Goals, Goals, Goals: 2012 Edition

Every year starts out with the best intentions, grand plans, and dreams of what’s possible. By March, the initial momentum is usually gone, and it takes a lot of effort and motivation to rekindle the excitement that filled those initial weeks.

This year, I’m doing things a little differently. For starters, I’ll be targeting only two areas of focus throughout the year. I hesitate to call them goals because they are really too broad and complex to fit the textbook, “S.M.A.R.T.” definition of goals everyone is used to.

Another new feature for this year is a list of 52 “things” I’d like to do this year. It’s a mixed bag, ranging from things I can do in an hour to things that will take a few months. There are things that I can start on immediately and those that will probably remain unfinished until December. Some of the items on the list include:

  • Sell something online.
  • Try a juice fast.
  • Donate a carload of stuff.
  • Lift or press my body weight.

It’s roughly one item per week, but as you can see it’s not that simple. Thankfully, a lot of the items relate to my larger goals for the year, so they will correlate to what I’m working on. Speaking of larger goals, here are the two areas of focus for me this year:

Focus #1

I call this one start with fitness. Start, because other good things will naturally flow from better health and well-being. Fitness is going to be front and center for me this year, because it has to be. Doing it any other way hasn’t worked in the past–there are simply too many other things that get in the way.

I’m attacking the problem from multiple fronts. First, I joined an amazing community in November called Fitocracy, which is essentially a way to gamify fitness and also add aspects of social media. (It’s in private beta, but if you’d like an invite, email me.) It’s motivated me to learn workout techniques I’ve never heard of and become physically and mentally stronger.

On the food side of the equation, I’m finally facing my biggest demon: sugar. I have a sweet tooth, an addictive personality, and I stress eat, which is a deadly trifecta. With all due respect to those of you who have overcome drugs and alcohol, which I know is an incredible feat, I have come to realize that I need to treat this issue like an addiction.

One little taste of sugar sends me back to get more and more. Over the last few months, I have drastically cut the amount of processed sugar I eat to nearly nothing, which I’m very proud of and need to continue. I feel better, and surprisingly, the pleasure I get from eating sugar is almost gone.

Lastly, I’m aiming to make fitness fun again by constantly learning new exercises (I like change and variety), engaging in the sports I like (cycling, tennis) and trying out timed running (I’m highly motivated by beating personal records).

Between all of those efforts, I ought to make a dent in the way I look and feel, and consequently my weight and internal well-being. We shall see…

Focus #2

The second focus this year will be buying an affordable home. It has been a dream of ours for a long time, and many of you might recall our failed effort in 2008, which actually turned out to be a blessing. My wife lost her job only 9 months later, drastically cutting our income, while the local real estate market continued to fall at a double-digit pace.

As we enter 2012, things are looking better. The local market is showing signs of price stability and interest rates are at a level we’re unlikely to see again in our lifetimes. We’re planning to have more children in our future, and our work and family ties in the community are strong. Most importantly, I desire the freedom that comes with owning a home (in more ways than one) and I’m willing to pay for it. I wrote more about my reasons for desiring home ownership in 2010.

The timing is right, and we’re willing to make some sacrifices to make this happen. Because of the abundant cash needed to buy a house, we’re taking steps to bolster our savings account. Earlier this month, we completed a drastic move to living with my in-laws.

Over the coming months, we expect that this will boost our monthly savings capacity by over 500%! The move has also forced us to dig deep through all of our “stuff” that has accumulated through the years and really reduce the impact it has on our lives. Inspired by Baker’s speech, we’re donating or discarding a big percentage of what we own.

I also want to point out that using the word affordable in describing my goal is no accident–I mean it in every sense of the word. The house needs to be affordable now, in terms of what’s required for a down payment, closing costs, and initial expenses. It must be affordable with respect to our future income. It needs to be affordable in terms of ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs, including utilities and improvements.

In essence, while I’m willing to make financial concessions to make this dream a reality, I also want to make sure that I don’t sacrifice our future known and unknown goals along the way.

I’ll be posting periodic updates on our progress for this any my other goals throughout the year.

Business Goals

My targets for our online business are outside the scope of my two main areas of focus for the year, but I have nevertheless sat down and crafted a vision for where the business should be headed through 2012.

First and foremost, I struggled last year with finding the time to work on the business. When I set aside time and made the effort, things got done and it felt great. This year, I’ve made a commitment to myself to take at least 15 hours a week, strategically divided between various areas, to work exclusively on business stuff, including writing. I set up a way to track the time using a timesheet program so that I know, in real-time, whether I’m meeting my target.

Secondly, I set a goal last year to earn 15% of my total income online. While the company didn’t reach this target, ending the year at about 8%, the rate of income in the last quarter was promising for the new year. As a result, I’m setting a more aggressive goal for 2012 to earn 25% of my income online. I know that will be tough to do, but if I can reach this goal, it would make a huge impact on my family’s finances and enable me to start working on bigger and bolder online projects.

Finally, I’ll be working on a new online project this year that I hope will be helpful to readers and become a strong profit center for my business. It will have to do with something I’ve been passionate about in the world of personal finance for a long time, and it will involve my first-ever paid product, which will cross the “sell something online” goal off my 52-things list.

A Brief Look Back

In early 2011, I shared some of my goals for the year with you and told you that I’d stay accountable by letting you know how things went. Here’s a brief rundown of my 2011 goal results:

  • Earn 15% of our income from side projects. As I mentioned, we only hit 8% for the year, but the latest results are promising for a better 2012.
  • Recover from the recession. We met several of our benchmarks for the year in this area, but still have some work to do in other areas. Things are looking much better for 2012 based on how things stand today.
  • 2,500 blog subscribers. I’m barely hanging on to 1,000 RSS and email subscribers as the year comes to a close, so this target was a complete miss. However, site traffic still remains strong and has grown year-to-year.
  • Average 3 posts a week, or about 150 new posts for the year. I came close to 120, which is shy of my original target. My focus through the second half of the year was simply too scattered to get this done.
  • 2 premium products. I didn’t launch any products in 2011, but plan to have one with my new blog projects by the end of the year.
  • Design facelift. I made a few major and many minor design tweaks to the site that cleaned things up and made the site faster.
  • Lose another 20 pounds. I couldn’t keep the traction going through the year, which is why I’ve made fitness my #1 area of focus for 2012.
  • Get more into music. While I didn’t play too much piano as intended, I have started testing my luck singing with a group of friends, which turns out to be a lot of fun.

To a New Year!

There you have it–what went right and wrong in 2011, and what I plan to focus on in 2012. Let’s make this a great year together–if you have goals or dreams that you plan on working on this year, please share them in the comments! I’d love to hear about what you’re going to tackle.

Happy New Year!