I was going to wait until April to post this, but I’m a little ahead of schedule. Seriously though, we’re in February which speaks volumes about my productivity. That’s why this might be the most important article that I write this year.
One thing I learned from 2017 is that I need structure.
I can point to a whole host of
excuses reasons for why I didn’t get as much done as I wanted in 2017. I was forced to waste a lot of time on a frivolous lawsuit. I was the general care-giver to a 3 and 4 year old (more on that later). I spent a lot of time reading about politics, which seems to have taken over the general news cycle. Yada, yada, yada.
I’m not sure how much of those will change in 2018, but maybe with a list of steady goals, I can work more efficiently. Or at least I can focus on the things that are really important.
As my 7th grade math teacher had posted in one of those old dot-matrix printer banners, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” So here’s an attempt at a plan. It might be ambitious, but why not “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” (Don’t worry, I think I got all the cliche quotes out of my system.)
Four Burners Theory
I once read something brilliant called the Four Burners Theory. Essentially you imagine your life is a stove with different burners. They represent family, friends, health, and work. The theory is that to “be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. To be really successful you have to cut off two.”
I don’t really believe it’s healthy to cut off any of those burners (especially the “health” one, because that would be the definition of unhealthy). I believe in trying to find a balance among them all. I know that I won’t be Julian Michaels (health) or Jeff Bezos (money), but I don’t need to be. I like to think you define successful yourself.
To make this analogy more difficult, none of these burners include any time for yourself. It is very important to read a book, watch a favorite show/movie, meditate, journal, or enjoy your favorite hobby. I had a conversation with my wife a few days ago about this very thing.
So, I’ve got to manage five burners, which is now two more than I should have to be successful.
Or in the words of Jack Johnson’s Subplots:
Well, how many subplots you got runnin’ around your mind?
The Gordian Knot must be cut through
Give me a red pen, I will simplify your story
Which part of yourself can you afford to lose?
And if you show me your list, then I will show you mine
Let’s kill off a character or two
Here’s my list. Anyone got a red pen? (Err, maybe just leave me comment at the end of this article.)
Everyone says that they want to be more productive. It’s great to say it, but it’s hard to do it. It’s also difficult to measure.
This means that I’m going to have to revisit my old BeBetterNow Productivity Guide for some specific action items. While I would like to be more efficient with email, that’s far too broad for an action item. Instead here are a couple of specific items that I can focus on. Indirectly they’ll help with the email goal, but they aren’t about email at all.
- I will be more organized and reduce clutter. I’ve let too much pile up over the last year or two. It’s time to reduce and simplify.
- I will plan my most productive day. Again, having a plan is a good thing. Executing on it is better. That’s going to be the hard part.
- I will stop fighting poor technology. In an effort to save money, I fought my old computer that had too little memory. It often meant waiting up to 30 seconds for a new Firefox tab to load. (I have a Firefox tab hoarding problem.) I have already solved this by buying a new computer. Now things are fast. I’ve found that I’m am more productive, but the real time spent is often in that browser tab, not just
- I’m going to try to use the Pomodoro Technique. I think that structure will help me get more done.
I need to revisit motivation. I don’t have a lot of competitive fire. After the Patriots’ impossible win in the AFC Championship game, Tom Brady said, “You need sparks. You need something to ignite you. When you’re losing, it’s which play are you going to make that’s going to kind incite everything?”
(The Patriots defense didn’t have those sparks in the Super Bowl, but let’s move on.)
I don’t have 66,000 screaming fans. I need to explore where I’m going to get those sparks from. Perhaps I’m too comfortable. I don’t have a burn the ships situation. I don’t know the exact historic root of that saying, but I guess some conquerors would burn the ships so they had nothing else to go back to. The result was that they had no choice but to win the fight.
That’s motivation, right? While I admire the dedication, as a father of a couple of boys, I won’t burn the ships. In fact, I’ll spend extra time extensively baby-proofing them.
This is a blog about money, so I should probably have some firm money goals, right? Wrong.
I’ve learned that the Mr. Market does his thing. That is true for the stock and real estate markets. I’m a leaf on the wind. When I started writing this article (see the AFC reference above) the market was soaring high. In the last couple of days, it’s taken a nosedive.
It’s not wise to create a goal around something that I have zero control over. Instead, I’ll focus on the long-term, high-level goals. I may not have full control of these either, but at least I can steer my leaf in the wind in the right direction, right?
I’m putting my focus in 2018 into one thing:
Chart a Path for Energy Girl’s Retirement
I started this blog in 2006 in part because the love of my life could retire at 42 with her government pension. Would you want to work 23 more years than your spouse? Of course not!
Life takes its twists and turns and I’m fortunate to have started a family with her. Many of those 2006 thoughts are obsolete today.
She’s eligible to retire in 2019. I have about 15 months to put together a 13 year master plan. No pressure, right?
Does Facebook still allow you to have a status of “It’s complicated”? If so, that’s where this money goal is. It’s a long article on its own, but a lot of it boils down to balancing golden handcuffs and the value of your children’s education.
Aside from that, we have a bunch of short-term money things to think about. I need to flesh this out a bit, but fortunately, I can (and do) write about it publicly here.
Blog, Health, and Personal Growth Goals
I looked at these three things in the spreadsheet I’m making and I got overwhelmed with all the things I wanted to write on each of them. Here are some quick thoughts:
Blog – I’d like to grow blog traffic by 20% from the average of last year.
Health – I’d like to lose 10 pounds (ha ha, such a typical goal), but also get under 20% body fat. I don’t know if anyone really cares about my body type and goals related to it.
Personal Growth – I’d like to finally join Toastmasters and learn how to speak publicly. This is very difficult because the meetings don’t match up well with my wife’s work and taking care of the kids.
You may notice that everything starts with “I’d like.” This is an obvious problem with goal planning. I have a fear of committing to anything.
It looks like we’ll be going to Orlando twice this year. We had planned a Disney trip in March more than 6 months ago. Then FinCon threw us a curve by also being in Orlando on my son’s birthday. The only way to go is to bring the whole family with me. So that’s the plan.
We are also planning to go to Block Island as we do every year. It’s the town with the fewest people (~1000) in the smallest state. Christopher Walken and James Taylor have been known to hide out there.
If you ever want to get away from the hustle and bustle and connect with nature, Block Island is the place to be.
Finally, we’re also looking to do our annual Aruba trip at the timeshare my wife bought long, long ago.
It’s clear to me that I need to “zoom in” and make these definitive goals and break them into smaller pieces. I need to start somewhere and just typing this article helps me focus in on where and how.
I understand how ridiculous it is to write about goals for 2018 this late in the year. However, we’ve actually been working on an important one with cleaning and decluttering the office. By “we”, I mean mostly my wife. I’d like to say that we got a lot more accomplished in January, but we put a lot aside due to everyone in our house passing the flu around.
Do you have goals in 2018? Let me know in the comments!