As I expected there aren’t a lot of jobs (in fact just one today and none from yesterday) to put on the fresh sheet so as a compensation I’ve written a posting that I hope will get you thinking about where you want to go not only career-wise but in terms of your entire life in 2012. Yes, I’m talking about the concept of goal-setting, life planning or whatever the heck you’d like to call it. Note however that I am not a proponent of New Year’s resolutions and that is not what this is about at all.
Since I am fortunate enough to have this week off I’m engaging in a relaxed and contemplative planning process using as a foundation the annual review process of blogger and uber traveler Chris Guillebeau. Another goal setting/life planning approach that I think has value is that of Michael Hyatt who asks that you sign up for his email notices to get access to his free ebook – I think it’s well worth it. However, for me personally there is a little too much emphasis on religion but this is a small squibble.
Here are some things that I am keeping in mind as I work on putting together my annual plan.
Make sure my goals are really my own
Chris Guillebeau talks about this when he discusses in his awesome 279 Days to Overnight Success how some people may find his annual income from his ‘unconventional’ activities pathetically low and inadequate in their eyes while others may see it as a vast amount of money. But really what matters is his own perception of his income level.
For me this came up today when I was jogging. I am a very slow jogger who up until a couple of years ago absolutely loathed jogging/running. Then a couple of years ago something ‘clicked’ and I suddenly found running not only bearable but actually enjoyable. Last year I did a (very slow) marathon and I continue to run 4 times a week for an hour each time with great consistency (I’d say at least 90% of the time).
So it flitted through my mind that perhaps I should set a goal of jogging more quickly (which probably popped up as somebody went sprinting by me – which happens all the time, even when I’m out with my running group who are all at least 15 years my senior). But then I thought that the last time that I’d seen an increase in my speed I’d been brought up short by suffering a minor muscle injury a bit later that had made running painful, even slower and not fun at all. Also, I enjoy the meditative state I seem to fall into when jogging – perhaps if I was concentrating on ‘pushing it’ and being concerned about going faster this might disappear.
I decided that it was more than likely that being a faster runner was really not a goal that was coming from inside but rather one that I thought I should be interested in pursuing because of external stimuli (other, older runners passing me for example). Rather what I will do is keep running the same route – without a watch – but once a month check and see how long it is taking me. If it is still within 10% of 60 minutes I’ll keep the length the same – if I am doing it in faster than 54 minutes I’ll add on a bit more distance. If it’s taking me longer than 66 minutes (highly unlikely I think) I’ll reduce the distance.
Pick an overarching theme
Here’s what Guillebeau has to say about theme:
“Every year since 2006, I’ve chosen a word or two as the theme of the upcoming year. In 2009 I had the year of convergence, where I worked to bring together all my different projects into one focus, and 2010 was the year of scale & reach, where I published my first book, went on tour, and ramped up the business. As I finished another book and hosted the inaugural WDS, 2011 was the year of taking flight.”
And judging from the comments he has received on the post this is an idea that really resonates with readers – as it does with me. I think my theme is a little more than a word – it is going to be a phrase made up of two perhaps contradictory sounding fragments:
“building up, paring down”
The first two words refer to my commitment to create a foundation for my life that will serve me well not only in 2012 but for every year to come. This includes activities as diverse as designing and implementing the ‘skeleton’ for a couple of new blogs/websites and producing a storehouse of articles and writing that will allow me to commit to and maintain a regular posting schedule on these sites. I also aim to accumulate a large body of fiction writing that I can return to at a later time to trawl through for good ideas and winnow out a gem or two (hopefully).
Paring down refers to my goal of ‘pruning’ my life to make it more tidy, efficient, potent and most importantly – rewarding. In his book The Art of Non-Conformity Guillebeau talks about how he tries not to exchange money for things he does not value. For example, although he enjoys eating out and does not deny himself a latte should he want one he sees little value in spending lots of money on clothing. I think this is a good approach to make one’s life more ‘essence’-tial – that is with a higher ‘juice to water’ ratio so to speak.
For me things aren’t so clear cut but I do think there are certain food items that I exchange money for that are not serving me well – which is one definition of value. For example, is a decadent dessert that is delicious for a matter of moments but leaves one feeling bloated, guilty and bad about yourself really worth it? With this in mind I want to look at my consumption of wheat, dairy and sugar in the New Year. I also aim to get rid of items that have been hanging around for way too long – an original tangerine iBook, my stamp collection – either for a little bit of cash or as a gift to someone that will appreciate them. I want everything that I consider worth keeping to fit into no more than three of these Rubbermaid totes.
Tomorrow – or Friday – I’ll post Part II of my planning exercise which will discuss some common pitfalls of goal-setting and how to navigate around them