Hello, Sweetie

So… I’ve been a teeeensy bit lax updating here.  There’s a good reason…  XD

  1. I haven’t been traveling that much.  I took an art class to spend some time with my brother, and I’ve just sort of been hanging out here near Houston.
  2. I’ve been focusing most of my “writing” type efforts getting my novelette finished.

There are some exciting changes on the horizon, but the short version is that I’m probably not going to have time to pick this blog back up in the near future.  However, I do have some pictures yet to upload (coming soon!), and a trip to NYC/DC/Boston with my brother this summer, so I’m not shutting down entirely!

In the meantime, if anyone is a fiction buff and/or wants to keep up with what’s going on in Misty-land, you can find me at mistymikes.com!

Review: David RV Court – Lake Jackson, TX

Today I had an experience that was so surreal that I felt like I had stepped into the Twilight Zone.  I haven’t posted here in a while, but I thought I would share, as some of you might get a kick out of it.

Also, it might prevent someone from choosing David RV Court in the future, and that can only make the world a happier place.  :)

This morning, I hooked up my trailer and headed for a new RV park that would allow me to bike to class. I already knew that the place was a bit ghetto, but I had decided to give it a go because it would save me significant gas money to be within biking distance of town, and I don’t really spend that much time at my trailer.

Here are some details so you can picture it:  It’s a tiny place wedged onto about an acre lot between an old church and a suspicious-looking corner gas station. The roads were pitted with deep cracks and potholes (not to mention narrow).  It’s currently under construction, so there was “Caution” tape and big piles of dirt everywhere.  The RVs were crammed in like sardines and surrounded by rednecky piles of random junk. There was random litter carelessly scattered around on the ground in various places.  And that’s not even to mention the noise of the construction and a nearby highway.  The only louder place that I’ve stayed in the past year was a truck stop, surrounded by idling diesel engines.  I’m pretty sure I smelled something mildly illegal as I drove into the park, but I can’t say for sure.

Obviously, not exactly a first class resort, but I’ve lived in worse conditions back when I was poor and living in ghetto apartments.  I was willing to give it a go.

When I arrived, it took a few minutes for the manager to get there to meet me, but that was no big deal.  It’s Saturday, after all, and I pretty much expect a certain lack of professionalism from RV park owners and managers.  I’d rather deal with friendly unprofessionalism than a polished corporate shark trying to dig as deep into my pockets as he can!  So I just settled in to wait and was grateful that it wasn’t long.

The manager turned out to be a short, stout woman with a face that looked like she had just sucked a whole bag full of lemons.  I wasn’t quite sure what I’d done to piss her off so badly, but whatever it was, she didn’t mention it.  She gave me some vaguely comprehensible instructions about where the spot was, so I drove around to the other side of the tiny park.  (Bumping my trailer hitch on the curb terribly in the process because of the poor construction of the road.)

After some confusion about which spot it was (my spot was filled with construction workers’ cars, so I mistook an empty but unavailable spot for my own), the manager finally got me to my spot.  I drove around the park to get my vehicle facing the proper direction for pulling in, and by the time I got back to the spot, she’d vanished.

No problem.  I can back a trailer without help, and it wasn’t a terribly narrow spot.  The spot was a little confusing, because it consisted of a slab of concrete so broken and overgrown with grass that it was hardly distinguishable from the neighboring gravel parking space, but finally I got everything set up and leveled, and unhooked my trailer.

Before I continue, let me point out that it took me awhile to get unhooked, leveled, and hook up my utilities.  I was starving, so I stopped to eat breakfast before even unhooking the trailer, and talked on the phone for a little while with a family member who was in distress and really needed to talk to someone (long story).  The manager had more than enough time to come by and check things out before I ever got unhooked, but I didn’t catch a glimpse of her again until after the trailer was unhooked, leveled, and all my utilities were set up.  (And I was watching for her, so I would have noticed her… I assumed she would want me to pay her, after all.)

As I was hooking up the last hose, I looked up and saw Lemon Face poking around my trailer, nosily inspecting my hoses and other hookups.  It was kind of rude but I thought maybe I was just being overly sensitive.  Some of these old folks kind of assume I don’t know what I’m doing until they look things over and can’t find a mistake.  :)  So I brushed off my discomfort and went over to talk to her.  This is the exchange we had:

“Well, I’m not going to make you move your trailer because you’re already all set up, but technically you’re in the wrong spot.”

“Okay,” I said.  I don’t really know what else I was supposed to say to that.  Why was she talking to me if she wasn’t going to make me move it?

There was awkward silence while Snoopy Lemon Face continued poking around my trailer.  She looked so trollish that I couldn’t help but wonder if she thought I might have some convenient children stashed under there for her dinner, but I tried very hard not to be uncharitable.  After all, maybe she was mildly autistic.  Still, I didn’t have the time for it (since my relative in distress was waiting for me to call back after I settled up with the manager), so I just started doing my last once-over and ignored her.

“Well, you know, you’re really supposed to be over here,” she said in an abrupt tone, pointing to the gravel that, as previously mentioned, had been almost indistinguishable from the broken and grass-covered concrete slab.

“I’m sorry,” I offered, trying to figure out exactly what she wanted from me.

“I’m really going to need you to hook up your trailer and move everything over.”

I groaned inwardly, but made a great effort to stay as polite as possible.  Had she really been so busy that she couldn’t have mentioned that earlier?  “Is it really a big deal?”  I asked, hoping she would go back to her previous promise to not make me move.

“Well, it really needs to be moved.  It will look better.”

“Fine.  Okay, can you tell me where exactly it needs to be, then?”

“Over there.” She pointed vaguely, but the place she pointed didn’t really make sense with regards to where the utilities were located.  It looked like the place she pointed would have put my trailer directly on top of the sewer hookup. Surely that couldn’t be correct.

“I’m sorry, I must be misunderstanding.  That doesn’t look like I’ll be able to hook up if I move there.  Where are you wanting me to move?”

“Of course you can hook up.  You need to move here.” She pointed at the same place.  “And you need to do it right now.”

“Okay, I’m sorry, but I’m just not getting it,” I said.  “I can’t move it if you aren’t clear about where you want it.”

“Well, I need you to move it,” she repeated, unhelpfully.

“Right.  Well, you need to explain exactly what the problem is, though.  I’m not going to move it five times and just pray that I accidentally hit the spot you want me to be in,” I finally said, getting a little frustrated at this point.

“You’ll move it if I tell you to move it!”  The anger came out of left field for me.  It’s not every day that you encounter someone who thinks they can yell at you and then expect you to pay them $800 for the privilege (the cost of rent + utilities for the time I planned to stay there).

“Um…  Excuse me.”  I was so taken aback that I didn’t know what to say, but I tried to keep my cool.  Surely I was misunderstanding something.  “I am willing to move it, I’m just saying that you need to be more specific than ‘over there’.”

“Oh…”  At first, she seemed a little mollified, and I relaxed slightly.  For a moment, I thought perhaps she was having a bad day and caught herself snapping.  It happens.  We’ve all been there, and I was willing to let it go.

Then she explained, in a supercilious, snotty tone, “The owner is very particular.  He wants everything to be lined up evenly so it will look nice, and so you need to be lined up right here.”  She moved and held up her arms so that I could see what she was talking about.

As it turned out, she was asking me to move my trailer all of two feet to the right. And not so that it could be lined up with the other trailers, but so that it could be lined up with the gravel that couldn’t even be seen from a few feet away.

To be clear, my trailer would be the last spot from the street, so I wasn’t crowding anyone or taking up an extra spot.  In fact, with me parked that way, there was room for yet another trailer, as long as they didn’t need an electric hookup!

“Seriously?” I asked doubtfully.  “You’re telling me that you want me to unhook everything, unlevel the trailer, hook it back up to the van, pull it out of the spot and pull back in, then hook everything up again…. just to move the trailer two feet to the right?”

“Yes.  You have to move it.”  Her sour face looked more sour than ever, but at that point, I was pretty much done being patient with her.  Normally, I’d have been more than happy to oblige.  I’m a pretty easygoing person. If she’d have been polite to me even once since my arrival, I’d have probably bent over backwards just so she’d get to have her little power trip and leave me alone, but I’m not going to pay rent for a 100 square foot slab of broken concrete in the middle of the ghetto (rent that is comparable to a decent one-bedroom apartment in this area), just so that I can have a sour-faced old woman poke around my trailer and bitch at me over trivialities.

“Look, I don’t really understand why this is an issue,” I said.  I had already resolved that if she made me hook my trailer up again, it wouldn’t be to move it two feet to the right…  It would be to move it out of there. “It looks the same as everything else here, and two feet isn’t going to make a difference.”

“It will just look nicer,” she insisted.

I wanted to laugh.  Instead, I looked around at the giant piles of dirt and construction equipment… The dirty run down trailers, each surrounded by its own personal redneck hoard of random objects… The roads pitted with potholes… The utility poles that looked like they might fall apart at any moment… The sadly broken and leaning ‘privacy’ fence that they were so very proud of on their website… And I spoke the truth. “Listen, I don’t think anything I do is going to make this place look less trashy.  And if this is the way you treat paying customers, I’m not going to stay here.”

She reared back as though I had just called her favorite child ‘retarded’, gave an enraged huff, and snapped, “Well, if that’s the way you feel, then go.”

It was like one of the Kitchen Nightmares owners decided to get into the RV park business.

The icing on the cake was when, after walking about 20 feet away, she turned around to call back, “I’m telling the owner everything you said!”  One might think she was trying to make amends somehow, but the tone she used said otherwise.  It was a tattle-tale, aggressive tone, as though she expected me to somehow be worried about that…

Never mind that I was ready to pay $800 for the privilege of parking there for two months.  Never mind that I never bitch about noisy or annoying neighbors, never call the manager unreasonably early or late, never make any noise to speak of myself, never throw trash on the ground or leave trashy looking things lying around outside my trailer. Never mind that I always pay on time or early, and only come home to eat and sleep…

Never mind that I happen to be a customer with a blog who has no qualms about writing my experiences for the world to see….  Good or bad.

As you can imagine, I was terrified.  :)

The truth is, Old Lemon Face probably did me a favor.  Unlike some businesses, she had the courtesy to show her true colors BEFORE she got my money, so at least I still have the option to go to another park!

My final recommendation:  Don’t walk away from David RV Court.  Run.

Whoa! What kind of welcome do you call that?

Why I won’t use Amazon Marketplace

I know I haven’t updated here in a while, but I wanted to put this out in the open so that other people can know what happened to me and make an informed decision about whether to buy and sell on Amazon Marketplace.

Sometime last year when I was clearing out in preparation of moving out of my apartment, I decided to sell some textbooks on Amazon Marketplace.  At the time, they never sold, and eventually I forgot that they were even posted.

In January, after all that time, one of the books FINALLY sold.  Coming out of the blue like that, it was kind of inconvenient, but I managed to dig the book out of my box o’ books that I keep in the van, and I sent it off.  I figured it would be a nice bit of pocket change to buy some Kindle books with, so I was pleased.

Then a month later, the buyer submitted a complaint claiming that he never received the package.  I did what I could to try to figure out what had happened to it, but ultimately, there was nothing I could do.  I did due diligence, I shipped the package with appropriate packaging, and if the post office lost it…  Well, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to request (and pay for) insurance and/or delivery confirmation if they want it.

Or so I thought.

I received an email shortly after from Amazon, saying that they had refunded the money.  After going back and forth with Amazon over this for several emails, here is what I have found out:

  1. In spite of the fees that Amazon charges you for the privilege of selling on their website, they DO NOT offer you any more protection than selling on Craigslist.  It is 100% “seller beware” on Amazon.  If a buyer claims not to have received their product, there is absolutely nothing that you can do if you did not get delivery confirmation or insurance.
  2. Amazon has complete control over any money that you make on Amazon Marketplace.  They can decide for any reason they want to refund the money you earned, and if that happens, you are SOL.

Some of you will remember the headache that I had dealing with the customer service people at Amazon Marketplace in December when I was trying to replace my laptop.  I can’t believe I’ve had this many bad experiences with one company in such a short time!

Could I stop this same thing from happening in the future by getting delivery confirmation?  Probably.  But after all the troubles I’ve had with them, I have no confidence that they won’t find some other way to make my experience with them a negative one.

Furthermore, Amazon offers LESS seller protection from fraud than Craigslist does, since they have complete control over whether you refund the purchase or not.  So essentially, you are paying fees to Amazon so that they can make it more likely that you will be ripped off.

From now on, I’m staying away from selling on Amazon Marketplace, and I will be incredibly wary of other online sellers that require a fee to sell through them (such as eBay).  Without seller protection, there’s really no point to paying their fees, since you can get access to a broad market on Craigslist for free by cross-posting to any appropriate area with a market for your item.

Self-destructive conformity

There are some things that society will tell you that you “have” to do:

  • You “have” to have a traditional job.
  • You “have” to get married.
  • You “have” to have a relationship with your parents.
  • You “have” to have a home address/phone number.

However, it’s very important for every person to understand which of society’s rules don’t apply to them.

Even if you are a relatively average person, chances are good that there is some area in which what’s right for everyone else is not what’s right for you.

  • If you hate sitting at a desk, and it’s possible for you to make money doing something unusual and creative…  why aren’t you pursuing that unusual and creative thing?
  • If you haven’t met your soul mate… why should you settle for the first person who comes along?
  • If your parents have a significant negative impact on your mental health…  why are you still talking to them?
  • If you have nothing tying you to a single location and you want to see the world…  Why are you spending so much money to maintain a house/apartment/condo for no other reason than because society told you to?

Even if you’re already a nonconventional thinker, I bet there’s some area of your life where you’re allowing yourself to be made unhappy just because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do.

I challenge you all to think about the various areas of your life where you aren’t completely happy and ask yourself a simple question…  Why?

Why do you make the decisions that you do?  Do those decisions make you happy, or do they fulfill a hidden need to conform or otherwise make other people happy?

Warning:  this will not make everyone in your life happy.  If you live your life refusing to conform when it’s not right for you, the world will try to smack you back into place, because there are things that it wants from you, even if it makes you miserable. In general, the world does not care if you are miserable.  You can’t always predict who will turn on you when you cease conforming, so make sure that you are willing to piss everyone off before you take a stand.

But also remember that you only have one life, and at the end of the day, you’re the only one who has to live with the decisions you make.  Don’t let other people ruin it for you.

Persuasion: He does not conform.
Monarch: Of course. He’s a philosopher. A doubter. We need doubt. It’s the greatest intellectual galvanizer.

Moving right along

If you are an observant returning reader, you may notice a new widget in the sidebar.  Recently, my life has kind of swung in a new direction, and the blog has reflected that somewhat.  It’s kind of hard to have a travel blog when you aren’t…traveling.  XD  There’s nothing to really talk about with regards to the trailer.  She’s holding up nicely, and I haven’t had any major disasters barring that one incident of leakage.  It hasn’t become a recurring thing, so I can only imagine it was due to overflowing somewhere.  I finally managed to permanently seal the leak at the front window.  (It turned out to be loose trim.  I’ve had a couple of very bad rain storms since fixing the trim, and no leakage!)

Anyhow, since life is kind of uneventful on the camping front, I thought I’d give a window into other things that I’m doing.  The two main things that I hope to accomplish this month are a significant progress toward finishing the revisions on my fantasy novel (Project B), and finishing the first draft of an adventure/suspense novelette (Project A) that I’ve had brewing for awhile.  My plan is to publish the novelette for free as an ebook sometime roughly in April.  That date is by no means concrete, just yet, since it’s subject to the whims of revision, illness, scheduling snafus, etc.  However, I’ll be sure to let you guys know whenever I have new information.  :)  If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine, but if you like fiction, you can’t beat a free ebook!

In the meantime, I’ll keep updating my progress using the handy widget on the right side of this page.

I hope you all are having as happy and wonderful a New Year as I have had so far.  :D

(Today’s Doctor Who quote is in honor of the recent gun control debates.  Regardless of where you stand on the subject, hopefully we can all agree that Doctor Who in the Wild West is hilarious.  And also Stetsons are cool.)

Everyone who isn’t an American…drop your gun!

Flexibility is cool

I know they say that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, but this is kind of ridiculous…

Day 1 of my 2013 plan went great.  I got so much done!  And then I got the stomach flu and did nothing but sleep and vomit for like three days.  :P  I’m only just now feeling better, so I’m hoping to catch up over the weekend.

This brings up another fine point about planning…  You can do all the planning in the world, but no matter how carefully you plan, life will happen.  You will get stomach flu, or get into a fender bender, or just have a crappy day.

I think the difference between this year and previous years, in terms of how long I stick with my goals, is going to be a certain amount of flexibility that is built into my schedule.   I very specifically built some “light” days into my schedule for catching up on anything that had to be skipped for whatever reason, and I also did a better job of balancing my schedule evenly between “necessary” activities and “extra” activities.  The extras can be safely skipped without any real consequences to my overall goals, and the rest can be either caught up on over the weekend or spread out evenly over the next few weeks until I catch up to where I want to be at the end of the month.

Here’s hoping I don’t catch something else that’s going around!  I’m stocking up on hand sanitizer and oranges in an effort to stay healthy.

I’m riffing. People usually stop me when I’m riffing. Or carry on without me. That’s also an option.

A Road Map for 2013

Previously, I had mentioned my Annual Review and promised to explain my process as compared to that of Chris Guillebeau’s (described here).  For those of you who plan to RV full-time (or those who already are), I really can’t stress enough the importance of a review like this.

People who live conventional lives already have this done for them, in a way, because they are following a path that thousands of people have walked before them.  Figuratively speaking, they are traveling down a nice, paved highway that’s all planned out for them, with nice reflective signs pointing the correct direction, and mile markers to help them keep track of how far they have to go before reaching their next “landmark.” (Some would argue that this creates a false sense of security, since sometimes the road markers are wrong, but that’s overworking the analogy a bit, I think…)

By contrast, those of us who live off the beaten track often don’t even have access to a map, because we tend to be doing our own thing, traveling a path that no one has ever traveled before!  (Or at the very least, the way is not well-documented and what documentation there is may be unreliable or outdated…)  Based on my experience, it’s incredibly important to make your own “map” if you’re going to live unconventionally, because it’s just too easy to get lost and end up somewhere scary or downright dangerous.

That’s not to say that you need to plan and schedule every minute of every day of every week a year ahead of time.  Not only is that the opposite of what most of us are trying to accomplish by living unconventionally, but it’s counter-productive.  Such a strict schedule doesn’t allow room for adjustment for illness, emergency, or the occasional “off” day (or week, or month), so it usually lasts a few months before being discarded (if that).

However, having a set of goals and a loose idea of what you need to do to meet those goals can be incredibly helpful in making sure that you’re living the kind of life that both lives up to your personal values, and that you can look back on and be proud of at the end of your life.

So, without further ado, here is my method for creating my roadmap for 2013:

 

Review of 2012

Normally, the first thing I would do in an annual review would be to refer back to my original plan and compare what really happened to what I had planned, and make a list of goals I achieved, goals I didn’t, and try to assess why I did or didn’t achieve certain goals.  This year I didn’t have that list (long story), so I just judged it the best I could from what I could remember.

What went well

  • I bought an RV and moved into it full-time.
  • I established location-independent income sufficient to meet my needs.
  • I paid off two of my smallest (and also highest interest) student loans.
  • Graduated with a bachelor’s degree.  (This was technically finished in 2011, but I had to apply for graduation and walk in 2012.)
  • Started this blog and posted regularly!
  • Traveled a lot, climbed mountains, swam in the ocean, had adventures.

What didn’t go well

  • Didn’t finish editing my novel as planned (whoops).
  • Lost a little weight, but gained most of it back during the holidays (double whoops).
  • Didn’t really study French like I had planned.

Summary

In looking at this sheet, I’ve noticed that most of the things I accomplished this year happened in the first 7-8 months of the year.  That was around the time where I ran out of steam and just sort of “coasted” for the rest of the year.  I think part of the reason for this had to do with a lack of direction because I had achieved most of what I set out to do for 2012, and wasn’t sure exactly how to go about achieving the ones that were left.  Part of this is because this awesome job took off at the very beginning of the year, and so everything else got achieved much, MUCH faster than I expected.

The only really important goal that I failed to achieve was editing my novel, and I think this has to do with a lack of understanding of what needs to be done to make it a truly readable novel.  I have a plan to rectify this in 2013, so that this won’t fall by the wayside for another year.

 

Deciding on a general direction for the year

Once I know where I’ve been, it’s time to think about a general direction for where I want to go this year.  It helps a lot at this point if you’ve spent some time thinking about your values and what you want your life to look like.  If you know what you’re generally aiming for, it’s not too hard to know which general direction you need to go to get there.

This really isn’t mandatory, and you can be entirely successful and productive without ever doing this.  However, this helps me because I have a tendency to have a LOT of unrelated interests, and deciding on a general direction helps keep me focused, instead of constantly wandering off to pick daisies or whatever.  (Though I do make a point to include a little “picking daisies” time here and there, so to speak.)

This year, my general direction is going to be a refocusing on my writing career.  I still want to publish fantasy novels, and if I’m ever going to do that, I really need to start doing the heavy lifting required, especially now that I have the perfect job and lifestyle to allow for it.  This doesn’t mean that I won’t be traveling or doing other “just for fun” stuff, but it will help me to decide on which “just for fun” stuff to pick and which ones to leave out.

 

Setting up categories

Since this is the first annual review I’ve done in a couple of years and my life has changed drastically in the past two years, most of my categories were obsolete, so I had to come up with almost entirely new categories.  I suspect that it’s probably better to settle on categories and stick with them year to year (for ease of analyzing over several years, if you want to), so I tried to be more general with my categories this time.  After thinking about my life and what “areas” it falls into, here’s what I came up with:

  • Financial
  • Career
  • Education
  • Health & Well-Being
  • Travel
  • Social

 

Setting goals

Now we’re getting to the fun part.  This is where I look at each category and come up with 2-5 “big dream” kind of goals that I would like to see achieved by the end of the year.  I don’t yet think about the mechanics of how I will achieve it, how I will measure success, or anything like that.  This is time for dreaming big!  (Some people may prefer to call this “dreaming medium”…  But I’m not very good at thinking in terms of five year goals.  One year is long enough to me!)

I’m not going to bore you by listing all of my goals for 2013 (some of them are kind of personal, anyhow), but to give you an idea of the kinds of things I mean when I say “big goals”, here are two representative categories:

Financial

  • Pay off one more student loan.
  • Save up enough to buy a new-to-me truck.
  • Establish a side income to supplement my translation work.
  • Set up trailer for solar power.

Travel

  • Take my brother to NYC & DC.
  • Swim in the Pacific Ocean.
  • See the redwoods.
  • Go sight-seeing in Washington State (if I can make time and/or afford it)
  • Prepare for Quartzsite next winter.

Note: I tend to arrange these in order of importance, because it makes the rest of the process much easier if I go ahead and make that judgment call now instead of later.

 

Setting objectives

Now that the fun part is done, it’s time for the more difficult part.  This is where I look at each individual goal and ask myself two questions:

  1. How am I going to achieve this goal?  (i.e., what are my action steps?)
  2. How am I going to measure this goal?  (i.e., how will I know when I’ve succeeded?)

This is where the SMART criteria come into play, for those of you who are familiar with this.  (For those of you who aren’t, a quick Google search will provide you with tons more information than I could ever provide in such a short post!)

Sometimes goals need a little more breaking down before I get to the point of setting objectives, and this is where I do that heavy lifting.  (A good example is the “extra income” goal above, which required a lot of brainstorming and eventually got split into two separate goals with about a dozen or so attached objectives.)

I can’t stress enough that objectives need to be both measurable and attainable.  A good objective is “Write the first draft of a short story about 10,000 words long.”  A bad objective would be “Write more.”  (The latter belongs in the “goals” section.)

Once you have all of your objectives in place, it’s time to move on to setting deadlines.

 

Setting deadlines

If you’re anything like me, you probably groan at the idea of working on a deadline, but I honestly think that proper deadlines are one of the most important predictors of whether or not goals will be achieved.

I tend to look at this partly like I’m working a puzzle.  I don’t start at the first objective and work my way down at this point, but I start by filling in the objectives that have “built-in” deadlines.  For example, there’s a class that I want to take at the junior college, and that’s going to take a certain amount of my time in the fall, so I don’t have to set that deadline for myself.  Another example is paying off the student loan or buying the truck, which requires attention once a month through the whole year in order to be achieved.

Once I have this set up, I move to the most important of the objectives that are left, and fit those around my other goals.  I usually end up rescheduling things a lot until things are arranged exactly the way I want them, so that all the work is spread out evenly across the year.

Unfortunately, experience has taught me that I need more than just deadlines to achieve a goal, even though that’s a great first step.  (Think about how many times you procrastinated on a paper as a kid only to find out at the last minute that you really needed to be working on it all along…  Or maybe that was just me?)  I need a plan to meet those deadlines, so this year I made a whole new step to finish up the process.

 

Make a monthly schedule

I could have done this a week at a time, but based on my experience making the schedule for January, it’s pretty important for me to do the whole month to ensure that everything is spread out nice and evenly.  (I started out making my word count too small for the first week, because I forgot that I would have less time for writing at the end of the month, and so I needed to get ahead at the beginning of the month.)

I just used my monthly planner for this.  I don’t bother planning out every minute of every day or anything, but I do make a note if something has a specific time (like my translating work, appointments, classes, etc…). When I’m done, I basically end up with a checklist for each day of the month, so that when I get up to work, I know exactly what needs to be done to stay on track for the month.   I make a note if I don’t finish something and why, and hopefully when I come around to my next monthly planning session, I’ll be able to look at what worked and what didn’t and adjust accordingly.

This may seem like micro-management, but it really doesn’t feel that way to me.  In fact, this method makes me feel freer than “working by ear” because my brain is freed up from planning activities.  I don’t have to think about what I did yesterday or what I’m going to do tomorrow.  All I have to do is live and enjoy today.

Once I month, I will repeat this step, and hopefully by the end of the year, I will have completed all my goals!  You’ll know if I stick with it, because I’ll be making some announcements here about some interesting and/or exciting developments as they get closer to completion.  :)

 

Conclusion

That pretty much wraps things up for my personal Annual Review process. You may have noticed that my process starts out with the giant “omg WHOLE LIFETIME BIG PICTURE” kinds of ideas, and then gradually zooms in step by step until I finally know exactly what I need to do tomorrow to eventually get to where I want to be one year from now.

It seems complicated, and it is.  In terms of time, I probably spent about a month pondering in the back of my head, coming up with ideas for what I want to do with myself in 2013, then I spent about a week actively writing down goals whenever I had some free time between work and Christmas activities.  Finally, I got last weekend to myself, and I spent a good 8-10 hours of it focusing on setting up objectives, setting deadlines, and planning out January’s schedule.

Ultimately, in the grand scheme of things I think it’s going to save me a lot more time than it took to set it up, and it will also save me a lot of stress in worrying about what to do next!

Which brings me to my final thoughts…  There’s no point in doing this process if you’re going to do like I did in 2011 and give up after about three months.  Whatever your process is,  I think there are two key elements to making New Year’s Goals that you will actually follow through on:

  1. Make sure that your objectives follow the SMART criteria.  Don’t forget that “Attainable” and “Reasonable” are also important!  (Those are the two I tend to gloss over!)  Remember that your individual circumstances will affect what you can and can’t achieve, and that’s okay!  For some adult people in this world, “learn to tie my shoes” is a reasonable objective for the year.  Any objective is acceptable as long as it moves you forward without overwhelming you.
  2. Spend some time on a regular basis to analyze how you’re doing on your goals and to adjust your plan accordingly.  This is where I screwed up in 2011.  I didn’t plan on a monthly basis, and I ended up so far off track that the whole plan had to be scrapped.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I also had some pretty major life explosions, so it wasn’t entirely my fault…   But those things are out of your control and can’t be planned for in this context.  That’s what emergency funds are for.)

Finally, and most importantly, don’t forget to have a happy, safe, and fulfilling 2013!  Happy New Year everyone!

One good solid hope is worth a cartload of certainties.