Setting New Goals for 2015, Part 1

Meaning of Life 1

I’m getting ready to set personal goals for 2015. I think about how many books I want to read and which projects I’d like to finish around the house. But then I start thinking, “How do I want to live?” Is it a priority for me to be efficient and cross things off a list? Will it make me happier and less stressed? Yes and no.

Recently I came across a comment online that resonated with me. It was #27 on this list.

“Spend your money where you spend your time, and cut the rest. If you’re a runner, you need good shoes, and if you spend a lot of time in the car, you should invest there. This kind of thinking helps you trim the superficial stuff that does not add value to your life.”

This got me thinking, and not just financially. How do I want to spend my time? How can I spend more time on people and things I value?

I am not the world’s busiest person. I work full-time, but I don’t have kids at home. When I’m not at work, my time is truly my own. I have the usual commitments: a spouse, pets, a house, a yard, a car – and they all need tending 🙂 I also love people who don’t live with me – my child (21), my parents, my nephew (13) and other family and friends.

Sometimes I grumble about commitments I’ve made, such as volunteer work or my book club. I have to remind myself they are choices I made, and ultimately they are optional. If I don’t “feel like” doing them, I can stop!

One of the best lessons I’ve learned in recent years was from the book Spousonomics (now re-titled It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes.) It reminded me that everything I do has an opportunity cost.

Each month I try to balance the time I spend on blogging and volunteer work. Those are my intentional priorities. They take all my free time unless I consciously choose otherwise. The opportunity costs are high, though. For example, if I spend the evening writing a blog post or updating a spreadsheet, I am not watching Netflix with Rom or chatting over coffee with my brother or playing a strategy game with my nephew. My relationships with real-life people are affected.

That being said, the people in my life are not demanding. They are very generous in allowing me all the time I need for personal projects, and asking for very little. But does that make it right for me to take advantage of their good will and to spend less time with them? Even from a self-serving point of view, I have to think about whether I feel better after enjoying the company of others, or spending another 4 hours in front of a computer or a book!

This is complicated (and enriched) by the fact that you, my blog readers, are real people to me, as are all the donors whose inquiries I field as a volunteer “accountant.” (I am the treasurer for my church, which involves a combination of interacting with people, and doing detailed financial work at home on the computer).

I have started the work of keeping things in balance. First of all, I have found myself saying no more and more often when it comes to volunteer work. If I keep saying yes, I get resentful and ripe for burnout. So I have set boundaries and held firm about not taking on more. Therefore, I haven’t found it necessary to renege on anything, and I can keep my commitments.

My blogging and blog reading have no boundaries and are pretty much “one” with my life, but of course there is give and take – read another book here, skip writing a post there. Not entirely consciously, I do set limits. For example, I don’t follow every blogger who follows me. It’s bad etiquette. But if I know I won’t read and comment on someone’s blog regularly, I don’t add it to my feed. I have even worked out a little system whereby I read some blogs daily, and others I bookmark to check from time to time.

Meanwhile I have only watched one movie with Rom in the last 3 months and I have three friends who literally have been waiting for an email or letter from me for a year.

I have to hold myself accountable, too. If I blog less or volunteer less, and I read more and watch more movies, will I be happier? My inclination is to spend time doing things that feel purposeful. I feel productive if I write a blog post, but not if I spend the same amount of time reading Hello magazine. But do I want to be current on celebrity gossip? Yes!

I am not a complete slug – I do all the normal things like groceries and housework and yard work, and most of the time I actually enjoy them. But when setting personal goals for 2015, I am going to be thinking hard about whether they reflect my values, and where and with whom I want to spend my time.

I don’t think you will be seeing any less of anexactinglife 🙂

44 comments

  1. What a great post. We were just discussing what our goals we are going to focus on for next year. That quote is perfect. I’m going to continue thinking about it as I plan my goals for the next year.

  2. Great post! I’ll certainly admit I’m inclined to the list and cross things off mentality! But the purpose comes from that – I don’t want to spend years saying ‘I want to do that’ and start doing those things – be they pricey, special or indulgent! Interestingly and topically, recently I wrote to myself ‘read the economist/a book instead of Facebook’ing on the train’. It hasn’t eventuated, but at least I’m mindful of my priorities there! (I was solely reading the bible on the train, and I was very committed, but since I finished that ‘list item’, things have slipped. Although, work will be thankful that I’ve let work emails seep into the commute time!)

    I’m no where near 2015 goals, I think in the last night or two the BF asked what my New Years Resolutions were (same thing really). No idea – surely the time off between Christmas and New Year are for crystallising those, right?

    • Of course I am a lister and a tracker too, and I do find it useful when I’m busy and I need to remember things. But not so helpful when I need to balance 20 hours of blogging and 20 hours of volunteering in the same week! Sometimes I need to step back and look at the whole picture.

      Yes, year end is a great time for reflection and planning!

  3. Great post and great quotes. You reminded of the use of term “elegance” in computer programming which goes part and parcel with your post. Elegance means the most efficacious use of computer programming. It does not mean the most complex, it means the most simple way do things over and over with lots of information.

    Here is an example. Would you spend 24 hours to program something in twenty seconds that would only be done one time. Or would you spend one hour programming something that would take two minutes if it only was done one time? Assuming the results are the same or close enough for the purpose at hand, the latter is more elegant. Yet, if this program was done daily, then looking back from a year, the former would be the most elegant.

    So, to your post, we should not sweat the small stuff or buy the most expensive item if we don’t need it. In this manner, we can spend time and money on what is important. We can be elegant.

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I too have been facing the same kind of mental challenge and it is nice to know that I am not the only person that works through those ideas.

    • Hi and thanks for stopping by! I just love what you said on your blog: work inside the home, outside the home and for others. That really puts things in perspective for me.

  5. You balance so many things, Dar. It must take quite some time to sift through and prioritise, especially since you seem to enjoy each area greatly and thrive on all of them. It must also be very hard to prioritise when you have such a wide array of interests and involvements.

    I looked up the reviews on Spousanomics. Very interesting concept – I’d love to read it and see how it might change my ideas of goal-setting. I am keen to set written goals for 2015. I stopped doing written ‘goal reviews’ this year and I’m surprised how much the lack of written reflection impacted on my ability to stay focussed on my main priorities.

    • Some of the reviews found that Spousonomics promoted stereotypes such as “husband in the man cave and wife doing all the housework and childcare.” Setting aside that it is based on heterosexual couples, the reason many marriages bog down is because these situations are sadly often true. (My particular pet peeve is men who say they are “babysitting” their kids when their spouse goes out!) I liked the book because it goes over common trouble spots and suggests win-win strategies for resolving them.

      My goal problems were the opposite this year – I set a lot of goals, tracked a few, and lost sight of the big picture – what do I want to be doing with my life?

  6. ‘Spend money where you spend your time’. I like that one. It’s further justification for my motorhome makeover!

  7. Are you thinking of one or several goals/resolutions? I always try to aim for several but in different aspects of my life to create balance (what I value).

  8. great post, this is exactly where I am, looking at how to move the new year forward, I have learned a lot this year so hopefully it will all make sense to me when January 1st comes round.

  9. Great post! It hadn’t dawned on me because I like to do a lot of different things but after reading your post I may try to refine my goals a bit for 2015 and focus on the things that are most important to me. Definitely something to think about when setting (and achieving) my goals!

  10. Dar, I’m glad you won’t be leaving any time soon. As the year comes to and end, I have been thinking about my goals for next year. They are vague at the moment as I usually define them after Christmas guests leave.

  11. A really insightful, thought provoking post.
    Jean
    x

  12. It is a tough balance but I’m glad you’ll still be here 🙂 I’m not ready to think about 2015 yet!

  13. Thoughts about next year and associated goals are just not happening in my mind a the moment. Maybe next week or maybe after the holiday – I should get onto it soon though or the 1st will be here and I’ll have no idea about how to start tackling the new year. Now that could be one of my ‘resolutions’ – stop procrastinating.:)

    • If I thought up my resolutions on the 1st or 2nd and started them on the 3rd or 4th, I would be very unhappy with myself 🙂 Which is ridiculous because really one day is as good as another!

  14. Ginger R

    This post felt like you’ve been in my head. I’ve been thinking about my goals for 2015 too. After retiring in 2012 – I set 9 goals for 2013 and recommitted to them in 2014. Recently – I assessed my progress – did my annual “report card” – and found… I made great progress in goals for my health, organizing space in our home and creating a household cleaning routine with simplified methods and supplies. Finances are doing okay – but I wanted to dig deeper into the details and cut more wasteful spending and I didn’t. I made some progress taking care of Mom’s business – she’s 87 and lives with us. Still a few tasks to complete there. Organizing photos was also one of my goals and it has the lowest priority of them all. At least they’re all in containers stored in one area. But – I accumulated more photos! I have ours – and Mom’s – and now Dad’s.

    What bothered me is… I didn’t spend time on the things that I feel matter most to me: Spending time with Dad (87) and spending time on my hobbies – the”fun” things – the things I enjoy doing with my Mom (87) who lives with me – those things are getting pushed aside while I work on health and home. We also have a daughter and her family (son-in-law and 2 grandkids). They lead busy lives too – but we don’t spend as much time with them as we’d like. This is not acceptable to me and I’ll change it for 2015. I don’t know how yet. I’m still thinking about it.

    One thing I realized… I had better balance in 2013 than this year. In 2013 – I set aside time each Sunday – with my morning coffee – to assess my progress and focus my plan for the week. I tracked my weekly progress in my goals spreadsheet. I think that may be the key. In 2014 – I got lax on the weekly assessment.

    • We are in the same place. I pretty much stopped tracking my goals, too. Anything that was an obligation got done. I haven’t had a bad year (3 vacations!) but it was a “nose to the grindstone” year. I am looking for more balance. I will have an upcoming post about spending more time with my important people!

  15. Hi Dar
    I’ve been mulling over my thoughts re my 2015 personal goals ever since you posted this…and I still can’t seem to get my head around them. Such a lot has changed for me this year and perhaps that’s why I’m struggling to get my thoughts together. Anyway I shall continue to think, and for now just concentrate on getting my financial goals organised. Numbers are much easier to process than the other stuff 😉

  16. Alice

    That’s a nice approach, indeed! So glad that your blogging will go on! Thanks!

  17. Thanks, Alice – I hope all is well with you!

  18. Alice

    Everything is well here, December is definitely the busiest month for me! 🙂

  19. SP

    Goal setting is something that I love, but have struggled with for the last two years. This post was very inspirational to me. I have been treading water the past year, and I need to be more intentional with my life.

  20. I like that quote too “Spend your money where you spend your time”, I haven’t heard it phrased like that before. I’m going to do some thinking on that. I also enjoyed reading Spousonomics (wish they didn’t re-title it) and found it really helpful in maintaining personal relationships in general, not just romantic ones.

  21. Really fab quote. Made me think – I spend so much time blogging and always dream of investing more money into it, but because it is not a THING, I don’t. Instead I buy trinkets that I rarely use.

  22. i need something like this to read as I draft my 2015 goals as well.

    “spend money on things you spend your time on” — is definitely a quote to remember on this site. it also gets me thinking on exactly WHAT i spend my time on and WHAT i SHOULD be spending my time on.

    Thank you for this read 🙂 you’ve got yourself a lovely blog!

  23. Pingback: Setting New Goals for 2015, Part 2 | An Exacting Life

  24. A line that I grapple with is: you show what you value by what you give your time. And so for me that means I value work most in my life – well during term time. More than my health, sometimes more than my immediate family, definitely more than my friends. No community volunteering either.

    Yet I don’t want work to consume so much of my time anymore. And I’d like to blog regularly again.

    So I have the same issue: goals, values and time need to be aligned.

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