FOR THE PAST 360 DAYS, I have had a plain #10 envelope staring at me from the ledge of the whiteboard that hangs on the inside of the front door to my apartment. The main and return addresses are identical: Both are mine. Last year, I was inspired by a Marketwatch.com columnist to write down a bunch of goals for 2007, but not to look at them . . . only to have a vague idea of what they were, and to strive toward fulfilling them.
Upon reading this list of 36 dashed-off ideas, I believe the Marketwatch guy must have a better memory than I do, because I clearly forgot a great number of these right out of hand. Although he counts a good year as one in which he hits half of his goals and comes close on the other half, I would've counted this as a good year had I simply been able to recall half.
I suspect I'd do better with the plan I considered adopting on the first day of 2006, on which I recounted the SMART system for setting goals: they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. Having a predictable plan of events, like my current exercise week, with recognizable goals and the steps to achieve them all drawn out, seems the best way to go for me.
Still, a look at a few choice items from the 2007 mystery list might be interesting:
Find a new job: This was the first item on the list. I didn't really begin looking in earnest until I started my career development training in April. Fortunately, this step only took about 3 months.
Lose 38 pounds by 12/31/07: The closest I came was about 14 pounds in June, when I was home most of the time and able to go to the gym whenever, as well as to adhere to a stricter feeding schedule than I had while I was in the city. At this point, I'm down about 8, owing to the cold blowing my exercise schedule late last week.
8 or more hours of sleep per night: Got a lot better at this after the end of the last job. By some miracle, my sleep schedule didn't creep forward as much as I thought it would during my layoff. During my last 3 months at the salt mine, I'd get maybe 6 tops, 3 on poker nights, because it didn't matter. Now, it tends to be around 7 to 8. I naturally arise at or around 5:00 now if I go to bed at 9:00, no small feat on either end.
Maintain a regular exercise regimen: 4 times weekly minimum: Became a solid feature of my time between jobs, slacked off a bit during the late summer, then I became disgusted with myself, wrote an angry rant and posted it for inspiration on my bathroom wall, and started daily visits in mid-November. Aside from the cold virus–related disruption, I've been a rock.
Keep a clean home; reduce or eliminate clutter, spare paper, old newspapers, and junk mail: Failed spectacularly after I brought home all my shit from the salt mine. I didn't dispose of or properly shelve any of those books or papers until late November. The newspapers waned as I stopped buying the Sunday Times and canceled my Wall Street Journal subscription (just stuck with reading it at work). I also bought a super-shredder to contend with the continued tide of junk mail. Still, there were times when I was greatly disgusted with the piles around the place, and I believe it inhibited my desire to entertain here, which is not fair to those friends who kindly host. I've succeeded in keeping the place major-event-level clean since the party on 12/8, and I intend to do so as long as I can.
Bring lunch and other work food from home as often as possible; no lunches in the city except for payday: I actually cut down to one lunch per week, and this didn't help with my habit of getting a bagel and Diet Coke for breakfast most days, but at least I saved $7–$12 per day, unlike my also soon-to-be-laid-off coworkers. I preserved the habit at the new place, even though I could drive home for lunch.
Eliminate caffeine: Now this was purely utopian. I had a whole little tapering-off regime along with this item, very industrious on paper no doubt, but it worked about as well as those that Burroughs instituted to get off heroin. The last time I am going to have the willpower to kick an addiction is during a work cutoff.
Write daily for 1 hour; post all relevant work to the blog: Though I did get more entries up this year, including my Lenten devotion, and I participated in a 100 Words month in October, I still could've done more. I take Dr. Pauly as my inspiration here; he puts in 2 or 3 hours of free writing per day, in addition to his column assignments, travel for work, poker coverage, and interviews, and if you compare the early days of his poker or personal sites to the rich and insightful posts he now produces, you can see every hour of work under the skin of his writing. It's not only the difference between Pauly's blog and a lot of other poker blogs; it's the difference between Pauly and a lot of other writers.
Spend at least 15 minutes per day outside, as weather allows: I like this one and I believe I did well with it, up until about the past month and a half. I found myself taking walks outside in Chelsea as the end of my work approached, both to get some sun on my face and lift the winter blues, to breathe unrecirculated air on my own time for a spell, and to remind myself that there was indeed a world outside that job. Once sprung, I tended to walk to the gym on many nice days, and to sit outside in the park or near my building. On fall weekends, when the weather was freakishly warm, you could find me with the newspaper and my radio, listening to football and breathing in springlike air without the allergens of May to plague me. At this job, I've tried to get outside and just stand there, away from the smokers, or to walk around the perimeter of our huge parking lot, and enjoy the free skies. All of this is an attempt to claim time as my own, outside, where our ancestors evolved, and place work in the comparatively narrow context where it belongs.
Some of the other goals are still relevant and perhaps worth pursuing this year. As I said, I'd do it visibly, in stages, not tucked away in an envelope. But if nothing else, seeing that envelope with my name on it each day did make me think that I should be doing "better," no matter what I was doing, and to find out what might comprise "better" in all my activities. So it was not entirely meritless.