As of 1st March 2018, I embarked on my long-awaited Gap Year / mid-career break / whatever you want to call it – and I am absolutely loving it so far! To my pleasant surprise, I’ve had a lot of comments about it, with people getting in touch since I made the announcement at the end of February on Tuesday 27th (my last day at work). Some have been rather skeptical (my sister warned me that I am extremely liable to the couch potato life); others concerned with what I am going to do with all my free time (?) – to the opposite end of the spectrum – those congratulating me and excited to find out what I will be doing on this #dreamy Gap Year of mine – and some even who are hesitant themselves on taking a year out, and getting in touch to seek my advice!
I’ve been contemplating taking a Gap Year / career break since mid-2017, when I was struggling with my health quite a bit, and just generally pining for some free time to write and sit in coffee shops and do nothing but daydream, read and contemplate life. At the same time however, I was casually browsing jobs online and applying to a few that sounded interesting to me due to my brother-in-law’s repeated advice (apply to jobs and attend interviews to keep interview skills sharp!). I ended up getting a job offer at Southampton City Council for a really interesting role as their Senior Communications Officer. However, in the past few weeks, due to unforeseen events, and various opportunities coming my way, my fantasy of taking some time out just naturally materialised, and I decided it made sense for me to take a Gap Year. I felt like it was now or never – I’m 27, single, no kids, and ever since I’ve been advertising my digital, academic and writing services, I have been getting a number of requests from people asking me to work for, or with, them, to the point where I was working full-time, and then coming home in the evenings to do more work! Sleep was taking a bit of a hit as usual, and I was starting to feel like a perpetual zombie.
I really believe in living life true to oneself, and I always strive to do this. Taking this Gap Year is one of the many ways that reflects this approach I have to life. I don’t, contrary to popular belief, plan to sleep full-time (Diane haha!), although making progress on reducing my sleep deficit is certainly part of the plan.
Since leaving my job, I thought I would have lots of free time on my hands – quite the contrary! I feel like I have walked out from one job straight into another full-time role! I think I must thrive on being busy and exhausted??
The following are 10 goals that I’ve set for myself this year. I honestly didn’t have to think that long and hard about them – like I said, this has been brewing in the back of my mind since mid-2017, and when the opportunity arose I embraced it with open arms and a huge smile because I already had a semi-plan:
1. Co-Author a Non-Fiction Book on Psychology
* NEWS FLASH * Recently I was approached to help co-author a pop-culture book on Psychology by Ivy Press (part of The Quarto Group – pictured above). After a few interviews, I was chosen! I cannot tell you how excited I am to be working on this – Psychology is my first love and I still read new research papers in the field avidly. I signed the contract last week and have been working on it behind the scenes since the end of January. This was one of the reasons I felt quite comfortable taking a Gap Year – as this is quite a significant project, and I wanted to dedicate time to writing this book so I can ensure it is as good as it can possibly be and reflects my passion for the subject. Alongside this, I’ve been wanting to work on my own personal fiction (more below), that I have been developing whilst undertaking the Curtis Brown Creative (CBC) writing course.
If all things go well and according to schedule, the book should be released at the end of this year – fingers crossed!
2. Write my Fiction Novel
My aim is to write everyday – essentially 1,000 words per day – so that in 3.5 months, I will essentially have a full-length novel in my hands to edit (90,000-100,000 words). My aim is to submit it to agents/publishers at the end of this year. The working title is ‘The Golden Ratio’ at the moment. I am super excited to start writing it, and have been planning it out and making notes all over the place already. Right now however, my energies are being directed to establishing a routine, the non-fiction Psychology book mentioned above and my freelancing projects. Additionally, the lack of a decent laptop and my desire to sleep forevermore is proving to be a hindrance, but come Monday 12th March, is DAY 1 of writing 1,000 words a day!
The idea of the book came to my whilst I was doing my CBC course during a lesson where we were given a writing prompt, and then were tasked with coming up with a story from it writing ‘free hand’. It was my first creative writing post of the year and I published it here: ‘It spilled everywhere, just everywhere.’ This started the clogs in my head and very quickly a strong concept formed in my head for a novel. I have lots of other ideas for different stories in my head, and some which I have been writing on and off over the years, including YA fantasy, YA mental health, commercial women literary fiction and historical fiction. I hope I will be able to write them all someday – but I have decided to spend this year focusing on ‘The Golden Ratio’. It’s hard to say what I will produce in the future, but I know I want to write in some shape or form as long as I am alive, and publishing a book in my lifetime is at the top of my agenda. I’ve always loved stories, and telling them, so it makes sense for me to pursue something I am passionate about rather than relegate it to the periphery of my life. I want to use this year effectively to give it my best shot.
I also definitely feel fortunate to have worked in publishing straight out of university, as it means I understand the process from an insider’s perspective, which always seems to be elusive and mysterious to those outside of the industry. Again, this has given me a level of confidence I’m not sure I would otherwise have. Additionally, getting feedback from people who read this blog has given me a huge confidence boost – so thank you all ❤ You know who you are! ❤
Wish me luck!
3. Freelance on Digital Marketing and Writing Projects
I also want to focus on projects that are of interest to me – I love being able to apply my creativity when it comes to digital marketing and writing, so I plan to spend my time seeking opportunities which really bring out the best of my skill set. I am currently working on building my professional website – so watch this space. I am freelancing as a Digital Marketing Consultant and Writer – so if you’re interested in working with me, or know anyone who might be, please do get in touch! I specialise in social media, brand, content marketing, creative video production, email and copywriting.
You’ll find me in Waterstones! I plan on reading like crazy this year – there are soooo many books I want to read, and sooo many that I have stacked in my Mother’s bedroom, just waiting for me to peel them open. Making time for reading seems to slip me by in the day to day grind of life however. So this year I am prioritising my books above all other forms of entertainment!
Starting my book club is very much part of this effort; and I am planning to blog about as many as possible, especially all the ones that publishers have kindly sent me to look at and write an honest review on.
Can’t have a Gap Year without travelling as far as I’m concerned! I definitely have my heart set on Edinburgh (beyond excited about the FRINGE!), Bosnia and Botswana (I have budgeted for all these this year). Lisbon and Croatia are on the TBC list but I think I can make it happen if I budget/save wisely (HELP ME PPL – I AM TERRIBLE WITH MONIES). So those are my currently planned destinations. One of my best friends, Tom, has also left his job after 5 years to take a few months out to travel – so I am hoping to see him for a week or two somewhere in Asia if I can manage it!
I am travelling pretty much once every other month which currently works for me. I will also be attempting to visit more destinations in the UK and stay with friends, to catch up, read, write and explore new art and coffee shops (naturally) – first stop – going back to Bristol for a few days to explore the city a bit more as it has so much to offer!
I’ve wanted to volunteer at Southampton General Hospital and Yellow Door (formerly known as Southampton Rape Crisis) for ages now, but never could manage to find the time whilst in full-time employment and juggling all of life’s other demands and responsibilities. So this year one of my key goals is to start volunteering again, as the last time I did any volunteering was when I lived in London, back in 2015!
7. Gym Everyday
I’ve been enjoying the #30daygymchallenge that I set myself a lot, and plan to extend it to the end of April, when my younger sister is getting married. However, I feel like due to my flexible routine, I can definitely keep this up for the rest of the year. I’m over 2/3rds of the way through the challenge, but could feel the benefits of it 10 days in! I’ve lost over 2 inches on my waist and my cardiovascular endurance has improved drastically! The only thing I find challenging is that cardio makes me crazy hungry, and I think I haven’t seen results as fast as I would because my diet has been quite flexible – so I am looking to tighten this up a little bit more, as I would love to lose a few more pounds for the end of April and work on improving and maintaining my overall fitness.
Follow me over on my personal Instagram for my daily updates on my 30 day gym challenge ❤ I’m also thinking of doing a few other challenges, like trying out Khloe Kardasian‘s diet for two weeks. I’ve seen some fun videos on Youtube trialling this, and I think doing challenges and posting progress online really helps to stick to things!
8. Establish Good Sleeping Habits
Still struggling with this so I plan to set firm guidelines in place soon, including having a very strict no phone rule before I go to bed and whilst I am in bed. I have developed a terrible habit of watching Youtube videos in bed – the glare from the screen of phones is also said to affect sleep so it’s just all round just no good!
9. Invest in Developing my Skills
As mentioned in my post on my New Year Goals, I want to invest in developing my digital marketing (social media, SEO, website development, coding etc.) and writing skills further. I am also keen to explore video more. I plan to have a look at the courses on Google Garage – I think a lot of them are free and it’s important to stay sharp in digital as it’s such a rapidly growing area. I don’t want to feel like I’ve been out of the loop for a year when I eventually return to full-time work.
10. Build Mental and Physical Health
Probably the most critical of all my goals. I’ve briefly mentioned that I battled an eating disorder and the subsequent impact it had on my mental and physical health in a previous post, so I see this year is a key opportunity to focus on myself. Reflecting on the past 10-15 years, I’ve realised that I do have a tendency to over-work. I think I may be a workaholic. I didn’t really think I was, as I still enjoy time and days out with family and friends regularly, but then I always come back from these events and end up working late into the night! I’ve always been a little ambitious and tend to say yes to more things than I can probably fit on my plate, which means eventually I end up burning out and getting ill! I need to remember and remind myself daily that I need to take time out to just REST. I find that I’m always doing something – so this year I really want to schedule specific time out to relax and reflect. I think I might make that day a Wednesday 😀
I have a few other personal goals but will be keeping those to myself for now! Not sure I will have time for them to be honest, but life, with all it’s nuances, is beautiful at the moment and it continues to surprise me.
Key to making this year a success for me is essentially…
Establishing a Routine…
…and sticking to it!
My routine so far has been sleeping till past midday, eating breakfast, doing some work, life admin, showering, gymming, reading in a coffee shop, seeing clients; then dinner, then more work – like till 3am – and then sleep. Yes, I know, I’ve already turned into a night owl/day sloth. I have been logging and recording my #GapYearDiaries over on my personal Instagram Stories, so you can follow my ramblings and woes on there, but essentially, this is NOT the routine that I plan to have for the rest of the year, as it would not be effective for me in the long-run at all!
My plan is to wake up around 9-10am everyday (I once read that this is optimal for a millennial apparently – and I would agree!), write for 2-3 hours (the 1,000 words for my fiction novel – the idea behind this came from Jojo Moyes and Louise O’Neill, who swear by having a writing routine and word goal for the day); afternoon/evening dedicated to client work, life admin, gym, and some reading where possible. I’m thinking of having Wednesdays and weekends wherever possible ‘off’ – as in from doing any client/freelancing work – as otherwise I tend to find I end up working around the clock. I definitely don’t want this to happen as this is supposed to be my Gap Year! On my days off I shall sleep guilt-free for a LONG TIME, read, eat and watch TV shows – BLISS!! Oh yeh, and see people 😀 ❤ X
If you’ve taken a Gap Year, or are a freelancer in any shape or form, I would love to know any tips you may have, or effective techniques that you’ve used to organise your time. Comment below or get in touch! I would love to hear from you.
Cover image is of the Royal Crescent in Bristol – taken on my iPhone 7 on 28th February 2018, the day after I left my job, and the day before snow enveloped Southampton and most of the UK!