Here are my goals for the year. I post them, not because I think people are dying to know what I'm doing, but because psychologically it makes all the difference in the world for me to make my goals public. The people who matter most in my life will read this; that's all I need to make the commitment stick.
Have a baby! A new child is going to put all kinds of strains on our lives this year. Janet, of course, will take the brunt of it; mothering that child will be her only goal for this year. But I do want to make commitments that will help her:
Paternity Leave. I will schedule (and really take!) two weeks of paternity leave from all work (both day job and writing job), to begin the moment we go into labor.
Support Janet's personal time. I'll do whatever is needed to support Janet in doing the personal pursuits that recharge her: singing in the Women's Voices Chorus, and doing yoga. Both are once-a-week commitments. Janet is a much happier person when she gets to do those things.
Be present for my kids. Since I mostly work from home, I have more opportunity than most dads to participate in my kids' lives. But I don't think I take full advantage of it; my time with them is usually distracted, and brief, and irregular.
Regular morning time. The kids are up by 6:45 am; I need to be ready to leave all other work behind to be with them most days (5 out of 7) until they leave for school at 8:00 am. That means not flitting back to the computer as quickly as possible.
Regular evening time. I will end work by 5:30 pm most days (5 out of 7) so I can be with the kids until bedtime at 7:30 pm.
Be present for my wife. Janet and I have a very good working, practical, loving relationship…but we tend to let our duties pre-empt having fun together.
Get out together. We will have six get-out-of-the-house, leave-the-kids-behind dates this year. (Some might consider that low, but considering our average for the last five years has been about one date per year, this would be a vast improvement.)
Serve on the EWS Board. I joined the Board of Directors for the Emerson Waldorf School last year. My personal goals for "school work" this year are:
Woodland Shop Task Force. I am leading a team of people to review and renew business plans for the school's retail store. It's a big job.
Perfect our Enrollment tracking. I designed and implemented a CRM system for the school last year, but still don't have a completely automated system for handling the school's enrollment process. I want to see that completed this year.
Publish! After some soul-searching about my motivations for writing, I realized the most important thing for me to accomplish was to get (more) published. I've got into print before, but I'd like to make it a regular thing. I would like to see my work in four new publications that I can use as clips to further my writing career. It doesn't much matter what the publications are, so long as the market and content make it clippable -- the sort of work I'd cite as representative of my talents and interests, and the sort of work I want to continue doing. So, writing a 300-word sidebar for BeliefNet.com would qualify, but writing a marketing brochure for the industrial applications of Stay-Puft marshmallows would not.)
Make money. Although getting published and read is my chief interest, I am still interested in making it a sustainable career. However, the economic times have made it especially tough for even seasoned professionals to find work, and especially since I'm still only doing this part-time, I think my initial goal for income should be quite modest. I intend to make $X in gross revenue. [I decided, in retrospect, that it would not be in my best interest for the whole world to know that number. If you know me, you can ask. It's a pitiful amount if I intended to make a career of it, but enough to show I'm more than a hobbyist. More than a laptop, but less than a car.]
Blog. As usual, I'm going to keep daily blogging, at least until some other professional writing project can make a more legitimate claim on my time. I am most successful with my blogging when I do it first thing after I get up (usually about 5:15 am – 6:15 am).
Daily reading. One of my perpetual frustrations in life is the pile of books that sits in my office, waiting to be read. Some have waiting in the same stack for years. Occasionally the thought occurs to me that I will be dead before I finally get to them. I read newspapers and magazines regularly, but the books have been overly neglected. For the last two months or so I started designating a book I wanted to read, and then reading at least 15 pages a day. 15 pages is easy enough to squeeze into even a busy day, but it adds up. In two or three weeks you can get through a typical book. The reading feeds the writing.
Show up for work. My professional writing development has been delayed primarily because I never really, really dedicated significant time to the task. As Woody Allen put it: "80% of success is just showing up." This year I have decided to dedicate my working mornings, four hours for four days a week (Monday though Thursday, 8 am to 12 noon) to my writing job. That means I'm not working on anything else in that time, other than achieving my writing goals. I will tolerate whatever interruptions I would tolerate for any other job – occasional diversions are ok, so long as lost work time is made up within 24 hours.
Limit my work hours. Not working crazy hours takes enormous discipline for me. This year I will work no more than 16 hours per week in my software consulting business (my day job), with 13 or more billable hours.
Document in real time. My efficient skyrockets when I document my work as I do it. This year I will enter all my billing notes in real time, as items are completed or at noon or 5 pm, whichever comes first. I will create tickets for all items before starting work.
Daily exercise. For the last three months I have followed a schedule of daily exercise, alternating cardiovascular and strength training. The cardio workout is either a two-mile run, or 20 minutes on an elliptical machine. The strength training is push-ups, crunches, and stretching (~15 minutes). This year I will continue that daily regimen, except when illness or injury prevent it.
An important aspect of sustaining my writing life is making sure I have the money to do so…especially in these hard times.
Catch up the books. I want to get all my financial records, especially my investments, completely recorded and reconciled in Quicken…and keep them that way on a weekly basis. (This is especially important for calculating my burn rate and keeping an eye on expenses.)
Complete all postponed financial to-dos. I have a list of several important-not-urgent financial tasks that never seem to get done, even after years: rolling over various retirement accounts, setting up 529s for the kids, reconciling records for my health savings account. This is the year that list is completed.
You might have noticed there are a lot of "do-every-day" goals in this list. Many experts suggest that committing to doing something every day is a tough resolution to keep, and any failure will immediately break your spirit. I agree, in principle; but in practice I've found I have to structure my life to do something every day if I want to do it with any consistency at all. If I had a 5% failure rate on any of those goals, I would still count it as a successful resolution.