As we come to the end of the year, I have been reflecting on the things I set out to do this year, and on my hopes for the coming year. At the start of the year, I posted a number of goals for my “public” life this year, and I also wrote up a number of personal goals for myself. Goals are well and good, but if I do not evaluate how I did on them, and think about areas I succeeded and areas I failed, and on how I might do better in the future, those goals will not make much difference. (Much difference, I say, because I have long found that even just having goals makes a difference in how I approach the year.)
At the start of the year, I posted a list of “Public-ish Plans”. My self-evaluation on those counts isn’t amazing. The Winning Slowly goals, I managed: we have separate pages for each season, and we recorded two more seasons—each one better than those before. Hosting things on Digital Ocean and migrating my wife’s blogs off of Blogger and WordPress, not so much (read: not at all, though I did start writing a Ghost theme for her current WordPress site… and haven’t touched it in at least six months.) I wrote some music this year, but not three minutes worth—you can hear all 37 seconds of it on SoundCloud. I wrote poetry; I managed to average about one poem a month starting in March. I wrote a few essays, but nothing close to one per month. I posted a whopping two book reviews (out of the six I hoped for), and both of those were written for school. I managed to add a picture to the About page, but I didn’t even come close to blogging about the family on a monthly basis.
In sum: about 50/50 on those goals.
That said, I managed quite a few other things not on that list this year. I started learning Rust, and started a podcast about it which is easily the most successful online endeavor I’ve ever undertaken, with a good 500 regular listeners. (That’s a small crowd on the internet, but massively more than any writing I’ve done, and actually larger than Winning Slowly’s current audience.) I have basically carried home a major transition effort for my main software development client, and helped them bring a new developer up to speed. I landed a new software development job, doing things I’m much more passionate about, which I’ll be starting in mid-January. I ran a triathlon (and placed third in my age group), and I set another personal record in the half-marathon I ran this fall.
One of the lessons I take away from this last year, then, is that it’s important to set goals, but it’s also important to let those goals change over time. Some of those goals are still things I’d like to accomplish—like migrating us to DigitalOcean, and getting Jaimie’s sites off of Blogger especially. Another (fairly obvious one) is prioritizing. I had a lot of major goals for last year, and in retrospect, I think I had too many. It’s hard to keep all of those in sight of the course of the year, especially with other professional and scholastic demands to meet (themselves often good in their own right).
With all of these things in mind, I’m planning to approach 2016 a little differently. I haven’t made formal goals yet, but I have come up with the basic outline I want to use going forward.
First, I am going to set a single goal in each of five major categories in my life:
- spiritual: everything in my walk with God, including my own personal devotions, my involvement in the life of the church, and my “ministry” actions in general
- family: both quantity and quality time spent with my wife and my quickly-growing-up little girls
- personal: podcasting, blogging, and writing for other outlets
- professional: working in my new job and as a consultant, and carrying on toward the conclusion of my M. Div.
- health/fitness: continuing to stay healthy, including eating well and continuing to stay fit by running and doing triathlon work
Note that this list is intentionally unordered.1 My spiritual life remains the highest priority, because if my walk with God falters, everything else will go amok. Beyond that, however, the amount of time and effort I invest in each category not only can but should vary over time. Family will broadly remain in the second of those slots, though there may be days or the occasional week where one of the other concerns very temporarily takes a higher priority. The others will adjust relative to each other as need be: there will be times when school requires more, and so my own writing gets less time, and there will be times when I have more flexibility and so am able to devote more to those personal interests, and so on. The goal here is not the mythical notion of “balance” but rather faithfulness, which has some superficial similarities but ultimately plays out rather differently.
I’m hoping, in light of those goals, to set annual, monthly, and daily goals in each of those categories. The daily goals should help me move toward the monthly goals, and the monthly goals toward the yearly goals. I only get to set one goal in each of those categories for each tier: at five goals, that’s already plenty! I hope that evaluating each day will help me be more focused and faithful, and that situating daily and monthly goals each in light of larger goals will help me actually accomplish those larger goals. We’ll see how it goes, of course. I’ll be back in a week or so with whatever goals I decide to make public in those categories, and again in a year with an evaluation rather like this one.
Under the covers, it’s literally an HTML unordered list.↩