2018 Goals: Why I’m Starting a Blog

I have been looking for somewhere to write my thoughts in greater depth than 140 (or 280) characters for a while now. Having toyed with longer posts on Instagram (too awash with follower count gaming) and LinkedIn (too formal) I came to the conclusion that I should set up home on Medium. Welcome!

As much as starting a blog with an “I’m starting a blog” post is cliché, I always try to establish the outcome and reason for new time-consuming activities. I am lucky to be surrounded both by people who encourage me but also people who ask “why?” whenever I come up with a new idea. That forces me to think through what I want to achieve and why I’m taking on something new. So here we go…

Why blog?

Starting a blog is really the next step in my efforts to learn faster. I find that as Ultrahaptics grows and I encounter new experiences my desire to understand the world around me and gain different perspectives increases. I have been through school, University and a PhD but I feel that I have never been hungrier to learn than I am now. Every day I learn through reading and doing but I feel writing is another tool that can help and one that I don’t use enough.

So this is not an Ultrahaptics blog – it does not go through the marketing team at UH HQ and is not a venue to push the Ultrahaptics story (sorry Heather). Rather this is a place to reflect and open up on my experiences and hopefully kindle some interesting discussion.

My five reasons for starting a blog:

1. Learning through reflection

It really wasn’t long ago that everyone at Ultrahaptics sat in a single room. Back then, communicating information to the whole company was simply a case of standing up and talking. Today the team is spread over 3 continents, often in 6 or more time zones, which has led me to write more long-form messages to get my input across. On a number of occasions the message that I sent was not the one I set out to write or the one I would have stood up and shouted. The act of writing really helped to gather my thoughts together and understand them. It may seem odd to say I didn’t understand my own thoughts but I’m amazed at the number of times two thoughts that seem logically connected in my head require some bridge for others to connect them that I only notice by writing them down. I hope that starting this blog helps me to think through some of the bigger, more complex or nuanced challenges that I face and help me to form better, more balanced opinions.

2. Improve my writing skills

I used to write a lot during my PhD and while I didn’t particularly enjoy writing I could perceive myself getting better at it. I submitted a paper to a conference or journal every 6 months and each time the quality improved and I got faster at putting my thoughts to paper. Eventually, this enabled me to write the complete first draft of my PhD thesis in 18 days (although I wouldn’t recommend it). As Ultrahaptics grew from a team of 3 to one of 50 my daily activities moved away from doing any real writing and became consumed with reviewing and editing the writing of others and sending short messages. I feel the journey from 50 to 100+ is shifting the tide back in the other direction. My role is increasingly concerned with providing strategic direction and vision to the company rather than deep involvement in any particular projects. Writing is one of the most effective and efficient ways to communicate, particularly to a group of people spread across the globe. It therefore follows that the better I am at writing, the better I can accomplish my job of communicating. Writing a blog is a good way to practice and brush up on these skills.

3. Open discussion and debate

Ok, this has been the number one reason I have avoided blogging so far but I also think it will be one of the biggest benefits I will see. I have an inbuilt need to know the right answer to any question. Whether I am reading, doing or discussing that is the purpose. I’m happy to be proven wrong as I’m far more driven by knowing the right answer than by being right.

Yet it feels different when considering publishing to a public forum that will exist for eternity. When it comes to putting my thoughts in black and white on the internet, I certainly have a fear of being wrong. I am hoping to overcome that fear by starting this blog and embrace people disagreeing with me in public. I hope to spark some interesting discussions and use those in some small way get closer to the “right” answer on some complex topics.

4. Geek out

This blog will also give me the chance to geek out on one of my favourite topics: productivity. Whether at a personal, company or even a national scale I find the principles, methods and measure of productivity fascinating. I don’t view productivity as a relentless pursuit of doing more but rather the quest to be more efficient, happier and to achieve a clear mind enabling you to be fully present and focused on any activity at work or home. I have studied various productivity schools of thought for years and ran into many dead ends. Last year I was lucky enough to participate in a round table at HM Treasury on the Patient Capital Reivew – a key initiative in the current Chancellor’s drive to improve the UK’s languishing productivity. I’m looking forward to writing about my findings and learning what works for other people.

5. Pass on experience

I certainly feel that I am still at the beginning of my journey and have a lot to learn. There are many people writing fantastic content who are vastly more qualified and experienced that I am. My latest discovery is Steven Sinofsky, who was president of the Windows division at Microsoft successfully delivering Windows 7. His blogs are very considered, well structured and packed full of great advice. I highly recommend you read them. However I know that I will never cross that threshold from “am doing” to “have done” in my head and so there is no use in delaying writing until I “know more”.

Reflecting on the four years of Ultrahaptics so far I have packed an awful lot into a very short space of time. In 2017 alone the company had it’s first customer product launch, closed a Series B round, achieved ISO 9001 qualification, launched our academic program, opened an office in Silicon Valley, started doing business in Asia, launched a vision of the future of work with Dell, Nike and Meta, was named the world’s 12th most disruptive company and saw public installations of our technology at the Future of Storytelling Festival, a Star Wars event and the Magic Castle among many others. On a personal level I took up running, learned to ski, moved to a mostly whole food diet and received invitations to ever more eye opening events including a few at 10 Downing Street and the Treasury. I hope that what I write about helps somebody or sparks someone to ask a question. I always learn from these discussions. Let me know if there is anything you want to hear more about!

2018 Goals

In 2017 I set some personal goals for the year. I found it really useful to check in on periodically and make sure I was spending my time on what was most important to me. The goals I set were either too private or confidential to share publicly but this year I wanted to change that. I have objectives for what I want to achieve with Ultrahaptics this year but below is what I will be striving for outside of the office.

My goals for 2018:

  • Write. I am aiming to write at least 6 blog posts this year, keeping them considered and well thought out rather than attempting to hit a large number. Perhaps I will write more but I know life will invariably throw up obstacles and I want this blog to be a benefit, not a source of stress.
  • Read. 2017 was the year where I really shifted away from reading short articles and social posts and instead focused on books and long-form articles. I’m kicking myself for not having done so sooner as it really is the most efficient way to absorb knowledge. I have settled into a routine of listening to audiobooks while driving, walking or cycling and saving long form articles to Pocket for reading when I’m in the right mindset. Surprisingly, Pocket told me that I read the equivalent of 8 books this year. I want to keep this reading streak going so I’m aiming to read a book per month in 2018.
  • Run. I took up running this year for the first time. I have played sport and spent many hours in the gym before but there is something very different about running outside with only your thoughts for company. I found that it really helped my happiness and concentration while also serving as an excellent break during a work from home day or a great way to explore somewhere new while travelling. Having not really done much exercise in a while before running my first 5k time was around 40 minutes and my technique was all over the place. This quickly fell and I made it down to a 25 minute 5k by the end of the year. In 2018 I want to take this below the 20 minute mark but also spend a lot of time running longer distances.
  • Speak. I want to be able to speak German. Through travelling for work I have developed a desire to speak other languages. While I would love to speak Japanese or Chinese I feel that starting with another European language will be easier. I already speak enough French to get by on holiday and I’m more motivated to learn something new so I have settled on German. Germany is the 4th largest economy, has a booming start-up scene and the language is relatively close to English. Setting a measureable goal for learning a language is difficult as I don’t want to take any exams. I’m aiming for 40% fluency on Duolingo as my target. You only achieve around 50–60% fluency through an app so I figure while it may not be the most accurate measure, 40% should be enough for me to get by while travelling in Germany.

So that’s it. Goals set and blog started! Happy New Year everyone!