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2008 Goals: January Progress Report

This post is an update of my "Happy New Year" post from New Years Day 2008. As a way to help hold myself to my goals for the year, I'm planning to post a retrospective at the end of each month, or beginning of the next. To that end, today I'll be looking back at my progress against my goals throughout January.

In general, January was a tough month for some areas because I was between consulting gigs. It's always hard to get into a routine and life-rhythm when I'm not getting up first thing in the morning. This situation will be changing in February, thanks in part to starting a new billing gig today (w00t).

Additional pressures are on the horizon. In addition to Hanna expecting, we're looking at needing to replace my 2-door car with something roomier in the next few months. Bigger vehicles are more expensive. We're trying to look at hybrids, but they're often out of stock, requiring payment of full invoice, which would be stupid. The one bright spot is that we'll be moving somewhere locally in June, and it looks like that may mean a reduction in rent, even with a move into a single-family home. That would be nice as every little bit helps.

With that, click through to see detailed comments...

1a. Watch less television. Football season is over, so that frees up my Sundays now. I've stopped recording a couple other shows. I'm now spending time reading or writing instead of watching other shows with Hanna. This may sound like a lot, but I'm still watching: House, Chuck, Psych, Monk, American Gladiators (in about 20 minutes or less, though), and possibly new episodes of Criminal Minds, Bones, and CSI, if they ever come out. All-told, though, I feel like I'm spending more time at the keyboard and less time in front of the TV, so that's something. This writers' strike seems to be helping out.
1b. Read more books. Uh... yeah... well, you see... :) The fact of the matter is that I'm subscribed to a number of periodicals (Economist, This Week, IEEE S&P, etc.), so most of my time is spent on those. We did, however, cancel a number of expiring free subscriptions, so I should have more book time soon. I'm still working on Obama's The Audacity of Hope and should be done with it soon.
1c. Improve my vocabulary. Well, so much for that this idea. I'm working on it, though. In fact, I'm getting better control, generally, over certain expletives. Now to add bigger, better words. :)
1d. Keep a cleaner house. I'm doing so-so with this. Much progress has been made at loading and unloading the dishwasher on a timely basis. Part of the success here is driven by our eating at home more. Hanna's being pregnant is driving her to need healthier, more protein-rich meals. So, I accommodate by cooking at home more frequently, which means we need to run the dishwasher more frequently. Beyond that, I should have vacuumed and changed sheets last weekend, but Saturday was spent on errands. It'll be done this weekend, if not during the week (we'll see how time permits).

Health & Wellness
2a. Exercise more. I've had success in spurts. Part of my challenge has been in getting hurt a couple times. First I pulled a muscle in my right arm when putting a kettlebell down. Then I twisted my knee running on the treadmill at the gym. It's rainy today, but the temps are also warming. Now that I'm backing on a billable engagement, I'm trying to do a 15-30 minute kettlebell routine first thing in the morning, and then add something at night, when possible (since I didn't go run, I'll try to add some pushups, situps, and/or pistol squats tonight). Overall, I just need to get into a rhythm, which was difficult in January since I wasn't getting up very early in the morning.
2b. Lose the fat. I don't know what to conclude on this one. My muscle mass appears to be up, so my weight is naturally increased, too. The bad news is that my pants are all tight in the waist (well, maybe bad news). The good news is that, as of 2 weeks ago, it appeared that a couple fat pockets in my lower back were disappearing. I'm also switching from straight CLA to GNC's new Revolution Abdominal Cuts. We'll see if it works any better than straight CLA. One thing that did not work was the morning routine of the WellBetX. It may have worked for weight loss, but it also resulted in smelly flatulence, which is simply unacceptable on a consistent, daily basis.
2c. Eat better. In this area we're making good progress. I'm still eating too much, I think in part because of matching Hanna's eating levels (she's growing a baby, I'm not, so I shouldn't push it so hard). Nonetheless, we're eating more white meats, more veggies, more home-cooked meals, and so on. Good progress, even if the grocery bills have gotten much bigger!
2d. Address form issues that are affecting my knees, hips, ankles, and shins. I've gone through the FMS video and am now consciously taking efforts to correct problems in my right leg, from hip through ankle. I'm working a couple exercises to stop "tall man's syndrome" (as trainer Paul calls it) where my knees buckle in on leg-lift exercises. I've noticed some improvement, which is good news. I need to keep up with the rehab forms to see continued improvement.

Professional Development
3a. Write more meaty blogs. Well, this is debatable. I've been blogging a lot more, and have had several meatier ideas. Whether I'm improving overall content quality and depth is not well proven. I'm making incremental improvements, though, which has helped me to better focus my ideas. This is a year-long goal, of which I'm confident progress will be made.
3b. Begin writing articles. The first step in this process has been to subscribe to some known professional journals, such as IEEE Security & Privacy, in order to get a better feel for the timbre of the articles. What I've learned is that I completely overshot the audience in my first attempt. I've begun work revising that submission and hope to resubmit in next month or so. Beyond this, I really need to get off my lazy bum and write a couple more articles. My progress has been somewhat impeded by developing a delivering internal training programs at work. Still, that's not a good excuse.
3c. Begin writing white papers. This objective is on hold pending progress and success in the first two objectives (3a and 3b).
3d. Attend webinars and other free or cheap training programs. In this area I've made progress. I've attended a number of internal training programs (for which I should probably recording attendance for CPE credits). More can be done, and should be done. I need to get into a better life rhythm, which should happen now that I'm on a steady engagement for the next 3-4 months.

Fiscal Responsibility
4a. Finally payoff high-interest debt. We're making progress in this area, if not slowly. One credit card will be paid off this month, freeing it up for a balance transfer of 4.99% or less (thank you Federal Reserve!). I'm hopeful that we'll see a small tax refund this year, which will go toward debt. I'm also looking forward to receiving my first quarterly bonus in March, which will also go toward this objective. We've cancelled leisure trips that had been planned before we learned that Hanna was pregnant, which will help us save considerable money. With a little luck, we'll be through the true high-interest debt before the baby arrives in late August, and hopefully even have made significant progress on mid-interest debt by the end of the year.
4b. Start putting aside money for emergencies (goal: 3 months' expenses). Once the high-interest credit cards are handled, then I will reduce payoffs a bit in order to put money aside. As of right now, I'm thinking about opening a savings account that will provide a higher rate of return than my bank offers. In fact, I'm considering changing banks altogether in order to better support my savings and investment goals.
4c. Begin investing in aggressive funds. Toward this end, I've moved my 401k investments into more aggressive growth funds. As additional money becomes available, I plan to start investing it. This won't happen until after 4a and 4b are seeing significant progress.
4d. Continue reducing expenses. We're making reasonable progress on this front. As mentioned above, we've cancelled some trips, which has made a difference. This past week was not a banner week in expense reduction as I had to take both cars in for routine maintenance. My car was (over)due for a 45k service, which ended up being a hefty sum. *sigh* At any rate, we're doing ok, but could be doing better. The next big challenge will be maternity clothes, medical clothes, and outfitting for baby! :) Ah, the struggles of life.


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» 2008 Goals: February Progress Report from The Falcon's View
This post is a continuation of my plan to provide a monthly reflection piece on progress against my 2008 Goals (previous report: January). Overall, February was a decent month marked by a forward-looking obsession. With a baby on the way,... [Read More]

» 2008 Goals: March Progress Report from The Falcon's View
Well, that was a quick month! :) It seems that as I get older, if I blink, then I might just miss something significant. For those keeping track, this is my monthly recap of my goals for the year (see... [Read More]

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