AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

Looking Backward and Forward

Looking Back

Just under a year ago, you welcomed me on board, and I shared some of my goals for 2014. I also promised to revisit them in 2015 to see how well I followed my own advice after dishing it out to you for a year. Here’s the scorecard:

I resolve to stop spending so much mindless time online. Mixed success. When I’m not careful, I still find myself checking my personal email, my work email, the New York Times, Smitten Kitchen—then cycling back through again. I have had success in limiting the amount of time I have access to the Internet, though. Freedom (which blocks Internet access temporarily) has been a big help with this.

I resolve to read 30 books in 2014. Met and easily exceeded. Some of the best were The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (which, full disclosure, I am exactly halfway through); King of the World by David Remnick and Wise Men by Stuart Nadler. My total list of books was heavily padded by a long series of easy-and-quick-to-read detective novels.

I resolve to increase my upper body strength. Ten complete, real push-ups seems like a good goal. Achieved, briefly. There was a point, somewhere around March, when I could do more than 10 push-ups. More! But then I grew weary of doing push-ups each morning, and the results faded quickly. A carefully designed scientific fitness test administered at the time of this column yields a result of five complete push-ups.

I resolve to stop eating in the car, and while standing up. Largely achieved. I can count on one hand the number of times I ate in the car in 2014. Eating standing up happens more frequently, but overall numbers are down.

I resolve to learn the basics of plumbing-troubleshooting. Almost no progress here. I learned how to leave the faucet dripping when below-freezing temperatures are forecast. I learned not to turn the hot water knob extra hard if the faucet drips for a few seconds after I turn the shower off.

Looking Forward

One of the best ideas I’ve encountered and one of my favorite things to do is an Annual Review. You can do it any time, but this time of year lends itself to the process. You can work on your annual review all at once or over several days. I first encountered the idea on Chris Guillebeau’s blog, The Art of Nonconformity. The steps, found easily online, are outlined below

Start by reviewing the past year. Write a list of things that went well in 2014 and a separate list of things that didn’t. Give yourself a quiet 45 minutes or an hour to do this. 

Consider the broad categories that make up your life and goals. Mine include work, social life, retirement, savings, travel, buying a new (used) car, friends, wellness,and a few others that are too specific to list here.

Within each category, think about what you want to accomplish in 2015. Be specific. Write down each goal in the proper category and leave space for another column next to each goal.

In the final column, write down the specific, actionable steps you need to take to achieve that goal.

Implement. Review each month or quarter. 

Looking  Forward—My Specifics

As a result of my annual review, here are some of my goals for 2015.

I resolve to fully fund my Roth IRA. This is automated, which is the only way it will happen. 

I will step down from two of the volunteer positions I have. This will require some tenacity, because I actually tried to leave one of these positions once, but the coordinator pushed back, and I caved immediately. This time I will be ready.

I resolve to attend 24 yoga classes. My lack of flexibility is becoming alarming. Reaching back to grab my seatbelt has been a little bit of an issue lately. (I guess I could solve this particular problem by not sitting so close to the steering wheel.) The danger of not addressing this now was driven home for me at the airport, when I saw an elderly man who was given special treatment at security because he wasn’t able to lift both his arms above his head. I need to preserve my mobility for about 70 more years.

I will take an extended vacation and trip to an awesome city where I have friends and family. I’ll Airbnb an apartment for three or four weeks, so I can be comfortable, have space, and explore.

If you have New Year’s Resolutions, 2015 goals and/or stories of 2014 resolution successes or failures that you’d like to share, please send them in. It will be anonymous, of course, but sometimes a public declaration of your intent helps keep you on course.