at my mobile phone when people are talking to me (still trying to make this stick!)
    • I finally made some headway with this in 2020. I took to leaving my phone on the coffee table or even in a different room and this helped. Still, I can do even better so this item will graduate to the ‘Less’ section for 2021.
  • saying yes to projects or ideas that will only have short-term or limited impact (aiming for a year of quality not quantity)
    • When faced with a pandemic, partial school closures and a constantly changing set of guidelines and rules, it has been hard not to have to work on projects that were about ‘short-term’ impact. Sometimes you simply have to adapt to the needs in front of you and I feel that alongside my colleagues, I did a good job in helping to keep the school going under very challenging circumstances.

What I Read This Year

‘Reading more’ was not one of my goals for 2020, yet it was my best year for reading in a long time. I’m sure the lockdown contributed to this but I am pleased that I maintained my momentum once I returned to a fully open school in September. On top of the 41 books listed below, I also read over 1,500 articles from The Guardian, as well as countless blog posts and articles from across the web. A good year all round, and one that at least from this point of view, I feel much richer for.

  1. Adams, Douglas: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (r1)
  2. Adams, Douglas: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (r)
  3. Adams, Douglas: Life, the Universe and Everything (r)
  4. Aurelius, Marcus: Meditations (r)
  5. Confucius: The Analects
  6. Dexter, Colin: Last Bus to Woodstock
  7. Dexter, Colin: Last Seen Wearing
  8. Dexter, Colin: The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
  9. Dexter, Colin: Service of All the Dead
  10. Dickens, Charles: A Christmas Carol (r)
  11. Epictetus: Discourses and Selected Writings (r)
  12. Gracián, Baltasar: The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence
  13. le Carré, John: Call for the Dead
  14. le Carré, John: A Murder of Quality
  15. le Carré, John: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
  1. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Tehanu
  2. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Tales from Earthsea
    • The Finder
    • Darkrose and Diamond
    • The Bones of the Earth
    • On the High Marsh
    • Dragonfly
  3. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Other Wind
  4. Le Guin, Ursula K.: A Description of Earthsea
  5. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Word of Unbinding
  6. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Rule of Names
  7. Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Daughter of Odren
  8. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Firelight
  9. Le Guin, Ursula K.: Earthsea Revisioned2
  10. Mascaro, Juan: The Dhammapada
  11. Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
  12. Seneca: Letters from a Stoic (r)
  13. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: Roseanna
  14. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Man Who Went Up in Smoke
  15. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Man on the Balcony
  16. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Laughing Policeman
  17. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Fire Engine That Disappeared
  18. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: Murder at the Savoy
  19. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Abominable Man
  20. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Locked Room
  21. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: Cop Killer
  22. Sjöwall, Maj; Wahlöö, Per: The Terrorists3
  1. Tolkien, J. R. R.: Tales from the Perilous Realm (r)
    • Roverandom
    • Farmer Giles of Ham
    • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
    • Smith of Wooton Major
    • Leaf by Niggle
    • On Fairy Stories
  2. Tzu, Lao: Tao Te Ching
  3. Walker, Brian Browne: Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu
  4. Ward, Benedicta: The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks
  1. (r) Indicates ‘re–reading’.[]
  2. This completed my first reading of the entire ‘Earthsea Cycle‘. I read the first three novels in 2019 and took a break but I was very happy to rejoin Ged and Tenar; not least due to the revisioning Le Guin undertook returning to Earthsea eighteen years after ’The Farthest Shore.‘ Her exploration of womanhood and female empowerment from ’Tehanu‘; through ’The Finder‘ and ’Dragonfly‘; culminating in ’The Other Wind‘ was deeply gratifying. I admire Le Guin’s bravery in returning to a world she had firmly established and to then completely redefine it.[]
  3. It was very satisfying to immerse myself in such a tightly constructed sequence of crime novels; and interesting to read the series that established nordic–noir as a genre.[]

Less, More and None (2019) – Review

Less

  • eating out
    • Jen and I ate out less than once per week on average over the course of the year. In fact, our approach to eating and nutrition evolved significantly; trying at least two to three new recipes every month, as well as eating more vegetarian and vegan food as the year progressed. 🍅🥑🌽 FTW!
  • being wasteful
    • We did really well on this one, helped in part by relocating to Hastings in May. There is nothing like moving house to place perspective on how much junk you’ve amassed. Reducing our belongings down to the things we need was very therapeutic. Be assured, we sold, donated or recycled everything that we could.
  • spending time on ‘urgent but unimportant’ tasks
    • Having changed school and role in May, it was difficult to exercise control over this at times. However, as VP, I do have the capacity to decide what to work on and how to approach it which has helped. I plan to continue to work on this as I continue to grow into my new role in 2020.

More

  • listening to others well
    • I feel that I got better at this as the year progressed. I have always been a good listener at work, having headed some prudent advice from the first Principal that I worked with. But, I definitely needed to be better in personal and social contexts. I feel that I was able to listen well and also learned to better judge when to respond and when not to; although I can definitely improve on this further and will feature in next year’s list.
  • running
    • I knocked this one out of the park; setting new goals run after run. I ran further than I have ever done before and continually improved my personal best times for 5K and 10K. 🚀🥇🏆
  • strengthening my core and gluteus muscles
    • This was going very well up until the move to Hastings in May. Access to a gym at my previous school made this very easy to fit in to my weekly fitness routine. With no gym at my new school, I struggled after the move. However, I have begun to incorporate core exercises and mobility work into my warm down after each run.
  • writing
    • This was was also going really well, even after the move in May. However, from the start of the new term in September I have struggled. Must do better in 2020.
  • random acts of kindness
    • Managed at least one per week. 🧘‍♂️
  • buying/eating local foods
    • This one was strengthened by the move Hastings. We were pushed out of our Waitrose comfort zone and have had to adapt to buying our food from a range of different sources, including the local grocers, deli and bakery.
  • reusing and recycling
    • I did as well with this as ever and there was significant shame in downsizing for the move. The realisation of how much surplus stuff we had amassed over 15 years of marriage was revelatory. However, as noted above we made a significant effort to ensure that very little was thrown away. ♻️
  • being selective about the projects/opportunities I say yes to
    • In the comfort of my previous role I was in a good place with this and I feel that I have done a fairly good job since the move. However, the role is evolving so I must continue to focus on way to exercise control over this.
  • improving/optimising my organisational systems
    • I had all the right intentions with this one and I have continued with OmniFocus. However, I have found myself wondering if I really need such a complex app? Too often I find myself working from a simple list; perhaps this is all I need as it appears to be my default. The only caveat I would add is that sometimes this happens due to a lack of effort on the organisation/planning side of things.
  • learning how to solve cryptic crosswords
    • This lasted all of two weeks! However, I did add the Guardian Weekend crossword to the Quick and Speedy ones and my streak went uninterrupted; that’s 417 crosswords for the year. ✍️
  • sitting/lying still and listening to albums from start to finish
    • I did not do as much of this as I would have liked but it did happen every now and again which was very enjoyable. It will remain on next year’s list and has also inspired another goal for next year.
  • visiting galleries and museums
    • This started well but due to relocating we have had little time to get back into the city. We have lots of plans for next year, though.

None

  • looking at my mobile phone when people are talking to me
    • Again, this remains a struggle. Next year, I am going to take to putting my phone in another room when I get home from work. It scares me; the hold that this device has over me. 😟
  • spending money on unnecessary things
    • We were much more frugal this year. As previously mentioned, the move brought to light just how much unnecessary things we had purchased over the years. We made a significant effort to downsize and not replace things if they were not needed.
  • finishing a workout or run and not stretching properly
    • I added a roller and some mobility exercises into my cool-down and recovery routines. As such, I had my most injury free year of running. Alongside reading Runner’s World, this YouTube channel helped a lot.