To help keep myself on track, internist I’ve decided to do a quarterly review of my goals for 2010.
I’ll try to be quick about this, so here is a visual overview of the progress. There are 32 tasks, so approximately 8 should be done. I’m about on track for that, but slightly behind (the green & yellow squares in the image add up to 7). Here is a key for the image:
- Green: Completely done.
- Yellow: Ongoing tasks which I’m on track for but which can’t be considered completed unless I keep them up for the whole year (such as “organize desks”).
- Gray: Long tasks with measurable progress where I’m as far along as should be expected by the end of the first quarter.
- Red: Tasks which I’m far off where I should expect to be at this point.
Some things of note
As you can see in the todo list widget, my email inbox is still way out of control. I do okay at clearing out the non-actionable junk, but real emails which I need to respond to just end up piling up. Unfortunately, beyond that useful piece of data (which I didn’t need the todo list widget to explain to me), I’ve noticed that the todo list widget isn’t terribly helpful anymore. When I had a few discrete places I could go to track my tasks it made sense, but now there are just too many places & it’s not worth trying to integrate each new one with my widget.
I’m doing really poorly at my blogging goals, but not for lack of interesting things to write about. The blog posts which I think of as being worthwhile to write seem to be time-consuming to do correctly and I haven’t been setting aside sufficient time for that.
Also, I realized early on that it could be dangerous to myopically focus on a list of goals set at the beginning of the year. Therefore, I’m more than willing to cancel or change some goals if I feel that they’re no longer worth pursuing as much as other, more urgent goals.
What is perhaps my favorite goal on the list – doubling LyricWiki‘s traffic – was almost attained early on. I had a couple of weeks to really focus on the site, then right at the end of those weeks we had a spike from an interesting page getting big on StumbleUpon. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to focus as closely on the site and it’s stayed at about the level as right before the spike. So after the spike worked it’s way out of the monthly calculations, we’re only about half way to the overall goal for the year. I was really excited about the potential of being able to reach the annual goal in just the first quarter but it didn’t pan out.
That’s it for now. Let me know if you have any email tips!
I’ve always resisted making New Years Resolutions partly because they don’t seem to work for people, price but primarily because I think that I should be constantly evaluating myself and my life – and if there is something I need to fix that should be worked on immediately instead of waiting for an arbitrary time once per year.
That said, apoplexy things have been changing quite quickly in my life I’ve decided this would be a good time to regroup and put together ALL of my goals for the year and do so publicly so that there is some accountability. I’ll be keeping track of progress throughout the year using the tag 2010goals.
Since this is atrociously long for a blog post, phimosis I’ve boldfaced just the goals so that you can pick and chose which descriptions to bother with. If you have the time though, you might as well read the whole thing!
It makes sense to me to break the goals up into categories so the list doesn’t seem quite so overwhelming:
- Wrap up the financial stuff (taxes, transfers, etc.) from the LyricWiki acquisition and lawsuit. This is more complicated than it sounds, but with the suit settled and behind me, it’s going to be much more clean-cut about what needs to be done from here on out.
- Make my own meals most of the time. Whew-doggy San Francisco is expensive! It can cost about $20 to get a filling lunch at the hot-food bar of Whole Foods. Add in occasional breakfast, second breakfast, and sometimes second-lunch and this adds up. It’s only a few hundred dollars a month but it’s money that’s basically wasted. I live so close to work that this should be easy to fix. Also putting this in the “Health” section below.
- Get some secured debt. While I officially “don’t believe in” debt, I actually need to get some. What I mean by this is that I philosophically prefer to live my life by only spending money I’ve already earned and economically there are myriad benefits to this also. I realize not everyone has the luxury of being able to do this (and I’m not judging them), but I was lucky enough to be clothed, fed, etc. by parents until I was plenty old enough to provide for myself. Although I’d rather not get into too much detail about why I “need” debt, suffice it to say that it’s not safe from a legal position not to have any secured debt. It’s absurd to a level I’d rather not get into. On the bright side, this is a good opportunity for me to buy a house or condo and either rent it out or move into it. Rent is absurd in San Francisco so if I can get a loan with a low enough rate I might be able to offset the closing costs and upfront points on the loan in a few years. Typically it takes 5 years for buying a house to be a better investment than renting. I haven’t lived anywhere for even a whole year since probably high-school but hopefully I can stay put for a little while now and also shorten down the time needed to make that profitable.
- Once I have a financially “normal” month (I keep assuming this will happen), calculate my minimum monthly cost-of-living and then see if I can drive that down at all. It’s pretty hard to make good financial decisions without knowing this number.
- Get some passive income other than interest. This is primarily an experiment.
I feel kind of weird sharing this section, it’s almost too personal.
- Get an unambiguous six-pack with obliques. Abs are hard to measure, but by my measurements I’ve been waffling between 4 and 6 for a while (with most of the time spent at 4). The goal is to make it so that I’m consistently in a state where they’re recognizable to any measurement as being a six-pack.
- Make my legs match my body (figure out a diameter for my quads & calves). I’ve always had runner’s legs in part because I’m so paranoid about my knees that I’ve slacked off when it comes to strength-training on my legs. I’ve finally found a set of workouts that I’m comfortable with (even with the knee-paranoia) so it’s time to stop looking like Jack The Pumpkin King.
- Get 16″ biceps (I think). I’m assuming they’re 15″ right now but I’m actually not positive. While writing this I just ordered one of those diameter tape measures (for $6 shipped – not bad) to make sure I have the numbers right.
- Weigh 180lbs. minimum. My weight fluctuates about 5lbs from when I wake up until I go to sleep. I’d like to wake up weighing 180 lbs. This should be a gimme if I hit the goal for having reasonably sized legs – I’m at about 174 lbs. in the morning right now.
- There’s one more but it’s beyond the comfort level of what I want to say on this blog. I’ll still tell you if I finish it or not though.
- Find a doctor. I haven’t been to a doctor since I gave myself tendinitis training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon and before that, not since my caffeine-induced ulcer (which was 2006?). Before that, the last time I saw a doctor was my pediatrician. Since I have no family out here in California, I’d really better get on finding one now while I’m healthy in case I need one.
- Remove Vitamin-D deficiency. My diet is decent, but my main sources of vitamins (cereal and protein shakes) don’t contain Vitamin D. Also, you’re supposed to get about 15 minutes of unprotected sunlight per day at least twice a week. That’s certainly not happening. Vitamin-D deficiency doesn’t show up easily but has a lot of published research suggesting it is dangerous and linked to all kinds of bad things from osteoporosis to a number of cancers. I’m actually not positive I have a deficiency, so I’m planning to have a blood-test to find out my initial level – this will also act as a forcing function to finding a doctor out here. Fixing this is simple with inexpensive supplements (about $10 per year). This idea was completely stolen from one of Kevin Rose’s resolutions.
- Make my own meals most of the time. I have no problems eating well when I make the food myself, but I find it challenging to have a somewhat diverse and healthy diet and eat out. The problem is more extreme at the moment because I’m new to San Francisco and don’t know all of the places to go. This was also in the “Finance” goals.
Most of this section will just be about metrics. Biases are always the strongest when evaluating yourself, so I find that what works for me is to have either external feedback or raw data (yay science!).
- Track how much I actually work per week. Also, split this up between conventional work (“day-job”?) and side-projects. This will let me see how changes in these numbers affect my morale, energy-levels, productivity, and happiness.
- Fix my todo widget. That thing was money.
- Double the traffic on LyricWiki. Technically measuring unique US visitors per month even though that’s not the most interesting metric in my opinion.
- Finish the Utopia project. Sorry that’s vague, but I can’t be too detailed about unreleased projects. As things happen, I’ll try to blog as much as I can about them.
- Create a passive income product. I have a specific idea. Although I don’t want to share it (more out of embarrassment for talking about something that doesn’t exist yet than secrecy), the goal is to finish this product and release it and see what happens.
- Prototype an affordable computer. This is something I think really needs to be done since OLPC didn’t live up to its original goals and is a specialty product focused on developing nations (and thus having higher requirements that the product work in low-electricity, low-connectivity places with sandstorms and the like). I’m sure I’ll proselytize more on this later. To be clear, I think OLPC is a great project which is making good progress, but I think there is more to be done in tangential areas.
- Release at least one new software product. Oddly, this isn’t a duplicate of the first bullet point (that isn’t software). I need to release software regularly to feel good about life and the universe.
- Make an emergency-preparedness stash. It’s in my nature to be a little over-prepared for extremely horrible-case scenarios (for the economic reasons mentioned below). Also, I’ll bet reading Neil Strauss’ “Emergency“ didn’t help any! Now that I live in San Francisco which shakes like a bowl of Jell-O it’s kind of negligent of me to not make sure I’m taken care of. When something like Katrina or the Haitian quake happens, you’re not supposed to expect FEMA to be there for a few days. Almost every major natural disaster leads to looting. I’d like to have just enough supplies (and protection measures) so that I don’t have to contribute to the problem or become a victim of it. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever need to use this stuff, but it’s one of those things where the economics seems to make sense. It’s a small investment which will have a rather small chance of being used but would have near-infinite value (ie: saving my life and/or lives of loved ones) if needed. This isn’t overly time-consuming or something I’ll have to do regularly, but it’s the kind of task that keeps on being pushed to the back-burner so I’ve really got to get on it. We’ve had 15 quakes in Northern California in the first two weeks of 2010 – there were 37 in all of 2009. That’s just a reminder that Mother Nature isn’t going to wait for me to be ready.
- Finish unpacking. It’s a good thing I have all year to do this. It’s definitely an 80/20 problem. I’m unpacked enough to have guests over, but I’m not actually done.
Organizational / Time-management
- Finish most of the books I’ve started before starting others. They’re loose-ends and that’s distracting. It adds stress every time I think about reading and prevents me from buying new books.
- Get a system for email management. I get a ton of mail and since I’ve moved, the queue of un-handled mail has been growing at a frightfully steep rate to the highest it’s ever been. I’m over 215 unread messages in my inbox right now. Since the only part of my todo widget that’s working at the moment is the unread-email metric, this steep line shows how bad it’s gotten (please note that since the widget doesn’t have functionality for historical data, that link will only be relevant near the time that this post was written).
- Use my feed-reader only 2 hours per week. My biggest time-sink. I have a really hard time separating what I need to read from what I don’t.
- Move my “idea graveyard” into my private wiki. I have this concept where I put all of the ideas that I don’t have time to work on yet. The only idea that I put into the graveyard that ever came back out of it was LyricWiki. That worked out pretty well ;) Right now the ideas are on several scraps of paper which is ghetto and keeps me from adding to them.
- Get my sites up-to-date. My blog, my facebook account, etc. should have links to the current projects I’m working on and retire the old or boring links. Some of my sites are down temporarily, this blog’s about page is out of date, and this skin doesn’t have any of the widgets in it that it should. My online presence is a mess!
- Make my desks always organized. For some reason, my desks tend to pile up with things that I’m leaving in my way so that I remember to do them. I may need to use some GTD principles, but regardless my workspace needs to be free of these distractions & clutter.
- Become almost completely cloud-based. This means that everything I need should be accessible from anywhere I have an internet connection and it shouldn’t matter if one (or all) of my computers crash. I’m fairly cloud-based already, but I want to get to the point that the only thing I have only on my hard-drives are personal photos (that I don’t feel like sharing on Flickr or Facebook). In addition, I need a system to get my music collections from various computers combined. iTunes makes it a royal pain (many of my songs were bought before they removed the DRM) and my Amazon purchases are intertwined in weird ways with them. My music library is scattered across 5 computers right now.
- Blog more! I’m aiming for at least once every two weeks. I’ve been keeping a list (in the cloud no-less) of things I think I should blog about (meaning that I think I have something of value to say) and it’s at over 100 items now. They don’t do any good in that list, so I’ll have to force myself to actually write them. Since this personal blog has no definite theme it will probably never have a regular readership by people who don’t know me personally, but single posts like this random tip on how to modify or delete macros in Notepad++ still get indexed by search engines and help dozens of people per day.
- Conquer a huge challenge. I definitely need a huge challenge to keep me going and nothing seems to beat the thrill of victory for me (especially in positive-sum games where there are no losers). Last year I ran a half-marathon because I just really needed to. It accomplished its purpose but in the future I’d like to do something which is more productive in itself. The challenge should in some way help change the world. Releasing new sites or products, etc. would be valid. Any suggestions?
- Have 4 different guests visit. When it became clear I was moving to California, many people said they planned to visit. That’s one of those things that just tends to slip though. I really have to get going with this if I’m going to be living across the country from most of my family and friends. If you’re reading this and you want to visit, let’s make that happen!
Any other suggestions? Feel free to leave me a comment if you think there is something I need to improve upon that I didn’t cover here (seriously).