Personal Goals Recap
At the end of 2015, I ran across a blog post by Una Kravets’ (@una) Personal Goals project blog post. Una tracks her weekly, monthly, and overarching goals every week on Github and makes them public for accountability.
Una’s project left an impression on me and inspired me to start my own Personal Goals project. I have been tracking my weekly goals ever since. At first, I felt super productive tacking my goals. I found the routine to be therapeutic when I was having a rough week. There was something cathartic about looking back over the many weeks and seeing things get done even if they were daily or monthly routines.
As someone who battles depression, projects like the Personal Goals project is a helpful way to look back when I’m not feeling as well to realize the progress that I have made. That gut-check helps me to snap my brain back where it needs to be.
When picking my goals, I started the year out with more than five. I ran across Warren Buffett’s “Two List” system for prioritizing goals and I decided to only keep my top five goals. So far it’s worked out well for me.
My goals for the year:
- Be healthy
- Spend money wisely and save
- Write more
- More friend time
- Learn Ukulele
My first goal of 2016 was to be healthy. I started paying attention to my health goals. I now track my heart rate, daily steps, and my weight. It’s amazing that just by tracking these stats, I managed to improve across all three. Everything is tracked via Apple’s Health Kit via my iPhone which makes tracking it easy because it’s automated.
I bought a Garmin vívosmart HR Activity Tracker to track my heart rate and my daily step counts. I wanted something I could wear all the time and only charge once a week. The vívosmart accomplishes this goal really well. I opted out of the more expensive model with GPS because I didn’t want to sacrifice the battery life. My phone has GPS on it and I always run with it, so not having GPS on my watch doesn’t hold me back.
A few years ago, I purchased the Withings Scale. Tracking my weight is effortless and a part of my daily morning routine. I don’t focus on the number, but I find it helps me decide if I need one piece of pizza or two on any given day.
I started running again and managed to either walk or ride my bike to and from work for all of 2016. This helped me increase my daily step count to over 5k a day without much effort. I’m lucky that I live and work downtown so I’m only a 10 minute walk from my office and downtown Lawrence.
I subscribed to Blue Apron and I started cooking at home more. While this doesn’t mean I always eat healthier, I took on the challenge of learning more about cooking and I eat out less knowing there are meals at home to be cooked. I also hate going to the grocery store so having three meals delivered to me is so much less stressful. I know it’s a luxury, but it’s cheaper for two people to eat at home than to go out to eat. As a bonus, I learned much more about cooking since Blue Apron sends me different vegetables than I would find in my local grocery stores.
I’m finishing up 2016, 15 pounds lighter than I started the year with, but more importantly I feel healthier. I did not achieve my overall weight goal, but I’m happy with my progress. I’m also running again.
Spend money wisely and save
Spending my money wisely was one area where I made the most ground. I started by tracking and categorizing my expenses every week in a spreadsheet. Then every month I’d work on reducing my biggest expense category after rent and I work on lowering it. Sometimes this meant calling my service provider or even switching services.
I cut my Cable and Internet bill by $50 to $70 by calling my ISP and asking them to give me a better deal. After my monthly service price crept back up, I called them again.
I reduced my monthly cell phone bill from ~$110 to $35 a month while keeping my same cell network. I have been a happy AT&T customer for well over decade but I wasn’t happy with my monthly bill. I tried lowering my plan through AT&T, but they made that process next to impossible.
I asked my friend circle how much and what providers they commonly used. One of my friends had made the switch from AT&T to Cricket Wireless and his bill was $35 a month with no strings attached. Cricket Wireless is owned by AT&T so my coverage area and reliability is the same as it ever was. My base data plan is 2.5Gs a month and I even went 4Gs over one month and there was no overage charge.
I cut my monthly Internet hosting bills (yes, bills) by a third by consolidating and migrating a few older servers onto to newer servers and consolidating on to Digital Ocean. This included moving my blog from a paid monthly service to Github Pages which are free and easier to update.
While I’m a huge Amazon fan, I canceled my monthly Amazon Subscribe and Save plans. I used to save 10% to 15% a month on having these shipments, but over time these quantities and prices changed and they were no longer good deals. The service is convenient, but I found myself buying items I didn’t really need and overspending. My house is tight on closet space, so I really don’t bulk paper towels if it’s not necessary.
I reached out to a friend to get some help with my credit rating. I hadn’t had a credit card in over a decade which I thought was a good idea. Instead, my credit took a beating and was almost non-existent as a result of my reluctance to avoid any and all forms of debt.
After some advice from a friend, I registered accounts on both Credit Karma and Credit Sesame to start monitoring my credit (note: I only use the free plans).
I also registered for a credit card and now look forward to checking my credit score every month using the free services both of these website provide. My credit score increased by over a 100 points over the last nine months.
I started bringing my lunch to work more often and I actually enjoy doing meal prep. I slacked off over the holidays, but there’s something about spending ~$20 and having eight or more meals come out of it.
A few years ago I moved my blog to Squarespace and while I was happy with the look, I found myself never actually blogging. A few months ago, I switched from the paid service to Github Pages (Jekyll) and I could not be happier with the results.
I’m still not blogging as much as I want to, but I’m happier now with the medium than I have been in the past. Time may be my enemy now, but it’s no longer my dissatisfaction with my blog software. There are so many writing apps which understand Markdown that it makes writing a much better experience than trying to write in a browser.
This goal also encouraged me to start blogging more often in 2017 which is now one of my weekly goals.
More friend time
This was one of my more abstract goals. For two years of running a conference, I found myself skipping social events. I’m kind of an internal extrovert (ambient?) who thrives on both friend and time by myself. That month after running a conference, I find myself needing my batteries recharged and being completely drained.
This past year wasn’t as bad and I hosted a few friends at my place before and after the conference while was nice. I tried to not skip out on as many social events this year, but there’s still a lot of work to go.
I started running again with the Lawrence Trail Hawks which is just as much social as it is a running group. When I first starting running with the Hawks, I was surprised that people actually talk while they run. After a few months, I was doing this too without feeling like I was going to pass out.
I decided that I wanted to learn a non-tech skill. Having bought a Ukulele on a whim a year ago, I decided to enroll in some local classes and learn something new. After two beginner and one intermediate class, I’m happy to say I’m well on my way. I even picked up two more Uke’s over the course of the year.
Since I track my heart rate, I noticed a trend where my resting heart rate drops by ~20 beats per minute when I’m playing or in class. I don’t think of my job as normally being stressful but playing an instrument is a great way for me to disconnect and exercise part of my brain that I don’t use as much.
- Be healthy - I made really good progress this year, but I didn’t reach my overall weight goal.
- Spend money wisely and save - I exceeded my goal, but there is still room for growth and being more frugal.
- Write more - I wrote more in 2016 than any other year but I want to even more this year.
- More friend time - I prioritized more social time with friends, but I also let my internal invert flourish.
- Learn Ukulele - I knew nothing about the Uke heading into 2016 and I ended the year being able to play, learn, and entertain myself.